Alberta does lakes and mountains like Rome does cathedrals and chapels, but without the penance. For proof head west to Jasper and Banff, two of the world’s oldest national parks; despite their wild and rugged terrain, they remain untrammeled and easily accessible. No one should leave this mortal coil without first laying eyes on Lake Louise and the Columbia Icefield – and think twice about dying before you’ve traveled east to the dinosaur-encrusted badlands around Drumheller, south to the Crypt Lake trail in Waterton Lakes National Park, and north to spot bison in the vast, empty northern parklands.
In the center of the province, the wheat blows and the cattle roam; here you'll find historic ranches, sacred native sights and the eerie landscape of the hoodoos. Alberta’s cities are of patchier interest; there are living people older than Calgary and Edmonton's downtowns. But what these metropolises lack in history they make up for with their spirit: Calgary has become unexpectedly cool, with top museums and cocktail bars, while Edmonton’s fringe theater festival is the world’s second largest.