16 BEST Stops On the Drive From Calgary to Edmonton (Direct Route)

Many Albertans find themselves having to make the drive between Edmonton and Calgary at least once, maybe even a few times a year! While it’s far from the most eventful drive, there are some stops that are well worth your time.

Edmonton is approximately 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Calgary, making it roughly a three-hour drive. The shortest route takes you through Highway 2, also known as Queen Elizabeth II Highway, and includes a stop in Red Deer at the midway point. While there are other scenic stops that add a bit more time, we’re going to focus on the quickest and most direct route between Calgary and Edmonton, starting in Calgary!


Buses Connecting Calgary to Edmonton

Several affordable bus services connect Edmonton and Calgary, providing good options for travelers.

  • Rider Express: They offer budget-friendly prices starting at $47 per person, Rider Express operates almost daily with two trips between the cities, with stop in Red Deer. Though this option is best if you are not coming or going to YYC or YEG as the pick up and drop off points are located in the city areas.
  • Red Arrow: Renowned as one of the most popular bus services linking the cities, Red Arrow provides multiple pick-up locations in both Edmonton and Calgary, as well as at each airport. The average one-way ticket costs approximately $74.57 per person, inclusive of taxes and takes just under four hours.
  • Ebus: Ebus offers a convenient bus service between Edmonton and Calgary (and vice versa) for $75. With two scheduled routes almost daily, it also caters to shoppers by including a stop at the popular CrossIron Mills Shopping Center north of Calgary. They also offer free WiFi on board, reclining seats, and on board bathrooms.
  • Coldshot: For just $35, Coldshot provides up to two daily trips between the cities, one in the early morning and another in the early evening.
  • The Canada Bus: A new service connecting Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton. The one-way ticket from Calgary to Edmonton is $49, and purchasing a 6-ticket pack (valid for 180 days) comes with a 15% discount.

The Best Stops From Calgary to Edmonton


CrossIron Mills

CrossIron Mills
Courtesy of CrossIron Mills Mall

As you leave Calgary on your quintessential Alberta road trip from Calgary to Edmonton, your first stop should be at CrossIron Mills. Whether you require road-trip supplies, are hungry, or simply want to do a bit of window shopping, this enormous mall won’t disappoint.  With over 200 stores, it is Alberta’s largest one-level shopping mall featuring a massive food court, and the biggest Toys ‘R’ Us in the province; bound to make you feel like a kid again! 


Where On Earth – Antique Mall & Vintage Market

Antique Mall & Vintage Market

A little way north of Calgary on the road to Edmonton, you will drive past the quaint town of Airdrie where you will find the unique Where On Earth Antique Mall And Vintage Market. Featuring over 60 vendors and spanning over 15,000 sq. feet, this place is worth exploring. The family-owned mall is stacked full of wonderful antiques, trinkets, and memorabilia and you are bound to find something that you will love! 


Olds College, Botanic Gardens & Constructed Wetlands

Olds College, Botanic Gardens & Constructed Wetlands

After your fill of shopping, it is time to hit the road again! Your next stop is just off the Queen Elizabeth Highway to the west in the college town of Olds. 

The botanic garden and constructed wetlands at the Olds College of Agriculture & Technology are worth the stop to not only stretch your legs, as you walk along the garden path but also to learn about the importance of sustainable environments. 

Exploring the 15-acre wetlands that have a total of 19 ponds and an abundance of flora and fauna is a great way to connect with nature. The gardens and wetlands are open to the public free of charge.


Discovery Wildlife Park & Campground

Discovery Wildlife Park & Campground
Courtesy of Discovery Wildlife Park

As you approach the halfway mark of your road trip journey you will arrive at the historic town of Innisfail, which has long been a stopping place to rest on the journey to Edmonton. Apart from being a historic town, this place is also home to the Discovery Wildlife Park & Campground which is open during the summer months. 

The zoo is home to plenty of orphaned animals, some of which you can interact with, and even has cabins and a campground making it as good a spot as any to spend the night if you so please!


