“Mom, guess what?” Big dude is practically vibrating with excitement, “Dad says we can go to Calgary this weekend.”
I glance at our calendar and see that we have a completely free weekend. With two sets of grandparents in Calgary, the quick weekend trip to Calgary is a regular occurrence and so is the 3.5 hour drive.
Hubby and I still have terrible memories of our first trip to Calgary with Big Dude. We decided to make the drive when he was about four weeks old, assuming that he would sleep most of the way. It didn’t quite work out that way. He slept for 15 minutes of the trip, screamed non-stop, and was only happy when we would stop so I could nurse him. Our usually pleasant drive morphed into a six hour ordeal.
Now at 3.5 and 6, Big and Little Dude are slightly better travellers but Little Dude is a mover and a shaker who needs regular breaks or else he will end of screaming in frustration for the last hour of the trip.
In the past year, we’ve embraced the idea that it really is about the journey and not the destination. Below are some ideas of places to stop between Edmonton and Calgary. Full disclosure, we don’t stop any sooner than Blackfalds – our kids are content with a movie for the first 1.5 hours.
- Abbey Centre – Blackfald: Located a few minutes off the highway, the Abbey Centre is our favorite year-round stop. The recreation centre has a huge indoor playground (plus a smaller toddler area) and an outdoor playground. In addition, during the summer months – their outdoor pool and splash pad are open.
Adult Bonus: Next to the outdoor playground are exercise machines that let you get in a workout while the kids play.
Bonus #2: The Trans Canada Trail runs between Lacombe and Blackfalds – at 11 kilometres it makes a great bike ride or a run if you wanted to drop one adult (and older kids) off in Lacombe and pick them up in Blackfalds.
- Peter’s Drive-thru – Gasoline Alley, Red Deer: Peter’s has been a part of my Calgary memories since I was a child. They recently opened a location on Gasoline Alley in Red Deer making it a great place to stop for a mid-trip treat. Kids will love to see all the milkshake flavors. Be prepared for a long line but don’t let it deter you – it tends to move pretty quickly.
Adult Bonus: Try the Pina Colada milkshake; it’s a great way to add a tropical feel to your stop.
- Olds Splash Park at Centennial Park. The splash park is a great option for hot (or even warmish) summer days. With clean washrooms onsite, you can change into bathing suits and enjoy a few hours in a reasonably sized splash park with lots of green space to stretch out a blanket and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Adult Bonus: Check out Olds College Brewery for a selection of beers developed by second-year students in the micro-brewery program at Olds College. We just grabbed the S’mores Stout and are looking forward to trying it on our next home-date.
- Torrington Gopher Hole Museum: We’ve stopped at the Gopher Hole museum many times over the years and it has always been a hit with the kids travelling with us. We took Big and Little Dude there last year for the first time and it was a hit. The museum features dioramas of stuffed gophers dressed up and posed in a variety of settings – from gopher protesters to a gopher wedding.
Adult Bonus: Read through their newspaper clippings and letters sent to public officials regarding the museum – there are both gushing fans and angry critics and the letters are hilarious.
- FallenTimber Meadery: This is definitely more of a destination stop since it will add about an hour onto your trip. Getting off the main highway allowed the boys to see more of the foothills and the scenery was beautiful. The Meadery, is a family friendly operation that included space for a picnic, a tour of their bee-keeping operations (23 million bees – I can safely say that Big Dude is over his fear of bees) and honey tasting for the kids.
Adult Bonus: Enjoy a Mead tasting and sit on the back porch, watching your kids run through the open wooded area.
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