Sandwiched between the city of Edmonton and the Elk Island National Park, Alberta’s Strathcona County is a specialised municipality that’s part of the Edmonton Metropolitan Area. It’s an area that’s both rural and urban, and is home to under 100,000 people, with more than half of the population living in hamlet of Sherwood Park.
Sherwood Park is the area in Strathcona County that’s most visited, as it sits right next to the city of Edmonton. As well, it has plenty of attractions that visitors can enjoy. Still, all areas are well worth visiting, especially if you love the outdoors. Whether you are staying in Edmonton or in the specialised municipality, it’s well worth exploring. These are the 15 best things to do in Strathcona County.
1. Enjoy the outdoors
No outdoor lover should visit Strathcona County without spending time at the Beaver Hills UNESCO Biosphere. This is one of the oldest protected areas in all of Canada, being a forest reserve that dates back as far as 1892.
The Beaver Hills UNESCO Biosphere is home to many unique areas, including the Strathcona Wilderness Centre, Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve and Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary. It also happens to boast over 100 kilometres of trails and nearly 700 campsites.
The biosphere is a haven for animal lovers, as it’d home to waterfowl, songbirds, deer and moose. Visitors can go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, mountain biking, walking, and picnicking.
2. Learn about science
This can be done while surrounding yourself with the beautiful outdoors at the Strathcona Science Provincial Park. The park sits on the east bank of the in the North Saskatchewan River at an elevation of 625 metres.
The site was originally an aboriginal camp and the Alberta government built the 2.9 square kilometre park to preserve it. Today, much of the interpretive buildings are not in use, but its outdoor areas are still very lively.
The Strathcona Science Provincial Park is home to the Sunridge Ski Area, Biathlon Centre and Model Aviation Field. Activities that visitors can enjoy in the park include cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, hiking, mountain biking and tobogganing.
3. Ride a rollercoaster
Not just any rollercoaster, but the tallest and longest indoor roller coaster in the world! Mindbender is a looping roller coaster that’s located at Galaxyland Amusement Park. The amusement park happens to sit within the largest mall in North America; West Edmonton Mall.
The amusement park also has plenty of other rides that will get your adrenaline pumping, like the 36.5 metre Space Shot, the giant Swing of the Century and the Cosmo’s Space Derby bumper cars. There are actually over 25 rides to enjoy at Galaxyland Amusement Park.
If you want to ride more than just one rollercoaster, then don’t miss the chance to ride Galaxy Orbiter – the first spinning roller coaster in Canada. Those that are smaller can also enjoy bends and hills on Autosled.
4. Taste local wine
The Barr Estate Winery can be found at the very south end of Sherwood Park. The winery was founded by Rick and Amy Barr who produce three different fruit wines, none of which are made from grapes.
If you want to taste something completely different, head to this winery to sample wine made from raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries. Tour the property and not only see how the wine is produced, but also where all of the fruit is grown.
Tours and tastings happen all year on Fridays evenings, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. There are seven tours each week, and visitors must be at least 18 years of age to join.
5. Search for bison
The wood bison is the largest terrestrial mammal in North America and Elk Island National Park is home to many of them. In fact, the park has played an important role in their conservation, as well as other bison species.
The park sits in the Beaverhills area, though is an attraction is its own right. It’s open 24 hours a day throughout the entire year and offers camping, hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and, of course, wildlife viewing.
In addition to looking at bison, the Elk Island National Park is also home to other animals like black bears, elk, deer, coyote, lynx and pygmy shrew, which is the smallest land based mammal on the continent. There are also plenty of birds, including great blue herons, American white pelicans, red tailed hawks and trumpeter swans.
6. Go back in time
Experience the history of Strathcona County and its surrounding area at the Fort Heritage Precinct, a museum in Fort Saskatchewan. Go back over 140 years by exploring the historical village while walking through its authentic buildings.
Let a guide take you on a tour through the village to see the numerous artefacts and hear all of the stories. Tours take around 2 hours and are highly recommended, as most buildings can only be visited with one of the onsite guides.
Take a leisurely walk around the grounds to take it all in and learn all about the history of Western Canada. You even get the chance to climb the stairs to the Fort’s bastion, sit in the 1902 school and spend time in the 1909 courthouse.
7. Experience local food, art and music
This can all be done in one go at the Savour Strathcona County festival. The event is held every year in July at the Strathcona County Community Centre in Sherwood Park.
The annual event celebrates the excellent food and art in the city, with local restaurants, food trucks and artisans showcasing their art. There’s also live entertainment to keep things even livelier.
