What’s in Medicine Hat
What’s in Medicine Hat? Before we begin; Explore Medicine Hat respectfully acknowledges that we are situated on: Treaty 7 and neighbour to Treaty 4 territory. Traditional lands of the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Stoney Nakoda, and Tsuut’ina (Sarcee) as well as the Cree, Sioux, and the Saulteaux bands of the Ojibwa peoples.
Medicine Hat is a southeastern Alberta city that sits along the South Saskatchewan River. Known for its natural gas fields, Medicine Hat has been described by Rudyard Kilping as “Hell’s Basement” because if its abundance of natural gas that lays below the surface.
The history of Medicine Hat and it’s name
What we know as Medicine Hat today sits on the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, also known as Siksikaitsitapi and includes the Kainai, Piikani and Siksika Indigenous nations. The land was utilized as a gathering place for many reasons including the sloped valley, interconnected waterways and cottonwood trees which attracted herds of bison.
These natural aspects made it the perfect location to camp and hunt. And before European colonization, the Indigenous peoples relied on the area for
Thousands of years – including many tribes before the Blackfoot. Now if you think about it, the name Medicine Hat is somewhat strange. The term actually comes from Blackfoot language and is an English interpretation of ‘Saamis,’ which describes a headdress made out of eagle tail feathers that is worn by medicine men. Medicine Men are historically known as traditional healers and spiritual leaders in Indigenous communities.
Medicine Hat Legends
If you visit city hall, you’ll see a beautiful depiction of one of these legends within a brick mural. This legend focuses on a famishing winter and the hardships faced by the Blackfoot peoples as one young man is selected by the elders to save the tribe from starvation.
This man begins a journey with his beloved wolf dog and new wife where he travels down the icy South Saskatchewan River. After many difficult days, they arrive at the ‘breathing hole,’ an opening in the ice which sits between modern day Police Point and Strathcona Park. This area is sacred to First Nations people and was the place where water spirits went to breathe. The man, his wolf dog and his wife made camp before summoning these spirits.
Then before their eyes, a giant serpent appeared and demanded the man sacrifice his wife in order to get ‘Saamis’ which would give him powers and hunting skills. But the man didn’t want to sacrifice his wife, so he tried fooling the serpent by throwing his dog into the river, however the serpent was not fooled. The man had no choice but to then sacrifice his wife to the icy waters. He then spent the night on the tiny island and was told to travel to the base of the cliffs in the morning where he found his medicine hat.
Legend has it, because of his Saamis, he was successful in hunting game which saved his people, making him the great Medicine Man. Archeologists have since discovered many artifacts related to several historic First Nations peoples in these areas
such as tools, bones, pottery and more – with many of the bones being from bison. Traces of these people date back to AD 1500 and AD 1750.
European immigration to Medicine Hat
Things changed in 1883 when the Canadian Pacific Railway got to Medicine Hat and the Europeans established themselves. A ‘tent city’ was created by crews who were working on the railway and by June 1883, the first train drove through the area and not long after, lumber was delivered. This brought wooden homes to the people, replacing the tents and growing the community.
By 1899, Medicine Hat was incorporated as a town, and by 1906 it became a city. Medicine Hat’s railway consisted of nearly 1,100 kilometers of track inside the city limits, which meant it had the longest mileage out of all CPR divisions in the country. Because of this, many industries migrated and started in Medicine Hat, making it a manufacturing city, the biggest distribution centre within Western Canada and a place that received discounted rates from CPR.
Now, lets talk gas! Medicine Hat discovered natural gas in 1883 but it wasn’t until 1904 that it became a vital resource for the city. A large well was struck during the month of June and shortly after, newspapers were publishing ‘Eureka we have found it!’ – this meant production of power, light and heat would rely on gas moving forward, providing a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to coal.
Medicine Hat’s first industrial boom: 1910 – 1914
With the great supply of natural gas, Medicine Hat experienced an industrial boom for years to come. The city began operating streetlights throughout the day and night because it was a cheaper alternative than paying people to turn them off. It’s believed that without the discovery of natural gas, Medicine Hat would have remained a small place designated for railway and ranching work.
Between 1910 and 1914, Medicine Hat grew like a weed, with factories and mills being established for wool, glass, flour, breweries, machine building and more. This industrial boom helped shape modern day Medicine Hat and defined its progressive and driven identity as an industrial hub for Alberta. When World War I hit, many industries suffered in Medicine Hat due to labour shortages and the economy, but clay manufacturing flourished, bringing a sense of stability to the people while promoting western immigration.