Heritage Ranch

Heritage Ranch
Courtesy of Travel Alberta / Colin Way

From Innisfail, it is a short drive to Red Deer which has several attractions of its own. Your first stop can be at Heritage Ranch where you can experience first-hand life as a rancher! 

The vast and beautiful property is a great spot for photography and horseback rides. Equestrians will love this place as the horses at this ranch are some of the most magnificent specimens in all of Alberta. 

There are also several walking trails to explore and a pond where you can indulge in a spot of fishing. I would also recommend dining at The Westlake Grill at the ranch, which offers a 5-course exquisite dinner prepared from fresh and locally sourced ingredients.


Bower Ponds

bower ponds
Courtesy of Travel Alberta / Colin Way

Your next stop in Red Deer should be at Bower Ponds where you can enjoy paddleboarding in the summer and ice skating in the winter. This is a great stop to stretch your legs and get some exercise by exploring the trails and looking out for wildlife. 

The park is pet-friendly and even has a children’s playground which makes it a fun stop for the entire family. After you had your fun, enjoy ice cream and snacks at the cafe and then it’s time to get back on the road! 


Kerry Wood Nature Centre

Kerry Wood Nature Centre
Courtesy of Travel Alberta / Colleen Gara

To get to Kerry Wood Nature Centre you will have to drive a bit further into Red Deer but the short drive from the highway is worth it as this is one of Alberta’s most incredible migratory bird sanctuaries. 

The nature centre lies adjacent to Gaetz Lakes on the south bank of Red Deer River and offers picturesque views, diverse landscapes, and an abundance of wildlife including migratory birds, beavers, porcupines, and ducks. It is the ideal spot to connect with nature and it is also the starting point of the Red Deer’s Waskasoo Park Trail System. 


Sylvan Lake Park

Sylvan Lake

It is now time to head west towards Sylvan Lake, one of the best lakes in Alberta. This is a beautiful suburban lake-side town that is the perfect stop to enjoy outdoor activities, watersports, and photo shoots. 

It is a 20-minute drive from Red Deer to Sylvan Lake Park and the drive is worth it for the scenic views, playgrounds, and community trails. 

The town also has a rich history and a vibrant culture making it a charming place to grab lunch, sightsee, and maybe even spend the night. 


Aspen Beach Provincial Park

If you do decide to spend the night at Sylvan Lake, then you can drive north from Sylvan to Gull Lake without needing to head back to the main highway. 

Gull Lake is home to Aspen Beach Provincial Park where you can enjoy lounging on sandy beaches or taking to the waters using the park’s boat launch. You can also fish in the lake waters and there are also plenty of hiking trails to explore. 

The park also features two campgrounds that offer parking sites for whatever camping unit you bring.


Kraay Family Farm – Home of the Lacombe Corn Maze

Kraay Family Farm

A short drive from Aspen Beach Provincial Park, due east, or back towards the highway you will come across the Kraay Family Farm. This place is one of those hidden gems in Alberta that you simply have to experience in the summer! 

You can easily spend half a day enjoying the many attractions here, including one of Alberta’s largest corn mazes, zip lines, tube slides, a petting zoo, an adventure course, and so much more! With over 40+ attractions and activities Kraay Family Farm promises fun and excitement for all road trippers!


Reynolds-Alberta Museum

Reynolds-Alberta Museum
Courtesy of Travel Alberta / Curtis Comeau

This is the only meaningful detour that you will have to make on your drive to Edmonton, but is one that is worth it, especially if you love vintage cars and machines! 

This award-winning museum celebrates the spirit of the machine. You will find exhibits here that include one-of-a-kind vintage cars and motorcycles, old aircraft, and an impressive array of pre-war farming equipment and industrial machinery. 

The museum also offers various programs and experiences that enrich your experience and in my view is one of the coolest stops on this list.


