The Getaway
Things To Do In Fort McMurray and The Wood Buffalo Region

Fort McMurray is an urban service area in the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo in Alberta, Canada. It is a remote and gorgeous area that is home to many breathtaking destinations, including the Birch Mountains, Wood Buffalo National Park, and Athabasca Sand Dunes. It is also one of the fastest-growing industrial regions in Canada due to the rich underlying oil sands.

For adventure seekers, nature enthusiasts, and families looking for some time off, the area is a great hidden gem with a variety of recreational activities to indulge in, as listed in this guide:

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01 Visit MacDonald Island Park

MacDonald Island Park is Canada's largest community park. It offers various activities for leisure, entertainment, and recreation and also serves as an event venue. It offers amenities such as the Syncrude Aquatic Center. This includes the Olympic swimming pool, water slides, whirlpool, and spray water park. The park also consists of a fitness center, a kids' clubhouse, ice surfaces, an indoor playground, and a running track. These activities make the park a must-visit when in Fort McMurray.

02 Explore Oil Sands Discovery Center

The Oil Sands Discovery Center is an education center dedicated to increasing knowledge about Alberta's oil sands. It was opened in 1985, and it has presented the history, science, and technology of Alberta's oil sands while offering a wide range of science programming through special events, school field trips, and summer camps. The center also has different films, demonstrations, and exhibits. Some of these include an industrial equipment garden and bucket wheel exhibit, oil sands, and a hot water extraction demonstration. There is a daily schedule in place, so you can visit at your convenience.

03 Have Some Fun at Vista Ridge All Seasons Park

Located just outside Fort McMurray, Vista Ridge offers year-round family-friendly activities. In winter, the park offers skiing and snowboarding runs with modern lifts and awesome parks, in addition to a beginner-friendly area. For those who want to try something different, there is a spectacular tube park for you to enjoy. If you are there in the summer, you can enjoy the mini-putt course or the 12-hole family-style golf course with an Aqua Range.

04 Hike Or Bike The Birchwood Trails

Birchwood Trails is a 135-kilometer trail system that creates endless opportunities for visitors and locals to enjoy the outdoors. It is an urban trail located in the midst of Timberlea and Thickwood neighborhoods. It offers asphalt, gravel, and natural and groomed snow trails winding through the forest. You can walk, hike, bike, or inline skate while enjoying the natural beauty of Birchwood trails. Choose a route from the many available, and go out and have fun.

05 Golfing in Fort McMurray

If you are into golfing, Fort McMurray offers several premier golf courses to choose from, including Miskanaw Golf Club and Fort McMurray Golf Club. Set in the breathtaking Boreal Forest, Fort McMurray Golf Club is next to the stunning Athabasca River, ensuring you will have a truly unforgettable golfing experience. After golfing, enjoy local cuisine and the best local beer in the Bear and Buffalo restaurant while having a conversation with friends and new faces.

06 Enjoy Water Recreation Activities at Gregoire Lake Provincial Park

Gregoire Lake Provincial Park is located on the northwest shore of Gregoire Lake. The lake boasts a beach and swimming area. It is a perfect destination for fishing and boating enthusiasts. Other activities that you can indulge in include hiking, camping, water skiing, sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking. Travelers also have the opportunity to discover the diverse mixed-wood forest near the lake, either by mountain biking or hiking. The park offers a spacious campground with a variety of sites, including both serviced and unserviced options, catering to both tent camping and RVs, ensuring you will have great views while having fun.

07 View The Northern Lights

If you would like to enjoy the spectacle of the Northern Lights, you can view them at Wood Buffalo National Park, located in Canada. It is famous for being the world's largest Dark Sky Preserve. The park offers an exceptional opportunity to witness the mesmerizing northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis. By simply looking up at the night sky, visitors can get a front-row seat to this breathtaking natural phenomenon. Over the years, the park has attracted hundreds of campers who travel all the way to witness the breathtaking display of the northern lights in the dark sky. Photographers from around the world also visit the park, equipped with their best gear, in hopes of capturing stunning shots of this astronomical phenomenon.

To make the most of this experience, it is recommended to visit on clear, cold nights between the months of October and March. You can also spend a night at Teepees in the Aurora Borealis Indigenous Village and enjoy the Aurora Borealis.

