Summer is the perfect time to get out of the city and explore small Canadian towns with their interesting shops, historic buildings, unusual museums and great local eats. In a single day, you can take a road trip to six cool little Alberta towns south of Calgary. Your whole gang will love this adventure because of the chocolate malts and candy shops, but the best part is getting to chat with all the friendly locals along the way.
Step Back in Time in Olde Towne Okotoks
In the heritage buildings of Olde Towne Okotoks, you’ll find a huge variety of goodies: handmade quilts, antiques, western art and baby gifts to name a few. Be sure to sample some of the specialty oils and vinegar at On Tap Oil and Vinegar on McRae Street. And as a reward for the effort of hauling your shopping bags, treat yourself and your family to some sweets from the old fashioned Okotoks Candy Shoppe.
Farm Fresh Produce and Old Fashioned Malts
On a Saturday morning, travel down the scenic Cowboy Trail through Turner Valley to the nearby Millarville Farmers’ Market, one of the oldest in the province. Then wander through the antique shops along Black Diamond’s historic Main Street, rub the world’s largest black diamond – a symbol of the area’s coal mining history – for luck and grab a chocolate malt and peanut butter burger at Marv’s Classic Soda Shop, the definitive 1950s style diner.
Ride the Rails in Nanton
Nanton’s historic downtown is jam-packed with antique stores – you might be here awhile. You can buy some extra antique shopping time by sending your mini-engineers to the Ultimate Trains Store and Big Sky Garden Railway. They can play on toy tracks, check out the huge stock of little locomotives and take a couple spins on the ride-on train. If they still have energy to burn after that, take them to the playground at Centennial Park.
Star Struck in High River
High River is the setting for the Canadian hit TV series Heartland, depicting the highs and lows of life on a horse ranch in cattle country. Those familiar with the series can enjoy a self-guided tour of key filming locations. Even if you’ve never seen the show, strolling through the art galleries, gift shops and boutiques really gives you a sense of the strong community spirit found in this town that is reflected in Heartland. And it’s impossible to leave High River without visiting its trademark drive-in, The Hitchin’ Post for some deep-fried mushrooms. Decadently delicious!