Leduc

leduc
Courtesy of Travel Alberta / ROAM Creative

You can either turn around and head back onto the highway to get to Leduc or take the backroad that passes through Millet on your way to Leduc. I would recommend taking the back road as while it may take a few minutes longer to get to the city the drive is a scenic one. Leduc is one of the furthest suburbs of Edmonton and lies about 30 km from the provincial capital. 

You can either stop here to get a quick bite or watch a movie at the renowned Leduc Cinemas. The nearby, Telford Lake and William F. Lede Park are also worth stopping at to explore before you begin the final leg of your journey!


University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Alberta-Botanic-Garden

If you are still not ready to head to Edmonton’s city center, why not visit the University of Alberta Botanic Garden which lies just outside the city’s western edge and a few miles from the suburb of Devon? 

The Olds College Botanical Gardens & Wetlands that you stopped at earlier on your trip will pale in comparison to the scale and grandeur of the University’s 240-acre garden complex. The botanic gardens feature exotic plants from all over the world as well as a patio cafe where you can enjoy hot beverages and light snacks.


Edmonton Corn Maze

Edmonton Corn Maze

Just a short drive from the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens is the iconic Edmonton Corn Maze which is a popular tourist destination from mid-August to the end of October! 

Each year the maze features a new design, and the site also has other activities such as pedal cars and the popular Corn Cob Express which makes the whole experience that much more memorable. 

There is even a farmer’s market here where you can stock up on wholesome wares and high-quality produce sourced from Alberta’s finest artisans and crafters.


Edmonton

Edmonton

Alberta’s capital city is a far north haven of heritage. A sprawling metropolis with a strong industrial history and cultural identity within Canada, there are so many fun things to do in Edmonton.Many mistake Calgary as Alberta’s capital, and are usually shocked to find out that Edmonton actually holds the title.

Some of the best things to do in Edmonton are:

  • Muttart Conservatory: Settled on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River are four greenhouses in stunning pyramid configurations. Seeing them, especially lit up at night, is one of the best things to do in Edmonton. Each structure at Muttart Conservatory represents a different earthly biome, and inside, you will find a plethora of rare and exotic plants from that distinct climate and terrain.
  • High Level Bridge Streetcar: Streetcars were first introduced to Edmonton in 1908 and were an integral part of the city’s heritage. It became known for its scenic streetcar ride over the iconic Saskatchewan River, as it was once one of the highest crossings in the world.You can visit the small streetcar museum, which displays photographs and artifacts from its heyday.
  • Edmonton Ice Castles: If visiting in the winter visiting the ice castles are an absolute must. These fantastical frosty creations are an “Insta-worthy” wonderland. Set inside Hawrelak Park during the colder season, it’s an awe-inspiring Alberta attraction of must-see masterpieces.

Edmonton Mall

Edmonton Mall

It is finally time to head to downtown Edmonton and one of the city’s top attractions – Edmonton Mall. While the provincial capital offers plenty of things to do, Edmonton Mall is one destination you simply won’t want to miss! 

Being North America’s largest shopping mall, you are simply awe-struck by the scale of this massive mall that contains hundreds of branded outlets, two luxury hotels, several restaurants, and the largest indoor wave pool waterpark in the world – World Waterpark. 

That’s not all, the mall also contains the Galaxyland amusement park, the Ice Palace, and the incredible Marine Life underground aquarium that houses over a hundred different species of marine life. I don’t think there is a better way to end a fun-filled Calgary to Edmonton road trip!



Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park
Courtesy of Robin Laurenson @motherpixels / Travel Alberta

Elk Island National Park is the largest fully enclosed park in the whole country. It’s an expansive and protected conservation preserve of 75 square miles. You will find a diverse array of habitats and ecosystems within this lush landscape. Grasslands, wetlands, prairies, and forests are a haven for many species of wildlife here.

Keep your eyes peeled for both large creatures like native bison and tiny inhabitants like the pygmy shrew. Hike the nature trails to take in the beautiful bounty of local wilderness. 

About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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