Calgary is located in a perfect part of the province to discover all kinds of hidden gems. If you’re short on time but need to get out of the house for a day, here’s a list of fresh ideas for unique day trips from Calgary.
There are some amazing farms, wineries, craft breweries, waterfalls, scenic viewpoints and small town shopping experiences to discover.
Alberta is full of hidden gems (here’s my list of my top 40 unique ones) and there is no shortage of them found within 2 hours of Calgary.
Avoid the crowds and the prices of places like Banff, Lake Louise and Waterton and explore more places to go near Calgary.
I’ve compiled a list of fun mini-itineraries; check them out and let me know your favorites!
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Best Unique Day Trips from Calgary
Diners, Dinosaurs and DNA Gardens
Location: 2 hours northeast of Calgary
Start your road trip by grabbing coffee and breakfast in a rural town. I recommend High Seas Coffee Company in Linden or Little Bird Bakery in Three Hills.
If you prefer to stay on Highway 2, the Starlite Diner in Bowden is also a good choice; it’s a 1950s style dinner, clad with chrome and red booths.
Your next stop is at Dry Island Buffalo Jump, the most underrated provincial park in my opinion. After driving down flat prairie roads, the earth suddenly opens up in a beautiful display of a valley carved out during the ice age.
Here you can simply enjoy the stunning view from above, or head down for some light hiking. There are tons of trails and scenic riverfront to explore as little or as long as you want.
There’s even remnants of the meteor from the impact in the Yucatan some 65 million years ago.
20 minutes away is DNA Gardens, an amazing orchard with an onsite farm store and restaurant. Stay for lunch, pie and coffee or cool down with gelato.
If you have time, plan to attend a wine tasting! If you’re shorter on time, take a self guided tour through the orchard.
Inside Tip – if you’re looking for more of a weekend getaway, stay at nearby Pine Lake in this log cabin style cottage with pool and lake access and walking distance to the golf course.
Crossfield to Didsbury
Location: Less than 1 hour north of Calgary
First stop is at the Donut Man in Crossfield! Is there anything better than small town fresh baked donuts? They’re fluffy, delicious and come in all kinds of fun flavors (we’re talking cotton candy, maple bacon, cinnamon toast crunch, blueberry fritter among others).
Continue onwards to PaSu Farm where you can roam around and enjoy the gorgeous view, have lunch and peruse the farm shop for local goodies. Their afternoon tea with fresh baked scones is worth the drive alone.
After enjoying a lovely couple of hours escaping the city, head to the quaint small town of Didsbury to enjoy the picturesque historic downtown (including great shopping), lovely parks and a fantastic hidden gem brewery.
Cowtown Brewing Co. is known for their chai beer, stop in for a tasting or a pint on their sidewalk patio.
Sheep River and Turner Valley/Black Diamond
Location: 1 hour 45 minutes southwest of Calgary
Put this on your list for a dog friendly day trip from Calgary. Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park is a breathtaking area only open in the summer. Discover all kinds of hiking trails, scenic viewpoints, and a couple of waterfalls (namely Sheep River Falls).
After your outdoor adventure, stop in at Turner Valley for a drink at either Eau Claire Distillery or a pint at Fahr Brewery. Have dinner in nearby Black Diamond (a 2 minute drive away) at Westwood (especially if you love brisket).
For dessert before you head home, stop in for a milkshake or a float at Marv’s Diner (1950s soda shop themed).
Or visit the Hard Knox Brewery for liquid dessert (the outdoor patio is pooch-friendly).
For the ultimate rural weekend getaway, book a stay at this rustic cabin built in 1918 and plan a weekend of horseback trail riding and campfire cooking.
Waterfalls, Wolves and Ice Cream
Location: 40 minutes northwest of Calgary
This day trip is for kids young and old. Just on the outskirts of Calgary is Butterfield Acres is the first stop – a fun petting zoo & adventure farm.
Play with the pigs and chicken, milk a goat and hunt for freshly laid eggs.
Head north to Big Hill Springs Provincial Park for easily accessible waterfalls (please note this park is temporarily closed to add more accessible infrastructure).
Then head into Cochrane for lunch or hand-crafted famous ice cream at McKays in the historic downtown.
End with an afternoon tour at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, just 15 minutes west of Cochrane.
Inside tip – book a stay downtown at the 100-year old Rockyview Hotel and don’t miss having a fantastic meal at My Greek Plate.
I also recommend visiting Half Hitch Brewing to continue with the western-theme (also dog friendly).
P.S. – Alberta has tons of amazing agritourism experiences – check out some ideas here.
Location: 30 minutes south of Calgary
Start with coffee and light breakfast at 94 Take the Cake – a black and white themed optical illusion (it feels like you’re walking into a comic book).
Check out my Instagram for a fun tour of this place!
If you want, get your coffees to go and walk down Elma Street while you admire the beautiful vintage houses.
Tip – walk east toward House of Proust for fun antique shopping in a converted church.
The Saskatoon Farm is a must during the summer with all kinds of activities available.
Here you can enjoy farmer’s market-style shopping, walk the trails along the grounds and interact with the animals, stroll through the greenhouse and have lunch at the onsite Mexican restaurant.
Continue with the agritourism theme and explore the countryside with a visit to the Chinook Honey Farm just south of town.
