Originally from Medicine Hat, Sydnee Bell is no stranger to Alberta’s beautiful landscapes and historical communities. The recent grad from the Travel and Tourism diploma program at SAIT is combining her local knowledge and passion for travel to curate a list of places to check out this summer. So fill up your tank, type in your destination and start exploring! Just don’t forget to follow health guidelines!
1) Claresholm – 133 km south of Calgary
Established in 1903, Claresholm has a historic charm to it. From the Claresholm & District Museum and historic murals found around town to local shops and cafés — there’s more than meets the eye to this highway town.
Where to eat: Blackwood Coffee Co. Be sure to grab a seat at one of their cute little patio tables outside.
Most Instagram-worthy photo ops: Take a look into Claresholm’s past by checking out the murals depicting moments in its history. The most recent paintings can be found inside Ringrose Park where you’ll find a set of four murals called “Traditional Wisdom” — honouring the women, farmers, elders and Indigenous Peoples of the area.
2) Kananaskis Village – 101 km west of Calgary
In the heart of Kananaskis Country, you’ll find spectacular panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains. Hiking, biking and water sports are crowd-pleasers here in K-Town. After some time spent in the great outdoors, treat yourself to a massage at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa.
Where to eat: Forte Restaurant inside the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. Their modern Italian menu has something for everyone.
Most Instagram-worthy photo ops: For such a short trek, the Village Rim Trail has a lot to offer. Snap photos from five of the different viewpoints along this 1.3 km paved path, accessible from several points within the Kananaskis Village.
3) Lacombe – 175 km north of Calgary
Did you know Lacombe is the mural capital of Alberta? Home to over 30 walls of murals, the paintings depict scenes from the city’s rich history. It’s also home to a number of provincial historic sites like the infamous Flatiron Building — the oldest flatiron building in the province. A trip 7 km west of Lacombe will take you to a world-famous corn maze out at the Kraay Family Farm.
Where to eat: Cilantro and Chive is an absolute must when in Lacombe. This family-owned and operated eatery sources the freshest of ingredients from nearby farms and producers.
Most Instagram-worthy photo ops: In front of any of the murals! Check out the City of Lacombe’s self-guided murals tour to find your favourite.
4) Medicine Hat – 294 km southeast of Calgary
Medicine Hat inherited its name from the Blackfoot word “saamis,” which loosely translates to “medicine man’s hat.” You now know why the city’s most visible landmark is called the Saamis Tepee. The city’s unique history and heritage play a big part in the community today. From the Finlay Bridge to the Medalta Potteries in the Historic Clay District — Medicine Hat is an often overlooked gem.
Where to eat: The Mezz Bar & Eatery located in the 119-year old Beveridge building downtown. Be sure to either grab a spot on the patio or the second floor by a window to overlook the historical downtown.
Most Instagram-worthy photo ops: Anywhere at the Medalta in the Historic Clay District, a National Historic Site that’s been converted into an industrial heritage museum.
5) Olds – 97 km north of Calgary
Tucked away just off the west side of the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, you’ll find the small, vibrant community of Olds. With botanical gardens, a pathway lined with sculptures, local shops and Alberta’s largest paintball facility, Olds has many reasons to make a detour onto Highway 27 the next time you’re on the QE2.
Where to eat: If you like your barbecue smoked low and slow, look no further than The Pit. Don’t forget a side of fresh-cut fries!
Most Instagram-worthy photo ops: The koi pond mural in downtown Olds — which is actually referred to by locals as “Uptowne” — was completed by local artist Kevin Johnson in August 2019. There’s also the Highway 27 Sculpture Pathway which features stone sculptures by artists from around the world.
With COVID-19 putting a damper on long-distance travel plans this year, Albertans have an opportunity to explore their own backyard while supporting the local economy. Make it a summer to remember and stay safe!