Road Trip: Some of the best places to visit in Southern Alberta!
Jun 28, 2017
This post is presented in partnership with Ford Canada
One of my favourite things about the summer is taking to the open road and going on road trips. Especially here in Alberta, where no matter where you go in any direction, you’ll find unique scenery, cool little towns and hidden gems. So when Ford Canada asked if I’d like to take the C-Max Energi on a road trip through southern Alberta, I jumped at the chance.
First, I had never driven an electric-hybrid car before, so I wanted to see if they were as cool as I thought they were (spoiler alert: they are.) And to take it through southern Alberta, one of my favourite places, was just too good of a chance to pass up.
Calgarians tend to be a bit spoiled by the rocky mountains. Their proximity to the city is hard to beat, but with a full tank of gas and a desire to drive a couple of hours, it opens up a world of possibilities in southern Alberta. So with the desire to explore a part of Alberta that might be new to you, or maybe you haven’t visited in a while, here are some of my favourite spots through southern Alberta.
The Candy Store
The name says it all. It’s a store packed with thousands of different types of candy. From childhood favourites to candy from around the world, it’s surprisingly delightful that a town with a population of 2,000 has one of the best candy stores in all of Canada.
I don’t know how many times I’ve just said “I wanna go on a drive to Fort MacLeod” just because I enjoy how quaint it is. The downtown is Alberta’s first “Provincial Historic Area”, and after years of restorating its sandstone buildings, the town is an Instagrammers dream. And no matter how hungry you are, you have to fuel up on chinese food at Johnny’s. It’s always delicious.
I think I fall in love with Lethbridge more and more every time. And you know what I think it is? The people. Being from the east coast, it really feels like I’m home any time I’m there, which is a really nice feeling. This particular trip we happened to be there for Pride, and came across a group that was standing watch over the crosswalk after it had been vandalized. It was amazing to see. The area’s downtown is filled with great little shops and restaurants. It was always feels like I never have enough time in Lethbridge.
It’s the corn capital of Canada, and let’s be honest, probably the world. If you’re a fan of taking photos of giant-sized things like I am, then stopping to take a photo of the giant corn stalk and making a corny joke is a must.
Speaking of giant thing. The town of Bow Island is sorta interesting, mostly because it’s not an island and it’s only named that because of a mix-up with another town years ago. On top of that, in honour of the dry edible bean industry they have an 18 foot high statue of the mascot “Pinto MacBean”.
It’s funny how often I’ve found myself in Medicine Hat over the past couple of years, and every time I add more and more to my Medicine Hat must-do list. Of course, you have to go check out the world’s largest tipee. The historical significance is incredible and in terms of photos, it never looks bad. This particular trip, we swung by a few different times to capture it in different lights. We also went on a self-guided tour of all the new independent coffee shops opening up. There are coffee walk tours available too. And with all that coffee coursing through my veins, we went to the butterfly house in the Windmill Garden Centre. And no matter what, always leave room for Thai Orchid Room. Just trust me on that one. I think the coolest part of this particular trip was stumbling upon the Medicine Hat Jazz Festival. We could hear music, but didn’t know where it was coming from. So we followed it to a free rooftop concert on top of a parkade. I wish we could have stayed longer, but we’ll definitely be back!
With a population of 5,600, Redcliff doesn’t have more greenhouses than people, but it’s close. This small town is home of Alberta’s greenhouse industry, and there’s a giant one pretty much around every corner. What’s cool about this is that they all have little rooms attached to them where you can go in and buy fresh fruits and veggies. The shops work on the honour system, so make sure you have some cash. Such a great way of making sure you’re eating your fruits and veggies and supporting the local industry.
Red Rock Coulee
I had never seen the Red Rock Coulee before, and now I don’t think I’ve ever forget it. Alberta’s geography is always fascinating and this area is no exception. The Red Rock Coulee is exactly as it sounds. The park features scattered red sandstone boulders that are up to 2.5 metres in diameter. I’ve also never been to Mars, but I think it would look like this park.
Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Worth the drive every.single.time. There’s nothing not to love about Cypress Hills. The dramatic landscape, the amount of animals you’ll see on any given day, the beautiful lake, the small town of Elkwater, the free mini-golf, the fact that the area is a dark sky preserve, so you’re likely to see more stars than you’ve ever seen in your life. This is my second trip to Elkwater and I love it more and more every time. Definitely give yourself two nights to explore this park properly. There’s a great little hotel called the Elkwater Lake Lodge, and there’s also a ton of camping, including a few “glamping tents.” Food-wise, I’m not sure it gets better than Camp Cookhouse. Imagine you were really good at cooking the most amazing meals around the campfire. This restaurant serves that food, but you don’t have to do any of the work.
On your way home, make sure you leave a few minutes to pop into see the Brooks Aquaduct, which is a provincial and national historic site. The architectural wonder was the backbone of the farming communities during much of the 1900s. Dubbed “the river in the sky”, it has to be seen to be believed.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
This park is probably my favourite place in Alberta, so it’s probably worthy of a longer visit then along a busy road trip. But it’s always worth at least popping into, just watch your toes for rattlesnakes. This area is home to some of the richest concentration of dinosaur fossils in the world. A few years ago, I went on a dino dig here and was shocked how many fossils we found in a matter of minutes. If you don’t have time to pretend you’re a palaeontologist, they have a great 3kms drive that features fossils still in the ground that are incased in glass. The scenery is unforgettable.
And it wouldn’t be a successful road trip if we didn’t spot wildlife and on this particular road trip, we saw a ton, including moose, pronghorns, pelicans, baby bunnies playing mini-golf, snakes, owls, deer and so much more. It was like a zoo, but without the line ups.
Wow! Now that was an epic road trip. We had a blast with the C-Max Energi for a couple of reasons, including how cheap it was to drive. We drove over 1,400 kms and only put in $65 worth of gas. It was unbelievable how economical it was to drive the electric-hybrid vehicle and it made it the perfect road trip car. And secondly, how quiet it was. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I thought the car wasn’t starting only to find out it already had. Plus, it was so quiet, that I think it made it easier to get those animal shots because they didn’t hear us coming. This whole trip got me excited about summer road trips and I can’t wait to see where we go next. Hopefully you take some time to explore around your home this summer, and we’ll see you on the road!