I’m officially hooked on these one or two day Alberta road trips – especially in fall, when it’s warm but not too hot, the shadows start to lengthen early and everything is turning shades of yellow, orange and gold. W and I hit the road a few weekends ago – we left on a Friday at noon, and I had forgotten how awesome the drive south to Lethbridge is.
First stop: the Hitchin’ Post Drive-in in High River. A stand alone burger and ice cream joint in the middle of a parking lot at a roundabout in the middle of town that offers about a bazillion milkshake flavours – in every combination you can dream up.
And then – the Nanton Candy Store. This is, to me, the quintessential small town candy-curios store, worth the drive its own self, jammed with enough interesting things to keep me busy poking around while W spends far too much time choosing his candies. The 100 square foot room in the back – NotSoFine Antiques – is packed with interesting vintage things, many of them from local farms. It’s well organized – not just heaps of dusty junk – and things are actually reasonably priced – none of this $20 for a VHS tape because it’s collectible. Look, there’s a Medalta bean pot! And some Pyrex, tin gelatin moulds, a wood butter press from an Alberta farm. Old enamelware and milk glass, cast iron and milk jugs.
W was an actual kid in a candy shop, and I was… you know.
It’s like poking around the ultimate grandma basement – there’s so much great stuff. I could easily lose myself for an hour or three. Which is completely fine when you’re on a trip just for the sake of poking around, and not trying to make good time getting somewhere.
Soon after Nanton you hit Claresholm, and the main drag takes you right by Roy’s Place, which You Gotta Eat Here! made famous for its frisbee-sized cinnamon buns. (That’s Mike’s hand, for scale. On another trip.)
Make sure you have wet wipes in the car if you pick one up to go – they’ll give you a container of frosting to apply yourself, and when you cut into it, you’ll discover a puddle of delicious goo underneath. One is big enough to feed a small family. Half an hour later you may need to pull over for a nap.
On the way to Lethbridge, you pass through Fort Macleod. Which, if you’ve never been, looks like a movie set. For real. I mean – these hotels!
There are only a few thousand people there – this was the scene on an early Friday evening – I didn’t need to wait for anyone to stroll out of the picture.
And did you know Joni Mitchell was born in Fort Macleod? I did not. Her dad was a RCAF flight lieutenant who instructed new pilots during World War II.
Food wise, there’s a drive-in serving up hard ice cream and soft, and hand-cut small batch fries made from potatoes grown nearby.
I’m a sucker for a grain elevator. Fortunately, W was a good sport about me pulling over at every one of them.
We arrived in Lethbridge – which has one of my favourite bridges in the world, Alberta’s Golden Gate – in the early evening, and so went straight to Two Guys and a Pizza Place to pick up a pizza to bring back to our hotel room. Goonies was on, and hanging out in a hotel room with pizzas and W watching Goonies is about the best way to spend a Friday night ever. (Fortunately, he still agrees.)
We went to Lethbridge for Word on the Street – a fun annual event that spills out of the library into the space and streets around it – and so as always I mapped out the best coffee shops. I usually go to The Penny, but this time we checked out Bread Milk & Honey, a beautiful coffee shop modeled after the owner’s original eatery of the same name in South Africa – you’ll see that history reflected on the menu.
Great coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and chocolate cream pie. Happiness-inducing comfort food.
They have cake shops! And food trucks.
And Umami Shop – a world grocery shop of the sort I would seek out in any city – with a coffee bar, cafe, cooking classes and just about every ingredient and small cooking tool you can imagine from anywhere in the world – think Devon cream, bitters, macarons, Japanese teapots and tortilla presses – the owners have a similar shop in France. France and Lethbridge!
It’s worth a drive, I tell ya. It’s a pretty stunning drive, too – and the car is a great place to spend a good chunk of visiting time with someone.
I love showing off my home province – thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.