Must-See Stops on Your Way to Going Outside
From playgrounds to quirky general stores, U-pick berry farms and sweet treats, stops are an important part of any journey
Sweet summertime is here, and we’re soaking it up with camping trips galore. Cailynn recently took her newest adventure partner (her three-month-old baby) glamping in Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, thanks to a friend who snagged reservations at the park’s popular comfort cabins, while Annalise has been enjoying time in our beloved boler.
Writing-On-Stone / Áísínai'pi, in southern Alberta, is an otherworldly landscape characterized by stunning sandstone cliffs, caves and hoodoos. These features were the canvas for rock art by the Blackfoot Confederacy, including petroglyphs and pictographs. Considered scared by the Blackfoot People, this area is now a provincial park, UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Site of Canada.
A view from the Matapiiksi Hoodoo Trail in Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park.
The park has three small comfort cabins that sleep up to three people. Book early! These spots are hard to snag.
With a little one in tow, Cailynn wanted to break up the 3.5 hour drive from Calgary to Writing-On-Stone PP, so she turned to Twitter seeking some tips on stops to make. Gosh, did she hear a lot!
Click on the tweet below and scroll through the replies to see all of the stellar recommendations she received, including a micro-brewery in Fort Macleod, a highly-recommended BBQ restaurant in the village of Stirling and the Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale.
The passion Twitter users had for roadtrip stops got us thinking about some of our favourite stops to make on the way to (and from) going outside in Alberta. While it would have taken Cailynn days to stop everywhere recommended, she did squeeze in Claresholm’s Roy’s Place and Patterson Park, home to a playground and outdoor fitness equipment, and is looking forward to checking out many of the suggestions on future trips, especially when her little one is older.
Sure, stops make a journey much longer, but the chance to stretch your legs, use a washroom, support small, local businesses and experience something new is well worth it. We’ve had trips where the stops along the way are more memorable than the final destination.
Stops can also provide fun photo opportunities like this grain elevator in Rowley!
Canvassing friends, family or strangers who’ve done drives before is a great way to know what to add to your route. As is Google. Be creative. Alberta is full of slightly-off-the-highway gems and remember, you can do more than gas stations.
We have a friend with two little ones who makes playgrounds a consistent part of any road trip. Annalise has a dog and seeking out dog-friendly parks to stretch legs and run around is routine on longer trips. It’s currently berry picking season in Alberta so stopping at a U-Pick farm for an hour of picking can break up a trip (and provide a tasty treat for the rest of the drive.) Annalise used to commute regularly between Calgary and Edmonton and places like the Donut Mill in Red Deer or Starlite Diner Car in in Bowden always made what was a long, boring drive a little sweeter.
Read on for a handful of our go-to stops organized by direction of travel from Calgary, and, more importantly, we want to hear yours! Share your must-see Alberta stops — be it food, attractions, a pretty place to stretch your legs along the way, etc. — in the comments.
On The Way South (think Castle Provincial Park or Waterton)
Beaver Mines Lake Campground is on our mind, as we’re heading their this week with some girlfriends. (We’ve written before about why we love this spot). We often go this way in winter for ski trips at Castle Mountain Ski Resort, and whether it’s summer or winter, we like stopping at the quaint Beaver Mines General Store — recently rebranded as Miner’s Mercantile and Bakery. It’s a great place to fuel up with gas and inside you’ll find an assortment of food, including homemade lunches and bakery items, as well as quite a range of products. In fact, it’s where Cailynn found her favourite crib board.
There’s also a brewery in tiny Lundbreck (Oldman River Brewing), and Lundbreck Falls is a scenic spot to stretch your legs.
If you’re travelling this way but Waterton National Park is your destination, we recommend stops at the outdoor outlet store in Pincher Creek and the Twin Butte Country General Store’s Mexican Restaurant, as Annalise did a few weeks back.
On the Way West (think Canmore, Banff or Bragg Creek)
One of our all-time favourite stops on the way home from the mountains is eating poutine from 514 Poutine in Canmore. (Related: if you know of anywhere in Calgary or Edmonton that serves authentic Montreal-style poutine, please let us know!) This spot has recently reopened after a lengthy pandemic-related closure, and we’re eager to return and order a traditional poutine and Spruce beer. Just be sure to double check the hours before you go, as showing up to a closed poutine shop — as we’ve done on numerous occasions — is very disappointing.
P.S. For the record, the cinnamon buns at Roy’s Place in Claresholm are giant and delicious!
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