In the summer, there’s a great patio overlooking the distant mountains – a perfect spot to indulge in some local ice cream or a chilled bottle of mead.
Wine, Cowboys and Goats in Water Valley
Location: 1 hour north of Calgary
Head north on Highway 22 for an off the beaten path adventure from Calgary.
Early Dawn Farm is a family-owned goat dairy that produces small batch cheese, goat’s milk caramel, soaps and creams. Stop in at the farm store or plan a visit to the cheese or soap making classes.
Not far down the road is the Water Valley Saloon, a must stop for lunch or a beverage to enjoy the home cooking and cowboy décor.
10 minutes further is Fallentimber Meadery, one of Alberta’s most established honey wineries.
Stop in for a tour and tasting and learn all about how wine is produced in Alberta.
If you love mojitos, you’re going to go crazy for their flagship mead.
P.S. – you can watch my YouTube video touring Fallentimber Meadery and other wine spots around Alberta!
Winery E-Bike Adventure
Another internationally-known Alberta winery is Spirit Hills, located just outside of Black Diamond. Stop in at the Rollick bike shop to rent an e-bike for the day and cruise the rural roads up to the winery (about a 30-40 minute ride).
Once you arrive at Spirit Hills, the panoramic view is a dead giveaway of how it got its name (just trust me on the views up here)!
Enjoy a tour and tasting of their flower wines, each with their own fascinating story of how they came to be. The dandelion wine is my favorite.
Cruise back into town for dinner at Westwood before returning your bike across the street.
Of course, you don’t have to visit the winery on a bike, you can certainly drive up there yourself. If you’re not up for e-biking, the town has great shops to explore on foot.
Take The Long Way to Kananaskis
Location: 1 hour to Longview and then 1 hour to Kananaskis
Enjoy a scenic day trip from Calgary by driving to Kananaskis via Longview and the Highwood Pass.
Schedule a one or two hour horseback trail ride tour to experience the breathtaking beauty of K-Country.
Or enjoy the scenery on one a world class hiking trail – the Ptarmigan Cirque trail is a great hike for a day trip which is less than a 5km loop.
Finish with a meal in Kananaskis Village.
Off the Beaten Path Picnic
Location: 1 hour west of Calgary
Pack a picnic and take Highway 68 out to the Sibbald Lake area. It’s a beautiful drive, and as a bonus, the road usually isn’t too busy due to some of it being gravel for about 10 kms.
But there’s a beautiful viewpoint area with plenty of trails and quiet picnic tables.
While it’s a great spot to visit in the summer, doing this among the autumn colors is on my bucket list!
You Might Also Like: 6 Iconic and Unique Alberta Road Trips to Take This Summer
Location: 1 hour 30 minutes east of Calgary
Visiting Drumheller for a day of sightseeing and adventure is still one of my favorite day trips from Calgary.
Start off at Horseshoe Canyon where you can either take in the views from above, or hit the hiking trails. Head south of town to visit the Star Mine Suspension Bridge and the Hoodoo Viewpoint.
Head back into downtown Drumheller to roam around among the dinosaurs, including climbing up over 400 stairs into the jaws of the world’s largest dinosaur.
Enjoy a local craft beer at Valley Brewing.
Finish off your day with a stop at Horsethief Canyon, and then take the Bleriot Ferry across the Red Deer River and head up to Orkney Viewpoint for sunset if you can time it right!
Read up on my ultimate list of things to do in Drumheller with a few more tips about scenic viewpoints, hiking and ghost towns.
Round out a perfect weekend and stay overnight at the Heartwood Inn.
Small Town Dining
Location: 45 minutes north east of Calgary
Who doesn’t like a road trip specifically for food?!
Better yet, plan to eat an entire meal here, as it’s all homestyle comfort foods like perogies and brisket.
Custom Woolen Mills
Location: 1 hour northeast of Calgary
Did you take up a new hobby in 2020, say maybe knitting or crochet?
Visit Custom Woolen Mills that uses equipment from the late 1800s to produce wool, yarn and other fibre products!
Stay tuned to their website or Facebook page to find out when they’re able to offer mill tours once restrictions are lifted, but in the meantime you are welcome to visit their retail shop on site to purchase things like socks, hand-woven blankets, hand-knit garments and kits, and felted items.
High River Holiday
Location: 30 minutes south of Calgary
High River is the set of the fictional town of Hudson on the hit Canadian TV show Heartland and also a filming location for Fargo.
Explore the fantastic downtown facades, little stores, coffee shops and restaurants.
There’s also a museum in town with lots of props from the Heartland set.
Maggie’s Diner isn’t open to the public, but you can peek through the windows to see the set inside. Pay a visit to Evelyn’s next door for some saskatoon berry pie and ice cream.
I also recommend having lunch at the Whistle Stop Diner – a 1947 coach car for the Canadian National Railway.
Don’t miss the Honey Mill, which is a great spot to grab some farm gate sales like honey, bee pollen and beeswax.
On Saturdays in August you can even bring your own pail to fill up with honey that was in the field only a few days before.
Inside tip – if you want serious Alberta scenery, gorgeous back road views are found on Tongue Creek road.
More Alberta Posts:
Want more Alberta ideas? Check out this post below and the ‘Alberta’ tag page for all my ideas & itineraries.
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