Tis the time of year to get a jump on your holiday shopping. Savvy shoppers know how to escape the crowds AND get into the spirit of the season. Their secret? Leaving town. Not only will you snag unique items Calgary chains don’t carry, but these festive outings remind you how lucky we are to live in such a gorgeous destination. You wanna shop? Here are some sweet towns and quaint country boutiques in Southern Alberta that are worth the drive.
Shop Southern Alberta
About a 15-minutes north of Hanna, Cattlemunns Ranching Gift Shop is a gem of a shop worth sniffing out. They’ve pretty much cornered the market on quaint country Christmas items, and you’ll have to do several laps of the store (and quonset!) to do it justice. I snagged some Nordic looking linens and a few antique wooden containers from China. Come hungry, as local caterer the Lilac Room dishes out homemade meals oozing with country goodness. Think ham with cheesy potatoes and other awesome things you’d never make yourself, but pig out on at your relative’s house.
If I had a nickel for every shopaholic who recommended Sisters Roadside Treasures to me, I’d be able to pay off my shopping bill! Located between Rimbey and Bluffton, this mercantile successfully mixes the old with the new inside a hip roof barn. Pick up retro Christmas ornaments, depression glass and great finds for the cottage. Be sure to check their hours before visiting.
Shopping in Black Diamond
This tiny town is a trove of eclectic shops, galleries and surprisingly good drugstores. Hit up Bohemia for fair trade, local and just plain cool products. (I walked out with a three dresses, each under $50!). Next, nip in to Bluerock Gallery located next door. Even if you’re not an art collector, you can snag pottery and a locally made adult colouring book by artist Crystal Salamon.
You’d expect to find a shop like Branch Market & Studio in trendy Inglewood, but prices at this funky up-cycle studio are much lower compared to Calgary. It’s one find after the next in this handmade market that has a knack for transforming everyday objects into pretty pieces.
Don’t think you’re finished! Light up Black Diamond takes place December 2, 2017 and is a festive way to start your holiday shopping. Firebrand Glass Studio and Bar 13 Soap Works also demand to be hit up, plus a three-minute drive away lies Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley. Take a tour, try a tasting or snag some of their holiday spirits.
Slight diversion, but have you ever heard of Edmonton’s Pura Botanicals? They make the most heavenly Botanical Perfume Oil called Winter, made in collaboration with Eau Claire Distillery! Taking inspiration from Eau Claire’s seasonal winter spirits, and you’ll find the same heady notes of frankincense and myrrh, plus bergamot clementine in this scent. Pura’s open only on Thursdays in Edmonton, but you can order online. (Ask Santa to gift you a bespoke perfume!)
Shopping in Cochrane
I’m crushing on the Prairie chic finds at The Vintage Verandah and they offer a wide variety of workshops for a gift card would come in handy for. Home Quarter Mercantile is just the spot to pick up Western furnishings and art, and folks love picking out cowboy boots and hats at Tony’s Work and Western Wear. Don’t forget about to picking up a hostess gift. For that, head to The Rustic Olive or Tea and Other Things.
Art lovers out to browse Just Imajan Art Gallery that features the work of local artist Janet B. Armstrong, as well as more than 30 contemporary Canadian artists. Janet just might be painting away in the back of the gallery when you visit. Pottery fans will want to hit Saffron Collective Studios, especially since some of their pieces were featured in The Revenant.
The Boot is getting some good reviews for its casual Italian cuisine and My Greek Plate, is a lovely family-run authentic eatery.
Shopping in High River
If you’re besotted with the french country farmhouse look, you’ll love stepping into Pixie Hollow. The edit here is spot on, the merchandizing is gorgeous and the selection of books, stationary, clothing and quilts will have you salivating. High River’s Santa Clause Parade takes place on Friday, December 1, 2017, which is when I’d recommend visiting. The parade begins at 6:30, but at 5 p.m. you’ll want to duck into George Lane Park to see the lights go on, plus have a visit with Elsa, Anna and Olaf. Afterwards, duck into the winter craft fair at the Highwood Memorial Centre (and along 4th Avenue) or meet Santa at the Museum of the Highwood.
If you’re heading down another day, be sure to drop by the Whistle Stop Cafe for a bite, as there aren’t many opportunities in life to dine on a train anymore. I’m also partial to The Hitchin Post, a burger shack that’s worth the calories.
Shop for antiques in Nanton
There’s more to Nanton than antiques, though you’re in luck, if that’s your ballywick (Check out the Nanton Antique Walk!) A three day extravaganza of holiday shopping happens November 24-26, 2017, during Nanton Lights the Way. Start your shopping excursion at Because I Said So, a fair trade cafe, where you can browse while sipping speciality coffees. Their selection of indy music and greeting cards is tops, and during the festival they’re offering 40% off Christmas cards and other deals.
Next, mosey onto Mosaic, flush with funky jewelry, wood carvings and stained glass (hello Tiffany-style lamps!). While you’re there, you can even get a tattoo! Revive yourself at Fieldstones, a coffee and wine bar that serves up light bites with European flair.
Shopping in Drumheller
Drumheller is the perfect family getaway from Calgary. Divide and conquer with one parent pleasing the troops at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the other hitting the shops. Jungling Works offers a unique mix of home décor and art (especially textiles), Faux Den carries antiques, mining memorabilia and toys, while Dry Canyon Collectibles offers First Nations art, collectibles and gift items.
Got a T-Rex obsessed tyke on your list? The Fossil Shop has fantastic selection of fossils and minerals. As you’d expect, the gift shop at Royal Tyrrell Museum is groaning with dino related toys, books and educational items for purchase.
For a lovely lunch check out Bernie & the Boys Bistro, featured on the Food Network’s You’ve Gotta Eat Here. Sublime Food and Wine has a Red Seal Chef (and an affordable menu for foodies), while Ivy’s Awesome Kitchen & Bistro is tops for those with dietary concerns.
Hidden Secrets is a lovely gift store worth stopping by. Brimming with restaurant dishware and Pinterest worthy bric-a-brac, Strathmore Pawn & Collectables is anything but stodgy. I only ask you avert your eyes from the stylish army jackets and wooden snowshoes. Those babies are mine! Hungry? Kim’s Cafe is where local shoppers nosh for breakfast and lunch.
So what did I miss? What are your favourite shops close to Calgary?