Have you ever sussed out the small towns close to Calgary? I grew up High River, a charming community – about a 25-minute drive from south Calgary. Anchored along the Highwood River, there’s a lot of fun things to do in High River. We’ll dive into a few of my favourites.  

Best things to do in High River, Alberta: Home of Heartland

You too can skip the hoards and step into a festive yet chilled shopping experience

Updated April 2020. This post may include affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Things to do in High River

If you’re a fan of Heartland, you’ll be familiar with High River. Besides touring the quaint downtown set, there a ton of lovely, laidback things to do in High River.  This town is the ultimate escape from city stressors.

Brimming with charming independent shops, super friendly locals and lovely spots for a meal, it’s a tonic to the senses. Here’s a snapshot of what you ought to hit up on your visit.

Leave the holiday crowds and get yourself to High River

If you’re a friend of mine, you might be getting one of these books from Pixie Hollow as your Christmas present. Act surprised, please.

High River shopping

Here’s a travel tip: If you’re serious about shopping, head to a small towns like High River that are within close proximity to the city. They’re close enough to big city culture and trends that you’ll find what you’re looking for, but they don’t pay crazy city rents so your shopping purchases will likely amount to much less than what you’d pay at a mall.

If you’re dead set against updating your wardrobe, don’t even sneak a peek inside White Bull Clothing Co. This very Instagram-able shop has fantastic finds for fashion conscious gals between the ages of 15-50.

I fell in love with a sequinned bronze dress, but there were loads of more sedate holiday dresses, plus sweaters, funky jackets and clothing that could take you from work to dinner.

high river shopping

The edit at White bull is spot on

For gifts, check out their Accessory Alley – stocked with delicate jewelry, sunglasses belts, mugs, hats, scarves and cute purses. Don’t miss the back of the store, where there’s an entire room dedicated to sales and cute baby clothing.

The Tibetan prayer flags strung from the ceiling and the scent of incense that hits you upon arrival is your cue Red Bag is a globally aware shop. They’ve ethically sourced product from around the globe for men, women and children. Head here for boho-fashions, house-made essential oils, prayer beads and Prairie Sage Soap.

hippy clothing

MC Hammer pants and Thai pillows are both fun presents found at Red Bag in High River

For Western wear, look no further than Walkers. Besides Western clothing for both sexes (shirts, hats, bedazzled jeans, etc…), they also sell moccasins and a large selection of Montana Silversmiths jewelry.

For the wannabe cowboy, pick up a genuine lasso. And Heartland fans will appreciate the selection of branded product. You did know Heartland is filmed in High River, didn’t you?

If you’ve gotta buy something for an outdoor adventure type dude, Flys Etc is the store for you. When a shop’s sporting serious taxidermy on its walls, you expect them to have cornered the market on hunting, fishing and camping gear. On this, Flys delivers.

Additionally, you’ll find men’s clothing, BBQ accoutrements (fancy wood chips, seasonings, etc…), plus smokers and sausage making equipment. Yep, you can get all your outdoorsy guy stocking stuffers bought here.

Heartland Tour

Yes, High River is the home of the CBC TV series: Heartland. Weirdly, there’s no official Heartland tour you can take to show you all the sights. If you’re a fan, your best bet is start your visit at the Museum of the Highwood.

This is where High River’s Visitor Information Centre is located and staff can point you in the right direction to begin your tour. Many of the shops mentioned previously are steps away from where filming took place.

It’s pretty easy to do a self-guided Heartland tour, and this post I wrote for Tourism Calgary, goes into greater detail about how to plan that out.

Pixie Hollow, High River 

The displays at Pixie Hollow are irresistible. It’s such a joy to walk around this pretty shop, you just might have to set yourself a time limit. This is my go-to shop whenever I’m in High River and am looking for something to wow my girlfriends. 

Christmas merchandizing

You’ll want to rethink your Christmas tree decorations after viewing what’s on offer at Pixie Hollow

Pixie Hollow also sells wonderful children’s toys, puzzles and women’s clothing. The store doubles as a bookshop with an excellent selection for both children and adults. Fortify yourself with one of their fancy barista drinks or a baked treat, and you can spend even longer in here.

children's book store

Drop the wee ones off in this section of Pixie Hollow, and you may get a few minutes of uninterrupted shopping

Anther gift shop worth checking out in High River is Seven Seas Trading Company. This store runs the gamut, carrying everything from kitchenware to wall art, plus Lug travel bags and accessories.

Ladies who love little luxuries are spoiled with the selection of candles, bath and body products and jewelry. Need a Secret Santa gift? They’ve got a schwack of Christmasy knickknacks that would totally work.

kitchen store

Seven Seas has a fantastic kitchenware section

High River art scene

This is how friendly High River is… Inside Pixie Hollow, I met Annie Froese of Art and Soul Gallery. She informed me every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., they host a community social. (Fret not, visitors and tourists are most welcome.)

