Whether you get here by steam train (highly recommended) or car, Big Valley offers unique experiences on the Boomtown Trail.
Discover Alberta’s history in the charming village of Big Valley, Alberta. Like other communities on the Boomtown Trail (Highways 21 & 56 between Calgary and Edmonton), Big Valley grew from a small farming community into a town when the Canadian Northern Railway built a railway depot here in the early 1900s. Today, about 331 people live here, and 20,000 visitors visit each year.
Go back in time with a visit to the Railway Station Museum, Roundhouse Interpretive Park, St. Edmund’s church, and quirky Jimmy Jock boardwalk. Whether you get here by steam train (highly recommended) or car, Big Valley offers unique experiences on the road less traveled. Allow a couple hours to see the sights.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Big Valley:
1. Ride a Steam Train from Stettler to Big Valley
Take a scenic ride on a vintage steam locomotive and experience the nostalgia of train travel as you travel through the prairies from Stettler to Big Valley. This experience lasts 5 hours and includes live entertainment on the train including a staged train robbery (if you’d like to donate, cash collected is given to charity), a BBQ beef lunch in Big Valley, and time to explore the village. We absolutely LOVED the experience, especially chatting with the friendly staff and volunteers in old-fashioned outfits. Most of the village takes part!
Read about the Stettler to Big Valley Train ride in our story: Put yourself right in the middle of Alberta history (complete with train robbers) in Stettler.
Book your train tickets at Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions.
2. Visit the Railway Station Museum (Railway Ave & Main St)
Visit the lovingly restored Canadian Northern Railway Station, built in 1912, now a National Historic Site. Explore the station’s exhibits and learn about local railway history and its significance in shaping the town. Outside, rest in the Station Garden, then look for the wooden caboose, snow plow, and 1950s railcars. Open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., July 1 to August 31.
3. Explore the Roundhouse Ruins (121 Railway Ave S.)
Once used for servicing locomotives, the remains of the Big Valley roundhouse speak to a time when railways were expanding at a furious pace. As railway companies went bankrupt or were bought up, rail lines were consolidated, and by the 1920s, this roundhouse was no longer needed. Many building materials were repurposed, but concrete ruins remain making a unique backdrop for photos. Take a self-guided tour through the interpretive park to learn more.
4. Shop and eat your way around the Jimmy Jock Boardwalk (20 Main St E.)
Named for a Chinese restauranteur who once ran a business here, the quirky Jimmy Jock Boardwalk is home to a fudge store, ice cream shop, custom Cowboy hat shop, Boardwalk Bistro & Bakery, and art gallery. The undertaker and house of ill-repute are long closed, but the signs remain! Get a treat or souvenir, and some fun photos on the western frontier themed boardwalk.
5. Check out the Big Valley Grain Elevator (121 Railway Ave S.)
Built in 1960, the wooden grain elevator is a provincial historic resource simply due to the fact there aren’t many around anymore, but it remains an iconic symbol of prairie life. Contact Big Valley Historical Society to go inside the grain elevator.
6. Take a selfie in the Big Valley Jailhouse (21 Main St E.)
Do the time without doing a crime at the 1914 Big Valley Jailhouse! The original jailhouse has been renovated and may be found on Main Street.
7. St. Edmund’s Anglican Church (245 Main St)
The pretty blue church on the hill is St. Edmund’s Anglican Church. It ended up blue due to low funds and a donation of premixed blue paint from the local lumber yard. Since 1974, the church has been repainted blue a couple times, and made a name for itself. Walk up the hill for a lovely view of Big Valley, listen to the churchbell (it rings on the hour), and learn more about the church’s history from interpretive panels.
8. McAlister Motors Garage Museum (57 Railway Ave. S.)
McAlister Motors Garage Museum, Big Valley’s largest museum, features vintage cars, trucks, tractors, and early 1900s artifacts. Many of the items were generously donated by Big Valley locals, Rod and Ione Miller.
9. Big Valley Vintage Tool & Collectibles Museum (39 Railway Ave S.)
The Big Valley Tool Museum has a huge collection of vintage tools; collectible trucks, tractors and cars; and porcelain dolls. Over 10,000 antiques, from a Model T truck to rope maker, were collected over 27 years and donated by Rod and Ione Miller of Big Valley. Learn what tools were used in the 1800s until the early 1900s.
10. Big Valley Golf Course (west side of Big Valley)
The Big Valley Golf Course is a challenging nine hole course with “lots of hills on sand greens”. Enjoy lovely village and valley views from the course and clubhouse, and affordable fees: $10/person or rent the whole course for $100/day or $200/day.
Bonus: Big Valley Street Festival – Saturday, July 22, 2023 at 2 pm
The annual Big Valley Street Festival features live music (4 pm – 11 pm), a Show & Shine (2 pm – 5 pm), Farmer & Artisans Market (3 pm – 6:30pm), Kids’ Games and Events, Beer Gardens (2 pm – Midnight), and BBQ by donation. See the Facebook event page for more info.
A road trip to Big Valley, Alberta promises a unique blend of history, nature, and small-town charm. See our #BoomtownTrail stories below for more cool stops between Calgary and Edmonton on this historic route.
Know Before You Go
Remember that Big Valley is a little village, and many businesses are closed Sundays and Mondays. For the best experience, take the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions to Big Valley and see how the village comes to life in the summer. Most of the locals dress up in vintage costumes to add to the frontier town atmosphere.
Big Valley is located 2 hours northeast of Calgary / 2.5 hours southeast of Edmonton on the historic Boomtown Trail.
More Boomtown Trail Destinations
- Exploring Camrose and Camrose County
- Let’s keep Camrose our little secret, ok?
- Alberta through the Mirror: 48 hours in Lacombe County
- Summer Fun at Gull Lake, Lacombe County
- Road tripping with a time machine in Three Hills
- Trochu is ready for its closeup
- Put yourself right in the middle of Alberta history (complete with train robbers) in Stettler
- How to find peace when you visit the Red Deer Valley: ft. Dry Island Buffalo Jump and Delburne