It used to be a joke amongst my co-workers at the Calgary Herald: Whenever I was heading to Red Deer for the weekend with Blake and the kids (my in-laws live there) they’d ask what we had planned. “Oh you know,” I’d reply all Cowtown-snobby, “Dinner at Olive Garden!” I am not even sure whether Red Deer has an Olive Garden, but my point was there wasn’t a whole lot to do there besides eat at chain restaurants. Of course, that was back when the kids were wee and we didn’t get out much — even in Calgary.
Now that they’re bigger and spend at least a week in Red Deer every summer with their grandparents, I realize there’s quite a lot to do in Red Deer with kids. It’s a smaller, more contained version of Calgary, where activities cost less, venues are less crowded, and destinations are less than a 15-minute drive away. (It can even be more fun for adults… there’s exactly one big cinema, but we watched Gone Girl in a half-empty theatre a week after its release. Try doing that in Calgary!)
I’m not suggesting you spend your next family holiday in Red Deer, but should you happen to find yourself passing through or visiting with the littles, you may want to check out some of Avery’s and Bennett’s favourite spots:
Bennett loves climbing the hill at Rotary Park to see the “mushroom” (a green water tower) across the valley.
It seems every small town and city has a Rotary Park, including Red Deer. They are usually great community gathering spots and Red Deer’s park goes one step farther by offering hiking paths up a hill to a viewpoint, and then down through a forested wood and over bridges that span a meandering stream. It was especially lovely on a Thanksgiving weekend day with the fall colours.
Nature trails at Rotary Park. (Bennett is so over playground equipment and prefers hiking where possible.)
The Collicut Centre
The kids do laps on the water slide while one parent (pick me!) relaxes in the hot tub.
This is Red Deer’s version of Southland Leisure Centre. The Collicut Centre has a wave pool, kiddie water park, lazy river and a water slide, plus hot tubs, with the added bonus I don’t worry my kids will drown as it’s also crawling with lifeguards. There’s also a gym, so some Sunday mornings Blake and I will go work out, then return for “Twonie Sunday” when it costs just $2 each to visit the water park between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Avery and Bennett pet an ewok-like donkey at Sunnybrook Farm.
I have never been to this much-ballyhooed farm/museum, but Grandma takes the kids to Sunnybrook Farm regularly between May and September to see the baby animals including lambs, calves and kids. There are also chickens (Bennett’s faves), kittens and a cow-milking station where Avery can play Little House on the Prairie. The kids spend hours here and admission is by donation.
Avery pretend milks a pretend cow at Sunnybrook Farm in Red Deer.
Three Mile Bend
Scenery at Three Mile Bend.
Three Mile Bend is a 55-hectare natural area of forest, muskeg and ponds adjacent to the Red Deer River. It’s also a fantastic off-leash dog park. Piper loved running ahead on the trails while Blake, Bennett and I followed behind.
I could go on, but why list every single family-friendly attraction in one blog post, when I could milk this over many entries? Since we have family in Red Deer, we’ll be back, so I’ll write more later.