It may be known as the “Gas City” for the natural gas reserves buried beneath it, but another industry that fuelled Medicine Hat’s economy in the early 1900s relied on a different resource: clay. Factories produced kitchenware, bricks and sewer pipes for customers all over North America. Medalta Potteries opened in 1912 and soon had such confidence in its crockery that it offered a 3,000-year warranty on all purchases — a promise the company still makes for its line of retro pottery. Today the factory is the centre of the Medicine Hat Clay Industries National Historic District and features an industrial museum, rare beehive kilns and pottery classes. Starting this summer, Medalta will also give tours of the Medicine Hat Brick and Tile plant. It is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This summer Medicine Hat Speedway celebrates its 30th year of racing. In that time, its half-kilometre oval has seen everything from demolition derbies to kids racing souped-up go-carts to paintswapping hobby car races. Admission is $5 for kids, $10 for students and seniors and $12 for adults. Or if flashy, street-legal cars are more your style, the Medicine Hat Drag Racing Association hosts races at the drag strip northwest of town every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer. All $10 admissions include access to the pits, and if you want to make a weekend of it, on-site camping is free.
With 2,512 hours of sunshine per year, “The Hat” is one of Canada’s sunniest cities. Spend a few of those hours soaking it up at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, which traverses the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary and holds the distinction of being the country’s only bi-provincial park. Located about 70 kilometres southeast of Medicine Hat, the forest reserve makes a great day trip. The 50 kilometres of trails range from paved to rugged, but whatever path you take, be sure to stop and smell the orchids — the hills are home to 18 varieties of the flower. The Cypress Hills have the highest elevation in southern Canada east of the Rockies, and mountain biking is a popular activity in the area, so bring a bicycle or rent one from Elkwater Boat and Bike Rental. When the light is waning, head to the lookout over Horseshoe Canyon to watch the sunset.
Medicine Hat Potteries (Photo: Tom Hamilton)