One of the things we love to do is explore little towns. Whether it’s touring across Canada, the US or right here in Alberta we love to hop in the car and go somewhere new for the day. You learn so much about a community when you stop to discover what makes them unique and take the time to talk with the locals. Maybe it’s because we grew up in small little towns that we are drawn back to them so often.
We had the opportunity to experience some great little towns recently as we participated in a Cool Little Towns Tour originating in Calgary and less than an hour away. With four featured tours to choose from, Cool Little Towns encourages you to follow the routes as planned or use them as a guideline to plan your own adventure. With over 250 kilometres of Alberta’s most scenic driving routes to you should set aside the day to enjoy your drive, the beautiful views and great finds in each community. We decided on the Made in Alberta tour, a feast for your senses.
It was a Saturday morning with no commitments and we were looking forward to hitting the road. Our first stop was Turner Valley and the award winning Eau Claire Distillery. They offer tastings and a tour of their Artisanal Spirits offering a Farm to Glass experience as they produce their spirits from local Alberta grain. The distillery itself is housed in a circa-1929 Turner Valley Movie Theatre and Dance Hall and if you are hungry, there are light bites available.
After a few samples and purchase or two, we carried on our way and discovered MotoBurrito, an eclectic Mexican food truck featuring burritos, tacos, burgers, fries and more. Sitting on two acres of land next to Motorrad, this 14 foot food truck boasts a fun and colourful seating area with a variety of hot sauces to choose from and purchase. It was lunch time so we grabbed a seat and stayed to eat. While we enjoyed our fries, burgers and burritos we were able to watch a team roasting a pig for a pig roast they were having the next day.
On the road again and just a short drive down the highway, we sailed into Black Diamond. The Stop Coffee House and Gathering Place was on our list of places to visit for an after lunch coffee. This little coffee house boasts a spacious patio situated in front of a rustic outdoor bandstand. They feature Calgary’s Fratello coffee and homestyle café food. A rather large cookie accompanied our coffee, big enough to be shared by all four of us.
Our tour continued on by foot weaving our way through the town of Black Diamond. We browsed Cool Hand Luc’s Treasure Shop, bought some treats at Black Diamond Bakery & Coffee Shop and pulled up a stool at Marv’s Classic Soda Shop. All of the little stores along this side of the street were so much fun but Marv’s totally left a lasting impression! Here you can order burgers like Fonzie, Lana Turner, James Dean and more! The kids went crazy with glee as there was so much to look at including cool drinks and nostalgic candy. We shared a couple of sodas and vowed to return for a longer visit. Across the street we got lost in a unique boutique called Bohemia. This cool little store has the best prices and they carry fair-trade, local, cool items from fashion, knickknacks and jewelry.
Watching our time we made a quick stop in Longview at the World famous Longview Jerky Shop. From Alberta Beef made jerky, pepperoni and sausages, to a butcher shop with custom orders, there are so many reasons to stop in an visit this cool little shop. Leaving with a few jerky road snacks we headed to our last stop of the day, the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site.
Bar U Ranch was established in 1882 and was one of the foremost ranching operations in Canada. Recognizing that the Bar U Ranch’s long history provided an excellent opportunity to commemorate Canada’s ranching heritage, Parks Canada acquired 148.43 hectares (367 acres), including the ranch’s headquarters area, in 1991. Artists, princes and outlaws have all called the Bar U Ranch home at various times in its colourful history. Famed western artist Charley Russell, H.R.H. Edward Prince of Wales, and Harry Longabaugh (better known as the Sundance Kid) were among the famous and infamous characters who graced the ranch’s vast expanse at various times.
There’s lots to do on the ranch like visiting with the ranch hands, learning to rope a steer, saddle a horse, make bannock, repair a bridle or boil up cowboy coffee on a fire. You can wander the trails and dirt roads, pop into the stables, the post office or even the cookhouse to learn about “home on the range”. Did you know if you carry a valid Canada National Parks Pass you can use it at Bar U Ranch and get in for free?!
Our day touring these cool little towns was a fun way to have an adventure and spend the day with the kids. We found many little gems and already planning our return visit to many of them.
#CoolLittleTowns encourages locals and travellers seeking a cool day trip or staycation to drive within one hour south of Calgary for amazing food, unique art, great boutiques, shop-local experiences, rural beauty and eclectic offerings. Visit Turner Valley, Black Diamond and Longview to enjoy a driving tour like mine.
I am an ambassador of Cool Little Towns and have received perks to participate. However all opinions shared here about what makes these Cool Little Towns so cool are my own.