Top 150 Unusual Things to See in Alberta

A Book Review

Grande Cache Labyrinth Park

Debbie Olsen, my friend and fellow co-author of 200 Nature Hots Spots in Alberta, is the author of another book,Top 150 Unusual Things to See in Alberta– published in summer 2022 by Firefly Books. If you thought you knew the province – and I certainly did, then I think you would be shocked at what she has uncovered.

In the 272-page book, Debbie will take you across Alberta and show you loads of unusual things including unusual foods invented in Alberta, unusual festivals and events in Alberta, unusual bathrooms for regular people, and unusual sites around the province. What I also appreciated was her “Did you know” additions to many of the write-ups.

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Top 150 Unusual Things to see in Alberta

What I loved about the Top 150 Unusual Things to See in Alberta

I enjoy Debbie’s easy-to-read writing style. She captures the essence of a place or a thing in short order and makes you want to visit. She’s also done a great job of organizing the book.

Pick a part of Alberta – South of Calgary, Edmonton to Calgary, The Alberta Rockies, or North of Edmonton – and then do a deep dive. In short order, you’ll likely come up with a half dozen ideas of things you’d like to see that would make the basis of a great Alberta road trip.

After reading the book. I’m keen to eat in the Water Tower Grill in Lethbridge as the views look amazing. I’d love to visit the RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre in Innisfail and hike to an abandoned airplane in William A. Switzer Provincial Park.

Of course, I’m like many Albertans who love a gigantic roadside attraction. Did you know that there are more than 100 of them – including the world’s largest honeybee, beaver, sausage, cowboy boot, and golf tee – and that’s just for starters. Debbie’s covered the best of them – so you know where to look.

Ceannmore or "Big Head" by Alan Henderson in Canmore
Ceannmore or “Big Head” by Alan Henderson in Canmore

A few of Debbie’s favourite unusual things to see in Alberta

I asked Debbie to share a few of her favourite unusual things to see in Alberta.

She said “it was hard to choose my top three unusual places. I loved visiting Iniskim Umaapi – the Majorville Medicine Wheel. We got lost more than once trying to find it and ultimately got a Blackfoot guide from Blackfoot Crossing to take us there. If you’ve ever been to Stonehenge in Europe, there’s a feeling about standing inside a stone circle that has existed for 5,000 years. Canada’s Stonehenge sits on a hill surrounded by prairie and we were the only ones there. I understand why the place is sacred to the Blackfoot. I also love Áísínai’pi, also known as Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. There’s something about that landscape that moves me every time I visit. I also loved visiting quirky places like Canada’s highest cemetery in the Ghost Town of Mountain Park – even though we got a flat tire getting there. I sincerely hope readers will enjoy the book and enjoy exploring the unusual side of Alberta. It’s time we embraced being weird and wonderful. “

Majorville Medicine Wheel 

The Majorville Medicine Wheel – known as Iniskim Umaapi to the Blackfoot is one of the oldest religious monuments in the world and the oldest known medicine wheel to exist in the world. It is estimated to be about 5,000 years old – dating it back to the earliest usages of the Stonehenge site in Europe.

Some have called it Canada’s Stonehenge. Medicine wheels are sacred to Indigenous Peoples and Alberta has more documented medicine wheels than any other province in Canada or state in the USA. There are currently 57 documented medicine wheels in Alberta.

Majorville Medicine Wheel or Iniskim Umaapi to the Blackfoot - Photo credit: Greg Olsen
Majorville Medicine Wheel or Iniskim Umaapi to the Blackfoot – Photo credit: Greg Olsen

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

Writing-on-Stone Áísínai’pi is a sacred site in a mixed grassland prairie region on the northern edge of the Great Plains. The landscape is fascinating, and it contains the largest collection of rock art on the North American Plains.

The hoodoos in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
The hoodoos in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park – Photo credit: Greg Olsen

The world’s largest fishing lure

You could fill an entire book with Alberta’s roadside attractions. I didn’t include them all in the book, just some of the best ones.

Sadly, the new Cheeto will have to be in the second edition of the book. This is the world’s largest fishing lure in Lacombe, Alberta and that’s my granddaughter, Amelia Olsen in the picture.

The world's largest fishing lure
The world’s largest fishing lure – Photo credit: Greg Olsen

Grande Cache Labyrinth Park

This unique 11-circuit 70 foot medieval-style labyrinth made of rock, is in Grande Cache and is open in every season. You’ll find labyrinths all over Alberta. Walking through a labyrinth is a meditative exercise. Visit Labyrinth Locator to find labyrinths in Alberta and around the world.

Grande Cache Labyrinth Park
Grande Cache Labyrinth Park – Photo credit: Greg Olsen

Nikka Yuko

Nikka Yuko -is a Japanese garden in the middle of the prairies. She says it is definitely unexpected and the story behind it is also unique. 

Nikka Yuko - a Japanese garden in the prairies
Nikka Yuko – a Japanese garden in the prairies – Photo credit: Greg Olsen

Debbie’s take on unusual things to see in Alberta

After all her travel and research in Alberta Debbie had this to say. “Alberta is home to stunningly beautiful natural and manmade attractions as well as sites that are extremely unusual and even bizarre. Who doesn’t want to get a picture of themselves standing in front of the world’s largest perogy or the world’s largest Easter egg? My husband and I had so much fun traveling all over Alberta exploring weird and wonderful places for this new book. I also enjoyed learning about Alberta’s unusual history and packed the book with stories and facts. For example, the world’s most democratic train robbery happened in Nanton Alberta and the town of Blairmore was once called “Little Moscow.”

This book would make a great gift, especially for anyone who has a curious bent, or who likes to discover unusual places and things. You can purchasethe book through Amazon hereand I’m sure you’ll find it at many independent bookstores across Alberta.

Further reading on books and things to do in Alberta

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