Compiled by the Road Trip Alberta team
Last Updated August 8, 2020
Your first view of the city from the top of the coulee, if you’re coming from Calgary to Lethbridge, is breathtaking. The High-Level Bridge, which the town is known for, stands tall and dark against the green, gold, or white coulees (depending on the season) while the Oldman River meanders along the bottom.
Lethbridge is quite spread out, which can make finding interesting things to do difficult. But with this guide beside you, it’s going to be easy to have a great time during your visit to Lethbridge!
Where is Lethbridge?
Driving from Calgary to Lethbridge is a relaxing 210 kilometre, 2 hour drive through small prairie towns with mountains and foothills on the west horizon (click here for a map). Tucked between the U.S. border and the Rocky Mountains, Lethbridge is a great launching pad to visit various national parks (Like Waterton and Glacier), and a curious little place in its own right.
There is also the option to fly into the Lethbridge airport with daily flights being offered by WestJet from Calgary.
Lethbridge is split neatly into three sections by Highway #2 (Crowsnest Highway) that bisects the town north and south, as the Oldman River cuts the coulee separating east from west. That means there’s a section in Lethbridge for each point on a compass, except for east. There’s the Westside which is west of the coulees and the river, the Northside which is north of the highway, and the Southside, which is where the downtown is situated.
Each area has its own charm, and list of things to do, but the south is both the oldest and busiest part of the city, making it much more dense with history, culture and opportunities to ‘see it all.’ For most visitors, it’s easiest to stay on the southside, especially if you’ve just rolled into town on the Calgary to Lethbridge bus and don’t have a car.
However, if you have easy access to a vehicle, there are places in both the north and the west side that are worth the drive!
The Lethbridge core is easily walkable, and the historic buildings that dominate downtown make for a great atmosphere. For those who drove, parking can be difficult to find if you’re considering spending more than two hours. If you want to ditch your car for the day, it’s easiest to pay for a spot at the Park & Ride Parkade, which is a quick walk from downtown proper.
There’s a great sense of Canadian and Albertan history in downtown Lethbridge. Many of the buildings that came with the boom in the early 1900s are still standing, including the town’s first public library turned art gallery that houses the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG), the recently renovated Oliver Building, and the old Catholic Charities building (which is currently being completely renovated). Because of this, Lethbridge’s downtown core is more interesting and beautiful than most towns its size in western Canada, making getting acquainted a pleasure.
There are number of hotels and places to stay in Lethbridge, and note that all are on the east side of the river. But if you’re looking for something more interesting than Super 8, these are the Lethbridge Hotels (and a Bed and Breakfast) we recommend:
- Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge – This hotel has changed hands many times since it was built, but the gorgeous tropical atrium remains with a pool at its centre, along with its views of the coulees.
- The Coast Hotel & Conference Centre – Featuring the Firestone Restaurant, which has delicious Sangria and the best patio in the city, it’s nearly kiddy-corner to Henderson Park.
- Charles Street Suites – A quaint and cozy little Bed and Breakfast that’s close to Lethbridge’s gorgeous bike boulevard (7th Avenue) which is also a thoroughfare to the coulees, Henderson Lake Park, and the South side!
Things To Do In Lethbridge
There is no shortage of things to do in Lethbridge, especially downtown and if you know where to look. If you need some suggestions to get you started, including the best restaurants in Lethbridge, then you’re in luck.
Although, even with these great recommendations in hand, the best way to see the town is still by talking with the locals, who are plenty friendly and love talking up their town to visitors.
Shopping in Lethbridge
- Urban Prairie – Featuring many different curators, this vintage shop covers the gamut from 1800s ephemera to mid-century modern furniture.
- Populess – Both a clothing brand and a store, Populess was born here, ‘where the mountain meets the prairies’, and stocks some of the finest denim and workwear-inspired menswear available south of Calgary.
- Splurge & Co – A local favourite, Splurge sells trendy clothes and jewellery for women.
Lethbridge Art Galleries
- SAAG – the Southern Alberta Art Gallery not only highlights local and Southern Alberta artists but invites curators and collaborators from abroad to display as well. The gift shop, which doesn’t require admission, is worth popping into just to get a sense of the space and peruse the artisanal goods.
- Casa – Part training facility for musicians, artists and dancers, and part gallery for local artists, admission to this beautiful building is free, including the art gallery.
- The Geomatic Attic – One of the most dependable venues in town, the Geomatic Attic is technically on the south side, but requires a car to get to. While you’re there checking out a show, you can also peruse the venue’s art gallery to get a feel for Southern Albertan artists. *Keep in mind that not all Geomatic Attic shows are hosted at the Geomatic Attic. Make sure to keep an eye on the venue when you look through their site.
