A visit to Jasper National Park will leave you with beautiful memories of mountains and wildlife… and hopefully stories to share of adventure and exploration. While most visit Jasper to partake in its wilderness, there are many ways to enjoy yourself within the town of Jasper itself.
Exploring the town of Jasper
The town of Jasper is small and quaint. Summer is the busy season here, when the streets are full of ice-cream-licking families, trail-worn backpackers, and camera-toting globetrotters. However, come the winter months, you’ll find Jasper slows down and takes a breath. The hotels have more availability you’ll get seating at the tastiest restaurants even if you forgot to make a reservation.
Either way, whenever you find yourself visiting the town of Jasper, you’ll have plenty to keep yourself occupied with.
While I would encourage you to spend most of your vacation time outside of town limits exploring, sightseeing, and being adventurous, I know that there’s appeal to strolling our streets.
What to see in the town of Jasper
I suggest that you begin at the information center. This beautiful stone building is hard to miss. It sits surrounded by an inviting green lawn right between the two main streets of Jasper. Our town’s totem pole stands out front across the street and the train station is just next door to that. If you’re in need of permits, maps, and information about Jasper, the information center is the place to go. The Friends of Jasper National Park gift shop is also housed in this building and is a great little shop for quality park souvenirs, t-shirts, gifts, and local books or guides.
From the Information Center Lawn, you can take a stroll down either Connaught Drive or Patricia Street. Along these two main roads you’ll find little shops, cafes, and restaurants.
What to buy in the town of Jasper
The stores you’ll find are typical of a small tourist town: candy, chocolate, and ice cream shops, clothes, shoes, artwork, jewelry, camera equipment, and outdoor gear.
Years ago when I visited Jasper I would always make a stop at one of the fudge shops to buy some chocolates. You’ll see many tourists walking around carrying a little bag of chocolate or enjoying an ice cream. The candy and ice cream shops will usually give you a sample if you’re having a hard time deciding which flavour to go for.
Now, if you’re in the mood for souvenirs, almost everywhere you visit will have something that says Jasper or has a picture of a bear or some mountains on it: oven mitts, socks, coasters, wallets, cups, candles, slippers, rugs, and on and on and on.
But, Jasper has so much more:
- The latest in fashion at Mountain Air, Ransom, and Higherground. Browse both fashion and tea and the Tea Leaf or find some new yoga styles at Lole
- If you’re into outdoor sports there’s a baker’s dozen to choose from, such as Freewheel, Gravity Gear, Edge Control, Totem, Wild Mountain, Everest, and Source for Sports
- Looking for Jewelry, try Jasper Jewels
- Camera Equipment, Tekerra
- Home Décor, go to Bearfoot in the Park
- Leather Biking Gear, Jasper Motorcycle Tours
- Rocks, Gems, and Fossils are at Jasper Rock and Jade
- First Nations and Inuit Artwork can be found at Our Native Land
And this is just a sampling.
What to eat in the town of Jasper
Just as there’s variety of stores, you’ll also find a wide assortment of culinary tastes in the restaurants. As you wander around town stop and take a look at menus posted on the sidewalk to give you the best idea of food selection and pricing.
If you’re visiting Jasper as a family and are looking for a family restaurant, here are my top 5 suggestions for family eating, where you’ll get info like location, price range, menu, atmosphere, and family friendliness details You’ll also find a quick reference printable for your convenience.
I’d suggest checking out these restaurants in town: Olive Bistro, Jasper Pizza Place, Earls, Kimchi House, Wicked Cup, or Lou Lou’s. Also, many of the hotels have very nice restaurants. I particularly like the big atrium overlooking the pool in the Sawridge and the cozy couches and fireplace at Jasper Park Lodge.
