Summer Fun in Canada’s Sunniest City – Medicine Hat
Medicine Hat sits squarely in the sunbelt of Canada and receives an average of 2544 hours of sunshine every year, making it the sunniest city in Canada. In The Hat, you can bask in the sun 330 days a year. The city’s sunshine trolley transit system proudly proclaims the fact on the back of all of its trolley buses. With all that sunshine, it stands to reason that Hatters know how to celebrate summer better than anyone else. Here are some suggestions for the best ways to enjoy summer fun in Medicine Hat.
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Echo Dale Regional Park
Echo Dale Regional Park is a fantastic place to enjoy summer fun in Medicine Hat. Just outside the city, the park has a supervised swimming lake, a fishing and paddling lake, walking trails, a beach volleyball court, large open fields, playgrounds, picnic sites, washrooms, a campground and a concession area. You can enjoy a day at the beach, a picnic under the shade of enormous cottonwood trees, a leisurely paddle, or a few hours of trout fishing in the stocked pond. Echo Dale Regional Park is also home to the historic Echo Dale Farm and Ajax Coal Mine site. You can enjoy a self-guided tour following interpretive signage or take a guided tour with a park interpreter. On the guided tour, you’ll see the inside of the historic Woolfrey’s Dairy farmhouse and the blacksmith shop. You miss that on the self-guided tour. Children love seeing the chickens, goats, pigs, donkey, horses, and other farm animals. The farm and mine offer a glimpse of what life was like in this part of Alberta in the early 1900s. There’s also a boat launch and you can canoe or float down the South Saskatchewan River from Echo Dale Regional Park to the boat launch at Strathcona Island Park in Medicine Hat. A paved trail connects the park with Gas City Campground. It’s common to see Canada geese near the paddling lake. Raptor species are sometimes seen along the road leading to the park and near the river. Echo Dale Regional Park is the largest park in the Medicine Hat region.
Police Point Park
Police Point Park has lovely trails along the river and a nature centre. The Nature Centre at Police Point Park is open year round and regular programming is offered. You can rent free-to-borrow bikes, go on discovery tours, learn about the history and wildlife in the area or purchase nature items in the gift shop. There are wonderful trails in the park and it’s a great place to go for a walk or a bike ride along the South Saskatchewan River. Giant cottonwood trees are a real highlight of the park and some are estimated to be up to 300 years old. The park gets its name from the fact that it is located on the site of a former Northwest Mounted Police outpost. Look for birds, beavers, porcupines and weed-eating goats in the park.
A game of golf is one of the best forms of summer fun in Medicine Hat. The sunniest city in Alberta also has the province’s longest golf season. Courses green up sooner and stay open later – right into October in some cases. There are six courses in the city, so there’s a course to suit every golfer – from beginner to advanced. Many of the courses meander through the coulees and rivers and have beautiful scenery. Several area hotels offer golf and stay packages that are a real savings. On our first visit to Medicine Hat, we golfed at Desert Blume Golf Course and found it both beautiful and challenging. Just south of the city, the course is a hybrid between a links course and a desert course. Desert Blume has nice elevation changes with great views, four sets of tee boxes, just enough water hazards and a beautiful clubhouse. On our second visit to Medicine Hat, we golfed at Connaught Golf Club, which is right the heart of the city. The course has beautiful tree-lined fairways, friendly staff, and well kept greens. We saw white-tailed deer right on the course. Bring your clubs when you visit Medicine Hat and you won’t regret it.
Ride the Sunshine Trolley
The Medicine Hat Sunshine Trolley is a fun way to explore Medicine Hat in summer. The trolley ride starts at the Visitor Information Centre and has stops throughout the city at many of the key tourism sites. Stops include the Saamis Tepee, the downtown area, MedAlta and the Historic Clay District and Police Point Park. There’s time at each stop to get out of the bus and take pictures and the fare is $10 per person. The Sunshine Trolley operates from June through September, so it’s just a summer thing. Purchase tickets in advance online.
Paddle the South Saskatchewan
Canoeing, kayaking, boating and floating on the South Saskatchewan River is great summer fun for locals and visitors alike in Medicine Hat. Most people set into the river upstream at the Echo Dale Park boat launch. Then you paddle or float your way downstream right through the heart of downtown Medicine Hat. You can get out at Strathcona Island Park boat launch or go a little further to Police Point Park and take out there. If you don’t have two vehicles, you could catch a cab back to your drop off point and then head back to pick up the canoes or kayaks. It’s a pretty float that will take a couple of hours. You’ll likely see a variety of birds along the river such as mergansers, pelicans, great blue herons and bald eagles. Beavers, deer, muskrats, red foxes and porcupines might also be seen.
