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Stettler, Alberta: Best Things to Do & Where to Eat

The ‘heart’ of Alberta can be found in the small yet expansive town of Stettler. This local hub of 5k people punches well above its weight, with more interesting things to do in the area than you may initially expect.

While it may not be super well known, Stettler is actually located right on the main driving route between Edmonton (or Red Deer) and Drumheller.

1920s railway passenger train on tracks next to dark red heritage grain elevator in Stettler
Stettler P&H grain elevator

The weather wasn’t on our side as we explored Stettler but we still saw and experienced as much as we could!

This post will share what we believe to be the best things to do in Stettler and the surrounding area. I have also included our favourite places to eat and stay.

Published August 2023. We visited Stettler in late July 2023, in partnership with Lacombe Regional Tourism.

We visited Stettler in late July 2023, in partnership with Lacombe Regional Tourism. There is one affiliate link in this post. If you make a booking via the link, we may receive a small percentage of the sale.

Town of Stettler welcome sign in front of green field
Welcome to Stettler!

Introducing Stettler, Alberta

Stettler sits on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territory of the Stoney, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Blackfoot / Niitsítapi, Tsuut’ina, Métis and Cree.

The village of Stettler was established in 1906, named after Swiss immigrant Carl Stettler. Carl was the first postmaster of a nearby hamlet called Blumenau, which was moved to the present site of Stettler to take advantage of the railway access.

After the move, Stettler’s population grew to 700 people and was incorporated as a town. During this booming time, Stettler was the fourth fourth-largest trading centre in Alberta.

JR sat on bench smiling at camera in front of downtown faux 'railway station' with Stettler sign above
Hanging out in downtown Stettler

Carl Stettler remained heavily involved with the town, building the first hotel and later becoming a member of the first council.

Farming and flour milling were important industries during the early years, with oil taking precedent in the 1950s. Gas, manufacturing and service industries also later developed.

Today, Stettler is the economic hub of East Central Alberta, with a strong sense of local community. The town is a little more off the beaten track than Lacombe (which we visited last year) but still has all the day-to-day services you need. It’s quiet, laid back and people really seem to love living here.

Bright flowers in foreground with Stettler downtown Main Street beind, with shops and parked cars
Downtown Stettler

The best things to do in Stettler

With all the above in mind, it’s time to reveal our top picks for the best things to do in Stettler, Alberta!

The below map shows the location of all of the featured activities and attractions.

Screenshot of Google Map showing best things to do in Stettler
Discover all the best things to do in Stettler with this Google Map

Browse independent boutiques in downtown Stettler

For a town of this size, Stettler has an impressive downtown area. It occupies four blocks, centered around 50th Street (Main Street).

There is a lot to love here, especially if you like shopping for clothes or second hand items. As you go, look out for the many vintage signs and features still visible on the buildings (learn more on a self guided walking tour).

Close up of vintage Rolex Watches sign on side of downtown Stettler building
Heritage signs on Main Street

Sweet Home on Main combines a ladies and children’s clothing boutique with a cafe, bakery and food market. This large family owned store has a real down to earth but trendy vibe.

Another contemporary local store is Dirt Road Pretty Clothing, which has just opened a second location in Red Deer.

If fashion isn’t your thing, Home & Hobby should be your destination! They have a little of everything.

Other awesome Stettler stores to check out include the Fresh Wife Collective (home goods, skincare, clothing and jewelry) and the Superfluity Thrift Shop.

Interior of Oaklynn and Vine boutique with cream coloured walls and chandelier. There is a  flower and candle display in foreground. Clothes line the wall to the left
Oaklynn and Vine Boutique

Tour the inside of a grain elevator

Stettler is the proud home of one of Alberta’s last standing wooden grain elevators.

These prairie icons are fast disappearing and in the early 2000s, Stettler’s former Parrish and Heimbecker grain elevator was also at risk of demolition.

Local farmer Stan Eichhorn purchased the 90 year old elevator for $1 and then formed the Stettler P&H Elevator Preservation Society (now a non-profit) to restore it.

Looking up at 90 foot (30m) tall dark red grain elevator building, with additional historical buildings on left. Visting the elevator is one of the best things to do in Stettler
Stettler’s P&H Elevator

The towering structure is now open for visitors, with rebuilt storage bins, a working ‘leg’ (belt) and a deep red paint job (the original colour). Stettler’s elevator complex also includes a feedmill and coal shed.

I had never seen inside a grain elevator before and found it much more interesting than I expected. I will definitely look at them differently in future.

When you visit, check whether Stan is around. His enthusiasm and passion for the elevator and Stettler in general is truly infectious!

Looking up into restored storage bin at elevator grain, with layers of wood panelling
Looking up into one of the restored storage bins

Ride the Alberta Prairie Railway to Big Valley

Stettler’s premier tourist attraction is the Alberta Prairie Railway, which offers half day excursions on a 1920s passenger train. Depending on the day, the train is powered by steam or diesel locomotives.

