Top 10 Reasons to check out Visitor Information Centres in Alberta

Grande Prairie VIC

We know what you’re thinking—but I’ve got the internet! Why go to a brick and mortar shop when one has TripAdvisor and Yelp right on their mobile devices?

Here are ten reasons why Alberta’s Visitor Information Centres can help enhance your apps…and are worth visiting in their own right:

  1. Get a custom-tailored experience.

Don’t let an abundance of choice stop you from experiencing all Alberta has to offer. Travel counsellors at visitor information centres can help you cut through the clutter of information and help you choose the adventure that’s the right fit for you. There’s nothing better than having a conversation with someone who knows the area and can provide greattravel ideas. They’ll take the time to ask you what your interests are and then match you with the right experience. Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer looking for the best trails and campgrounds, or an explorer looking for local experiences, or a history buff looking to learn more about our past, travel counsellors can show you the way to your personalized trip.

  1. Find hidden gems.

Hardware + Shipping Crates 2There are many hidden gems that only the locals know, like the best spot on the lake to view the sunrise or sunset or the best places to see wildlife. A travel counsellor can point you to the treasures you might want to experience. Some visitor information centres themselves are hosts to cool things, such as the solar flower and the not so hidden replica of the Star Trek Enterprise at the Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station.

Or check out the Mackenzie Crossroads Museum and Visitors Centre in High Level. Fans of the television show Canadian Pickers and antique enthusiasts alike will enjoy the museum’s collection that tells the story of the town’s early years that is set up like a trading post with over 1600 food containers from the early 1900s and tells the story of the town’s early years. [photo of museum]

  1. Learn from the experts.Heather with map

Many centres, like Mackenzie Crossroads, is also a museum and the staff has an intimate knowledge of the region’s history. Moreover, travel counsellors are experts in what to do across Alberta. Just ask Heather Whitfield, summer staff at the High Level visitor centre turned travel guru, who won the Alberta Visitor Information Program road trip trivia contest last year.

  1. Get to know the community.

Go to a visitor information centre and you might come across a community barbeque, just one way visitor information centres are extending the local hospitality to its visitors. For example, the Grande Prairie Visitor Information Centre offers bus tours of the city three days a week, sponsored by the Rotary Club, along with Welcome Wednesdays from June through August where visitors are treated to free locally-made refreshments.

  1. Check out local events.

Visitors Information Centres have the scoop when it comes to local festivals and events. Take, for example, the Town of High Level’s 50th Anniversary celebrations June 12-14. Travel counsellors at the Mackenzie Crossroads Museum and Visitors Centre in High Level can fill you in on the many activities happening that weekend.

  1. Find local art and other fine goods.Counter + Mailboxes 1

Many of Alberta’s community-based visitor information centres are next to or include a local market and/or gift shop. Handcrafted, custom items from the region help tell Alberta’s story, and make wonderful souvenir gifts. And if there isn’t a gift shop at the centre, travel counsellors can tell you the best spots to get the local goods.

  1. Extend your vacation into a memorable experience.

Many community-run visitor information centres are also open year round and are key attractions for the region. So no matter when you travel, consider an extended pit stop at a visitor information centre on your route. Shari McDowell, manager of the Galloway Station Museum and Travel Centre in Edson says they get a lot of visitors passing through between Edmonton and Jasper. But many stay to check out the museum, shop at the gift store, enjoy a picnic or barbeque, check out the local trails, or make a point of stopping to attend one of many community events such as Rotary Sunday’s in the Park.

  1. Start a family tradition.

Eddie Jr and ShariThe Galloway Station Museum was also home to Eddie the Squirrel, a majestic statue that also serves as a local attraction. A family from northern Alberta made a point of stopping every year during their summer vacation to take a family photo. When the centre underwent renovations in 2009, the original Eddie was taken down, much to the disappointment of the family and Eddie’s visitors. Luckily, in 2011, Eddie was resurrected in his new form (and now known as Eddie Jr) and the family was able to resume their family tradition…which now expanded to include a new generation as the daughter was expecting!

  1. Get expert navigation advice.

Visitor information centres have more than maps—here you can find out the best routes, get specific directions, and find out where all the gas stations are. Travel counsellors are often ready to go the extra mile, and can tell you important tips like which roads to avoid if you’re driving a small car, what scenic routes are worth checking out off the beaten path, or what route will lead you to the best wildlife viewing areas.

  1. Travel Counsellors are Fun

Staff at visitor centres want to help turn a long drive into a memorable experience. As Mylene English, Fox Creek Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, and manager of the Fox Creek Visitor Information Centre, says, “I love meeting people from many different places, people with such diverse personalities and varying backgrounds. I find people fascinating, so engaging them and hearing their stories is quite interesting.”

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