Grande Prairie was named for the large prairie which lies to the north, east, and west of it. In the 18th century, the prairie was occupied by bands of the Dane-zaa (Beaver) peoples, who began trading with the North West Company at Dunvegan in the early 19th century. In 1880, a Hudson's Bay Company post called La Grande Prairie was established 15 miles (24 km) northwest of the present city.
In the late 19th century, the prairie was settled by Cree and Iroquois from around Jasper and Lac Ste. Anne. When 17 townships were surveyed for homesteading in 1909, a land rush soon followed, with many settlers arriving over the Edson Trail. The trail from Edson to Grande Prairie was opened in 1911 as a means for settlers to reach the Grande Prairie area. It was nothing more than a tract of clear cut bush and forest, and thus was a very difficult route for many settlers, especially during wet weather. Because of this, large scale settlement came late compared to other major farming regions further south in Canada. By 1912, the town included a bank, hotel, post office, and land office, making it a district metropolis.
It was not until the arrival of the railway in 1916 that farmland quickly expanded as waves of settlers came into the Peace region. This drove up Grande Prairie's population past 1,000.
Settlement continued unabated even into the 1930s during the Dust Bowl era because the Peace Region was able to escape the severe drought conditions that plagued the Canadian Prairies further south at the time.
During the Second World War, the US and Canadian military establish Grande Prairie as a part of the Northwest Staging Route for the construction of the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek to Alaska. Grande Prairie was a major stopover point for military aircraft during the war.
In the late 1950s, its population grew further as oil and natural gas exploration was underway in the Peace Region, especially since the first major discovery of oil further south in Leduc near Edmonton in 1947 and the construction of a large pulp mill in the early 1970s.
The construction and paving of Highway 43 in 1956 cut down on the travel time by road significantly, further enhancing Grande Prairie's accessibility and economic status. The town was incorporated as a city in 1958. At that time, its population was approximately 7,600.
The opening of the Procter & Gamble kraft pulp mill in 1972 and the discovery of the Elmworth deep basin gas field spurred an economic boom. Grande Prairie's population went from just over 12,000 in the early 1970s to over 24,000 by the time the oil boom went bust in 1981.
Grande Prairie has a diversified economy. Major industries include oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, and food services.
- 1 Grande Prairie Visitor Information Centre, 11330 106 Street (Centre 2000), ☏ , toll-free: . Summer: Daily 8:30AM-6:30PM; Winter: M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM, Sa-Su 10AM-4:30PM.
Grande Prairie has a northern continental climate typical of northwestern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia, classified as humid continental. Winters are generally very cold with some mild spells. Summers are often fairly cool to pleasantly warm in the daytime, but nights can be cool despite the long summer days typical for its latitude. Hot days over 30 °C (86 °F) are rare, occurring on average only two to three days a year, which is not unexpected this far north. Winter conditions can vary tremendously from year to year. Winters have been known to be mild enough to produce "brown Christmas" conditions, where little or no snow may fall until after Christmas due to unusually mild early winter conditions.
- 1 Grande Prairie Airport (YQU IATA). Daily flights to Grande Prairie Airport are available from Calgary and Edmonton on Air Canada Express and on WestJet Encore. Grande Prairie's regional airport is 5½ km northwest of the city. There is no bus connection: it can only be reached by taxi.
It is at the intersection of Highway 43 (part of the CANAMEX Corridor) and Highway 40 (the Bighorn Highway), approximately 456 km (283 mi) northwest of Edmonton. Grande Prairie is a major centre for travellers wanting to connect to the Alaska Highway.
The city is most easily managed by rental car.
Grande Prairie Transit offers a small bus network that serves most parts of the municipality. The bus system consists of five routes. These routes run on a 30-minute basis during peak hours and hourly the remainder of the day. There is reduced service on weekends and statutory holidays. Fares are $2 for adults, and $1.50 for children, students and seniors (Jan 2018).
The city offers the non-profit, independent Disabled Transportation Society (DTS), which has specialized transport services for individuals with disabilities.
- 1 Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, #103 9839 103 Avenue, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-W 10AM-6PM, Th 10AM-9PM, F Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1-5PM, Closed Holidays. The second largest art gallery in Alberta, the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie works to preserve, inspire and explore the world of art to share with the community and the region. They offer free admission, tours, programs, and activities for all ages. The Art Gallery presents an average of twelve art exhibitions per year and welcomes over 10,000 visitors per year. free.
- 2 Grande Prairie Museum & Heritage Village, 10329 101 Avenue (Muskoseepi Park).
- 3 Grant Berg Gallery, #3 9907 100 Avenue, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Collection of original paintings, sculptures, carvings, pottery, jewellery, photography and more including Aboriginal and Indigenous artworks.
- Muskoseepi Park. In the core of the city, surrounding the Bear Creek Reservoir, Muskoseepi Park offers 1100 acres of parkland, walking trails, manicured fields, and group use facilities,.
- 4 Grande Prairie Regional College, 10726 106 Avenue, toll-free: . Grande Prairie Campus is in a beautiful brick building designed by Douglas J. Cardinal without corners inside or out. Nice walking trail behind the college circles the Bear Creek Reservoir and connects to a 7-km paved biking trail that follows Bear Creek to the Southeast. free.
