Cold Lake is a small city of about 15,000 people (2016) in Lakeland, Alberta set against the backdrop of one of Alberta's most beautiful lakes. Home to Canada's largest air force base, Cold Lake is today the amalgamation of three towns, Cold Lake, Grand Centre and Medley, better known as 4-Wing Cold Lake.
The city's economy is inextricably linked to military spending at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake. The region also supports oil and gas exploration and production. The Athabasca Oil Sands project in Fort McMurray is having a growing influence in the region as well. The Cold Lake oil sands may become a significant contributor to the local economy.
Every year Cold Lake hosts military forces from around the world for Exercise Maple Flag, a training exercise where pilots and support staff of NATO allies can take advantage of the Air Weapons Range and relatively open rural air space. Running from 4 to 6 weeks and starting in May of each year, commercial accommodations in the entire region are left with little to no vacancy.
- Airfare from Edmonton or Calgary is very expensive.
- By car, Cold Lake is 3½ hr north and east of Edmonton along Highway 28.
- Cold Shot. Bus service to Edmonton, via Bonnyville and St. Paul.
- Northern Express and Red Arrow services are suspended (as of Jan 2021).
While the intrepid traveller could choose to get around by bike from May to September, the vast majority of people will require a car as there is no local bus service.
- Kinosoo Beach (Cold Lake North). Also known as the "town beach", it is located near Nelson Heights subdivision. Play equipment for the kids and a lovely sandy beach. Best enjoyed in July and August.
- Cold Lake Marina, Lakeshore Drive (Cold Lake North). A jewel of the prairies and western Canada's largest inland marina. Boat rentals are available as are fishing charters, but most visitors come to eat ice cream and relax at the boardwalk. Open May to September.
- Cold Lake Museum and Cold Lake Air Force Museum (off Highway 28, behind the Tri-City Mall), ☏ . Late May-early Sep: Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. The building is a former radar squadron facility, a relic from the era of the Cold War. Cold Lake Museum nicely explains the four broad themes of history in the community: aboriginal, pioneer, military and oil & gas. Admission is by donation.
- Silver Buckle Stampede (Cold Lake South). 2nd week of June. One of many Alberta-based rodeos on the Canadian rodeo circuit.
- Aqua Days. First weekend in August. Every community in Alberta seems to have a summer festival and Cold Lake is no exception. Featuring pancake breakfasts, sandcastle building, fireworks and other family fun, Aqua Days occurs on what is often the warmest weekend of the year in Cold Lake.
- Call of the Wild French Horn Festival. 2nd week of September. A unique musical event featuring some of the most accomplished French horn players from North America.
- JJ Parr Recreation Facility (Located at 4-wing Cold Lake). 2 full-sized hockey arenas, a large gymnasium, work out room, 2 pools and 1 waterslide, and numerous squash and racquetball courts.
- Cold Lake Motocross track (Next to the Cold Lake museum).
- Cold Lake Airshow (the skies of Cold Lake and Bonnyville). Cold Lake Airshow is usually held in early August. The Cold Lake Airshow is a spectacular event. Gaze into the sky as airplanes of all variations soar overhead; the show is worth a trip to see.
- Alex Janvier Art Gallery, 2139 Cold Lake First Nations 149B (Cold Lake North), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Open by appointment only. One of Canada's most respected Indigenous artists makes his home in Cold Lake and his gallery, across from the Marina, provides an excellent opportunity to purchase, or simply view, many of his most contemporary paintings.
- Downtown Grand Centre (Cold Lake South). The traditional "main street" area includes a movie theatre, coffee shops, hairstylists, video rentals and drug stores.
- Tri-City Mall, 6503 - 51 Street (Cold Lake South). Mid-sized indoor mall with groceries, clothing, hardware, department store, services and more.
- Clark's General Store, 701 Lakeshore Drive (Cold Lake North), ☏ . May-mid-September Dec: M-Sa 11AM-9PM. A throwback to the pioneer days of Alberta, this location was a general store from 1930s to its reconstruction as a restaurant. It still features an historic tin-sided structure and unique memorabilia inside. The food is traditional fare and lineups are common. Mains $13-24, burgers, sandwiches.
- Picante Cafe, 615 Lakeshore Dr, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-10PM.
- Beantrees Cafe, 5112 50 Ave, ☏ . M-F 6:30AM–5PM, Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 10AM-3PM. Gourmet teas and coffees, sandwiches, soups, baked goods.
- 1 Cold Lake Provincial Park (Cold Lake North). One of Alberta's larger provincial parks. Well known as a recreational park including beach, boat launch, birdwatching and hiking amenities in summer, and cross-country ski trails in the winter. Camping here is excellent and the park's natural setting is terrific. Camping typically occurs from Victoria Day to Labour Day and reservations may be required on weekends.
- Lakeland Inn, 5411 55 St. (Cold Lake South), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. For many years it has been one of the more popular hotels in Cold Lake South (Grand Centre) due to the reliable quality of its rooms and the wide variety of services it provides including conference facilities, a cafeteria, dining room, workout room, and pub. From $95.
- Waterfront Harbour Bed & Breakfast, 607 Lakeshore Drive (Cold Lake North), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Great location for visiting the marina and walking around Cold Lake North. Home-cooked breakfasts made with local ingredients, fresh homemade baking, panoramic view of the lake on your lakeshore and marina view deck. Living room area features a large gas fireplace. The sunroom has a skylight and TV/DVD. From $125.
|Routes through Cold Lake|
|Edmonton ← Bonnyville ←||W E||→ END|
|Athabasca ← Lac La Biche ←||W E||→ becomes → Meadow Lake → Prince Albert|