One of my favourite things about the summer time is the potential for epic road trips. Whenever possible I like to pack up the car, load up the iPod and go somewhere interesting, preferably to see or do something I’ve never done before!
This weekend, I got asked to speak at the The Travel Media Association of Canada’s Alberta Chapter’s conference. It was a professional development day for travel writers and those that work in the industry and since this year’s sessions were taking place in Turner Valley, for me, it doubled as a great place to start my summer road trip series.
Initially, a small town like Turner Valley wouldn’t likely be high on your list of places to visit, but after an especially long winter cooped up in my apartment, the opportunity to roll down the windows and drive towards the deep blue sky, was too good to pass up.
How to get there:
From downtown Calgary, Turner Valley is about a 50 minute drive. Maybe a little longer if you get stuck behind a group of motorcycles that use AB22 as their playground.
Pit stop: If you need to take a break to stretch your legs or visit the washroom, Millarville is a nice little town with some small shops and a market. It’s only about 15 minutes away from Turner Valley, but when you gotta go, you gotta go.
What to see in Turner Valley:
Truthfully, there’s not much in terms of activities, but the town offers an abundance of green space, perfect for a few rounds bocce ball, frisbee or even a picnic. If I had a kid or a dog, I’d probably just drive them out here and let them run around until they were exhausted. I spent an hour or so walking through the historic town, that dug its first well in 1914 and became the epicenter of one of Alberta’s earliest oil booms. The streets are lined with historic buildings and more modern lookalikes, both which assist in giving you the feeling of what it must have felt like when the oil was free-flowing.
Where to eat:
Everyone will tell you to eat the Chuckwagon Cafe, which I tried to do, but with a long line up and no sign of a patio, on such a beautiful day I couldn’t imagine waiting to eat inside. I decided to try Coyote Moon Cantina which is right along the main strip, offers plenty of patio space and an equally big restaurant inside for those seeking a little reprieve from the sun. For $15 (tip included), I got a delicious homemade BLT, golden fries and nice cold beer. If you sit outside, be prepared for the noise of motorcycles which with so much space for the noise to go, don’t seem as grating as they do in an urban setting.
Where to stay:
If you decide to turn your day trip into an overnighter, Turner Valley doesn’t offer a lot in hotels, but there is one that definitely one that’s worth the visit. those attending the professional development day had the chance to stay at newly built The Diamond Willow Artisan Retreat, which is just five quick minute drive outside of Turner Valley. I couldn’t stay, but I had heard such nice things, I wanted to swing by and see what the fuss was all about.
What I found was a well-cared for and loved home that seemingly offered instant relaxation. Sometimes a retreat for yogis or artists, other times a bed and breakfast for the tourist looking to unplug, the Diamond Willow offered views of the mountains, along a babbling brook and hardly a discernible sound, besides those provided by nature. I was left kicking myself for not being able to spend the night.
Worth the trip:
If you’re looking for a quick way to get away from the busy streets of Calgary, Turner Valley offers a quick transition from city to country. And the sky, the sky. I won’t soon forget how blue the sky was and how good it felt to enjoy the unobstructed rays of the sun, with proper sunscreen, of course. At one point I was sitting on the patio of the Coyote Moon Cantina and I literally couldn’t take my eyes of the sky, it felt so wonderful and when I was thinking about how I could describe it, this is what I came up with: If people go to the beach to enjoy the water, then they should go to Turner Valley to enjoy the sky.
What’s great about the very small town is that it literally offers you the best of Alberta’s geography. On one side, you have the sky and plains that are practically endless and on the other, the snow-capped rocky mountains are seemingly just around the corner. I don’t think me, or my camera, could have been happier. Sunday drives were invented for places like Turner Valley.
Some buildings have begun to show their age. Inside the accommodating Diamond Willow Artisan Retreat.
I wasn’t the only one taking in the sun.