If you have every had a conversation with a 6 year old, you know they rarely start with anything so mundane as “Hi” or “How are you?” More likely they start with some pressing fact in the 6 year old’s life. “My dog smells like Doritos, but he doesn’t eat Doritos!” or “We are going to Red Deer!”
To the Red Deer statement, the six year old in question invariably received a polite “Oh. Why Red Deer?” If your total experience of Alberta’s third city is a pit stop on Gasoline Alley on the way between Edmonton and Calgary, you may be forgiven for thinking Why Red Deer? But we recently discovered what the booming population of the city already knows, Red Deer is a great place for families!
With vacation days in desperate short supply around our house, we were looking for a quick weekend getaway that wouldn’t break the bank on airfare. At a mere 90 minute drive from our home base in Edmonton, Red Deer is perfect for a weekend jaunt!
Our base of operations was the Black Knight Inn, centrally located and easy to find after leaving the highway. It was a pleasant stay, and we were very happy to find we had the pool all to ourselves both times we went for a splash.
Red Deer has a great selection of activities to choose from, the challenge was deciding what we could comfortably manage over two days during a heat wave!
We started our adventure just south of Red Deer in Innisfail, at the Discovery Wildlife Park. The animals are mostly local fauna, but they do have some exotic ones as well: tigers, lions, an ostrich and a camel. The keepers we spoke with really have a passion for animals and their well-being, which I found reassuring. Throughout the day different sessions are held that offer the chance to learn a little more about a particular animal. We attended the sessions for tigers and one for bears, where the kids got the chance to take a picture with a “movie star” grizzly.
After spending several hours at the zoo, we needed to cool down! We thought milkshakes at the newly opened Peter’s Drive In (no longer just in Calgary!) would be the ticket, but the lineup was out the door, and drive-through was curled around the block. It was too hot to muster the patience for that kind of wait, so we will have to wait until our next visit.
Happily we found the perfect playground to eat the ice cream we eventually found. The Imagination Grove at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre had my boys loudly disappointed we don’t have one at home. The playground is beautifully built into a grove of trees: a natural playground that uses mostly wood and rope, although there is a plastic slide descending from the treehouse. When even the shaded haven got too hot, we headed into the welcome air conditioning of the Nature Centre and spent some time learning about local nature systems.
The next day was another scorcher, so we slathered on the sun screen and headed to Discovery Canyon for some tubing and splashing. Discovery Canyon is in a lovely setting adjacent to the Riverbend Golf Course, and features a gently winding waterway perfect for tubing. We had our own tubes but you can rent them there too ($5 plus a $10 deposit). The water is very shallow—about knee height on the slide, waist deep at the base– so our 6 year old very quickly had the confidence to go it on his own tube. Our 3 old and I took a tumble on one of our first runs which put him off, but we contented ourselves playing in the sand, splashing in the water and taking frequent sojourns to the nearby playground.
We arrived around 10 am on a Sunday morning and things were already hopping. We were still able to find parking and a spot on the beach then, but I wouldn’t have wanted to get there much later. By the time we left around 2:00, the water was getting uncomfortably busy and people were definitely getting creative (*cough* jerks *cough*) with their parking.
It was a surprisingly fun weekend break, quick and easy and filled with enough activities that were sufficiently different from home to make it feel like a true getaway. I am always harping on enjoying the journey, not just the destination. After our weekend jaunt I know to stop and explore the pit stops too!
For more information on Red Deer and surrounding areas, please visit the Visit Red Deer website.