Sunny Medicine Hat is the hidden gem of Southern Alberta cities. Venture off the beaten path and take the time to explore its vintage charm and modern vibe. Check out these extraordinary stops; just a small taste of what the Hat has to offer.
I love a good road trip, don’t you? Setting out on the open road, your favourite tunes compiled on a playlist, and road snacks! Here are a few other Alberta places I love to visit when I get the urge to roam.
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Medicine Hat Alberta
With an average of 333 days of annual sunshine and the positive outlook to match, Medicine Hat is so much more than just a few dingy chain restaurants and a pee break along the Trans Canada.
Stop in, stay a while (or forever). As the one of the many fabulous (and instagrammable) building murals says, “You belong in this town”. Explore these vibrant, uplifting, and often poignant murals scattered throughout the city through a walking tour. They offer unique glimpses of the Gas City’s past, present, and future.
I recently spent a weekend zipping around the Hat (as locals call it) as a media guest of Tourism Medicine Hat. Granted, our adventures were hand picked to please but I trust my ability to read between the lines and I hope you do too.
Where the Heck is Medicine Hat?
The city is situated on the Trans Canada Highway (HWY #1) roughly three hours south east of Calgary and just over four hours west of Regina Saskatchewan. It is directly adjacent to the satellite town of Redcliff, and within the county of Cypress.
It was established in 1883 as a Canadian Pacific Railway site conveniently located along the South Saskatchewan River. This location, along with the multitude of rich natural resources led to several rapid economic booms. At one point, Medicine Hat was the front contender to be the capital city of our province!
As you can probably imagine, this location of this city was also important meeting place and hunting grounds for the First Nations of the area; the Blackfoot, Cree, and Assiniboine.
One of the legends about how the area was named takes place following a battle between the Blackfoot and Cree. A retreating Cree “Medicine Man” lost his war headdress (or Saamis) in the South Saskatchewan River. The city’s modern name is an anglicized version of the Cree name for headdress.
Things to Drink, See, Eat and Do in the Hat
But First, Coffee
Medicine Hat is a city with heart…and a vibrant coffee scene. Take a walking tour of the city’s best indy coffee shops and cafes, and be sure to bring both an appetite and caffeine tolerance!
The Madhatter Roastery is a must stop every time I visit the Hat. This small full service cafe features expertly roasted, small batch beans from all over the world. They’re in the business of connecting humans together over a great cup of joe. Recommended cuppa: HoneyCo – a latte featuring coconut oil and locally procured honey OR any of their seasonal creations.
On first glance Station Coffee Company may appear to be downtown’s standout hipster coffee hangout. However, this ain’t no S’bux, my friends! Known for their solid knowledge of everything coffee and creative barista menu, this spot also cranks out some serious baked goods. With two bakers on staff, you’ll enjoy every bite you take from breakfast pastries, to lunch, and (dare I say it) their immensely popular sourdough bread. Recommended cuppa: The True Blue Aussie Flat White. That elusive on every continent, save down under concoction that hits all the right notes for any coffee connoisseur. OR the Rootbeer Godfather – an unlikely cold concoction featuring locally made root beer and espresso.
See the City on the Sunshine Trolley
So many highway towns are a jumble of derelict buildings and fast food chains but Medicine Hat has so much more to offer. One of the best ways to see the city and get the ‘lay of the land’ is to hop aboard the Sunshine Trolley (owned and operated by Prairie Sprinter).
Running from the Visitor’s centre every Wednesday – Saturday (10 am, 11:55 am, 1:50 pm), this unique ride takes visitors past the Hat’s famous Saamis Tepee and historical downtown district, with a quick stop at the Esplanade.
Next, is a quick stop at Medalta in the clay district for some shopping and unique photo ops. Lastly, a stop at Police Point Park so you can stretch your legs and enjoy a bit of Medicine Hat’s natural assets. Tickets can be purchased online only and the whole trip takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Let’s Do Lunch (and Dessert!)
I love great food, more specifically, I love great food with a story. Takumi Japanese Cusine was just barely open before the pandemic hit. Still, this tiny 10 seat strip mall gem has become a beloved fixture of the Hat’s culinary scene.
Chef SeHo’s 27 years of professional Japanese cuisine experience shows through in the restaurant’s impressive menu. His unique journey from Tokyo (1996) to San Francisco (2001), then Seoul (2008) eventually landed him in Regina in 2012.
Among the varied selection of fresh nigiri (both fresh and aburi style), sashimi, and rolls there’s also a superb selection of bentos, donburi (rice bowls), katsu, and ramen. Recommended Eats: Katsu Curry Ramen – a hybrid of ramen/Japa Curry topped with two generous deep fried hirekatsu (pork tenderloin). Bonus: Add on the Pork Gyoza which are handmade every day.
And for dessert…head downtown to Moose and Squirrel for a custom ice cream creation and a bit of eye candy. As one of Medicine Hat’s unique alley way businesses, it breathes colourful life into a former vacant lot.
Moose and Squirrel is more than just an ice cream stop, Owner Ian Sand will tell you it’s an artisan village that changes, ebbs, and flows. It’s a great place to check out several stunning feature murals and support local artists. Recommended Treats: Peach, Cantaloupe Sundae with Peach Habanero Sauce and Candied Ginger. *offerings vary throughout the summer
Wherever you lay your hat (and your weary body) is home. The next best thing is The Medicine Hat Lodge. This unpretentious gem lies somewhere between a small town motel and a big city boutique hotel.
It’s the perfect family/team sports/rigger hotel, while also catering to a more discerning traveler. Let the kids burn off their energy in the indoor waterslide park, then sneak off to the spa or casino (just kidding, don’t do that please supervise your offspring!).
Finally, enjoy dinner from one of three onsite full service restaurants. Recommended: Redwood Steakhouse and Bar Steak Frites with 8oz Alberta AAA sirloin, wild BC mushroom, smoked sea salt fries, Okanagan red wine demi. OR The newly opened Pagoda Asian Fusion Cuisine. The buffet style restaurant is centered around an authentic Thai Pagoda located in the hotel lobby.
Let’s Go Back!
It has been said before that people who visit this humble prairie city often stay. The city has a way of wrapping itself around your heart. Simply put, you’ll fall in love; and quickly.
I sincerely hope you don’t just take my word for it. Go, see for yourself and don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself bookmarking MLS listings and indulging in a whole ‘move to Medicine Hat’ fantasy. Just like I did.