Six Attractions You Must Visit in Southern Alberta
Six Attractions You Must Visit in Southern Alberta July 25, 2018 · 11 min. readWhile the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party. Also, this article may contain affiliate links.
If you're visiting Alberta this summer, you probably have your heart set on visiting the mountains. After all, places like Lake Louise, Banff, Waterton and now Castle Provincial Park are some of the most beautiful sites in Canada, and they're always a hit on Instagram (if you're into that kind of thing). But, between Regina and the mountains is a whole province with plenty of sights to explore.
Last year I took more trips than I could count to southern Alberta, but most of them ended near Medicine Hat. Had I gone a bit further, I would have found myself in a myriad of attractions to see, from historical museums to sites of natural disasters and just about everything in-between.
For those looking to make a few stops on their way to the Rocky Mountains, or for those who are just looking for an Alberta road trip, here are six attractions you must visit while in southern Alberta.
On my last count I had about seven articles about Medicine Hat, and collectively they only skin the surface of what to see in this city. This city is full of culture, heritage and rivals any major city for year-round festivals.
While you're in "The Hat", make sure to visit some of the cute and quirky cafes throughout the city, like MadHatter Roastery or Heartwood Café. I visited MadHatter Roastery last summer and watched firsthand as they ground, steamed and cooked fresh coffee beans.
Beyond the cafes, pubs, breweries and distilleries in Medicine Hat, one of the city's biggest attractions is Medalta. This former brick processing plant was closed several years ago and was converted into a gallery, museum and local market. This national historic site not only showcases the industry that gave birth to Medicine Hat, but also the resilience of the community after it closed.
One of the most iconic sights in southern Alberta is the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. This dramatic geological cliff formation, and the interpretive museum built into the side of it, discussed the history of the Blackfoot people and their way of life. The museum explains how the Blackfoot people would lure the buffalo near the cliff, and then have members of their tribe dress up as wolves to chase them over the edge. Running the buffalo over the cliff would provide the tribe with more than enough meat, fur, fat and sinew to last through to the winter.
Fort Macleod was incorporated in 1892, but twenty years later the Canadian Pacific Railway moved locations to Lethbridge, devastating the local economy. From 1912 until the 1970s the city remained untouched, almost as if it was in a time capsule. In the 1980s, the downtown area was declared a "Provincial Historical Area" and is preserved for future generations.
This same concept of preserving history can be seen throughout the town, especially at The Fort. Rebuilt in the 1950s, The Fort is a recreation of the N.W.M.P fort that stood in the same spot in the late 1800s. The purpose of the fort is to preserve the history of the police, the First Nations people and the history of the town.
Cardston, Alberta might be a small community, but it's home to the largest carriage museum in Canada. The Remington Carriage Museum showcases over 250 different carriages from around North America and England, dating back to the late 1800s. Some of these carriages were used by settlers as they moved west, while others were used by politicians like Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II.
One of the newest exhibits in the museum opened in May of 2017 and focuses on Robert McLaughlin. McLaughlin is the owner and operator of McLaughlin Carriages Co., the largest carriage manufacturing company in the British Empire. Based out of Oshawa, the carriage manufacturing plant is responsible for bringing General Motors into Canada in the early years of the 20th Century but is also responsible for the creation and distribution of Canada Dry Ginger Ale.
An hour south of Calgary is Turner Valley, and within this valley sits one of Alberta's most iconic symbols: a natural gas manufacturing plant. However, this plant isn't any ordinary plant. It is the very first plant to ever exist in the province and is the one responsible for making Alberta into the economic powerhouse it is today.
The plant closed in 1985 after being in operation for nearly seventy years, but it was quickly converted into a museum, full of the original mechanics, machinery and tools. There is also an exhibit in the museum that marks the exact spot Dingman No. 1 went into operation back on May 14, 1914 where natural gas began seeping from the earth. This sight, as commonplace as it is today, changed the future of Alberta forever.
Before there was Turner Valley, there was Turtle Mountain and the town of Frank. The town of Frank sits at the bottom of Turtle Mountain, and in early 1900s the residents of the town started mining the mountain. The First Nations people warned them not to set up a village there, as the mountain tended to move, but their worries fell on deaf ears.
On April 29, 1903 the mountain moved, and 90 million tones of limestone moved with it. A complete side of the mountain collapsed and started a landslide that – although lasted less than 2 minutes – took the lives of 90 people and buried the community.
Today an interpretative center sits near the edge of the stony field, and a seismic measuring system is placed at the peak of the mountain. The mountain shifts once and awhile, but it has never collapsed again.
A few articles ago I listed Ogema as one of the top destinations to visit in Saskatchewan. Immediately after I wrote the article, I put my money where my mouth was and booked a weekend trip to Ogema for my girlfriend and me. I figured it wouldn't be fair to my readers to recommend a place for them to visit without actually visiting it myself, and after getting my new Galaxy S7 from TELUS I figured I needed a reason to test it out.
Earlier this year I took my Galaxy S6 to La Ronge, and had very little coverage. I wanted to use Facebook's new Live Video option, but I couldn't get enough service to even send a text message. I was pretty disappointed by the coverage with that provider, so I was interested to see how TELUS' network was in Ogema.
The result was pretty darn good! We streamed Spotify all the way there, were able to do a Live Video from the Deep South Pioneer Museum and took some really great pictures and videos of the trip. It also helped to have a reliable network when I got lost driving there (don't ask me how!). TELUS has invested over $29 billion into their network since 2000 and it has really paid off. It's a great feeling knowing that no matter where you travel, you can rely on TELUS to keep you connected.
About a year and a half ago I visited Kyiv, Ukraine. As I walked down the millennium old streets and gawked at the towering cathedrals, I saw the beginnings of a new country, one that was slowly rebuilding from a much darker time. The process of what I was seeing had a name. It was called decommunization.
Decommunization includes renaming architecture, changing laws and protocols, and even tearing down monuments. People's Friendship Arch in Kyiv, for example, which symbolised the friendship between the Communist East and the Capitalist West, was torn down. Some statues, like war memorials, are exempt, but there is still talk of making modifications to them. Anywhere you go throughout the former Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle are being removed – not from history, but from modern society.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.