The small community of Nanton is located on Highway two on the eastern edge of the Alberta foothills. Its location of just an hour from two of Alberta’s big cities – Calgary and Lethbridge – makes it a perfect day trip, stop off the highway, or a weekend destination. Within the town, there is so much history to explore, that you may need to plan for more than one day to see it all. From the towering grain elevators to antique shopping, to embracing the classic architecture of Main Street, to Nanton’s two museums, you will be able to truly get a sense of southern Alberta’s history.
Nanton is also a wonderful place for a day of shopping, dining, and snacking. There are close to 10 different antique shops, a summer farmer’s market, a candy store and ice cream stand, cafes, restaurants, and many other local shops in between. And if you’d prefer to combine all the Nanton fun into one weekend, there are many options for overnight accommodations. Camping is available in town at the Lions and Twin Valley Campgrounds, and just a short drive away is the Chain Lakes Provincial Park with its own large campground.
Here are ten things to do while you are in Nanton!
**Do not visit during Alberta Health COVID-19 restrictions. Plan a trip to visit after all restrictions are lifted.**
Antique Walk of Alberta
Your Nanton Antique Walk begins on Highway 2 and throughout your walk, you’ll encounter great finds of all kinds from clothing to music, furniture, home décor, and much more.
Bomber Command Museum of Canada
Here you’ll find a celebration of the important and rich aviation history of Alberta and Canada which you can explore up-close. There are a few interactive exhibits around the Bomber Command Museum which offer the experiences of flight simulation, crane operation, and a VR experience unlike any other: the 1943 Berlin Blitz takes you inside a WW2 aircraft on its way to Berlin before a raid. The experience is enhanced by authentic narration created by a BBC reporter who recorded his own experience in a 1943 Berlin raid.
Historic Building Tours
The Nanton Grain elevators stand as a tribute to the past and the development of this small Foothills town. And one need to only take a short walk along Nanton’s Main Street to discover even more restored buildings. The buildings are open and operating businesses, allowing you to check them out from the inside too, while supporting the local economy. Highlights include the Nanton Drug Co. building, the W.S. Keeley building (formerly a general store), and the Auditorium Hotel (built in 1902!).
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Museum of Miniatures
Enjoy a unique way of learning about Alberta’s past at the Museum of Miniatures! The museum depicts all sorts of historical, cultural, and natural scenes which teach about Alberta’s Indigenous history, the ‘old west,’ economic development, and all types of wildlife. In addition to the scenes, you can also walk through an exhibit of over 160 authentic model cars and trucks. The museum offers self- and employee-guided tours and is a great place for all ages. You’ll find the Museum of Miniatures in the centre of town on 21 Avenue and 19 Street.
Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre
The Discovery Centre experiences at this popular Nanton attraction include some cool and new experiences, as well as the tours of the elevators. The Centre continuously updates its website so you can always stay in the know about these events which include family-friendly drive-in movie nights (projected onto the side of the elevators) and light shows or displays.
Nanton Farmer’s Market
The Nanton Farmer’s Market, beginning in mid-June, can draw in shoppers from all over Southern Alberta who come for the local meats, produces, and handmade goods like art, bath and beauty, and clothing. The Market is off Highway 2 southbound at the Nanton United Church and remains open every Saturday morning until October. The market could be a perfect beginning to your Antique Walk of Alberta.
Tour Nanton’s Sweeter Side
If you’re visiting Nanton on a warmer day, you may be looking for some colder, more refreshing eats- Ice Cold Treats on the other side of Nanton, allows you to drive through town and explore a bit before hitting this local ice-cream favourite. Further into town on 21 Avenue is the Nanton Candy Store, where the shelves are stacked high with colourful varieties of ALL kinds of candies and sweets.
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No matter who you’re treating to lunch, a day trip to Nanton allows you to explore the Foothills, with some tasty treats waiting for you in town. Along Highway 2 is the popular Wild Thyme Café where you can fill up on coffee for your trip or sit down for a full Italian-inspired meal. You can stop for a cozy lunch at Stuthornes, or have brunch at Mulligans Restaurant at the Nanton Golf Club.
Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage
About a 10-minute drive from town, this heritage centre (century-old homestead)can offer an afternoon of family fun in a scenic foothill location. The Coutts Centre is operated by the University of Lethbridge and is open from May to October each year. This beautiful area is a diverse collection of historic buildings, garden paths, and over 18 perennial gardens.
Chain Lakes Provincial Park
This mountain-side provincial park (2308 AB-22, Nanton) located 20 minutes from downtown offers incredible views of distant peaks, rolling hills, AND prairie. Within the park is a great deal of options for recreational fun like boating and sailing, camping, swimming at the beach (with a concession and cookhouse), fishing and ice-fishing, and birding and wildlife viewing. The campground is open May to September with a large number of both serviced and non serviced sites.