I’m allllll about cute, small town, small city downtowns. And luckily, there are a lot of those in Alberta!
Most recently, I got to explore downtown Medicine Hat in southern Alberta, and truly think it is such a cute (and actually fairly large) small city downtown that should be on your list to visit!
Gas lamps line the streets with big, beautiful floral pots hanging from its posts. There’s endless, charming, old brick buildings, many with new murals on their side walls, or in their alleyways. There’s historic buildings, including one of the oldest, still in-service movie theatres in Canada, pop-up parks, a growing number of boutique stores, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants. And downtown is also home to several parks along with the city’s art gallery, museum, and public library. Medicine Hat’s downtown is a mix of old and new. It’s lively, full of culture. And it’s super walkable!
Which is how I explored downtown Medicine Hat this July 2020 with my dear friends Jack and Nicole, who are locals to ‘The Hat’ (what the locals call the city).
We spent a full Saturday walking all over downtown, visiting shops, taking in arts and culture, soaking up the sun (Medicine Hat is considered one of the sunniest cities in the country) and of course—eating!
We explored downtown Medicine Hat for about eight straight hours, which prompted Jack to remark, “I can’t believe we spent almost eight hours here”—in a “wow, I’m shocked there was this much to do in downtown Medicine Hat, that I’ve never done before” way. And we didn’t visit every store, or stop at every place!! There’s that much to see and do in this lovely southern Alberta downtown and as a current, long-time resident (who was also born and raised in The Hat), Jack had never done that before! And he was excited about it. Jack and Nicole are always telling us reasons why The Hat is an amazing place to live, work and play, and this summer was such an amazing showcase of that.
Medicine Hat’s downtown in particular has really evolved over the years.
Now (and really, moving forward), is really such a wonderful time to be visiting The Hat because of how much it’s growing, how many new spots are popping up, and how exciting those new developments are.
Mike and I have been to Medicine Hat several times over the last few years (visiting Jack and Nicole), and this summer 2020 visit was the best experience I had had in their downtown. This summer downtown experience was part of a sponsored visit with Tourism Medicine Hat and I encourage you to read on for ideas on food and drink stops to make, plus shopping and more downtown activities!
Be sure to check out my other Medicine Hat travel guides + blog posts for other ideas on what to do, things to see, and places to eat in the city.
- Travel Guide: Only in Medicine Hat: 8 Unique Experiences to Try (July 2020)
- UPDATED Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Medicine Hat (July 2020)
- Explore Alberta: 7 Things To Do (including Where to Eat) in Medicine Hat (Feb 2020)
- Things To Do in Medicine Hat (March 2015)
- The Old Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Medicine Hat (October 2017)
A Day in Downtown Medicine Hat: Food Stops and Shops to Visit
1. Do a cute cafe crawl in downtown Medicine Hat
Cute little cafes, coffee shops and bakeries keep popping up all over Medicine Hat, and there are a few great options in walking distance from one another downtown.
During your downtown Medicine Hat visit, get your drink and snack fixes at:
Inspire Cafe (675 2 St. SE)
Inspire Cafe is an adorable little cafe AND art gallery. Located inside a historic brick building, the inside of the Inspire Cafe features art upon art you can purchase, created by local artists! The Inspire Cafe is owned by sisters Louise and Maureen (who is an artist herself—and creates in her studio attached to the cafe).
Try their selection of Inspire lemonades (refreshing!), and homestyle sandwiches, soups and desserts. Inspire serves food all day long and is also licensed. They also have local musicians play and offer a dinner and movie deal with the historic Monarch Theatre down the block.
Redcliff Bakery in Medicine Hat (655 2 St. SE.)
Technically this address is a boutique shop but the bakery is right nearby, it’s just so new as of writing this post that there isn’t an address listed on their website or Google yet, lol!
The Redcliff Bakery is long-standing bakery in Medicine Hat’s neighbouring town of Redcliff, Alberta. There’s been some form of a Redcliff Bakery that dates back all the way to 1912! The bakery as it is known today was established in 1993 and its current owners *just* (literally JUST!) opened a second location right in the heart of downtown Medicine Hat. In fact their opening day was during our July day exploring downtown!
We tried sausage rolls, donuts, and cookies during our visit. I was tempted to order their various pizza rolls and savoury items as well (but we had lots of food to try that day lol). We were just behind in line from someone who had ordered three boxes of treats to go. And there was a ton of bread to be bought too!
The bakery is known for its “crowd favourite” cinnamon buns. Bakers work throughout the night at the Redcliff location, then distribute to the Medicine Hat shop (and other local spots that serve up their bread and baked goods). In the COVID era, there are cute donut decals on the floors indicating how many donut lengths away from someone you should be. And there is apparently more seating in this location than the original Redcliff spot—with cute, colourful furniture and handmade tables located by big windows looking out onto the lively street.
