Experience the Cowboy Way in Alberta
A version of this article originally appeared on the Travel Alberta website.
A visit to an authentic guest ranch in Alberta can be addictive. After one week of working with the herd, tending to the animals, hanging out with real wranglers, and watching that sun sink in the west, you'll be hogtied in love with the traditions, folklore, and lifestyle.
If you spend time on the range, it won’t take long before you’re looking for your next fix of the cowboy way. Be it poetry, made-to-measure western gear, or learning the art of roping and riding, Alberta has your inner cowboy covered.
Boots are for more than just fashion
Nothing tells a story like a pair of cowboy boots, and Alberta Boot Company in Calgary is the place to start. Quality craftsmanship has made the company a household name since 1978. Choose from over 6,000 pairs of in-stock boots or have a pair custom made just for you. The older the boots the better the stories – just like cowboy poetry.
Cowboy poetry party
At least a dozen cowboy poetry events happen each year in Alberta — drawing poets and musicians who love all things country and western. In mid-July you’ll encounter toe-tapping music and funny storytellers at the annual Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering in Stavely, about one hour south of Calgary. Poets gather from across the continent — young and old — to tell tall tales romancing life on the range. The sagas may be based on truth but like they say, why let that get in the way of a darn good story? Gatherings are usually accompanied by a dance and equine events.
Step back and learn
You’ll learn all about Alberta’s western heritage at the historic Bar U Ranch, along the famed Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. It’s a working ranch so you won't have trouble finding a rope to practice tossing at a hay bale dressed as a calf. Master the toss, sip coffee brewed over an open fire, see how a leather saddle is adorned, and even make a leather tag yourself. Try riding in a wagon easily pulled by a team of silky black Percheron horses — a wonderful way to explore the ranch. There are also many summer events at Bar U. The old-fashioned western celebration on July 1st for Canada Day is definitely a favourite.
Learn to dance like a cowboy
Want to hit the road? Head to Hill Springs and spend the weekend at the Great Canadian Barn Dance campground. Saturday nights feature a good old barn dance where you can learn to two-step, line dance, and square dance. You may also want to check out the iconic Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall, a western bar in south Calgary.