Back in June, on a cross-country trip across Canada, I passed through Lethbridge – a town of 84,000 located in Southern Alberta. Lethbridge is the largest city in southern Alberta, and acts as an agricultural and financial hub for the region. With the University of Lethbridge (enrolment hovering around 9000) located in town, it is also somewhat of a college/university town.
Lethbridge doesn’t have the cutest down town, the best architecture, the most lively night-life. But it does have two unique characteristics that set it apart from other cities and towns I visited across Canada.
1) Japanese Culture
When we rolled into town, I was confused by the large number of sushi and Japanese restaurants in town. I would have thought southern Alberta was one of the last places I would dine on sashimi. However, due to the location of an internment camp (Camp 133) located nearby during WWII, the city has a thriving (if not large) Japanese-Canadian community to this day. Not the most happy start, but there you go.
The city is now home to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. I didn’t get a chance to visit, but my friend did and had nothing but positives to say. A pretty unexpected and cool thing for this Alberta city.
2) Access to the Coulees
Lethbridge has an extensive trail system that winds in and around the city. The morning after my arrival in the city, I checked out a map online and hopped on one of the trails. I thought it was pretty – a huge wide boulevard separiting rows of ranch-style homes, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. But then, I ran under an overpass and out onto something amazing – The Coulees.
I had no idea it was coming, and it kind of blew my mind. The morraines run down through the Oldman River Valley, and several paths and stairways run through it filling with runners, walkers, and cyclists. The paths are well maintained and well used ; they present an easy way to access the enivornment that you might not know existed on a visit to Lethbridge.
It’s easy to visit a town and only concentrate on the main strip, the architecture, the nightlife. Lethbridge proved to me, though, that if you look a little further you might be surprised. Hidden gems exist in the most surprisng places.