The rolling grasslands of southern Alberta stretch out in all its splendour, the white-capped peaks of the majestic Rockies look close enough to touch, and the cool waters of the gently flowing Sheep River runs right through the heart of it all. Okotoks is the modern prairie town with nature at its backyard and big-city amenities easily available, which is why its nearly 29,000 inhabitants love it so. It isn’t all about nature though, a quick trip to Olde Towne Okotoks in its downtown with its bevy of boutique, family-fun shops and cafes is a must.
The town is slowly emerging from the lockdown but many of its commercial establishments are still observing enhanced safety precautions and curbside pick-up remains the name of the game. Still worth exploring for a taste of all it has to offer.
DISCOVER: Okotoks Erratic Glacier
It is the biggest glacier erratic in the world, but the “Big Rock” has even more significance than that to the town. This massive and unusual rock formation, brought down to the southern Alberta plains in the last Ice Age, is what the town of Okotoks is named after. The Indigenous Blackfoot peoples name for the erratic is derived from their word for rock, which is “okatok.” In 1978, the Government of Alberta designated Okotoks “Big Rock” Erratic a Provincial Historic Resource to protect its geological and cultural importance.
EAT: Mr. Spud Café
Don’t let its unassuming façade fool you, Mr. Spud Café offers the best homemade fish and chips in town. Mr. Spud is a very well-kept secret in Okotoks – it doesn’t even have its own website – but you can’t go wrong with either the halibut or cod options. It also offers burgers and fries and other traditional diner favourites, but it’s always the fish and chips I order whenever I’m in town. No dine-in options just yet, but you can order for pick-up and have a picnic in one of Okotoks’ many parks.
SHOP: Monkey Mountain Toys & Games
A brick and mortar toy store may be thought of as a novelty these days, but the Monkey Mountain store in Okotoks is holding its own. With the recent popularity of board games, it’s even more popular. There are tons of board games, puzzles, toys and arts and crafts items you’d think Santa’s workshop moved way down south. It is a local landmark and a must-see when in town. Browse online at www.monkeymountain.ca.