16 Best Things To Do in Medicine Hat, Alberta

Have you ever heard of the city of Medicine Hat, Alberta? Located in the southeastern corner of Alberta, Medicine Hat averages 2544 hours of sunshine per year and actually enjoys the title of sunniest city in Canada.

Medicine Hat is also my hometown, and I love getting out when I can to enjoy all the fun things to do here. If you’re curious to know more about all there is to do in this lovely city on the prairies, read on!

About the City of Medicine Hat

Finlay Bridge, downtown Medicine Hat
Finlay Bridge, in downtown Medicine Hat

The city of Medicine Hat is located on the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy and was home to Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years. The origin of the city’s name comes from the word ‘Saamis’, which can be loosely translated to ‘medicine man’s hat’.

Things to do in Medicine Hat
Courtesy of Travel Alberta / Colton McKee

The growth of the community was impacted by the expansion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, with Medicine Hat officially becoming a city in 1906. On a visit to Medicine Hat in 1907, the writer and novelist Rudyard Kipling noted that “this part of the country seems to have all hell for a basement, and the only trap door appears to be Medicine Hat.” An area rich in natural gas reserves, the city of Medicine Hat has the nickname of ‘The Gas City‘. With access to this abundant natural resource, it made the area the perfect location for mills and factories, contributing to the city’s growth.

On a more personal note, I love the beautiful weather, vast open skies, prairie landscape, and variety of outdoor and cultural activities; these are some of the things that make Medicine Hat such a great place to visit, even if just for a short while.

How To Get To Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat, South Saskatchewan River
South Saskatchewan River

Medicine Hat is located along the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1) in the southeastern corner of Alberta. It is approximately 294 km, or 3 hours drive, east of Calgary and 417km, or 4 hours drive, from the town of Banff. My favorite thing is that both Calgary and Banff can be reached via a day trip from Medicine Hat (or vice versa!).

Best Things To Do in Medicine Hat

With its title of the sunniest city in Canada, it will likely not surprise you that some of the best things to do in Medicine Hat are outdoor activities. However, the city also offers cultural and historical opportunities as well as several local food and drink options. On any given weekend, you will find ‘Hatters’ (as those who live in Medicine Hat are called) taking in a combination of the many great activities listed below. A perfect Saturday for me includes a run or bike ride along the trails, an afternoon coffee date, and treating myself to a dinner at one of our great local restaurants.

Enjoy the Local Parks

Strathcona Park Medicine Hat
Views at Strathcona Park

As mentioned, with its status as one of the sunniest cities in Canada, one of the best things you can do in Medicine Hat is spend time outdoors. Strathcona, Kin Coulee, and Police Point Park are all local favorites and each location is a great spot for a run, walk, or bike ride. In the warmer months, all of these parks are also the perfect spot for a picnic or campfire.

Even in the winter, these parks offer many recreational opportunities; go tobogganing at Kin Coulee and warm up at one of the many fire pits or enjoy the wintery river views from the many walking trails or cross-country ski trails at Police Point Park. Medicine Hat’s parks can truly be enjoyed year-round!

Walk, Run, or Bike the Trails

Medicine Hat Saratoga Trail
Saratoga Trail

One of the best things about living in Medicine Hat is the large trail system, making it a perfect place for walking, running, or biking. The city has 155 km of paved trails meaning that you won’t get bored easily. A few of my favorites are described below, but there are so many other great spots to choose from!

Saratoga Trail connects Kin Coulee and Strathcona Park. One of my favorite things about this trail is that it’s a bit more isolated from the road and houses/businesses, so it’s a great option for those looking for some peace and quiet in the middle of the city!

Devonian Trail near downtown offers views of Finlay Bridge, Railway Bridge, and the South Saskatchewan River. On a perfect sunny day, walk this trail to the library or Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre and then stop at one of the local coffee shops for a snack and your favourite drink.

Trans Canada Trail, Medicine Hat
Trans Canada Trail

A small section of the Trans Canada Trail also runs through Medicine Hat. This longest network of multi-use trails in the world can be found across the country and connects urban, rural, and wilderness spaces. My favorite section of this trail in Medicine Hat can be found along the Ross Glen coulees (with access points just off Carry Drive or Ross Glen Drive). The views of the surrounding coulees, cliffs, and nearby farm and ranch land are beautiful and you might even witness the Canadian Pacific Rail train as it makes its way through the coulee track.

If mountain biking is more your thing, check out Mr. Burnside trail, which runs along the cliffside near the South Saskatchewan River.

Kayak on the South Saskatchewan River

South Saskatchewan River kayaking Medicine Hat
Kayaking on the South Saskatchewan River

A popular summer activity, you’ll often see locals kayaking (or paddle boarding) along the South Saskatchewan River. One of the most popular routes starts at Echo Dale Regional Park (just outside the city limits) or River Valley Park in the nearby town of Redcliff and continues to Strathcona Park. Along the way, you’ll enjoy views of the sandy cliffs along the river, and may even spot wildlife like herons or beavers along the way.

