Located at the halfway point between Calgary and Edmonton, there are lots of things to do in Red Deer. Located on the banks of the Red Deer River and serving as a center for the oil and natural gas industry, Red Deer is a bustling small city with a population of around 107,000 people.
Even though Red Deer isn’t really known as a tourist city, there are still quite a few things to do and see. Plus, it’s located close to the two biggest cities as well as one of Alberta’s most famous lakes.
In this travel guide, we’ll let you know what to do, where to eat, and more.
Table of Contents
How to Get to Red Deer
Because of its location between Calgary and Edmonton, Red Deer gets a lot of traffic, especially in ‘Gasoline Alley’, where drivers stop for fuel and the delicious donuts from the Donut Mill before continuing on The Queen Elizabeth II Highway skirting the city.
Although most people visiting Red Deer do so by private vehicle, the small city can also be reached by plane or by bus.
Getting to Red Deer By Car
Red Deer is a perfect place to stop over on your Alberta road trip. It is halfway between Calgary and Edmonton on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway (formerly Highway 2). It is about an hour and twenty minutes from either the Calgary or Edmonton international airports.
Getting to Red Deer By Bus
There are several bus lines servicing Red Deer from Calgary and Edmonton.
Red Arrow: Tickets cost $44 (approx) and the bus arrives at Holiday Inn in the North West area of the city.
Ebus: Tickets cost $44 (approx) and there are two stops. It arrives in the north hill area of Red Deer along 50th Ave and also goes to the terminal at Sorensen station in south Red Deer along 49th Ave.
The Canada Bus: Tickets cost $30 (approx) and it arrives at Tim Hortons om 6620 Orr Dr, Red Deer.
Cold Shot Bus Service: Tickets cost $35 (approx) and it arrives at 67th Street.
If you are coming from Banff or wish to go directly to Banff from Red Deer, you can book a seat on the Rider Express for approximately $76. The trip takes about four and a half hours.
Getting to Red Deer by Plane
The Red Deer Regional Airport does not have scheduled airline service (as of June 2020). It serves charter flights and general aviation. The nearest International airports are in Calgary and Edmonton.
Getting to Red Deer by Train
There are no trains that visit Red Deer. The nearest rail connections are Edmonton, Banff, or Jasper connecting to either the ‘Rocky Mountaineer’ from Vancouver or ‘The Canadian’ which travels from Toronto to Vancouver.
Getting Around Red Deer
Buses are the only form of public transportation in Red Deer. Red Deer Transit provides bus service in the city.
There are a couple of taxi companies, however, which include Alberta Gold and Associated Cab, as well as Uber.
Things to Do in Red Deer
Red Deer might not be known as a tourist city, but there are still lots of things to do.
Bower Ponds is a year-round, must-do destination in Red Deer. It features a playground overlooking the Red Deer River, a serenity garden, and a natural amphitheater with a covered stage for summer concerts.
In the summer, you’ll find kayaks, paddle boats, canoes, and water balls, as well as some beautiful walking trails. In the winter, there is outdoor pond skating and tobogganing. You can hire your skates at the onsite pavilion which also has a cafe, a cozy fireside room, and a games room. There are picnic tables and an outdoor patio.
Canadian Finals Rodeo
If you’re planning to be in Red Deer from late October to early November, make sure that you don’t miss the world-class Canadian Finals Rodeo at Westerner Park. It’s a five-day rodeo event with events on and off-site that will have you kicking up your heels and shouting ‘Yeehaa’!
Heritage Ranch is part of the Waskasoo Park system. Its equestrian center is open year-round and offers horse-drawn wagon rides, trail rides, and pony rides. There is also an on-site Westlake Grill restaurant and the trails near the ranch are a great spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
In the winter, the evening sleigh rides at Red Deer’s Heritage Ranch are one of Red Deer’s top attractions. You glide along in a horse-drawn sleigh wrapped up in a warm blanket through a forest decorated with thousands of twinkling lights. A not-to-be-missed experience for the romantics amongst us!