Between 1916 and 1954, Medalta Potteries operated in Medicine Hat, shipping its products throughout Canada. Medalta is a very important part of Medicine Hat’s history and was started by a dozen men who wanted to prove that Canada could compete with the United States when it came to ceramic production and distribution. And that’s exactly what it did, with their products eventually becoming dominant in all Western Canada retailers. Natural gas and clay are the two natural resources that have guided Medicine Hat’s economy throughout history, giving it its nickname: The Gas City.
Living in Medicine Hat
Quality of life and way of life has evolved in Medicine Hat greatly. In recent years, Medicine Hat has closed many natural gas wells because of current natural gas prices but despite this, the manufacturing of oil and natural gas is still a vital part of Medicine Hat’s economic backbone.
Other businesses that have started to flourish here include cafes and breweries with fan favourites such as the Madhatter Coffee Roastery and Hell’s Basement Brewery. Medicine Hat’s population is estimated to be approximately 63,260.
The cost of living here is quite affordable
Compared to other Canadian and even Albertan cities and many amenities and grocery items cost below the nation’s average. By no means does this mean the city is lacking, it’s just a great option for those earning minimum wage or below the Canadian average. With the cost of living being low, so is housing rates and rental costs in Medicine Hat.
The current average asking price for a home
Is between $302,000 and $369,000, numbers that are significantly below the national averages. With home prices soaring in other Canadian markets, the national average is about $716,000. According to real estate professionals in Medicine Hat,
the cheaper prices are thanks to the geographic location of the city.
Medicine Hat Situated on the southeast edge of Alberta
While some may consider it to be a forgotten or overlooked area, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a beautiful destination. Because of its location, Medicine Hat is a great place for anyone who may want to sell their homes in the hot Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto or surrounding markets.
Popular communities in the Hat include:
Crescent Heights which sits on the north end about the valley. Aside from several schools and affordable housing options, Crescent Heights is home to the Big Marble Go Centre formerly the Family Leisure Centre which includes an aquatic park, large skating rink, fitness centre and gymnasium and the Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club is nearby, providing great views.
Another great community is Ross Glen, situated in the southeast part of Medicine Hat. This community is perfect for younger families and many amenities are nearby such as the Medicine Hat Mall, Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede, various markets and more. If you’re looking to live closer to the downtown core, Southeast Hill might be the community for you.
Being one of the oldest parts of Medicine Hat, Southeast Hill is full of historic beauty and sits near many outdoor trails and facilities. The Daily visits or sightings of the urban dear never get old.
These are only a handful of the many amazing communities you’ll find in the city. There really is something for everyone when it comes to Medicine Hat and many reasons why you should call it home! Aside from the great cost of living and affordable housing options, Medicine Hat is also blessed with low crime rates and good schooling options for families.
The city’s home to a great public school system that consists of a college, three secondary schools, 12 elementary schools and more, giving families and new residents a wide variety of educational options. Amazing housing options and great public schools are some of the top reasons for families to move to Medicine Hat.
The Medicine Hat environment
Medicine Hat is known for being extremely sunny and it has a whopping average of 333 days of sunshine per year. But don’t be fooled, the sunshine doesn’t mean it’s always warm in Medicine Hat, it can actually be quite chilly!
In the winter months, it’s not uncommon for Environment Canada to release special weather statements, for cars to not start and for school to be cancelled.
Despite these cold, windy and wet winters, Medicine Hat has warm summers that draw in lots of tourism between early July and mid-August.
Medicine Hat is one of many gems in Alberta with landmarks and things to do.
In my opinion it is Canada’s best kept secret. This includes visiting the South Saskatchewan River, various creeks, parks and golf courses. Depending on the season, you can go on a Sturgeon fishing adventure on the South Saskatchewan River and maybe experience Alberta’s biggest game fish! Notable parks in Medicine Hat include downtown’s Central Park, Kin Coulee Park, Police Point, Strathcona Island Park and Echo Dale Regional Park which sits just west of the city.
Talking specifically about Police Point, the park is a nature reserve full of walkways with an area known as the enchanted forest by many locals. Here you can experience the prairies mixed with forested areas. So, if you’re an outdoorsy person, Medicine Hat will not disappoint you thanks to more than 115 kilometers of trails, astounding sunsets and vibrant landscapes.
Medicine Hat Places to visit
Medicine Hat is a place full of history and culture and it is known to many as the Oasis of the Prairies. In recent years, many structures have been revamped and the railroad inspired brick buildings have become an integral part of the city, complimented by urban graffiti works and new murals.