Another option is to kayak along Seven Persons Creek, starting at Desert Blume and ending in Kin Coulee Park. If you are visiting Medicine Hat and do not have your own kayak or paddle board, check out Outdoor Xcape rentals to get set up with all of the required equipment.

Medicine Hat can get very hot in the summer; the best time to head out on the water is early in the morning or later in the evening once the temperature cools down!

Enjoy a Brew at One of the Local Coffee Shops

Weekend coffee at Poolhouse Cafe & Roastery in Medicine Hat Alberta
Weekend coffee at Poolhouse Cafe & Roastery

As I mentioned before, my favorite weekend routine is to head out for a walk or run along one of the many trails in the city and end at a local coffee shop. Medicine Hat has no shortage of great options; Poolhouse Cafe and Station Coffee are both located downtown and within easy walking distance to shops, restaurants, and other local landmarks such as the Monarch Theatre, Finlay Bridge, and the Esplanade.

Another favorite spot of mine, located on the north side of the river in the Riverside neighborhood, is Zucchini Blossom Market & Cafe; try their popular ‘Big Fat Sandwich’ or roasted tomato and spinach soup!

Try a Tasting Flight at a Local Brewery

Medicine Hat Travois brewery - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
Travois Ale Works, downtown Medicine Hat

Even though Medicine Hat is a relatively small city, there are three great local breweries in town. Hell’s Basement Brewery, Medicine Hat Brewing Company, and Travois Ale Works each offer a variety of brews and are well worth a visit. These three local breweries are part of the Alberta Highway 3 Ale Trail, which includes 8 craft breweries located near Alberta’s Highway 3.

Each brewery has its own unique flair and many of the brews are also served in local restaurants; you would truly be missing out if you did not visit at least one of these spots for a tasting flight and a bite to eat. If you are visiting Medicine Hat in the summer, be sure to take advantage of the warm weather by enjoying your beer on one of the brewery patios!

Visit Medalta Historic Clay District

Medicine Hat Medalta Potteries - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
Medalta Potteries

In addition to the natural gas found in the area, clay deposits along the South Saskatchewan River made the clay industry an integral part of the city’s growth. A few of the products manufactured here included brick, tile, and sewer pipe; the Medalta Historic Clay District honors this history with an engaging and informative museum and archaeological site.

A few of my favorite things at Medalta include the excavated beehive kiln (which can be viewed in the museum lobby), the antique factory machinery, and the opportunity to step inside one of the remaining beehive kilns. If you time your visit properly, you may also have the chance to sign up for a pottery class or two! Another fun fact: my grandmother used to work at Medalta in her younger years, meaning that it holds a special place in my heart.

Visit the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre

Esplanade Felting Medicine Hat - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
Felting workshop at the Esplanade

Opened in 2005 in celebration of Alberta’s centennial, the Esplanade is located along 1st Street SE in downtown Medicine Hat. It serves as a hub for arts and heritage in Medicine Hat, hosting a variety of performances in its theatre, programs in its educational suite, and exhibitions in the gallery and museum spaces. To check out upcoming shows at the Esplanade Theatre, visit the Tixx website.

I recently participated in a beginner’s felting workshop at the Esplanade, hosted inside the Heritage Gallery. It was a fun opportunity to learn a new skill from a local artist while immersed in the surrounding artwork in the gallery!

Watch a Movie at the Monarch Theatre

Medicine Hat Monarch Theatre - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
Monarch Theatre, downtown Medicine Hat

I bet you didn’t know that Medicine Hat is home to Canada’s oldest purpose-built movie theatre – it’s true! Built in 1911, the Monarch Theatre, located on 2nd Street SE in downtown Medicine Hat, is one of the most popular local landmarks. If you are lucky enough to catch a movie here, you will not be disappointed by the charm and nostalgic atmosphere. Plus, it truly has the best movie theatre popcorn in town! (Note: The theatre has recently been purchased by a local non-profit organization and is in the stages of reopening following the sale.)

Support Local Shops

Medicine Hat River Bee Books - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
River Bee Books, downtown Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat is home to so many great local shops! Take a stroll through the historic downtown and you will find many retail options including clothing, food and kitchen items, books, and more. My personal favorites include Sunday Dinner Home Store (an amazing selection of cheese and high quality kitchen items), Botanicals (it might be impossible to leave here without taking home a plant or two), and River Bee Books (a truly charming local bookstore with not one, but two, fireplaces inside).

View the Saamis Teepee

Medicine Hat Saamis Teepee  - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
Saamis Teepee

A gift from the city of Calgary following the 1988 Olympics, the 65-meter-tall Saamis Teepee stands as one of Medicine Hat’s most recognizable landmarks and boasts the title of the World’s Tallest Teepee. Overlooking the nearby Kin Coulee Park, the interior of the teepee features 10 storyboards featuring Indigenous history and culture.

