I’m a hard core traveller and not easily surprised when I’m visiting somewhere for the first time. I do my research and try to line up a couple of key spots to visit and a couple of cool things to do. But Lethbridge was a total surprise. It began with my approach to the city from the north on the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3-E). Almost without warning, I’m staring at the world’s highest working railway bridge spanning the deep Old Man River Valley, which effectively divides the city in two. Little did I know this was only the beginning.
Nature at Her Best
Lethbridge is a very easy city to get around in. You can walk almost everywhere. And drive to about a gazillion parks and natural areas – 130 to be exact – most of which are surrounded by or have access to activities and attractions to keep even the most particular visitor entertained. Try the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Indian Battle Park, underneath aforesaid railway trestle. I got some pretty cool shots looking up at that bridge and learned a lot about the local flora and fauna. And right next door is Fort Whoop-Up National Historic Site, which does an excellent job of capturing the city’s Wild West past.
The Galt Museum and Archives
At the top of the valley overlooking Indian Battle Creek Park is one fine keeper of the history of Lethbridge. What faces the street is the brick and sandstone former Galt Hospital, circa 1910 – where the apparitional footsteps of a man in slippers are heard to walk the halls at night. What’s surprising is the very modern glass and steel addition on the back of the building, constructed in 2004. It’s the perfect blend of old and new. The largest museum south of Calgary boasts a temperature controlled lower floor, home to more than 300,000 archival documents and photographs that reveal the story of the early days of Lethbridge and southern Alberta. The main floor is an interactive paradise for history buffs like me and for anyone with kids. Learn all about the hunters, gatherers, traders, miners, railway builders, ranchers – well, you get the idea – who laid the ground work for what has become the fourth largest city in Alberta. It doesn’t disappoint.
Southern Alberta Art Gallery
A short stroll from the museum takes you to Galt Park, a lovely green space with picnic tables and dancing fountains. Nestled to one side is the Southern Alberta Art Gallery. My surprise here is that the gallery is one of the few in Canada to feature predominantly new and emerging artists on the local, national and international scene. If you’re looking to broaden your artistic horizons, be sure to stop by.
There are many more pleasant surprises in this pretty city. Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, built as a symbol of friendship between Alberta and Japan, is an oasis of peace and serenity.
My final surprise? On the first Friday of every month, admission to downtown attractions is free and there are great deals at local shops, restaurants and pubs. What are you waiting for?