The population of Camrose, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Wetaskiwin , swells the first weekend of August when country music fans descend on the local exhibition grounds for the Big Valley Jamboree (780/672-0224 or 888/404-1234, www.bigvalleyjamboree.com ), one of North America’s largest such gatherings. Daily passes are around $80, and a three-day weekend pass goes for $195; camping is $120 for as long as you can handle the heat, the noise, and the booze (actually, it’s not that bad—a great time is had by all).
As a tribute to early Norwegian settlers, a nine-meter (30-foot) scaled-down replica of a Viking longship is on display in the Bill Fowler Centre (5402 48th Ave., 780/672-4217, summer Mon.–Fri. 8:30 a.m.–8 p.m. and Sat.–Sun. 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., the rest of the year Mon.–Fri. 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., free). Overlooking Mirror Lake, this building is also home to the local tourist information center and the start of a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) trail system that encircles the lake (2.2 km/1.4 mi) and follows Camrose Creek south to the campground.
The 906-hectare (2,240-acre) Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Camrose on Highway 833, is part of the massive 650-square-kilometer (250-square-mile) Cooking Lake Moraine, a hummocky, forested region dotted with lakes that extends north to Elk Island National Park .
At the end of the last Ice Age, as the sheet of ice that covered much of the continent receded, it occasionally stalled, as it did in this area. Chunks of ice then broke off and melted, depositing glacial till in mounds. Between the mounds are hollows, known as kettles, which have filled with water.
The Knob and Kettle Trail System starts behind the baseball diamond and is a series of short interconnecting trails through this intriguing landscape. The draw for most visitors is the wide beach fronting a warm and shallow bay. Other amenities include a modern visitor center, a large playground, and an adjacent golf course (780/672-7308).
The park campground (780/672-7274, unserviced sites $22, powered sites $28) has modern washrooms, kitchen shelters, and firewood.
Just a couple of blocks from Mirror Lake, the centrally located Camrose Motel (6116 48th Ave., 780/672-3364, from $70 s or d) has 20 basic rooms, each with a microwave and a small fridge. The town-operated Valleyview Campground (5204 50th Ave., May–Sept., $15–20) has powered sites, showers, a kitchen shelter, and firewood. To get there, follow 53rd Street south from Highway 13 for two kilometers (1.2 miles) and turn left on 39th Avenue.
The friendly, country-style atmosphere is similar at Camrose Railway Station (44th St., 780/672-3099, mid-May–Aug. Thurs.–Fri. 1–5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.). It’s typical tearoom fare in a restored station. Call ahead for a Saturday schedule—often it’s a theme with links to Camrose’s past (German, Ukrainian, Native, etc).
Along the highway through town, the Monte Carlo Restaurant (4907 48th Ave., Sun.–Mon. 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., $14–26) is the most popular place in town for a special night out, although the menu isn’t particularly creative (think fettuccini alfredo, roast chicken, fish-and-chips, and pork souvlaki).