From its location along the Seven Persons coulee edge, you can view the archaeological site below; this spot was once a buffalo camp and meat processing location and is a Provincial Historic Site. The Saamis Teepee is located along the Trans Canada Highway and is truly an icon of the city; one of the best things about coming home after spending time away is driving into town and seeing the teepee lit up!

Check Out the Rise Up Balloon Festival

Medicine Hat Rise Up Balloon Festival - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
A close-up view of the hot air balloons at the Rise Up Balloon Festival

A relatively new event to Medicine Hat, the annual Rise Up Balloon Festival takes place in May and offers Hatters (and visitors) the opportunity to see hot air balloons floating over the prairie landscape with a number of scheduled sunrise and sunset flights throughout the weekend. The festival also includes a Glow Event where the balloons are inflated and tethered to the ground for visitors to view; it is such a cool way to get up-close to the balloons and meet the pilots who travel from across the province to join the festival. The event is in partnership with a local mental health organization to promote awareness on how we can all ‘rise up’ and soar together.

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the balloons in flight can follow the Rise Up social media pages for timely updates due to any changes in weather or location.

Attend a Music Festival

Tongue on Post
Musicians playing inside the Medalta Beehive Kiln Gallery during the Tongue on the Post Music Festival in Medicine Hat / Courtesy of Tongue on Post

Medicine Hat is home to not one, but two, annual music festivals. Tongue on the Post is a week-long festival organized by the Medicine Hat Folk Music Club each winter; performances are hosted at the historic Medalta facility in the historic clay district (often including intimate performances inside the beehive kilns mentioned earlier).

Jazzfest happens each June with both free and ticketed performances throughout the week-long event. This local festival was first hosted in 1997 and has become a well-loved local celebration of jazz music. The performances are held in various locations across the city, giving attendees the chance to experience many of the great spots that Medicine Hat has to offer. My personal favorite is getting the chance to attend a show on the Esplanade Terrace!

Explore Red Rock Coulee

Red Rock Coulee
Enjoying the views at Red Rock Coulee

The other-worldly Red Rock Coulee Natural Area is located approximately 49 km from Medicine Hat and is a great option for those looking to get out of the city and explore some unique landscapes. The red-colored spherical boulders here are formed by erosion, some measuring up to 2.5 meters across! Bring a picnic and spend the afternoon at this truly unique spot. Wandering around this place often leaves me feeling like I am on Mars. (Note: this is a day-use park only and there are no facilities located here.)

Get Outdoors at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
Cross-country skiing at Cypress Hills

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is tucked in the southeast corner of Alberta and extends into southwest Saskatchewan. A popular area for those looking for outdoor recreation opportunities, the park is a short 45-minute (66-kilometer) drive from the city of Medicine Hat. This area is unique in the fact that it rises to an elevation of 600 meters above the surrounding prairies and is the highest point in Canada between the Rocky Mountains and Labrador. Because of this elevation, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park offers mountain-like adventure opportunities in the middle of the prairies.

This park can be enjoyed year-round. In the summer, it’s a popular camping, hiking, and mountain biking destination; the winter offers downhill skiing at Hidden Valley Ski Resort, and both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities (with rentals available at the Cypress Hills Visitors Centre). The Elkwater townsite is found on the Alberta side of the interprovincial park and offers mini-golfing, a convenience store, and restaurant. No matter the time of year, you are bound to find many Hatters enjoying the outdoors at Cypress Hills!

Explore the Hoodoos at Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial Park
Hoodoos at Dinosaur Provincial Park

While not technically in Medicine Hat, Dinosaur Provincial Park is only 128km northwest of the city and is well worth a day trip. Southern Alberta has a rich paleontological history, and fossil specimens dating back 75 million years have been discovered in Alberta’s Badlands.

Here, you can explore the hiking trails or enjoy a picnic while taking in views of the unique landscape. It’s a quick day trip from Medicine Hat, one that can be enjoyed in a few hours, but I leave with a deep appreciation for the land and Alberta’s history after each visit.

View the Indigenous Rock Art at Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Writing on Stone Provincial Park - The Bets Things to do in Medicine Hat
Views of Hoodoo Trail, Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Writing on Stone Provincial Park, located 168km southwest of Medicine Hat, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its sandstone cliffs are home to Indigenous rock art and engravings (much of which is 1,750 years old). Take a hike along Hoodoo Trail and check out the visitor’s center to learn about this sacred area; the views of the Milk River valley and the sandstone hoodoos are truly special. Want to extend your stay? You can also book a campsite here!

I hope that this article convinced you to visit my city of Medicine Hat! I truly believe that it has something to offer for everyone, and is well worth a trip when visiting southern Alberta!

*Cover image courtesy of Travel Alberta / Chris Amat

About Rachel Dale

Hi, I’m Rachel! I’m a travel and outdoor enthusiast, and I love exploring my home province of Alberta. My favorite activities include hiking, running, and searching for my next best cup of coffee or new favorite restaurant. You can find me spending much of my free time outdoors, and I love visiting the Canadian Rockies as often as I can. I am excited to document my travels here and hope that you can find inspiration for your next trip to beautiful Banff!

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