Alberta’s fourth-largest city, multicultural Lethbridge, is Southern Alberta’s center for art, cuisine, shopping, and recreation.
The city’s climate is mild, with Chinook winds warming the region during the winter. The Old Man River on the city’s west side is named after Napi, the Old Man, creator of the world in Piikani culture.
For U.S. travelers, Lethbridge, only a little over an hour from the border, is the gateway to Alberta. Interstate 15 becomes Alberta Highway 4 at the border and leads to Lethbridge.
Pro Tip: Much of Lethbridge’s road network is numbered, not named. Remember that avenues run east and west, while streets run north and south. Crowsnest Highway, also named Highway 3, divides the avenues’ designation between north and south.
1. The World’s Largest Wind Gauge
Start your visit at the Lethbridge Visitor Information Centre. Inside, get the scoop on everything Lethbridge. Like nearby Cut Bank, Lethbridge, Canada’s second-windiest city, celebrates its wild weather status at the World’s Largest Wind Gauge. It looks like an extra-sturdy tetherball set, except that the ball rests on the ground. A tongue-in-cheek guide below the gauge lists wind status indicators.
When you leave the center, head west on Scenic Drive South and follow it as it winds toward the northwest. Many of Lethbridge’s signature attractions are in the Old Man River basin on the city’s western edge.
Pro Tip: The visitor center offers a free dump station for RVs.
2. The High Level Bridge, The World’s Longest And Highest Trestle
As a geometric delight alone, the High Level Bridge is worth visiting. Such perfection of line, light, and shadow. It’s a photographer’s dream. Park in the small lot at the west end of First Avenue South next to Brewery Gardens. A rock sign above the parking lot welcomes you to Lethbridge. Stroll through the gardens for an overhead look at the trestle. Afterward, hike the steep dirt paths that lead down to the trestle piers. Take your time and explore every angle. Consider packing a picnic and eating at the picnic shelter in the park below.
Crews completed the bridge in 1909. When it opened, the mile-long bridge replaced 20 wooden bridges, straightening and strengthening the connection between Canada’s east and west.
Pro Tip: Visit the tracks before sunrise and sunset to watch the lighting change. Download the free app The Photographer’s Ephemeris to track sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset times. The app also shows the angle at which the heavenly body will shine.
3. Fort Whoop-Up
From 1869 to 1874, Fort Whoop-Up near Lethbridge was the most notorious of the trading posts on the Fort Whoop-Up Trail. Western Canada was without official law enforcement at the time. What law enforcement existed came from the leader at Fort Whoop-Up. Alcohol of dubious quality, bison robes, wolf skins, firearms, and foodstuffs flowed freely across the U.S.-Canada border. Rumors said that the fort even flew an American flag. In response, Canada sent the new North-West Mounted Police, which later became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When the Mounties arrived at Fort Whoop-Up on October 9, 1874, the forewarned traders had ensured that no American flag flew above the fort, and the whisky had disappeared. The current Fort Whoop-Up is a reconstruction about 4 miles north of the original location. It sits in Indian Battle Park, where the Blackfoot and Cree tribes fought in 1870. The Red Coat Trail includes the fort.
4. Galt Museum
The Galt Museum tells Southern Alberta’s story and is unafraid to discuss Lethbridge’s pleasant and unpleasant history. First Nations, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans came to Lethbridge and all left their marks. The museum explains each group’s impacts. The exhibits change frequently, so every visit is different. The museum’s main room overlooks the Old Man River Basin’s beautiful views.
5. Helen Schuler Nature Centre
In the High Level Bridge’s shadow, the Helen Schuler Nature Centre features at least six indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits. Walk the self-guided nature trails in the surrounding Lethbridge Nature Reserve. Wander the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands and the Alexander Wilderness Park.
6. Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
Nikka Yuko means Japanese-Canadian friendship. At the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, every detail expresses Japanese culture blending with the garden’s Canadian homeland. The cumulative effect bathes the visitor’s soul in tranquility. Enjoy a strong slate of events, including December’s Winter Light Festival.