Madhatter Coffee Roastery (513 3rd St. SE)
The Madhatter Coffee Roastery was one of the very first cafes I visited in Medicine Hat. They’ve been slinging specialty coffees in downtown Medicine Hat since 1999 (had a feeling this downtown was going to get real cool before anyone else, lol).
Inside the coffee shop you’ll see bags and bags of coffee beans and the equipment they use to roast, right in-house. It smells great, and looks cool. You can buy bags of roasted beans (from all over the world!) to take home or have their baristas whip something up for you. There’s also a full food menu including freshly made, in-house baked goods, AND an indoor Instagrammable Wall in the back.
Station Coffee Co. (644 2 St. SE)
The Station Coffee Co. has a rustic industrial feel—think wooden tables but with pipe legs. This coffee shop serves fresh brewed drinks, hand-crafted lattes, and baked goods by local Frosted Sweets Bakery. Try their cookies, scones, and cold drinks too (Jack’s favourite). You’ll find local photography displayed inside, patio seating outside, and a cute, rustic Station Coffee Co. situated outside. The stand was used during the early days of the pandemic so they could still serve up drinks even with the dining room closed. Check out the Station Coffee Co.’s side wall, featuring a mural depicting historic photos of downtown Medicine Hat, and a newer mural ‘Growing Hope In Your Community’ by artist Sarah Slaughter Art.
2. Soak up the sun at downtown outdoor patios The Yard + The Mezz
The Yard is a *very* cool and new (as of July 2020) outdoor patio space located at 619 3rd St. SE, in what used to be an old pop-up park in historic downtown Medicine Hat. It’s a family friendly, seasonal patio home to local music, beer, spirits, snacks, AND an amazing Instagrammable Wall (by artist @Doktoer).
The Yard’s focus is not on food because they actually allow and encourage you to bring food in! This adds to the cool vibe of the place. You’ve got people lined up outside the gates, along the main streets of downtown, grabbing food from local food trucks like Cheezy Bizness, or bringing in Latin American/Salvadorian take-out from Izote Latin Cocina across the street (650 3rd St. SE). That’s exactly what we did!
Get the Say Cheese (Alberta white cheddar/emmental mix) grilled cheese (add chorizo), and the Hot Mess (pimento cheese, cheddar/monteray jack mix, banana peppers, sriracha mayo, Spragg’s Spanish chorizo and fried egg) from Cheezy Bizness, and the chips and guac, yuca frita con chicharron, pupusas and plantains from Izote.
Try the very interesting (it’s good! lol) olive oil beer flight, trying a few different beers mixed with a few different flavoured olive oil shots (raspberry, coconut and peach were the ones we chose). Be warned the ‘Old Fashioned’ is not your expected Old Fashioned cocktail, but a name for a beer lol.
I can’t understate how cool the vibe is at The Yard! The only place I’ve had a similar experience is the Cold Garden Beverage Company in Calgary, which doesn’t serve food so they can instead welcome DOGS to their amazing establishment. Bring your own food, bring your own dogs, have their drinks, cool space.
The Mezz is also a popular new-ish patio in downtown Medicine Hat worth visiting, located in the historic Beveridge building at 620 2 St. SE. In the basement, you’ll find the 1911 Lounge, a cool, speakeasy style lounge. (Read more about 1911 Lounge in my Feb 2020 Medicine Hat blog post!) On the main floor and spilling out onto the streets is The Mezz eatery. There’s a little bit of everything on this menu. Portion sizes are hefty! And I honestly don’t think there’s a bad patio in The Hat. More great vibes and times to be had at The Mezz.
3. Shop small boutiques
Downtown Medicine Hat has lots of different small boutique, clothing and gift stores to visit!
We stepped into Shut Up N Wear It, a women’s boutique located at 655 2 St. SE for a quick browse and I loved some of their jumpsuit selections! I’ve sort of fallen into purchasing a jumpsuit at various small town, small city trips I’ve been making, and had hoped to add a Medicine Hat jumpsuit to my collection but the sizing didn’t work in this case. (I’m tempted to shop their online store now though lol). Don’t forget to check out their beautiful and big HELLO GORGEOUS Instagrammable Wall on the side of their building!
Wild Clover is another popular small downtown boutique, located at 554 3rd St. SE. A great place to browse for dresses, jumpsuits, sweaters, jewelry and more! They offer a curated collection with a range of sizes, from XS-3XL, aimed at inspiring “confidence and beauty in the everyday life of women.”
And you’ve got to step into Elliot Home + Lifestyle, located at 462 4 St. SE, a very clean, trendy looking space carrying a curated collection of gifts, home decor, mugs, beauty products, accessories and more.