- Galt Museum and Archives – The largest museum south of Calgary, the Galt chronicles Lethbridge’s past, from its very beginnings as Fort Whoop-Up (which featured a local distillery that earned it the epithet) to its current role as the hub of Southern Alberta.
There are a number of good local Lethbridge restaurants to choose from along with a variety of classic chain choices. Our top picks for places to eat are the following:
- Two Guys and A Pizza Place – Combining a wide-ranging selection of beers with its award-winning (and boundary-defying) pizza, Two Guys and A Pizza Place is a favourite of locals and one of the best restaurants in the city. They were even featured on Canada’s You Gotta Eat Here.
- Mocha Cabana – A relaxed and bright restaurant in the heart of downtown Lethbridge. They strive on using local sources for all their ingredients and beverages. They have one of the most creative burger menus including toppings such as chorizo or fried eggs. Fridays there is usually live music and their patio is perfect for a summer meal.
- Italian Table – It’s an Italian dining experience here and about the closest authentic Italian food you’ll find outside of Italy. This restaurant is tightly knit with the local community sourcing the majority of its ingredients from Alberta producers.
- Via Cibo – If you’re looking for a quality, quick meal, then Via Cibo is where you need to go. It’s authentic Italian street food made with the freshest ingredients. Be sure to head there on a Wednesday for their pizza special night and don’t forget that kids eat free on Mondays!
- Chef Stella – A modern take on a classic diner, Chef Stella’s is the perfect place for the most important meal of the day – brunch and bottomless coffee. If we’re craving a breakfast sandwich, it’s got to be from Stella’s.
- Plum – Great cocktails and upscale food is the mainstay of Plum, a cosy little restaurant with some of the best service (and craft-cocktails) in town. It has great evening vibes and there’s usually a record scratching some warm old tunes at the bar.
- Sawa – A great takeaway joint (since there are only two tables in the restaurant), Sawa serves up Japanese comfort food like Okonomiyaki and Karaage.
- ITEA Express– Fresh Vietnamese and Asian cuisine and their portion sizes are legendary, yet will keep you coming back for more! Be sure to try the noodle bowls.
- Streatside Eatery – Have a sweet tooth and a weakness for desserts? This place is the best place to stop in for a piece of pie.
Coffee Shops in Lethbridge
Lethbridge is home to a pretty cool coffee scene. From ethically sourced beans to self-roasters, you’ll be bound to find the perfect cup of joe at one of these fine spots:
- Sonder Coffee Bar – It’s a popular spot with the locals, and every cup of coffee that Sonder serves has been ethically and consciously sourced. Their coffee is their craft, and if you are looking for a bite to eat, their waffles are to die for.
- The Penny Coffee House – A Lethbridge favourite for over 25 years, this downtown coffee house serves both great java and some damn tasty treats. Stop in and have a peek at the walls which are lined with art from many local artists.
- Bread Milk Honey – A trendy downtown local favourite is all about serving its clients quality coffee and baked goods. Their all-day breakfast sandwich is sinfully delicious!
- Jonny Bean – a trip to Jonny Bean on the north side of Lethbridge is worth the journey. Their coffee is ethically sourced, all organic and made from the best roasters in Canada. Their pursuit is to “making you amazing coffee”.
Lethbridge Pubs and Breweries
- Theoretically Brewing Company – Founded in 2012, 2 home-brew enthusiasts began a journey which has led them to some of the best brewed beer in Alberta. The founders focus on a scientific method for their creations and even serve their beers in lab beakers. Their location has a spacious 60 seat patio to enjoy a beaker or two.
- Mojos Lethbridge – A nice spot on the west side of Lethbridge, this pub has a good selection of beers and one of the best burgers in town – the Dirty Doctor burger which has smoked gouda, candied jalapenos and a Dr. Pepper reduction.
- Coulee Brew Co. – Love, respect and pride all go into Coulee Brew’s beers. This southern Alberta craft brewery is winning awards with their beers and their food is pretty darn good too. Head on down to see their massive taproom and enjoy a few pints on their huge patio afterwards.
Music and Entertainment Venues
- The Owl Acoustic Lounge – The Owl, as it’s colloquially known, has a quirky ambience that keeps locals coming back. And, with nightly events, The Owl always has something going on to enjoy.
- Good Times Comedy Club – A local comedy club, Good Times features both local and national comedians, along with quiz nights to keep the good times rolling.
- The Slice – The Slice focuses on three things: pizza, beer and music, and all three make for a delicious and relaxing evening out.
Lethbridge Parks and Pools
- Henderson Lake Park – Over 7 kilometres of walking paths will lead you around Henderson Lake. There are plenty of activities throughout the summer including kayaking, canoeing, July 1 fireworks (note it’s cancelled for 2020) and the very popular Lethbridge Dragonboat Races.
- Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden – Designed by a garden architect in Osaka and constructed by artisans from Kyoto, these Lethbridge Japanese Gardens are is a beautiful symbol of friendship between Canada and Japan. Here, visitors can take part in tea ceremonies, participate in Sumo Sumo Sundays or do yoga in the serenity of the garden. Of course, you can also simply walk the paths and experience an authentically Japanese-Albertan experience.
- Henderson Pool – If you’re looking for a little more action, look north from the gardens and you’ll see Henderson Pool with its bright, colourful waterslides and spray park. The outdoor pool is the perfect place to spend a couple hours during Lethbridge’s long, hot summer days. And once you’ve been worn out by all the swimming and splashing (or perhaps by all the screaming children ;)), Henderson Lake offers a lovely 3 km loop to wind down.
- Cor Van Raay YMCA – The newest and largest fitness facility in Lethbridge. Including a surf simulator, pool, water slides, hockey and curling rinks, a running track, and so much more. Cor Van Raay YMCA is a one-stop-shop for all things active!
- Nicholas Sheran Park – Not only is Nicholas Sheran Park a great place to take a stroll, or have a picnic, it has the only Disc Golf Course in the city.
Lethbridge Golf Courses
- Henderson Lake Golf Course – For those who prefer to spend their time on the links, Henderson Lake has you covered. The Henderson Lake Golf Course is right around the corner, and is open early in the season, and stays open much later than courses in most other cities!
- Paradise Canyon Golf Course – Play in paradise as the name says it all. It’s a bit of a long drive (pun intended) to get here, but it’s worth it. Nestled right in the coulee, this course will challenge any golfer and offer stunning scenery through all 18 holes.
- Bridge Valley Golf Course (Par 3) – A short nine hole course along the Old Man River. It’s a beautiful walk with great views of the Lethbridge train bridge. The course is simple and great for golfers of all ages.
- Evergreen Golf Centre – This golf centre has it all. There is a short challenging par 3 (with one par 4) to work on your short game. Before your round hit some golf balls at the state of the art driving range including TopTracer to evaluate and monitor your swing.
- Lethbridge Country Club – A beautiful (private) golf course that runs along the bottom of the coulees, it’s a beautiful and serene area for a relaxing game or two with some friends. A trip to the restaurant is worth it if you’re looking for somewhere nice to eat.
Exploring the Coulees in Lethbridge
You don’t need a car to get to the coulees from downtown Lethbridge, or from the eastern edges of the Westside, but you do need to plan for the hike back up if you’re going down under your own two feet.
Whether you choose to make the hike or with a bike, or make it easy on yourself and take a car, once you get down into the coulees the city melts away, leaving you in almost undisturbed nature.
It’s easy to find both parking spots and trails at the bottom of the coulee, whether you prefer the more strenuous climb and descent at the edges, or want to simply stroll next to the Oldman River as it slowly winds its way through Southern Alberta.
The coulees are more than just walking/biking paths. Once down at the bottom, be sure to make time for:
- Helen Schuler Nature Centre – Both a nature preserve and activity centre, the Helen Schuler Nature Centre is the perfect place to spend some time learning about local flora/fauna and exploring the nearby forested trails with kids.
- Pavan Park – Considered one a hidden gem in Lethbridge, Pavan Park has over 125 hectares of natural park nestled up along the Old Man River. There are ample spots for a picnic, hiking in the coulees (10km of trails), and even spots to dip your toes in the water on a hot summer day. It’s a popular spot for river tubers to get out at when starting at the high level bridge.
- Fort Whoop-Up – Commemorating the wild past of the area, Nestled right in Indian Battle Park at the base of the coulee, Fort Whoop-Up is a re-creation of the fur trading fort that pre-dated the city.
Day Trips From Lethbridge
Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation
After a short 17 minute drive east to the town of Coaldale, you will arrive at this unique interactive experience with some of Alberta’s famous species of birds. Let an owl rest on your arm, learn ancient falconry training methods, and get up close to trained eagles or hawks. Gain admission to this non-profit organization by donation only, in which they rely solely on to run it’s day-to-day operations and help injured and orphaned owls, hawks, and eagles back into the wild.
Take the 132 km drive southwest to the majestic Waterton Lakes National Park. Experience the Canadian Rocky Mountains at their finest by taking in crystal clear lakes, waterfalls, a variety of wildlife and wildflowers as well as offering some world famous scenic hiking trails.
About 100 kms southeast, this Provincial Park was named a National Historic Site in 2004, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019. Explore among the hoodoos and find ancient carvings and rock paintings dating back to 1050 BCE. In the summer months, enjoy camping, swimming, hiking, canoeing or kayaking or take in one of the interpretive programs or guided walks.
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump
Just 71 kms west lies this UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site and Interpretive Centre. A museum to the Blackfoot culture and a place that preserves and interprets over 6,000 years of Plains Buffalo culture. Explore the indoor and outdoor exhibits or take a short interpretive hike beneath the cliffs.