With 2020 set to be the Summer of Staycations (remember to be safe about it!), I’m excited to share with you some day trip ideas you could consider trying from the Edmonton area.
This summer I’m working with ZenSeekers and some Alberta municipalities to showcase their region and the amazing businesses you should support (virtually online—or through your day trips!) and experiences you should try.
Flagstaff County: Visiting a Community of Communities
Flagstaff County is located in east central Alberta, just a 1.5-2 hour drive away from Edmonton. The region is home to a cluster of small towns and villages, each bursting with that charming rural Alberta character, history, cute Main Streets, and local businesses you should check out. They have 10 different communities in the region!
This June, Flagstaff County is hosting the first-ever #FlagstaffOnline Showcase, a way for Albertans to discover local entrepreneurs, creators, and experiences in the Flagstaff region through virtual tours, how-tos, giveaways, and online opportunities to #ShopLocal.
Whether you’re from the area or nearby (Edmonton!), virtually “visiting” the region through the showcase, and then actually planning an in-person visit, is just one way to explore your own backyard this summer.
Note: during the pandemic, you are encouraged to get outdoors but please keep physical distancing and mask-wearing guidelines in mind, and if you are sick—please stay home!
Within Flagstaff County there are two hamlets, four villages, and four towns.
For my day trip, my mom, brother and I visited the Village of Heisler, the Town of Daysland, and a horse stable/ranch just outside Daysland. Read on for our adventures, learn more about these awesome local Alberta businesses, and feel free to copy our day trip itinerary this summer!
Day Trip Travel Guide: 5 Stops to Make in Heisler and Daysland, Alberta (Flagstaff County)
Timing: We left at 8 a.m. and were home by 5 p.m.
Stops: We made five stops in Heisler and Daysland, Alberta. These are just two of the 10 communities in Flagstaff County—so lots more of Flagstaff to be explored!
Stop 1: English horseback riding lesson at Cointreau Stables (Daysland, AB)
If you’d like riding lessons from one of the top dressage horseback riders in Alberta, head on over to Cointreau Stables near Daysland! Cointreau Stables is a full service Equine facility offering riding lessons, boarding and horse show coaching with an Equine Canada Certified Riding Instructor (Ashley Bishop, who I had the pleasure of meeting).
Cointreau Stables offers lessons every day of the week except Saturdays. The hour-long lessons are just $35 per person (for group lessons) or $70 per person for a private lesson. And lessons are available for ALL ages! Ashley’s youngest rider is 4 years old and her oldest has been 72 years old.
My mom and I received a short lesson with horses Samson and Nijo during our day trip, and it was so much fun! It was my mom’s first time riding a horse (besides sitting on a mini horse before for a photo lol). Ashley is a super knowledgeable and enthusiastic instructor, who taught us how to get the horses going, stopping, moving in the direction we wanted to travel, and even raising it up a gear into a short trot! You can watch a video of the short lesson below! (apologies for the poor video/audio quality, turns out indoor arenas aren’t the best for cell service lol).
Ashley and Rocky have owned Cointreau Stables for 14 years. They also do therapeutic riding, summer camps, and a Rookie Rider program for schools in the area. Ashley grew up riding horses at several different stables in Edmonton before her family moved out to their current farm. “I had no farm experience and it was definitely a learning curve going from city to farm girl!” she tells me.
The stables are named after Ashley’s first horse Cointreau. Ashley, her mom, husband and two young children currently live on the farm, which is an 80 acre space with indoor arena, barn and outdoor arena. The whole family loves horses—her youngest daughter’s name is even Tempi, a movement riders do on a dressage horse (it looks like the horse is skipping!).
Ashley loves teaching and is pretty darn good at it. One of her students has previously been named Rider of the Year in Alberta. Her students also compete against some of the very best in the world—even though a lot of their horses are what you’d call underdogs (or underhorses? lol)
It was lovely meeting Ashley, Rocky and their fur family (lots of dogs and cats unpictured as well!) and trying this experience. It’s absolutely something you could do with your friends or family (being on horses is a pretty physically distant activity!)
Stop 2: Blueberry goat cheese beef burgers from Big Willy’s Bar at the historic Heisler Hotel (Heisler, AB)
In the village of Heisler, Alberta, at the corner of Main Street and Lougheed Avenue, you’ll come across a very unique, historic building: the Heisler Hotel and Big Willy’s Bar—the hotel restaurant.
This hotel was built in 1925 and is actually designated as a historic site in the area.