Kerry Wood Nature Centre & Gaetz Lakes Sanctary
The Kerry Wood Nature Centre is the gateway to Waskasoo Park and is a great place for a walk and wildlife viewing. It is a 300 acre, federally protected migratory bird sanctuary with five kilometers of trails, a bird blind, and viewing decks. There is an indoor visitor center that has interpretive nature displays and a bookstore.
In the winter months, you can rent a pair of snowshoes and go for a walk in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary directly behind the nature center. The sanctuary is a 122-hectare natural area in the heart of the city that is home to Alberta’s first federal migratory bird sanctuary and is a haven for wildlife year-round.
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame
If you are interested in sport, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum should be at the top of your places to see in Red Deer. It is an interactive display of Alberta’s sporting history displayed in 6,000 square feet of space and contains over 7,000 artifacts of Alberta Sports history. There’s also an interactive hockey rink, baseball pitching field, and alpine skiing machine.
Canyon Ski Resort
Canyon Ski Resort is Alberta’s largest non-mountain ski resort. It has 80 acres of skiable terrain, 22 runs, and 6 lifts, including two chair lifts. There’s a snow tube park, a terrain park, equipment rentals, a ski school, and a ski lodge with a restaurant and lounge. You can go night skiing and night tubing at Canyon Ski Resort. On Sundays, they offer free family ski lessons with the purchase of a family ski pass. On Friday nights, the tube and dine package includes night snow tubing and dinner for two.
Cross Country Skiing
If you’d rather skip the downhill skiing but still enjoy the winter and some exercise, there’s nothing quite like cross-country skiing. There is an abundance of cross-country ski trails with more than 30 km of groomed ski trails within the city boundaries across Red Deer, which can be found at Heritage Ranch, Great Chief Park, Red Deer College, Barrett Park, and Riverbend.
Kraay Family Farm & The World-Famous Lacombe Corn Maze
The Kraay Family Farm in Lacombe is definitely worth a visit with over 40 attractions and amenities in addition to the world-famous corn maze. A few years ago they were entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the world’s largest QR code as a maze design! how cool is that?
In addition, you’ll find tractor pulling, obstacle courses, playgrounds, bouncy pillows, a sunflower maze, buggy racing, pig races, kernel corn play boxes, animals to feed, lots of picnic tables to eat at, firepits, barbeques, tent-covered areas, a potato cannon, displays set up to take photos, outdoor games, and a tractor-pulled train ride.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Red Deer in August, check out ‘Sunflower Days’ throughout the whole month with blooming flowers that are great for those Instagram shots.
This is a great place to spend a hot day. Discovery Canyon is a seasonal water park located along the Red Deer River and is open from June until the September long weekend. Rent or bring your own tube and have a blast gliding down the river. There is a natural river-fed water pool and a playground area. It’s also a great spot for a picnic.
Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery
While you’re in Red Deer, take a look at the exhibitions of rotating local and national art and history exhibits and take part in some of the interesting programs on offer at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. Some of the exhibits include the finest collections of clothing and textiles in Western Canada, an extensive collection of First Nations and Inuit art, the military experiences of the local men and women, and the history of Red Deer, its surrounding districts, and broader Central Alberta.
There are more than 20 golf courses in and around Red Deer, so if you’re into golf, there are many courses to enjoy. One of the most popular options is the River Bend Golf and Recreation Area, which is home to over 420 acres of forested parkland. With an 18 hole, par 72 championship course, a 9 hole Mini-Links course, a large Driving Range with matt and grass tees, two pitching greens and a large putting green, and a first-class CPGA staffed Teaching Centre, this is a great place to tee up.
What to Eat and Drink in Red Deer
Red Deer is more than just delicious doughnuts on the highway as you pass through between Calgary and Edmonton. Red Deer is right in the heart of farm country, making it the perfect stop for a great food scene. Ross Street (50th Street) has the highest concentration of restaurants and cafes. However, listed below are a few of the more unique places for a meal in Red Deer.
Cronquist Tea House
Near Bower Ponds, the Red Deer Historical Society operates the historic Cronquist House. The Cronquist House is one of the few remaining buildings in Red Deer dating from the early 1900s when the district was settled. The 8-bedroom Victorian-style farmhouse with its wrap-around porch and Queen Anne tower was built in 1911 by Emmanuel Cronquist and was moved across the frozen Red Deer River in 1976, to the spot where it stands today. The cafe serves good home-style food in a historical, Victorian home setting, complete with China teacups and crockery.
