Located 200 kilometres southeast of Calgary, Lethbridge lies on the Oldman River, about 150 kilometres east of the Canadian Rockies. Known as Fort Whoop-Up in the 1860s, the town was primarily a trading post specialising in providing whiskey for the area’s First Nations tribes. The coal-mining industry fuelled the town’s growth in the 1870s, but by the 1940s, agriculture had emerged as the area’s dominant industry. The opening of the University of Lethbridge in 1967 contributed to the development of a more diverse economy, with strong healthcare and transportation sectors.
Today, visitors can glimpse Lethbridge’s Wild West past at Fort Whoop-Up National Historic Site, 2 kilometres west of downtown. One of Lethbridge’s top tourist attractions, the site features a detailed reproduction of the original walled fort. Artefacts on display include antique firearms and the traditional attire of Blackfoot warriors. Kids will enjoy the wagon rides, shooting demonstrations and dance performances.
About 5 kilometres southeast of the fort, Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden offers another window into Lethbridge’s history. Japanese Canadians were subjected to severe discrimination throughout much of the first half of the 20th century. During World War II, many were forced to live in internment camps and work on beet farms in Lethbridge. As a part of the healing process between cultures, Nikka Yuko was built in 1967 to honour Lethbridge’s Japanese community. Impeccably groomed trees, foot bridges, ponds and a stone pagoda combine to create a peaceful place to reflect and take a casual stroll.
Continue the celebration of Japanese culture at Lighthouse Sushi Bar and Japanese Restaurant, one of Lethbridge’s best restaurants. Located 3 kilometres northwest of Nikka Yuko, the eatery is known for its wide array of beautifully presented sushi rolls. The quiet, intimate space is an ideal spot to wind down after a day of sightseeing.
Less than a block west of Lighthouse, Galt Gardens offers a 4-hectare green space that’s perfect for walking off a large meal. The site of many summer festivals, the park has plenty of wide-open lawns, towering trees and a water feature for kids. Rotary Plaza, in the middle of the park, often plays host to both planned and impromptu musical performances.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly dinner spot, head four blocks west to Mocha Cabana, which is also one of the best restaurants in Lethbridge. Despite the Spanish name, the restaurant serves everything from Thai chicken wraps to vegetarian shepherd’s pie. Full vegetarian, gluten-free and kid’s menus are also available. Housed in a former blacksmith shop, the building was constructed entirely of concrete so that it could not be destroyed by fire. On weekends, the restaurant presents live jazz, blues and country music.
The restaurant is located less than 1 kilometre east of another of Lethbridge’s top tourist attractions, the Galt Museum and Archives. Featuring numerous interactive displays geared toward children, the museum explores the history of native tribes, the coal mining industry and everyday frontier life.