Visit MedAlta in the Historic Clay District
MedAlta is a National Historic Site and one of the most unique industrial museums in Canada. It is located in a former factory site and tells the history of the clay industry in Alberta. In its early years, Medicine Hat was an industrial power house. The city was home to many manufacturing companies. Power was cheap thanks to a large natural gas field and the city become known as Gas City. Industries came and went, but the manufacture of clay products remained one of the most important industries in the city. Many homes in Canada had clay items, bricks, tiles and china products that were manufactured in Medicine Hat. Medalta is a fascinating place to visit. You can also take pottery classes and enjoy other hands-on experiences at Medalta. The artist in residence program attracts pottery and clay artists from around the world. Their work is on display in the museum as well.
The world’s largest tepee is pretty hard to miss. It was originally constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics, but was later moved to Medicine Hat and placed near the Visitor Centre. You can see the Saamis Tepee from the road as you drive through Medicine Hat, but it’s really worth a closer inspection. Inside the tepee are 10 large murals depicting Indigenous culture and history. There are also interpretive signs that tell the history of the Indigenous people in this area. In fact, it is that Indigenous history that gave the city it’s name. The Indigenous word “Saamis,” loosely translates to “medicine man’s hat.” There are several Saamis legends about the medicine man’s hat and you can read about one of them on an information panel inside the Saamis Tepee site.
Did You Know? There’s an archaeological site in the valley directly behind the Saamis Tepee. It was an important overwintering area for Indigenous people dating back thousands of years.
The Hills Are Alive
Every June, the Miywasin Friendship Centre organizes an event known as The Hills are Alive. The four day festival event is a celebration of Indigenous culture and all are welcome. The event features instruction in fiddle, piano, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bagpipes/chanters, as well as, Métis jigging & square dancing. There are also Indigenous arts and crafts. The Miywasin Friendship Centre offers services and programming that addresses the needs of the Indigenous Community in the Medicine Hat area. They sometimes sponsor and organize other community events.
Red Rock Coulee Natural Area
Some of the world’s largest red rock sandstone concretions can be found near Medicine Hat at Red Rock Coulee Natural Area. It’s an otherworldly landscape just off a gravel road about 35 minutes southwest of the city. Red spherical-shaped boulders measuring about 2.5 metres in diameter dot the landscape. It’s a photographer’s paradise that is best seen early or late in the day. The large rocks are iron-rich concretions that formed in place 75 million years ago. Basically, these iron-rich deposits resist erosion more than the surrounding rock, so they end up exposed on the surface.
Etzikom Museum & Historic Windmill Centre
About an hour’s drive southwest of Medicine Hat, the Etzikom Museum and Historic Windmill Centre is a unique spot on the Alberta Prairies. The tiny hamlet is home to The Canadian National Historic Windmill Interpretive Centre, which sits next to the museum. It’s an outdoor museum filled with historic windmills. There are walking paths and interpretive signs that showcase the history of wind power utilization in Canada. There is a large collection of antique windmills as well as reproductions of a general store, a rooming house, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop and a post office.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled – Wild Pronghorns are Really Cool
Pronghorns are amazing and you can see them in the fields around Medicine Hat. They are great at blending into the landscape, so you have to pay attention if you want to see them. They are the fastest land mammals in North America and the second fastest land mammals in the world. The only land mammal faster is the cheetah. If it was a long distance race though, put your money on the pronghorn to win. Pronghorns can maintain high speeds over longer distances and cheetahs cannot. Pronghorns can reach speeds of 98 km an hour (60 miles an hour). Some scientists believe that pronghorns developed their speed by being chased by ancient cheetahs. The horns of the pronghorn are part of what make it unique – they are a cross between horns and antlers, with qualities of both. Lastly, the pronghorn is not an antelope. It belongs to a family all its own.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
About 75 kilometres southeast of Medicine Hat, the Cypress Hills rise up from the surrounding prairie. The Cypress Hills are the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and Labrador and this creates a unique array of ecosystems. There is a vast variety of plants, animals and birds in this park along with a wide array of recreational opportunities year-round. In summer, boating, canoeing, swimming and biking are popular activities. Winter visitors enjoy snowshoeing, skating, skiing and other activities. The park is a dark sky preserve and hosts an annual star party.