The building’s original brick facade is still intact, the windows and parapets are also original—from 1925—as is the stairwell inside the hotel, which now operates as a bed and breakfast.
There’s also a pretty strange sight you’ll notice: the hotel building features a second floor floating door to nowhere! Passersby can pretend there’s something more supernatural about this mysterious door, and it’s true if you never enter the building and ask its current co-owner Kelly about it, it could live on forever as that very unique and strange building you passed in Heisler.
But the truth is, as you might expect from buildings built nearly 100 years ago, some aspects of the exterior have changed. There used to be a balcony from the floating second floor door that connected to stairs taking you down to the hotel bar. The balcony and stairs were removed over the years, but the door stayed in place—turning heads and making for a good conversation piece for residents and tourists alike (it caught my brother’s eye first—then I couldn’t stop talking about it!)
Learn more about the historic hotel in the video below:
Even if you aren’t staying at the bed & breakfast, you definitely need to stop into Big Willy’s Bar for some delicious, housemade eats! The burgers especially, are a must-order. Everything about these 8 oz, AAA beef burgers are made lovingly, fresh daily, in-house. There are set burgers as well as rotating features, including the delicious blueberry goat cheese beef burger we tried during our stop in. Gravies, dressings, and desserts are also all made in house. Try their hand-cut fries and from-scratch pizza crust with housemade sauces too. This is in no way your typical pub food and is a must-stop on your day trip (take advantage of the outdoor patio seats), and for locals, a great take-out spot as well.
Stop 3: Beef jerky and sausage from Benfeld Meats (Heisler, AB)
Just across the street from the historic Heisler Hotel is the Heisler General Store and Benfeld Meats. Pick up a savoury snack (call it a tasty memento) of homemade jerky, sausage, pepperoni and more. At any given time you’ll find the back of the store busy as the friendly team cures, processes and does custom cutting in-house. Note: this small town store is cash only. Bring cash because that beef jerky is 10/10.
Stop 4: Canada’s largest baseball glove (Heisler, AB)
Also in the village of Heisler: Canada’s largest baseball glove!
I’ve always wanted to do a road trip focused around giant roadside attractions (still plan on doing this at some point lol), so it was very much my delight and surprise to discover that Heisler in Flagstaff County is home to Canada’s largest baseball glove, which stands at 13.5 feet tall and 6.5 feet wide, and was built in 2007, located right next to the town’s pride and joy baseball diamond. The giant glove was built as a way for the community to commemorate the sport and the individuals who helped make the village a strong baseball community.
Stop 5: The Rusty Daisy Gift Co. (Main Street, Daysland, AB)
Finally, as you head back north to wrap up your day trip to this side of Flagstaff County, you must make a stop along Main Street in the Town of Daysland, to the very charming The Rusty Daisy Gift Co.
The Rusty Daisy Gift Co. is owned by Mandy Spiller, and has been a lovely fixture on Main Street for eight years. The store sells all sorts of gifts, from candles (that Mandy describes as the best she’s ever used), to flower pots, greeting cards (including handcrafted ones designed by Mandy herself), and really cute bags (I picked up a pink one for myself!) The Rusty Daisy Gift Co. is also quite popular for its floral arrangements, usually bright, fun and funky looking arrangements that Mandy puts together herself.
Watch Mandy show me how to make one of her floral arrangements below!
Something I really loved about Mandy’s store as well is that she puts together surprise bags themed around different topics. You could buy a surprise gift bag for a cat lover (which it turns out both Mandy and I are!) or a gift bag for a couple who loves the mountains, as just two lovely examples.
Guaranteed you won’t be able to leave The Rusty Daisy Gift Co. without purchasing something cute for yourself or as a gift. This was a perfect final stop on our day trip to Flagstaff County and I can’t wait to come back!
#FlagstaffOnline Showcase: June 2020
Ashley, Kelly and Mandy of Cointreau Stables, Heisler Hotel and The Rusty Daisy Gift Co., are just three of many Alberta small business owners who are participating in the first-ever #FlagstaffOnline Showcase taking place this summer June 11, 18, 25, and July 2 (Thursdays) on the Flagstaff County Facebook Page.
I had such a great experience meeting them and learning about their businesses.
It’s really just a sample of the exciting entrepreneurial spirit growing in Flagstaff.
I also blogged a bit more about my Heisler, Alberta experience in particular on ZenSeekers’ website.
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Disclaimer: This blog post was sponsored by ZenSeekers and Flagstaff County. This has no impact on opinions stated in this post. I love Alberta and exploring Alberta, and had so much fun visiting this area of the province for the first time.