Whether you’re planning a trip or you live here, there is lots to see! As mentioned earlier, Medicine Hat’s clay production was historically a very important part of the economy. To really get the full glimpse of how important it really was, visit the Medalta Museum in the Historic Clay District.
This is the former site of the Medalta factory where much of the original factory has been preserved. Or get your cowboy boots ready and embrace classic Alberta culture at the Medicine hat Exhibition and Stampede which has been going on since 1887, making it the province’s oldest event of its kind. This event features local eats, bull riding, chuck wagon races and a wide array of midway rides.
If you’re hoping to connect with Medicine Hat’s Indigenous culture, you’ll want to stop by the Medicine Hat Seemis Teepee and being the world’s biggest teepee, it’s quite hard to miss! This 215-foot landmark sits right in the middle of the city and was constructed in 1988 ahead of the Calgary Winter Olympics, paying tribute to the Canadian Indigenous peoples. Inside of it, you’ll notice interpretive artwork that explains the Indigenous meanings below.
Another unique pit stop is the Medicine Hat Speedway, perfect for those thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies. The speedway was started in 1985, after the dirt track was closed in Brooks and moved to its current location in 1993. Medicine Hat is also great when it comes to golf courses. With the chance of sun in the forecast being very likely, golf is a great activity you can enjoy while getting fresh air and some Vitamin D. Some great golf destinations include Cottonwood Coulee Golf Course, Desert Blume and Paradise Valley Golf Course.
A unique destination that you can’t just find anywhere is the Butterfly House at Windmill Garden Centre where you can get a face-to-face glimpse of some beautiful butterflies, as well as turtles, birds and koi fish.
Another great attraction is the Mocharch Theatre which is Canada’s oldest running theatre right here in Medicine Hat. Located in downtown, the theatre has a single screen dedicated to screening new movies, as well as classics. Unfortunately during the COVID pandemic the theatre was closed, however the city has sold the building and found a new operator whose intention is it remain a theatre and downtown attraction. This is exciting and in and of itself worth it to stop by and check it out, even the exterior is Rad!
I could go on for hours talking about the many great places to visit in Medicine Hat but we just don’t have the time for that! If you’re new to the city, have lived here your whole life or you’re just visiting, I would recommend taking a stroll downtown because the downtown core is going through so much revitalization. You’ll notice a large mix of old and new buildings full of culture, art and history.
If you want to really immerse yourself if the downtown culture, try one of Tourism Medicine Hat’s walking tours – such as the historic tour, coffee tour, downtown mural tour and more.
Medicine Hat Food
There are a variety of restaurants, quick service pit stops, cafes and more here in Medicine Hat.
A notable must-try is Swirls Ice Cream which has been a part of the city for more than 30 years. Only open during the warmer months and located at Division Ave and 4th Street, Swirls has both soft serve and scoopable ice creams among other special treats.
If you’re looking to get your hands on some delicious baked goods, stop by McBride’s Bakery at 1791 Dunmore Road. This little shop offers great breads, donuts, chocolate and more.
If you want to sit down and enjoy a great meal, check out Takumi Japanese Restaurant at 23 8 Street NW and order a bowl of delicious ramen and sushi rolls!
If you’re looking to try something more regionally inspired, stop by the Rustic Kitchen and Bar at 925 7th Street SW and get your hands on some in-house made pasta or fresh baked focaccia bread.
If good food, music & great outdoor atmosphere is more your thing look no further than my personal favorite. The Moose and Squirrel Bistro. Also Downtown at 651 2 St SE this seasonal Bistro is a food blessing its a can’t miss and the owners are so friendly and engaging. Tell Carrie and Ian that AJ sent you. and enjoy!
Lastly, a Medicine Hat staple and must try is Tino’s Drive-In which opened in 1967. Known for their mushroom burgers, chili and milkshakes, Tino’s prides itself in serving the same recipes and signature sauces for 53 years.
Medicine Hat has developed into a beautiful city with all the amenities needed to live a fulfilling life. This city is perfect for everyone from all walks of life with its affordable housing, plentiful employment opportunities, wide array of schools, outdoor attractions, great cuisine and more.
Medicine Hat is one of the sunniest places in Canada with a big small-town heart that is capable of warming your soul. Situated between Calgary and Regina, ‘The Hat’ is a place like no other. Its my home and if your looking for a better quality of life, consider making the move to Medicine Hat. You will love being a Hatter!