4. Snap photos at Instagrammable Walls
Finding and photographing Instagrammable Walls of Downtown Medicine Hat was actually a big part of our day downtown. You could look at is as walking and finding walls between food and shopping stops, or the other way around, adding food and shopping to balance out the wall walk. Either way, you’re going to walk away with some pretty amazing photos from your trip to the sunny city!
Check out my UPDATED Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Medicine Hat largely featuring gorgeous walls/murals located in and around the downtown area, most of them added as a result of the Medicine Hat Mural Festival.
5. Browse the Cat Bookstore
How excited was I to learn that downtown Medicine Hat is home to a used bookstore AND cat rescue, The Page & Whisker, located at 601 2 St. SE. This unique bookstore is part of the Medicine Hat APARC (Alberta Pound and Rescue Centres). It’s a charming little spot with cat themed decor (like cute cat bookends on shelves and framed photos of cats adorning its walls). Plus: cats! All the cats located in The Page & Whisker are adoptable. They range from kittens to older cats (wahhhh, please adopt them all!) and customers are welcome to pet, play, and pick-up the cats (but use hand sanitizer before and after touching!)
Bless cat lovin’ entrepreneurs. This is a purr-fect stop during your day in downtown Medicine Hat!
6. Soak up Arts and Culture at the Esplanade
Downtown Medicine Hat is where you’ll find really the cultural hub of the city, in the form of the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre. Located at 401 1 St. SE, this popular space acts as an art gallery, museum, and concert venue (to name just a few activities offered here).
The current exhibits at the Esplanade (at least during my visit) were Pay What You Will, by donation.
I got a private tour from Jack (who works at the Esplanade), checking out a lovely art exhibit “Walking the Flats” with local artist Theresa Eisenbarth. Through a number of brightly coloured paintings depicting homes, corner stores, and parks, along with some simple yet impactful descriptions inspired by Theresa’s memories walking her neighbourhood in the “Flats,” you learn about life growing up in this neighbourhood of The Hat. This exhibit is sentimental, and makes you think about your childhood experiences and your own neighbourhood.
“Visiting the local grocery or convenience store was either a chore (when you had a hand-written list from your mom), or a reward (when you had a nickel in your pocket for a “blue whale” candy).” – one description reads.
How stunningly relatable is that?
I was delighted later that weekend when we drove through the Flats and I recognized buildings and homes depicted in Theresa’s art. You can do a virtual tour of the exhibit on the Esplanade’s website, but I’d recommend experiencing it in person during your visit to Medicine Hat!
Another great exhibit we looked at was Mireille Perron’s Anatomy of a Glass Menagerie: Alta-Glass. This exhibit by Calgary-based artist Mireille Perron features 113 delicately blown glass figurines with accompanying blue cyanotype monoprints created by exposing the figurines to UV light in order to show the “inner anatomy” of the animals, like an X-ray of the glass animals. It’s really quite neat!
WHERE TO STAY DURING YOUR MEDICINE HAT VISIT
I wanted to shout-out to the Days Inn Medicine Hat at 24 Strachan Ct SE. for hosting me during this July 2020 visit. Mike and I had actually stayed here a few years back when we were in town for Jack and Nicole’s wedding! It’s a great hotel (with swimming pool including slides for families!) and I was happy with all the hand sanitizer they had available, and updated measures (breakfast to go) for the pandemic.
This Days Inn is part of the d3h Hotel group which operates 13 hotels in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
And thanks to Days Inn + Tourism Medicine Hat for putting me up in such a comfortable spot!
So those are really just *a few* of the things you could do during your downtown Medicine Hat exploration. I’m not kidding when I say it’s just a few—there’s still so much more you could do! And I’ve got one more Medicine Hat Travel Guide coming from this July 2020 trip (I’ll link it here when it’s live), that has a few more suggestions for things to do in and around Medicine Hat.
In terms of Med Hat food, we also ate at some great spots outside of the downtown area too. This trip was my second time dining at Takumi Japanese Restaurant at 23 8 St. NW, easily my favourite Japanese restaurant in The Hat! Reservations highly recommended as there are only like 10 seats in the small space, featuring flavourful dishes from talented Chef SeHo. Jack and Nicole’s go-to breakfast spot is Lela’s Place at 515 4 Ave. SE., and we had a nice lunch at Ralph’s Texas Bar & Steak House at 1249 Trans Canada Way S E (the bar side—steakhouse is only open for dinner. Need to go back for prime rib!)
There’s a few more very unique-to-Medicine Hat food spots I’ll mention in my last Medicine Hat Travel Guide blog post of this summer series too—stay tuned!!
Disclaimer: This blog post is part of a sponsored partnership with Tourism Medicine Hat. This has no impact on opinions stated in this post. I was so happy to re-visit Medicine Hat, spend time with my dear friends, and explore the city in the summer! It was so much fun spending a day in downtown Medicine Hat—I can’t wait to come back.