08 Uncover Local History at Heritage Village and Shipyard

The Heritage Village and Heritage Shipyard are two different sites managed by the Fort McMurray Heritage Society. Heritage Village, located at the southern end of downtown, boasts a diverse collection of historical structures, including fourteen authentic buildings, as well as numerous replica structures and an extensive array of artifacts.

Heritage Shipyard, on the other hand, is situated on the bank of the Clearwater River and has several historical barges and boats, two historical train cars, three historical buildings, an artifact collection, an outdoor playground and picnic area, and a train canopy. These two sites celebrate an essential part of Fort McMurray's past by preserving these historical items.

09 Attend Local Festivals and Events

You can attend a few of the many local festivals and events in Fort McMurray. You can be sure to have a good time at these events, celebrating the region's culture, history, and culinary arts. Some of the major events that you cannot afford to miss while in Fort McMurray include the Fort McMurray Food Festival, RMWB Winterplay, Wood Buffalo Ribfest, Keyano College Gala, multicultural Expo, and Anzac Winterfest. These are, however, just some of the events; there are many more, and you will be spoiled for choice.

10 Visit Snye Point Park

Snye Point Park is a popular spot for community gatherings and leisure afternoons. The park is located on Fort McMurray's riverfront, where the Snye River and Clearwater River meet, making it an ideal destination for kayaking and canoeing. The park also offers a public boat launch, seating areas, green space, two beach volleyball courts, pathways, and a play structure. The park's location offers breathtaking views of the region, and it is open all year round, so you can visit any time of the year.

11 Enjoy Flightseeing Tours

The best way to enjoy the region's beauty is high up in the sky. You can find affordable journeys in floatplanes, planes, and helicopters in Fort McMurray. These tours typically take 40 to 80 minutes. Some of the companies that offer the tours are Phoenix Heli Flight, Canadian Helicopters, and McMurray Aviation. Some of the aerial tours offered include flights over the Athabasca dunes, the Gregoire Lake adventure, flights to Fort Chipewyan, and custom charters.

12 Visit Syncrude Giants of Mining

Syncrude Giants Mining Exhibit is a 30-minute drive north of Fort McMurray. It is a free, self-guided tour that lets you come up close with some of the early equipment involved in harvesting Alberta's oil sands. Some of the machines are the decommissioned Bucketwheel Reclaimer and the Discovery Dragline, which provide a fascinating insight into the evolution of mining equipment throughout history, showcasing how technological advancements have shaped the industry.

If you are an engineering geek, you will feel right at home at the site. Visitors can enjoy free admission to the site, which remains open 24/7. For those interested in capturing well-lit photographs, it is recommended to plan a visit during the afternoon or early evening hours.

13 Get Views of The City From Beacon Hill Lookout

Aerial image of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada

The Beacon Hill neighborhood in Fort McMurray is now home to a new lookout station that offers a range of amenities for residents and visitors to enjoy. This lookout station features a covered structure, an asphalt trail, custom stone pillars, and various seating options. Additionally, the surrounding landscape has been carefully designed to provide both soft and hard landscaping elements. The lookout is conveniently located along a popular loop trail that connects the neighborhood, making it easily accessible for everyone. From here, you can enjoy unobstructed views of the city. Some people have also reported seeing the Northern Lights from here, so you might get lucky, too.

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14 Visit Wood Bison Gateway and The Matcheetawin Discovery Trails.

About 27 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, visitors are welcomed by an enormous sculpture of a Wood Bison herd. This sculpture gateway also marks the start of the Matcheetawin Trail and the Sagow Pematosowin Trail. The trail system offers the chance to see various types of reclaimed land, ranging from aspen forests to grasslands and wetlands. The trails are moderately short and should not take a lot of time to complete. The average completion time for these trails is approximately 47 minutes. It is a popular choice for those who enjoy hiking and walking, offering a peaceful and secluded experience with minimal encounters with other individuals.

15 Visit Syncrude Wood Bison Viewpoint

A few minutes away from the Giants of Mining is another great spot you should look to visit when in Fort McMurray. The Syncrude Wood Bison View Point offers the opportunity to view Canada's largest mammals grazing and relaxing in the sun. There are approximately 300 bison in the 4000 hectares that Syncrude has reclaimed. You can visit the viewpoint and enjoy the beauty of these giant animals. Be sure to keep your distance, as they can be very aggressive.

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