If you stop for fuel or food in Gasoline Alley on a road trip, you haven’t really seen the City of Red Deer. The fourth largest city in Alberta is filled with parks, trails and many unique attractions. Halfway between Calgary and Edmonton, Red Deer has all the amenities you’d expect to find in a major city and more. Population studies have shown that the city has one of the youngest populations in Canada. If you’ve come to Central Alberta for a conference, a tournament or a getaway, you’ll discover many wonderful things to do in Red Deer. Here are some of the best places to go and the best things to do to have fun in every season.
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Red Deer is one of the greenest cities in Alberta thanks in large part to Waskasoo Park, a protected parkland that winds its way through the heart of the city. This park contains more than 110 kilometres of trails and is home to Alberta’s oldest federal migratory bird sanctuary, the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. More than 130 species of birds and 28 species of mammals have been spotted in the sanctuary.
Kerry Wood Nature Centre
Visting Kerry Wood Nature Centre should be at the top of your list of things to do in Red Deer if you are a nature lover. The nature centre is Central Alberta’s only year-round facility for nature interpretation and environmental education. It lies within Waskasoo Park at the entrance to the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. There’s a permanent exhibition gallery, a bookstore and a discovery centre. Onsite interpretive staff lead nature-related programming. You can choose from a variety of programs including adventures like a guided snowshoe tour or an interpretive river raft float down the Red Deer River. Kerry Wood Nature Centre showcases the works of local artists in the onsite Marjorie Wood Gallery. A nature playground is located near the centre. Admission is by donation.
Great Chief Park
Great Chief Park is a major recreation and sports area in Red Deer. There are two baseball diamonds, two fastball diamonds and a combined soccer/football field. In winter, the park is home to a speed skating oval that is used by athletes and is also open for public use. The Kiwanis Picnic Site is a great spot for a picnic and Great Chief trails connect with others in the Waskasoo Park System. There’s also an 8-hole pitch n’ putt, horseshoe pits and other facilities.
More Alberta Road Trip Fun: Read our post, 15 Fantastically Fun Things to do in Waterton.
Canyon Ski Resort
Canyon Ski Resort is the largest non-mountain downhill ski resort in Alberta. It was the host site of the alpine events of the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Just eight minutes east of the city, the resort has 28.6 hectares of skiable terrain with 20 runs, six lifts, lights for night skiing, a large ski school, equipment rentals, a cafeteria and a day lodge. A 164-metre vertical drop with terrain for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers makes downhill skiing one of the best things to do in Red Deer in winter. The resort also has snow tubing facilities with dedicated runs and snow tube lifts.
Cross-country skiing is very popular in Red Deer and there are many places to enjoy it. There are more than 30 km of groomed cross country ski trails inside the city. You’ll find most of the city’s ski trails in the Heritage Ranch/Great Chief Park area and the Riverbend Golf and Recreation Area, which is the best cross country ski venue in Central Alberta. Red Deer’s Nordic ski community hosts events throughout the year.
Golf Courses Near Red Deer
There are more than two dozen golf courses within an hour’s drive of the city. You should definitely check out Riverbend Golf Course right inside the city. The 18-hole championship course is located in an elbow of the Red Deer River and the scenery along the course is beautiful. There’s also a 9 hole mini-links course, a large driving range and 2 pitching greens. Riverbend has hosted the PGA of Alberta Championship three times.
Amazing Trails – Walk, Run Cycle or Skateboard
Going for a walk or a run is one of the things locals like to do in Red Deer. More than 100 km of walking trails connect dozens of green spaces and parks in the city. There are playgrounds, skating ponds, outdoor gyms and attractions to explore along the trails. There’s even a mountain bike park and a skate park. Checkout the trail map and go exploring.
There’s something incredibly romantic about a horse drawn carriage or sleigh ride. After-dark winter rides are particularly beautiful at Heritage Ranch where the sleigh takes guests through a landscape featuring more than 40,000 shimmering lights. Hot chocolate and warm blankets complete the experience or you can purchase a date night package that includes dinner at Westlake Grill. Younger visitors can enjoy a daytime horse drawn hay rides. The ranch holds a variety of seasonal activities and events and the restaurant is always top notch. There are walking trails and playgrounds all through the ranch.
Winter Fun in Alberta: Read our post, Jasper in Winter – 12 Stunning Photos.
Bower Ponds is one of the most popular recreation areas in Red Deer. In the summer, there are boat rentals and in the winter there are skate rentals. It’s a great place for a picnic in summer or a game of shinny hockey in winter. There’s an onsite concession area and a toboggan hill. Visiting Bower Ponds is one of the most popular things to do in Red Deer. If you want a more serious game of hockey, check out the other 73 skating rinks in the city.
The Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery, or The MAG as it is known to locals, has rotating exhibits and interesting displays. You can learn about the history of this region, see some incredible art or make art of your own with one of their day programs. Admission is by donation.
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame Museum
You can learn all about the history of sports in Alberta and the most famous athletes at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum has fun interactive sports games to enjoy and great displays. Tourism Red Deer shares the building on the QE2, so it’s a good place to stop if you want information and brochures.
The Red Deer Collicutt Centre
The Collicutt Centre is a multi-use facility with an indoor swimming pool and wave pool, waterslides, workout facilities, indoor facilities for playing badminton or practicing your golf swing and more. If you’re looking for a place to go swimming or enjoy some indoor recreational activities in Red Deer, visiting the Collicutt Centre is a good thing to do.