Pro Tip: Enhance your sensory experience with the garden’s free audio tour.
7. Henderson Lake Park
Henderson Lake Park is Lethbridge’s center for outdoor recreation, including a lake, trails, playgrounds, picnic shelters, and memorial gardens. Anglers must have a provincial fishing license and obey fishing regulations.
Skating, horseshoes, swimming, ice sports, and tennis are all near the park. Enjoy the Lethbridge Rotary Dragon Boat Festival each June.
The park’s Demonstration Garden celebrates Communities in Bloom’s contributions. The Canada 150 Maple Grove honors the nation’s 150th anniversary. As Americans, the Rose Garden that commemorates 9/11 is the most touching. That our Canadian neighbors honor the sacrifices of that dreadful day and share in our collective pain is profoundly moving.
But Lethbridge does more than that. Every year, they hold the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, ascending and descending the equivalent of the stairs firefighters had to climb to rescue those trapped in the Twin Towers. Proceeds support the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Association.
8. Southern Alberta Art Gallery
Celebrate contemporary artists who push against boundaries at Southern Alberta Art Gallery. The gallery hosts numerous events, including reading groups that dive into the gallery’s exhibitions and opportunities to hear the Blackfoot language. Shop for books, jewelry, and gifts.
9. Alberta Birds Of Prey Centre
To experience the thrill of an owl landing on your shoulders, watching eagles swooping only inches overhead, and beautiful works of art, visit the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, 17 minutes east of Lethbridge. The Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is the province’s first privately licensed raptor rescue and conservation organization. Injured birds come from all over Canada for rehabilitation.
Lethbridge is Southern Alberta’s commercial center. With its multiple cultures, Lethbridge enjoys fascinating shopping experiences. Many of them feature handmade goods.
Pro Tip: Even though Canadian Thanksgiving comes more than a month earlier than the American version, shops do celebrate Black Friday. However, we didn’t see the frantic U.S. shopping scenes north of the border.
Nakagama’s Japanese Food And Giftware
Nakagama’s is not only a store; it’s also an educational experience. Learn the specific nuances of Japanese cuisine when you chat with the store’s staff. The store also offers what you need to enjoy Japanese food with the appropriate tools and utensils.
Purple Hippo Boutique
A name like Purple Hippo has to mean it’s a must-stop shopping destination. And it does. The Purple Hippo Boutique is full of crafters’ booths. Their products include skincare products, handbags, children’s items, knitted and crocheted items, and home decor.
The Populess Co.
If you love leather, The Populess Co. is your place to shop. The company crafts all its leather goods in Lethbridge. How good are their products? They often sell out.
Street Legal Records
If you enjoy the warm sound of vinyl records, browse through the collection at Street Legal Records. The store’s passion is indie/local rock, but it also carries blues, folk, country, funk, and world music.
Urban Prairie Antique Mall
If what you want is vintage, retro, or antique, Urban Prairie Antique Mall probably has it. Numerous vendors and thousands of items provide multiple treasure-hunting opportunities.
Lethbridge Handmade Market
11. Water Tower Grill And Bar
Tower restaurants usually start their lives as a restaurant. That was not so in Lethbridge. In its original form, The Water Tower Grill and Bar was a water tower. In 1999, Lethbridge abandoned its water tower. After public pleas to save it, Douglas J. Bergen spent four years and $2 million transforming the water tower into a restaurant. The menu displays contributions from Lethbridge’s many cultures. Start your meal with the Vegetable Pakoras and continue with the Baked Ultimate Poutine.
Where To Stay
Revel in Victorian luxury at Charles Street Vacation Home. The two-story, three-bedroom home features a large backyard with a patio and a covered front porch.
Pro Tip: Check out Lethbridge deals and offers here. When planning a trip to Canada, remember that many seasonal attractions close or reduce their hours after Canadian Thanksgiving, the second Monday in October.