Medicine Hat’s Historic Murals
Medicine Hat has a great public art collection including a large number of James Marshall Murals and plenty of fun Instagrammable walls. James Marshall was known for his brick relief murals. He created them all over Canada, but Medicine Hat was his home town. There are a large number of James Marshall murals in Medicine Hat. You’ll also want to check out the painted murals (Instagrammable walls) in town. We just wandered around and saw how many we could find on our own. If you want to find all of them, there’s a complete list of all the murals in the visitor guide.
Watch a Movie at Canada’s Oldest Theatre
Opened in 1911, the Monarch Theatre is the oldest continuously running purpose-built movie theatre in Canada. It’s super retro, even though the theatre has been restored and updated to a fully digital projection system. They show movies on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and prices are reasonable.
Swirls Ice Cream – Summer Fun in Medicine Hat
Summer isn’t summer until you’ve had some ice cream at Swirls! If you’re in Medicine Hat during the summer, this fun retro takeout ice cream parlor is the place to go. On a hot day, people will line up to get their ice cream treats from Swirls. There’s hard and soft ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes, parfaits, ice cream novelties and more.
Camping Near Medicine Hat – RV Parks
Gas City Campground is the largest and best equipped campground in Medicine Hat. The campground is located right in the City of Medicine Hat and has 97 sites. There are full service, power and water, power only and non-serviced sites for reservation. Amenities include a playground, picnic tables, fire pits, firewood for sale, laundry facilities, free hot showers, and a dump station. There are cycling and walking trails nearby – including a paved trail that connects to Echo Dale Regional Park. There are a few unserviced camping sites at Echo Dale Regional Park and camping sites at nearby provincial parks like Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park and Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Medicine Hat Hotels
There are many great accommodation options in Medicine Hat. On our first visit, we booked a golf and stay package at the Home Inn Express Medicine Hat. The package was a fantastic deal, the hotel was clean and comfortable and breakfast was included. Several other hotels offer similar packages. On our most recent visit, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites. The hotel has a huge indoor pool with a waterslide and a hot tub and an included hot breakfast. The rooms were large, comfortable and clean. When we were there, the pool was open by reservation, so we had the entire pool facility to ourselves for an hour at a time.
Where to Eat in Medicine Hat
There are a lot of wonderful restaurants in Medicine Hat and with two visits, we certainly haven’t tried them all yet. We liked the Korean popcorn chicken at The Mezz Bar & Eatery, in downtown Medicine Hat on our recent visit. One of the big surprises (in a good way) was the pickle pizza at Grit City Distillery. It’s one of their signature items and it’s amazing! Even my husband who is a strict traditional pepperoni pizza guy liked it. We enjoyed a delicious stir fry and coconut shrimp at Sabai Infusion, which is in downtown Medicine Hat. Skinny’s Smokehouse is a great BBQ place on the west end of town. If you enjoy southern barbecue, you’ll love this place. The smoked brisket was amazing. For a diner-style breakfast or lunch, try Lela’s Place the Chocolate Shop. The food is just like your grandma made – if she was a really, really good cook. We loved the burger and the Monte Cristo sandwich we ordered. The cinnamon bun was also amazing. Another fantastic lunch stop is the Inspire Cafe. Located in a historic building, the cafe is also connected to an art gallery. You can enjoy delicious sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts (the chocolate cake was great) while you look at the work of local artists. We also enjoyed a late night bite at a great place called Local Public Eatery. We shared some nachos and split an Asian noodle salad. The restaurant has good local food, great atmosphere and an extensive beverage menu.
Where to Drink in Medicine Hat
If you’re wondering where to get a drink in Medicine Hat, that will depend on what you like to drink. There’s a long history of brewing in the city. Medicine Hat Brew Co. began operating in 1912 – the same year as the Calgary Stampede. Like the Stampede, it’s become an institution. Brew pubs are a big deal everywhere, but especially in Medicine Hat. The Hat is home to three award-winning microbreweries, a distillery and a Kombucha brewery. You’ll also find a great selection of local coffee shops. Some of the top shops include Station Coffee Company, Cafe Verve and Madhatter Coffee Roastery. Inspire cafe also has good French Press coffee, specialty teas and a locally roasted house blend.
More Info About Summer Fun in Medicine Hat
For more information about summer fun in Medicine Hat, visit the Tourism Medicine Hat website.
This post was produced by us and sponsored by Tourism Medicine Hat.