This city of 86,000 (Alberta ’s third-largest) is on a bend of the Red Deer River, halfway between the cities of Calgary  and Edmonton , which are 145 kilometers (90 miles) south and 148 kilometers (92 miles) north, respectively. From the highway, Red Deer seems to be all industrial estates and suburban sprawl, but an extensive park system runs through the city, and many historic buildings have been restored.
The name Red Deer was mentioned on maps by explorer David Thompson in the early 1800s. The Cree name for the river is Waskasoo (elk); scholars believe that Thompson translated the word incorrectly, confusing these animals with the red deer of Scotland.
The Red Deer Visitor and Convention Bureau operates the excellent tourist information center (403/346-0180 or 800/215-8946, www.tourismreddeer.net , year-round Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., until 6 p.m. in summer) on Highway 2 between the main north and south entrances to the city. It’s on the city side of the highway (if you’re arriving from the north, take the 32nd St. exit and loop back onto Hwy. 2 northbound). In addition to providing a load of information, the center has a gift shop, a concession area, and restrooms, and is adjacent to a picnic area.
Two scheduled bus services link Red Deer to Calgary  and Edmonton . Greyhound departs from the depot (4303 Gaetz Ave., 403/343-8866) throughout the day for both cities. Red Arrow (403/531-0350 or 800/232-1958, www.redarrow.ca ) offers a more luxurious service, with complimentary beverages and snacks. Their buses depart north of downtown at 5315 54th Street four times daily for Calgary and Edmonton.