What to drink in Jasper
I include this category only because of the number of times I’ve been asked for directions to Tim’s or Teemies, or Tom Hortoons, or Timmy’s Coffee. Yes, Jasper has a Tim Hortons. Yes, Tim Hortons has somehow become an iconic Canadian Coffee House. Yes, you can get an affordable cup of hot coffee and a tasty donut. But, no, it is not the best place for coffee in Jasper. You’ll find Tim Hortons on Patricia street under the big clock tower.
Now, if you are looking for a great cup of coffee, The Snowdome, Coco’s, or Wicked Cup are your best options. Snowdome is also on Patricia, downstairs in a laundromat. Yep, sounds odd, but it’s true! I don’t drink coffee, but most locals would agree that this is the place to go get a great cup… and if you have laundry to do or need to take a shower, well, it’s all the more convenient!
What to do in the town of Jasper
If you want to do something more exciting that wash your clothes, shop, eat, or drink, I’ll give you a few suggestions.
Interpretive programming: During the summer months, Parks Canada puts together some fun and interactive programming. In the past this can be found at the Old Fire Hall, the white building right behind the Information Center. If you have kids, definitely make a stop here and catch a theatre ‘street’ show too if your schedule allows. My kids enjoyed them so much that we went back numerous times over the course of the summer!
Cultural Centre: Jasper’s beautiful old stone library has recently been renovated and incorporated into a larger cultural and arts center. This is where the Art’s guild and Gallery is now housed. If you like to purchase art work when on vacation, then you must stop here! Also, the Art Gallery is run by volunteers who are usually very willing to chat and share stories about being a resident and artist in Jasper.
Go Train Watching: Sure, trains might not sound like the most exciting of entertainment, but believe me, little kids usually love to watch the trains move around the station. The train station is hard to miss as it runs all along Connaught Drive.
If you’re littles would be more interested in climbing aboard their own train, you’ll find a smaller kid-friendly model over beside the Old Fire Hall, behind the Information Center.
Jasper-Yellowhead Museum: If frontier history, old photographs, and geology interest you, then go check out the museum. It is small, and will take you about 1 hour to enjoy. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a special exhibit as well. The museum is on Bonhomme Street at the back of town, close to the high school and public pool. The museum also has quality books and artwork for sale in its gift shop.
The Pool: Looking to swim some laps or use up some of your kids’ extra energy? Swing by the pool for a swim! The pool is perfect for families especially if the weather is not favourable and you’re looking for an indoor activity. Jasper Park Lodge also has a year-round heated outdoor pool. Going for a swim under the stars on a snowy evening is quite a unique experience!
The stuffed-animal museum: I like to think of this place as Jasper’s little lost gem. If you don’t set your expectations too high, a walk through this display can be entertaining and educational. You’ll find this little museum in the basement of the Whistler’s Hotel on Connaught and it will only take about 15 minutes to fully enjoy it.
Go to the movies: Yes, Jasper has a movie theatre. The Chabba Theatre is on Connaught Drive across from the Train Station. Check the signs out front, Tribute’s on-line listings, or the local newspaper for show listings and times.
Small town events: The last thing you might want to do is browse the signs and posters around town and take a peek at the newspaper. You might be lucky enough to catch a show at the Legion, a magician’s act, fun at the fire station, or free yoga on the Information Center Lawn.
Sure, the town of Jasper is small but there’s more to enjoy here than initially meets the eye. If metal “man cave” signs, bear paw oven mitts, and “Moose poop” chocolates are your thing, you’ll have no problem finding it. But if you’re looking to get a little more out of the town of Jasper, then take my suggestions and go explore… just don’t spend too much time in the town of Jasper, because remember, it’s the mountains that truly make Jasper special. Not souvenirs, fancy clothing, and tasty coffee.
P.S. If you want to learn more about visiting Jasper National Park, you may want to check out these posts:
- Your Fun-Filled 2 Day Family Itinerary for Jasper National Park
- The Ultimate list of 100 things to do in Jasper National Park
- Understanding Jasper’s Accommodation Options
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