Before 1893 when the railway connected Edmonton and Calgary, the Red Deer River Crossing was the safest passage. A stopping house was built at the site and it was later fortified to become Fort Normandeau. You can visit the recreated fort and learn about the history of the fort and the Indigenous people who shaped this part of Alberta. The name Red Deer was actually a misunderstanding. Indigenous people called the river the Elk River. European visitors did not know what elk were, so they called it the Red Deer River – named for a species they were more familiar with.
Sunnybrook Farm Museum
In the heart of the city, Sunnybrook Farm Museum celebrates the history of farming in Alberta. It’s a great place to take younger children because there are farm animals and farm machinery to see. Educational programs, day camps and events happen at the farm.
This seasonal city-operated water play park is fun for young children and the perfect place to cool off on a hot day. You can rent an inner tube and the kids can have fun floating down the little river. Picnic areas are nearby. Visiting Discovery Canyon is one of the best things to do in Red Deer with small children in summer.
Cronquist Tea House
The Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society operates a unique tea house near Bower Ponds. Cronquist House is a lovely spot for meetings, parties and weddings. It’s also a great place to enjoy lunch or afternoon tea. You can also tour the historic home and see period furnishings and historic photos.
Three Mile Bend Recreation Area & Off-Leash Park
If you travel with a fur baby, Three Mile Bend should be at the top of your list of things to do in Red Deer. This 55 hectare natural area has an off-leash dog park, canoe ponds, a boardwalk, a picnic area, a remote control car track and many trails.
Norwegian Laft Hus
The Norwegian Laft Hus is a small museum dedicated to the preservation and interpretion of the culture of Norwegian-Canadians. There are many beautiful artifacts on display inside the house. There is interpretive programming, arts and crafts classes and special events throughout the year.
Spray Parks & Playgrounds
Blue Grass Sod Farms Central Spray Park is the biggest spray park in the city. It is located at the northwest corner of the Rotary Recreation Park, which is also home to some fantastic playgrounds and picnic areas. There’s another spray park in Kin Kanyon, which is near 32 St. and 47A Ave. There’s a playground, firepits and picnic areas at Kin Kanyon too. Red Deer has a young population and you’ll find many other playgrounds throughout the city.
Red Deer Market
The Red Deer Market has been around for more than 50 years. This farmer’s market is the place to go if you want to buy farm fresh veggies and fruits as well as local handicrafts and other items. The market runs on Saturdays from May long weekend through Thanksgiving.
Red Deer Symphony Orchestra
If music and culture and culture top your list of things to do, you should take in a performance of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra. Red Deer is one of the only cities of its size in Canada to boast a fully professional orchestra. The orchestra is deeply ingrained in the community. RDSO offers free community concerts, a free after school music enrichment program for elementary students, seats for students, open dress rehearsals and more.
Westerner Days & Other Festivals
Westerner Days is the biggest annual festival in Red Deer. The event includes a parade with decorated floats and marching bands. There’s also an agricultural exposition and a mid-way as well as music and live concerts. Other big events include the Centrefest Street Performer’s Festival and the Festival of Trees Christmas celebration. There are many other festivals throughout the year. Red Deer is also home to Agri-trade, Western Canada’s largest agricultural trade show.
Canadian Finals Rodeo
Red Deer is centrally located and it’s surrounded by farms and agriculture. The city also has fantastic facilities for hosting large events. Those are some of the reasons Red Deer became the new hometown for the annual Canadian Finals Rodeo event. It’s one of the biggest rodeo events in Canada.
Indoor Play Areas
Red Deer has a number of businesses dedicated to indoor recreation. There are two bowling alleys, Heritage Lanes and Riverside Bowl. Treehouse Indoor Playground is a great place to take kids to burn off some energy. The play centre offers a parents date night package that includes free babysitting. Combat Archery Adventures offers combat archery, nerfwarz and laser tag. Lazerforce is another Red Deer business that offers laser tag.
Red Deer Breweries & Cocktail Spots
Stopping for a pint or a cocktail is a great thing to do when you’re in Red Deer. Troubled Monk is the best-known craft brewery in Red Deer. They have won awards for their beers and their craft sodas are delicious too. Other good craft breweries include Belly Hop Brewing, Red Hart Brewing and Sawback Brewing. If you just want to pick up some cans of local craft beer, Craft Beer Nation is the best craft beer shop in the city. If you’re looking for a great cocktail bar, Occam’s Razor is the place to go.
Where to Eat in Red Deer
There are many good restaurants in Red Deer, but it’s always fun to try something new. If you like tea, there’s no better place than Glenn’s Restaurant where they sell and serve 200 varieties. For unique casual fare, check out the Queen’s Diner, an authentic 1950’s diner with a great breakfast menu and delicious burgers. For a nice evening out, Boulevard Restaurant at the Holiday Inn has long been the top rated restaurant in the city. Chef Emmanuel has created a unique menu with tastes from near and far. For a great cup of coffee, you just can’t beat Dose Coffee.
Where to Stay in Red Deer
You’ve got options. There are a lot of great places to stay in Red Deer.
Looking for More fun Alberta Adventures? Read our post about Why You Should Visit Wayne, Alberta.