When people talk of touring Southern Alberta in the summer, one can generally assume that means exploring the dinosaur museum in Drumheller and discovering your inner cowboy at the Calgary Stampede. But what about Medicine Hat? The Trans-Canada Highway cuts through the heart of Medicine Hat and odds are, especially if you are a fan of cross-country road trips, you’ve passed through. Have you ever taken the time to stop and check out all that Medicine Hat has to offer? The next time you find yourself driving through, plan on it!
Great Local Food
If local food is what you’re after, plan your trip around Medicine Hat’s annual Sunshine Skillet – a food festival that plays host to a cooking competition, showcasing the talent of local amateur and professional chefs. In true “chopped” fashion, competitors are given 25 minutes, a basket of mystery ingredients (featuring local products), one burner, 2 pots and a frying pan. Honestly, the last thing I was expecting to see while watching the amateur competition were things like homemade pizza dough and pasta noodles… but that’s the kind of thing they were putting out!
Take it one step further and attend their Sunset Dinner, the opener for the weekend’s festivities. A 5-course gourmet meal, each course prepared by a different local chef using only local ingredients. This dinner makes the perfect introduction to Medicine Hat as you dine outdoors under their iconic Saamis Tepee, the largest tepee in the world.
Settle your sweet tooth and stop by Mcbride’s Bakery. From the classic apple fritter to the cannoli, you’ll find a sweet treat for every family member. If you’re feeling really daring, go for the Big Elvis, you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to grab a loaf of their bread to bring home with you.
Recharge your batteries in Medicine Hat’s downtown core, at the Madhatters Roastery (down the street from the fabulous Twist Wine & Tapas). Say hello to the Roastery’s pet fish, Mr. Bean, and grab a table. Be sure to order the kids an Italian soda – it’ll be just what they need to get you through an entire cup of HOT coffee.
As tempting as it is to jump in the drive-thru line on your way out of town, take a second and seek out Captain Pork instead. As Medicine Hat’s most popular food truck, they’ll let you know their whereabouts on their Facebook page, ditch the Big Mac, track them down and enjoy their Captain – a pulled pork sandwich that is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Unique Local History
Driving through Medicine Hat, you have undoubtedly noticed their claim to fame, the Saamis Tepee. Originally built for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the Saamis Tepee made its way to its permanent home in Medicine Hat after the closing ceremonies. Standing at a whopping 215 feet, it is considered the tallest Tepee in the world, an honouring tribute to Canada’s native heritage.
Once the Canadian Pacific Railway made it’s way through the area in 1883, Medicine Hat found its place on the map. A community rich in natural gas and clay, the residents of Medicine Hat were able to industrialize, with the manufacturing of clay products able to sustain the Great Depression. The Historic Clay District museum offers a glimpse into this surprisingly fascinating history. An original factory site turned museum that still manufactures clay goods today, on a much smaller scale, you’ll be able to see some claymakers hard at work if you’re visiting on a weekday. Plan to be there on a Thursday and indulge in Market at Medalta, a year-round event where you can experience a true taste of Medicine Hat (and get a lot of really cool local products).
After 35 years in business, the Windmill Garden Centre is carving their own place in Medicine Hat’s local history. Seek them out and inside you’ll find a gem – the Butterfly House. Step inside a gorgeous green oasis filled with birds, turtles, koi and butterflies everywhere you turn. Come with questions, the passionate and knowledgeable staff are ready with answers. Don’t forget to check the mirrors on your way out for any stowaways trying to come home with you. The BEST time to enjoy the Butterfly House would be on a beautiful sunny day. The butterflies love the sun and will spend more time flying around the room and less time hiding amongst the trees (lucky for us, Medicine Hat is considered Canada’s Sunniest City).
Stunning Local Landscape
Medicine Hat lies in the valley of the South Saskatchewan River and because of this, the local landscape is one full of hills and coulees. You can be sure we will be bringing our bicycles the next time we visit because along with the hills and coulees come a ton of beautiful green spaces to explore. Medicine Hat has a substantial hiking and biking trail system, boasting over 92 km of pathways to trek (which would take you a very determined 30 hours to see it all on foot).
Amidst all of these trails – parks like Police Point Park. The perfect place to wrap up your weekend, you may even forget you’re in the middle of a city. Follow any path and you’ll end up close to the edge of the South Saskatchewan, surrounded by the most perfect skipping stones. Go ahead and see how many times you can get those stones to skip across the river, our record is 8.