Enjoy Italian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican and Indian cuisine expertly made by local restaurants, or devour perogies, barbecued goodness, tacos or ice cream that’s served from food trucks. Afterwards, shop for souvenirs made by local artisans.
8. Have a picnic
There’s no better place to do this than the Broadmoor Lake Park. The large park is located in the Sherwood Park area and is a beautiful place to spend a day and have a picnic.
Broadmoor Lake is the main draw of the park, having a path looping around it, benches along its shores and lots of trees surrounding it. In the winter, the lake is converted into an amazing outdoor skating rink.
If you’re visiting with kids, take them to play in the large playground and to splash around in the spray park. In the winter, they’ll really enjoy tobogganing down the park’s hills.
9. Look at art
Go on a walking tour of the city and spend time looking at public art. This could be a mural on the exterior on a building, a sculpture in a park, a memorial or a fresco.
There are currently 32 public art pieces in Strathcona County, most of which are in Sherwood Park. These include the colourful mural on the County Hall staircase, the stainless steel screens in the West Plaza of the community centre and the 11-foot tall Dalmatian Sadie outside of Fire Station #6.
The Ardrossan Recreation Complex boasts 3 public art pieces, making it well worth visiting. These are the community collage that depicts important people in the community, the beautiful glass panels and the celebration of sport in luminous glass.
10. Ride a train
Drive less than one hour north of the city to Camrose and spend a day on a train. Trains run on the Battle River Railway through some beautiful scenery and historic sites.
Have lunch in a vintage hotel, tour the historic Catholic Church and see the largest ball glove in the country.
There are also special events, like the Oktoberfest train and murder mystery nights. Eat sausages and drink beer, or find out who did it with a local theatre group.
11. Play a round of golf
There are so many places to play golf in and around Strathcona County, both public and private. No avid golfer will be bored when visiting the city.
Elk Island Golf Course is one of the best and happens to be the oldest course in all of Alberta. It’s boasts a nine-hole course as well as a clubhouse that serves great food.
The public Broadmoor Golf Course is a great place to both play and learn how to golf, while the private Belvedere Golf & Country Club features a championship course. Other golf courses in or close to Strathcona County include the Country Side Golf Club, Victoria Golf Course and Rundle Park Golf Course.
This can be done no matter where you are, but in Strathcona County eating really is an experience, especially if you have a sweet tooth. There are numerous places that cater specifically to sweet lovers, offering freshly baked cinnamon buns, donuts, cookies and pies.
For a unique dining experience there are a few local establishments to try, like Vivo Ristorante, That Bar-B-Q Place and Sumo Sumo Sushi Bar and Grill. Or head to Common Ground Community Café or Roasti Coffee Co. for a fine cup of coffee.
Whether you’re craving Indian, Japanese, Italian or Thai cuisine, there’s a restaurant for you. There’s even Ukrainian, Mediterranean and Mexican restaurants to enjoy.
13. Walk through an ice castle
Yes, there’s an ice castle that you can visit, and it’s right next door in Edmonton. Ice Castles is an award-winning attraction that was built in 6 cities across North America, with Edmonton being one of those cities.
The manmade frozen attraction is spectacular, being built using hundreds of thousands of icicles that were hand-placed by ice artists. The attraction also included frozen thrones, LED-lit sculptures, ice-carved tunnels, fountains and more.
Walk through the ice castle and snap Instagram worthy photos. Ice Castles is only open during the winter season and is sure to leave lasting memories for anyone who visits.
14. Hit the slopes
Being in Alberta, it makes sense that anyone visiting the area would want to go skiing. Luckily, there’s a place to do this right next to Strathcona County at the very western edge of Edmonton.
The Sunridge Ski Area sits along the North Saskatchewan River and is part of the Strathcona Science Provincial Park. It boasts 11 runs, 45 per cent of which are black diamond rated.
If you would rather enjoy other winter activities then you’re in luck, as the ski area also offer snowboarding, tubing and cross-country skiing. It also has two terrain parks where you can practice your tricks.
15. Learn about the city’s history
The Strathcona County Museum & Archives displays the history and heritage of Strathcona County under one roof. Wander around the museum and learn all about the city and its residents.
Permanent exhibits in the museum include a historic train station, parlour, church, blacksmith shop and dairy barn. Don’t forget to check out the First Nations exhibit, or the Natural History Walk that displays a massive butterfly collection, dinosaur bones and fossils.
Everything is modelled after a rural community in the 1900s, allowing you to go back in time and learn all about Strathcona County’s history.