Lethbridge is located on the Oldman River, which flows from the Rocky Mountains, though it owes its early growth to the 1872 discovery of coal in the area, which made it important to both railways and industry as a source of power. The community was first known as Coal Banks, by in 1882 was renamed for William Lethbridge, the first president of the North Western Coal and Navigation Company, and also a partner in the London-based booksellers WH Smith & Sons. Because that name was already allocated by postal authorities to a rural post office in Ontario, it had to use Coalhurst for 3 years until the name was approved for use in Alberta.
Today, this town of 73,000 people is the heart of southeast Alberta’s agriculture district, surrounded by croplands and grasslands, and has become a major Canadian meatpacking centre. The city is located in the semi-arid “Palliser Triangle” and uses plenty of irrigation to make its land arable for crops like grain and sugar beets.
The city also has a number of showcase parks and attractions including the Lethbridge Nature Preserve which features the Helen Schuler Coulee Centre, Henderson Lake Park which features a Japanese garden and a bowling green, and Brewery Gardens with eight magnificent floral displays. A coulee is a steep V-shaped valley or ravine usually with a stream in the bottom. They were named by early French Voyaguers, and the name comes from the french “couler” meaning to flow.
The city is home to the University of Lethbridge with its stunning Arthur Erickson architecture spanning a coulee and a renowned collection of art. The town has excellent shopping at the Lethbridge Centre just off Highway 3, and park Place mall on Scenic Drive.
|Ag Expo & Seed Fair||Early March||Exhibition Park 403-328-4491|
|Whoop-Up Day||End August||Summer fair, rodeo and parade. Exhibition Park 403-328-4491|
|Country Christmas Cfat Fair||End Nov||Exhibition Park 403-328-4491|
|Family Fest & Firesworks||Dec 31||Exhibition Park 403-328-4491|
Here are the top attractions in & around Lethbridge. Items marked * are free.
Bowman Arts Centre
811 – 5 Avenue South
(403) 327-2813 Fax: (430) 327-6118
Home of the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge, housing many art groups. Gallery exhibitions, art rental, studio classes. Art Walk September.
Hours/seasons: 9 am – 9 pm weekdays, 10 am – 4 pm Saturdays. Summer: weekdays 9 am – 5 pm Admission fee.
Just west off 1st Ave S on Scenic Drive
These gardens present eight different floral displays in the summer plus special displays for Easter, Remembrance Day and Christmas. Open daily dawn until dusk. Free admission. The gardens are named for the Alberta Brewing & Malting Company which operated near the site since 1901, and was later named Sick’s Lethbridge Brewery which made a very popular “Lethbridge Pilsner” until bought out by Molson’s in the 1980s. The Brewery was demolished in 1991.
Coal Banks Interpretive Site*
Near the Helen Schuler Coulee Centre
Explains the origins of coal mining in the area, and its significance to Lethbridge’s development.
3401 Parkside Dr S
Home of the Whoop-Up Days rodeo, as well as commercial, agricultural and livestock trade shows. Host to 765,000 annual visitors to 13 major events.
Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Centre
200 Indian Battle Road South, Lethbridge, AB
Fort Whoop-Up is a reconstruction of Southern Alberta’s first and most notorious whisky trading post, run by American traders. The thriving trade of whiskey for furs led to the creation of the North West Mounted Police, who had to ride from Winnipeg on horseback in order to enforce Canadian law (and sovereignty) in the unsettled West. A train offer s220 minute rides around the park. See the site of the last Indian battle of North America.
Open year-round, closed Mon and Sat. May 16 – Sept. 1, Mon – Sat 10 am – 6 pm, Sun noon – 6 pm Allow 30 minutes minimum. Admission: Adults $2.50, Seniors and Students $1.50, Children under 6 free, Families: $6.00.
Helen Schuler Coulee Centre*
Indian Battle Rd S, Lethbridge, AB
(West of Indian Battle Park, at 3rd Ave and Scenic Dr. S.)
Learn about the fascinating prairie environment, from cacti to cottonwoods. This urban nature centre, set in a 79 hectare (200-acre) nature reserve has constantly changing exhibits with varied natural history themes. Interpretive programs. Self-guided nature walks lead into the reserve, where a wide variety of wildlife and plants can be seen amidst arid coulees and lush floodplains.
Open year-round. Admission is free
High Level Bridge*
This bridge spans the Oldman River and is still one of the highest and longest steel viaduct railway bridges in the world. It was built in 1909 by the Canadian Pacific Railway and is 96 metres (315 ft) high and 1,623 metres (over a mile) long
Indian Battle Park*
1 km (0.6 mile) west of the Junction of Scenic Drive and 3rd Ave S, under the High Level Bridge
This is the site of the last inter-tribal battle in North America, between the Cree and Blackfoot Indians. The park features self-guided trails, picnic areas and playground facilities. Open May-Sept daily 7 am to 10:30 pm; remainder of year 7 am to 8:30 pm.
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
Corner of 9th Ave S & Mayor Magrath Dr S, Lethbridge, AB T1K 0C6
(in Henderson Lake Park)
A symbol of Japanese-Canadian friendship, the garden blends five ancient Oriental gardens into one designs with a modern day Canadian prairie setting. A pavilion, bridges and bell tower are imported from Japan and use cypress wood from Taiwan. Enjoy the pathways with footbridges over ponds and streams as you tour the gardens. Tours are conducted by hostesses in traditional kimonos. Open: May 16 – June 30, daily 9 am – 5 pm; July 1 – Sept. 1, daily 9 am – 8 pm; Sept. 2 – Sept. 30, daily 9 am – 5 pm. Allow 30 minutes. Admission: adults $2, seniors & students $2, Children (under 12): Free
Sir Alexander Galt Museum
502 1 St S, Lethbridge, AB T1J 1Y4
(Scenic Drive at the west end of 5th Avenue South)
(403) 320-3954 Fax: (403) 329-4958
This museum is named for the founder of the North Western Coal and Navigation Company and is located in the old Galt Hospital, overlooking the Oldman River Valley. The Galt Museum offers a unique way to explore Lethbridge, interpreting the history of Lethbridge and southern Alberta through artefacts, six galleries, movies, scavenger hunts, guided and self guided tours, and weekend programs. Open July & August Monday -Thursday 9 am to 8 pm, Friday 9 am to 4 pm, and Saturdays & Sundays 1 pm to 8 pm; remainder of year Monday-Friday 10 am to 4 pm, Saturdays & Sundays 1 pm to 4 pm. Closed some holidays. Allow 30 minutes minimum. Admission: Free
Southern Alberta Art Gallery*
601 3 Ave S, Lethbridge, AB T1J 0H4
(403) 327-8770 Fax: (403) 328-3913
SAAG offers a regularly changing exhibition program featuring contemporary work by local, regional, national, and international artists. Gift shop, films, art classes, and tours are available. Open Year round. Tues – Sat, 10 am – 5 pm, Sun 1 pm – 5 pm. Admission: Free
Yates Memorial Centre & Sterndale Bennett Theatre
1002 4 Ave S, Lethbridge, AB T1J 0P5
(10th Street & 4th Avenue South)
Home to the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra, New West Theatre and providing a showcase for a variety of local and regional performing arts groups, as well as housing and art gallery for local artist exhibitions. Hours/seasons: Varies. Admission.