Thinking of a Calgary day trip? Well that must mean a trip to those show-off Canadian Rocky Mountains right? Having lived in this vibrant Alberta city for decades, our memory banks are filled with things to do around Calgary. A day trip from Calgary often have us headed west to hike, bike or ski in those magnificent mountains.
Hubby and I have a long history of taking turns organizing dates. Let’s face it. Over 35 years into a relationship, new experiences help to keep the conversation in giggles versus grunts over the dinner table.
Always keen to find a new Calgary day trip we heard about the Cool Little Towns driving tours. Traveling through rolling prairies, scenic quiet highways lead to the quaint and eclectic small towns of Turner Valley, Black Diamond and Longview.
A Calgary Day Trip – Some of our Coolest Finds
Heading southwest of Calgary on Cowboy Trail (Highway 22), Turner Valley is a mere 60km (37mi) away. Famous for its discovery of oil and natural gas, Turner Valley was once the largest producer in the entire British Empire. Today its rural little town feel weaves among thriving businesses.
Opening in 2014, Alberta’s first craft distillery occupies the space of a movie theater built almost a century earlier. David Farran, owner of Eau Claire Distillery, smiles as he explains the still has been suitably named Ethel Merman. “Farm to glass” is how David describes the process. Grain harvested by hand with teams of horses, milled on site and used to distill the spirits.
Over at the Motoburrito Food Truck, with it’s brightly colored skull lawn chairs we gaze at the array of unique Mexican themed decorations. Is that a dog skeleton at the water dish?
I suggested to Hubby we try to sneak one of those amazing chairs home but he was having none of my shenanigans. I happily inhaled lip smacking mango salsa instead.
A sister town to Turner Valley, Black Diamond, rich in coal mining history, is connected to its sibling by a short stretch of road called the Friendship Trail. Although the town has a population under 2500, the townspeople are big on expressing how much they love their community.
Well really who wouldn’t? A collection of art galleries, unique boutiques and delicious eateries make up this small town hub of thriving culture and art.
As if the rainbow appeared on queue over Firebrand Glass Studio, Julia Reimer and partner Tyler Rock spoke passionately about the art of glass blowing. “It’s not just an object but an experience, a story,” explained Julia.
Mesmerized by the magical pieces we hope to return for a lesson one day. Please note, visits to Firebrand Studio are by appointment only.
At Bluerock Gallery owner Karen Gimbel focuses on promoting Alberta artists and authors. Over 200 of them. As she pointed out some of Julia’s glass blowing pieces it was clear this community supports each other. How cool is that?
When we ask Karen to tell us in one sentence why people would want to come to the gallery she doesn’t hesitate. “If you want to experience falling in love over and over, come on in.” We couldn’t agree more.
As much as we love adrenaline pumping adventure, some days it’s re-energizing to meander and explore. Originally known as Little Chicago for it’s 1930’s rough and tumble oil patch ways, Longview is now known for the view west to the first range of Rocky Mountains.
Parking next to The Lost American Art Gallery on main street I could not wait to ask about the name. Waiting at least three seconds before posing the question to the gentleman welcoming us through the door.
“Well the truth is I was lost and she found me!” He chuckled pointing to his partner behind the desk.
Clearly the partnership was born of a love of the west. Navajo rugs, bronze sculptures and turquoise jewellery caught this shopper’s eye in the gallery. I suggested to my own partner some shopping might be in order but he seemed to develop hearing loss.
We had expected the Twin Cities Hotel might be a sleepy watering hole. Brimming with motorcycle riders, antique car drivers, locals and the likes of us Calgary day trip goers we were a lively, happy and diverse crowd. I’m already planning a Friday date night when a live band is playing.
Check out our video for a glimpse of all of our cool discoveries during our now not so best kept secret Calgary day trip. Two and a half minutes of whirlwind video of our ‘One-of-a-kind-find’ tour of the Cool Little Towns.
One hour from Calgary, whether you be a tourist or a traveler, amazing food, great art and boutiques await. That quiet scenic drive to these one of a kind finds made for a great date. Happy to report no grunting at the dinner table but lots of giggles following our Alberta road trip. Hope you enjoy the drive too!
Have you visited any cool little towns?
We are ambassadors 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 our own.