Her husband whips up about 10 pies, which you can tuck into while listening to live music and perusing the gallery. What a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon!

house gallery

That’s Herb, busy making pies inside Art & Soul Gallery

If you’re on the hunt for one of a kind jewelry, all signs point to Peculiar, Leather and Jewelry Art Works. The workshop is smack dab in the middle of the store, so you can watch artisan Efrain Perdomo work his magic on custom jewelry, leather purses and bags. With landscape paintings by local artist Shelia Rowe dotting the walls, the shop rocks a relaxed gallery feel.

man holding purse

Jody: OK, Efrain, smile! Efrain: This IS me smiling.

Forge & Facet Jewellers sell many different brands of Swiss watches like Tissot, plus Victoria Knox Swiss Army knives. For collectors, there are coins from the Royal Canadian Mint. While they specialize in design and custom jewelry, they also sell titanium jewelry by local artist Jesper Jensen. I was most impressed by their consignment jewelry that’s in fantastic condition.

square cut pink diamond ring

Pssst…. the owner of this consignment ring is willing to negotiate price

Interestingly, both jewellers sell Ammonite products. Ammonite is a dazzling iridescent gemstone that can only be found in Alberta. It’s made from fossilized shells and its flashy colours make it a very versatile piece of jewelry.

artisan store

Peculiar Leather and Jewelry Art Works doubles as a workshop and a gallery

High River restaurants

Though High River is a small town, it has some lovely restaurants worth making the trek to. My favourite restaurants growing up, that are still in operation are Golden National (for Chinese) and the Hitchin’ Post, a burger shack/dairy bar on the edge of High River. 

One not to miss is Evelyn’s Memory Lane. It’s your classic, retro-style diner with a jukebox and toy train constantly running along a ceiling track. Slide up to the counter or into a comfy booth to chow down on sandwiches (try the Hutterite chicken!) made with homemade bread.

Actually, most everything is made from scratch including their soup and even ice cream. There’s a ton of fun ice cream flavours like Fat Elvis comprised of peanut butter, banana, chocolate and bacon. Try to save room for a slice of their ribbon worthy pie. 

milkshake at a diner

The shakes at Evelyn’s Memory Lane were off the hook. The beef stew was a daily special, but tasted more like a curry – in a very good way.

Sugary sustenance to power you through your day can be found at Sheena’s Sweets and Such. It’s set up like a corner grocery store complete with mini grocery carts for the littles. The back section is overflowing with gift items that range from baby care to decorative pillows and quilts.

children's candy store

Kids have a ball exploring the many aisles of candy at Sheena’s

High River Santa Clause Parade

I don’t mean to brag, but High River pulls off one of the BEST Santa Clause Parades in all of Alberta. It takes place usually on one of the first Fridays in early December.

There’s way more going on at this Santa Clause parade than a bunch of floats. First go to Light Up George Lane Park at 5 p.m. to feel all festive with carollers, hot chocolate and snuggles with mascots. The parade kicks off at 6:30p.m. 

santa on sleigh float

This isn’t some lame parade, it’s the real deal! (Photo credit: Sheila Sepkowski)

Warm up in the Highwood Memorial Centre with a spot of shopping at the Foothills SNAPS Winter Market. Some dude is always frying up perogies, there’s lots of other samples, plus lovely handicrafts made by local artisans. The market runs from 11 a.m. to 9p.m. on the Friday.

holiday trees

Throughout the holiday season, High River looks magical, especially at night (Photo credit: Town of High River)

Hot dogs and hot chocolate is typically served up at the High River United Church from 5 to 6 p.m. Their Gifts of Hope Christmas Market runs from 4:30 to 8 p.m., and is followed by a sweet handbell concert. I picked up some gorgeous costume jewelry and retro Christmas decorations at this market last year.

Finally, a ton of local businesses (many of them featured in this post!) will be open late for holiday shopping on that Friday. 

High River hotels

In High River, there are several hotels and B&Bs you can rest your head at. Whenever I need to overnight (usually for a party), I typically stay at the Heritage Inn. I used to work in their restaurant, and I’m loyal that way:)

The High River Heritage Inn is pet-friendly, has an indoor pool and hot tub, large rooms, Season’s restaurant, plus an attached pub. Pretty much every gathering I go to in High River ends up at the Spitzee Post Bar & Grill by the end of the night, so staying at the Heritage Inn just makes sense for me. 

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Another popular hotel in town is the Super 8. It’s advantage is that it’s newer, has a waterslide with their indoor pool and is steps away from a bunch of fast food restaurants (if you can call that an advantage). 

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This is what you’ll see as you exit White Bull Clothing

Have you ever been to High River? What would you recommend visitors do there?