Red Deer Farmers’ Markets
Apparently, there are more than 9,000 farms in the area which means the farmers’ markets in Red Deer are really good. At all the markets you can expect excellent local produce and market stalls selling local produce, tasty treats, craft beers and spirits, art, clothing, crafts, bison meat, toys, great coffee, and much more.
Saturday Mornings: The Red Deer Public Market at the SERVUS Arena in downtown Red Deer takes place every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m from the May long weekend to Thanksgiving.
Wednesday afternoons: The Red Deer Downtown Farmers’ Market located on Little Gaetz Avenue runs every Wednesday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. starting in June and running through to October.
Friday afternoon: Sylvan Lake Farmers Market runs 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm at the Railway Promenade NORTH Lot – the corner of 50th (Centennial) Street and 50th Ave, Sylvan Lake (across from CIBC and the Legion).
For more information on the markets, click here to visit Albertafarmersmarket.com.
Top 5 Restaurants in Red Deer
Unfortunately, we haven’t explored Red Deer enough to gather our own intel on restaurants, but according to TripAdvisor, these are the top 5.
Tribe is a contemporary restaurant with food inspired from around the world. Chef Terry and Chef Paul are active travelers and foodies with a love for rich intense flavors, fresh products, and spices but also understand that they live in Red Deer where the locals really enjoy comfort food.
At Tribe, you can expect a varied menu, ranging from shareable plates to large meals, with items such as lemon devilled eggs, gochujang chicken, aztec tomales, snappy dresser pizza, and mashed potato chocolate cake with
penuche icing. Flirt a little, eat a little. drink a little.
Boulevard Restaurant & Lounge
Boulevard Restaurant & Lounge features contemporary Asian fusion cuisine as well as Canadian steaks that are aged and graded for maximum flavor and tenderness by Chopped Canada winner, Chef Pete Sok. With a family-friendly atmosphere, you can expect top-quality food such as filet mignon, Korean ribs, spicy shrimp penne, Indonesian laksa, and coconut lemongrass seafood stew.
It’s All Greek To Me
Opened in 1996 by Nick Sakkalis, It’s All Greek To Me offers authentic fresh, and delicious homemade Greek food served in a comfortable, intimate, and relaxed environment. Nick actually sold the restaurant to retire back in 2007 only to repurchase it in 2019 after realizing retirement wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some of the menu items include saganaki opa, calamari, baked spaghetti, souvlaki, and more.
Glenn’s Restaurant & Gift Shop
Popular not only for food but also for tea, Glenn’s Restaurant & Gift Shop operates like an old-fashioned diner with some of the best food in town, including hearty breakfasts, country fried chicken, Ukrainian platters, burgers, chili, and their popular cinnamon buns.
The Canadian Brewhouse
This popular Canadian chain can be found across Canada but in Red Deer, it tops the charts as one of the top places to fill your belly. It’s also the best place to catch your favourite sports game while munching down on buffalo chicken pizza, fried pickles, Ukrainian perogies, tuna poke rice bowls, donairs, and more.
Weather in Red Deer
Like all of Alberta, Red Deer has four distinct seasons. The summers are incredibly hot and the winters are incredibly cold. There can also be significant rainfall in the spring and summer, so make sure to pack a raincoat. throughout the year in Red Deer. In summer, temperatures range from 23 degrees celsius to 8 degrees celsius. In the fall, temperatures range from 11 degrees celsius to -3 degrees celsius. In the winter, temperatures range from -5 degrees celsius to -16 degrees celsius, and in the spring, temperatures range from 15 degrees celsius to -2 degrees celsius.
Basically, like all of Canada, bring layers. However, in the summer, you can most likely enjoy your days in shorts and a T-shirt whereas, in the winter, you’ll definitely want to be prepared with a winter jacket, winter boots, gloves, toque, and possibly even some thermal underwear.
There’s a good chance you’re not just visiting Red Deer while in Alberta. For more things to do in Alberta, check out these travel guides below.