friendly people, unique landscape, good for the soul
in the middle of no where
away from it all, and off the beaten path
I would not reccommend Bungy jumping in Cereal. It is very flat, and there are no high cliffs or bridges to spring-off of. The Pool evelators might suffice, but they may be touchy on this subject, given insurance and liability issues.
Ditto for Turkish Baths. Cereal does not have any Turkish Baths that I am aware of?
Where does VT.com come up with these must see activity tips?
When I was a kid growing up there was nothing more special than going out with my dad to the local diner for some lunch or even just to have a cup of coffee with the grown men and listen to them talk. Farmers, tradesmen and townsfolk used to meet everyday at the diner to drink coffee, harass the waitress in a good-natured way, and swap gossip.
When I was a kid we used to have like no allowance to speak of, and even less to spend it on. I started working when I was 6-years old, but the money went into a bank account. Once in a while, I could spend some of it on new hockey skates or something like that, but never waste it on sweets or candy.
Favorite Dish: Junk food practically didn't exist. Sure we had a burger & fries, but they came served at the restaurant or drive-through and you ate them there. They really were all-beef patties, and one filled you up.
In any case, at the old Britsh American - B/A - in Cereal there was a diner attached to the service station. In those days, every small town had a diner or maybe a Chinese restaurant called Wong's or the Boston Café.
I still remember the day I went down there with some friends and we ordered fries with gravey and a coke float. A coke float is vanilla ice cream in a big glass with coca-cola poured over it to make it fizz. First you drank the fizz through a straw and then you ate the ice cream with a long spoon.
When you're 10-years old that was a pretty special treat. We had less of almost everything back then, but we sure had more fun. Small towns were great for kids. You got so bored that you and your friends went out and made your own fun.
Forget going out at night in Cereal. It is like one of those movies of a small town, when the stranger enters the bar, the music stops, and everyone turns around a stares at the stranger, before either a) ignoring them for the rest of the night or b) kickin' their ass 'cuz they a) looked funny or b) lukin' at ma woman or c) picked the wrong song on the juke box.
Actually, I am kidding (who me?). In all your travels you will not meet nicer people than in Alberta. They are open and friendly and truly welcoming. However, there is not much to see in Cereal come sundown, so enjoy a good steak dinner, a beer, and then either turn in early or go out and do a bit of star gazing.
The Prairie sky is so large at night, no wonder it is called Big Sky Country (sorry Montana). With no light pollution to distort your view, you can see the stars well, and in the Winter enjoy the Auraborealis (Northern Lights). The scope of the heavens can make you feel pretty lonely and insignificant, which of course, compared to a universe billions of years old, we are.
Quirk - with nothing to get in their way, you can pick up radio waves at night from all over Canada and the USA, or sometimes you pick them all up at once which is even more annoying.
Dress Code: Plaid shirts, blue jeans, work boots, and ball caps emblazened with logos of various weed killers or farm implement dealers is pretty much standard fare depending on the time of year. In Fall, camoflauge blends in well, and in Winter, dressing warm is always in style.
In Alberta we measure distance in time, not in miles or kilometers. Hanna is an hour away from Ceral west. Oyen is 30 minutes south-east. Consort is an hour north. It takes four hours to drive to Cereal from Calgary. Mostly, there will not be much traffic, but you may be sharing the road with large trucks heading east-west on highway 9. The best way to see this neck of the prairies is with a camper or RV. That way you can pull over and stop anywhere. There are lot's of small towns with gas stations and local diners. You can buy groceries in any of the small grocery stories in any of the small towns. When I was a kid, the grocery store in Cereal was owned by Tony Toy, and even though I was only three at the time, I remember going to the grocery store with my wagon alone to buy groceries. What parent now in any large city would allow that? A different time and a different world for sure.
The Albertan economy depends crucially on three main industries - oil & gas, tourism and agriculture.
Tourism is mainly concentrated in and around the mountains and the national parks of Banff, Jasper and Waterton National Park. This is probably the area of Alberta that tourists know best.
The oil & gas industry is both the bane and the boom of the Alberta economy. When oil prices are high, as they are now, the economy soars, as do housing prices. However, we have learnt from bitter experience that booms can turn to busts when oil prices decline. Thankfully, at the moment, they look quite well supported and that guarantees that the Alberta economy will be strong.
However, the third pillar of the economy is not in good shape at all. Since the discovery of three cows in Alberta with BSE or mad cow's disease, the US border has been shut to all Canadian exports. This has cost Prairie farmers in excess of $5 billion in lost sales. However, the true cost is much higher as all the cows that cannot be sold still have to be fed and watered, nevermind the interest that has to be paid on farm loans and machinery.
It has been very hard on farmers in Alberta. Most Alberta beef is shipped south of the border to packing plants in the USA. Once the border closed, there was a beef glut in Canada, and in any case, it is further to ship beef wes-east than north-south.
No one said farming would be easy, with all the uncertainty over prices and weather, but politics and non-tariff barriers erected by the Americans have done irreparable farm to the Prairie farmer.
Local Tip: There is not much traffic in the country and folks are pretty friendly. If three cars roll up to a four way stop at the same time, it is considered a heavy traffic day. So as you are driving down the road, don't be surprised if the guy in the on-coming pick-up truck waves at you. It is fully normal and he is just being friendly. Smile and wave back. Neighborliness is contagious, and you will feel better about it all day.