- 5 Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, 9301 112 Ave, Wembley (15 minutes west of Grande Prairie), ☏ . Sept 1-May 31: Tu-Su 10AM-6PM; June 1-Aug 31: Sa-M 10AM-6PM, Tu-F 10AM-8PM. Many exhibits, a National Geographic Theatre, classrooms, a Paleontology Lab, a gift shop and a restaurant. The museum is named after Philip J. Currie, from the University of Alberta, who has contributed to the understanding of the link between dinosaurs and birds. Adult $14, seniors (65+) and veterans $11, students (with ID) and children (5-17) $7, children under 5 free, family (2 adults and up to 4 children) $40.
- 1 , 10 Knowledge Way (near 108 St (Hwy 40) & 68 Ave), ☏ . General Facility: M-Sa 5:30AM-10PM, Su 8AM-10PM; Aquatics: M-Sa 6AM-9:30PM, Su 8AM-9:30PM. Sports and recreation facility; the aquatics area features two water slides, FlowRider for simulated surfing, dinosaur-themed waterpark for children ages 12 and under, 50-metre competition swimming pool a Lazy River, Family and Adult Hot Tubs, steam room and sauna. The Fieldhouse provides courts and equipment for a variety of sports or fitness classes that includes Racquetball and Squash courts, a four-lane, 175-metre track, weight room, and cardio equipment.
- 2 Great Northern Casino, 10910 107 Avenue, ☏ . Casino featuring familiar table games & slot machines, plus entertainment, food & drink.
- Live music can be found in several downtown bars and intermittently at all-ages locations such as Tito's Restaurant and the GP Curling Club.
- Summer-long music festivals: Grande Prairie has a wide range of local music genres including country, Reggae, Metal, folk, and rock.
- Cultural venues include Revolution Place (a concert hall and hockey rink — the local AJHL team, the Grande Prairie Storm, plays there), the Grande Prairie Museum, the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, and Second Street Theatre.
- Professional musical theatre: "Broadway Live Broadway".
- The Reel Shorts Film Festival is a five-day international festival of short films in Grande Prairie that takes place at Grande Prairie Live Theatre's Second Street Theatre in early May.
- 1 Prairie Mall, 11801 100 St. M-Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. As the largest mall in the Peace region, the Prairie Mall is home to over 80 stores, restaurants, and other services. The mall is anchored by Mark's Work Wearhouse, and Shoppers Drug Mart, and also is home to Coles, RW&Co, Le Chateau, Sterling Shoes, HMV, M-Five, Aeropostale, Children's Place, Bootlegger, Ricki's, Landmark Cinemas, David's Tea, and Moxie's Class Grill.
- Downtown, 100 Avenue Westbound. As a growing municipality Grande Prairie has managed to fight back the big box store pull with a unique, active downtown district. This area is home to 500 stores and services, and is seen by citizens as the heart of the community. 100 Ave is lined with many independent retailers, such as Soular, Victoria's Attic, Dark Flavour Board Shop, and Fashionista. In addition downtown is home to urban decor stores, countless restaurants, and several lounges.
- 1 The Office, 11633 100th Street (in the Pomeroy Hotel), ☏ . Daily 6AM-10PM. Upscale, modern cuisine. Vegetarian and vegan options.
- 2 Mr Mikes Steakhouse Casual, 10214 116 Ave, ☏ . Daily 11AM-11PM. Vegetarian-friendly steakhouse. Burgers, too.
- 3 Browns Socialhouse, 11509 Westgate Dr (in the Westgate Plaza), ☏ . M-F 11AM-midnight, Sa Su 10AM-midnight. Pub fare such as burgers & pizza, plus weekend brunch.
- 4 Soto Teppanyaki and Fusion Sushi, 106-10210 111 Street. 11AM-10PM. Half of the restaurant is teppanyaki style, complete with the cooking performances, and the other half is more standard sushi restaurant. Lots of options for those who don't care for sushi as well. $$.
- 1 Best Western (Best Western Grande Prairie Hotel & Suites), 10745 117 Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. from $180.
- 2 Days Inn (Days Inn by Wyndham Grande Prairie), 10218 162 Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. from $115.
- 3 Holiday Inn & Suites Grande Prairie Conference Centre, 9816 107 Street, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. from $120.
- 4 Paradise Inn & Conference Centre, 11201 100 Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. from $112.
- 5 Podollan Inn & Spa, 10612 99 Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: . from $127.
- 6 Pomeroy Inn & Suites, 11710 102 Street, ☏ . Hypno opulence beds, deluxe continental breakfast, indoor pool with water slide, fitness centre, meeting facility, kitchenette suites, extended stay, pet friendly From $109.
- 7 Sandman Hotel Grande Prairie, 9805 100 Street, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Downtown Grande Prairie hotel with on-site Denny’s, Shark Club Sports Bar & Grill and Bar One Urban Lounge, indoor pool, whirlpool, fitness facilities, business centre and high speed Internet access.
- 8 Silver Crest Lodge, 11902 100 St, toll-free: . It's cheap, but not much more. From $65.
- 9 Stanford Inn & Suites, 11401 100 Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. from $102.
- 10 Stonebridge Hotel, 12102 100 Street, ☏ , toll-free: . from $115.
- 11 Redwood Inn & Suites, 8117-99 Street, Clairmont (10 min north of downtown Grande Prairie), ☏ . 92 rooms with complimentary shuttle service, fitness area, salt-water swimming pool, waterslide, whirpool, and business centre. from $150.
|Routes through Grande Prairie|
|Dawson Creek ← becomes ←||W E/SE||→ Valleyview → Edmonton|
|END ←||S N||→ Fairview → Peace River|
|Hinton ← Grande Cache ←||S N||→ END|