Local Tip: Alberta is twice the size of Germany. The distances between towns are large. In Winter it is cold. Never set out on a road trip without (really) warm clothing, including winter boots, a touque (that's Canadian for hat), warm gloves or mittens, extra blankets and a candle. Don't rely on your useless cell phone when your gasline freezes in the middle of no where and it is minus 32. Oh ya, gasline anti-freeze is always handy to have with you, and don't forget to plug your block heater in at night. If you do, your engine oil will be thicker than mollasses, and you won't be going anywhere in the morning.
Hunting is a moral dilemna. On one hand, we should not pass judgement. If you eat meat or wear leather or use the products and or by-products of animals, then you should not condemn hunting. As well, thanks to conservation measures, there are more geese now than at anytime in history. They have in many cases become a pest for farmers and for urban parks. They cohabitate quite nicely along with human populations and with modern farming. Therefore, a certain amount of culling and harvesting is appropriate to keep the numbers of geese managable. Also, hunting is an industry which brings needed diversification into the local economy, from sport stores to the outfitters and guides, as well as, local hotels and restaurants. Let us be truly honest, urbanites are not filling buses with eco tourists to come out to the Prairie each Fall to take pictures. Hunters and hunter funded conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited are the ones that have ensured the goose's long-term survival through habitat preservation, and well-enforced international treaties on the number of birds that can be harvested through hunting. So, although you may prefer to shoot the birds through your camera lens, please do not press your beliefs on others. Especially, if you are not a vegan or if you wear leather or even wool. Thanks.
Cereal, Alberta, is home to some of the best goose hunting in the world. I don't care what Hanna thinks - even if they do have the world's largest goose decoy. Cereal lies in the middle of one of N. Americas major migration routes, and as such, millions of geese fly over each Spring and Fall. Enroute they stop to sample the local cuisine, miles and miles of wheat fields, as far as the eye can see - quite a buffet if you are a goose.
You may not be a hunter. You may be philosophically opposed to hunting in general. Many are. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I, for one, do not hunt big game. I just do not have it in me. However, through the efforts of Ducks Unlimited, the Canadian Prairies now support more geese than ever. There are more geese and deer now then at any point in history. This is due to conservation efforts in Canada, the USA and Mexico, the availability of abundant food, and strict hunting quotas. Unfortunately, the story on ducks has not been as successful. They require more water, smaller ponds and sloughs, and these have been drained to accommodate more agriculture (larger, straighter fields) or have dried up due to a falling water table. Again, blame global warming and a dose of short sightedness.
The best time to go is around opening day - usually the third Wednesday in September. This is in any case the best time to see the Prairies. The wheat fields have turned golden, and the harvest is well under way. You will see the farmers busy combining, and farm trucks moving back and forth bringing the grain to the elevator.
Equipment: Bring your camera sports fans, there will be lots of great nature photos to take. Geese, antelope, landscapes of undulating prairie grass, coulees, and hills. Evelators and grain cars silloetted against the prairie sky at sunset. It is truly a magical time to be on the Canadian prairies.
You will see more wildlife on the prairies than in any provincial park. For one there is lots of game, and second, like a savanah, there is less dense brush in which to hide.
An RV or camper is the ideal way to see this part of the country. There are provincial campsites every few miles, which are convenient and either free or at very little charge.
To see more of the natural beauty of the Prairies I would suggest taking the following route. Starting in Calgary, take HW # 9 east direction Saskatchewan.
See attached link
Take a side trip to Drumheller and the Dinosauer Natural Park. See the Alberta Badlands. Then from Cereal, take the Buffalo Trail, which is HW # 41 junction # 886, running north from Cereal through Consort, Wainwright, Vermilion and Elk Point. With every passing mile you will see the Prairie landscape give way to larger hills, more bush and trees, mixed farmland, and then the Boreal Forest and Lake Country. It is a beautiful drive in the Autumn, and just as specatular in its own way as the mountains.
Some people find the Prairie too flat and boring, but for those who look close enough, it is a sea of subtle changes, and the interplay of landscape, light and the sky. It is not flat at all, but a series of rolling hills and coullees. If you drive with your eyes open, you will see much more than you expected. The Prairie, although at first lonely, gets under your skin and stays with you forever.
I like to kid around a lot, but I truly love all of Alberta, from the Prairies to the Mountains, and everything else in between. I hope you will also come to share my passion.
I really just wanted to post this in case somebody who used to live in or around Cereal stumbles across these pages while doing an Internet search. It is not so much for tourists, but it may be interesting to former residents or those who have family who originally came from this area in S. Alberta. Thanks.
Fondest memory: The Hwy 9 Annual Reunion was held on April 14 and 15 (2007) in Calgary at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall in Kensington.
The event brings together family and friends from all along Highway 9 all the way to the Saskatchewan border.
From Cereal to Oyen, Delia to Drumheller, Youngstown to Hanna - over 160 people were in attendance.
The annual reunion has come a long way since its first meeting in 1994, which saw six people meeting in the bar of the Carriage House Hotel in Calgary.
The event was started 13 years ago as a way to get together with old friends in surrounding communities, to keep up to date on issues facing all the communities and just plain have fun. One of the current organizers, George Patzer really enjoys helping to assemble these get-togethers. Originally we only had a handful of communities, but over the years more and more people started to come, said Patzer. Were happy there are so many people are here and next year is already looking like it will be pretty busy, too.
edited for length & content
Source: The Hanna Herald, April 17, 2007