The train schedule offers a variety of excursions, with shorter trips heading to the ‘Country Hideaway’ at Warden Junction or the nearby village of Big Valley. Some are themed, with the Polar Express being exceptionally popular.

Close up of Alberta Prairie Railway steam locomative, with dark red grain elevator building in background
Alberta Prairie Railway

Lunch or dinner is usually included, along with the very high possibility that the train will be held up by horse mounted outlaws….!

Most Big Valley rail trips offer independent time to explore the 100+ year old station, St Edmund’s Church (the ‘blue church’), the grain elevator and old roundhouse structure.

Small blue church building on left with picnic table and interpretive signage in foreground
The ‘blue church’ in Big Valley

Taste local craft beers at Stettler Brewing Company

As JR and I always like to say, you know when a town is up and coming when a brewery opens!

Stettler Brewing Company launched in 2022, with the taproom opening that same summer. This family owned, small batch brewery is located just off Highway 12, bringing new life into a mostly industrial area of town.

The taproom looks into the brewing space, with a sunny patio out front. Order at the bar and enjoy a flight or a glass in the relaxed space. SBC doesn’t serve food but they encourage guests to order in from local restaurants (love that!)

There were seven beers on tap during our summer visit, most on the lighter side of the scale (think wheat ales, Kolsch style, blondes). If you like things a bit darker, the English Mild may be up your street. I love fruity beers so the Beergerita was the one for me!

Close up of flight sized glass with light coloured beer on table in front of Stettler Brewing Company background
Tasting beer at Stettler Brewing Company

Enjoy live music in the park or attend another local event

While not a big place, Stettler has a surprisingly busy events calendar. One of the highlights is Music in the Park, which runs from late June to late August.

Musicians perform for free at the open-air West Stettler Park bandstand every Wednesday evening. Just bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy!

The music starts at 7pm and wraps at around 8.30-9pm. We caught the end of Frank Peters and Range Patrol.

Other local events include the Stettler Farmers’ Market (Tuesdays 4-7pm from May onwards), the Ranch Rodeo (mid July), the Steel Wheel Stampede (June), Stettler Trade Show (April) and Big Jack Classic Fishing Derby (February).

The Stettler Public Library also runs regular ghost walks sharing the more supernatural side of town!

Four person band play on open air stage (with roof) in Stettler at Music in the Park
Live Music in the Park

Explore the Stettler Town and Country Museum

A trip to the Stettler Town and Country Museum is a must while visiting.

This is a small town museum with a difference; the main event is an outdoor historic village featuring two dozen early 1900s buildings with authentic furniture and artifacts.

Visitors are able to explore at their own pace, with intrepretive signage and displays offering more information about Stettler and its most influential residents.

Side view of row of white heritage houses at Stettler Museum, with wooden walkways leading to front doors. JR is walking along the walkway to the closest building
Checking out the Stettler Town and Country Museum

The highlights for us were the printing shop (showcasing a linotype printing machine), the general store (I love to see old food prices and packaging), the railway station (Stettler’s original), caboose and Estonian log house.

Honestly, you could probably spend most of the day here. There is that much to see! The ticket prices are affordable too, being $4/adult and $3/child (6 years and above).

Close up of vintage weighing scales in front of historical food display in Stettler Museum
General store

Relax on the shores of Buffalo Lake (or go fishing!)

One of the largest lakes in central Alberta, Buffalo Lake sits just to the northwest of Stettler. It’s definitely the go to spot for water recreation for local residents!

The closest access points are White Sands and Rochon Sands Provincial Park.

The latter is an easy 25 minutes drive on a paved road and features a gorgeous sweeping sandy beach. The water is not very deep, so it’s ideal for families. The shallow bays are a favourite of birds too, making Rochon a favourite of bird watchers.

Looking through the trees towards golden sand beach at Rochon Sands Provincial Park
Rochon Sands

A short uphill stroll behind the parking lot offers a view over the lake and the beaches. There’s a boat launch as well, with Buffalo Lake being a very popular destination for northern pike and burbot fishing.

Rochon Sands is also host to a 80+ site campground. It’s located very close to the lake and most of the camp spots are surrounded by shady trees. Reservations are recommended for July and August.

Back view of JR walking up stairs to viewpoint at Rochon Sands
Heading up to the viewpoint

Visit DNA Gardens

DNA Gardens is an all-in-one family fun destination about 40 minutes drive from Stettler.

While that may seem a little far, I would say that it worth the drive. If you’re planning to visit Stettler to/from Red Deer, the detour adds around 20 minutes total.

In business for more than 45 years, DNA Gardens is a combination of a U-pick fruit farm, estate winery, local farm store and cafe. Most of the beautiful 20 acre property is open for visitors to explore, with several different signed nature trails.

Close up of Saskatoon berries on plant at DNA Gardens
Saskatoon berries at DNA Gardens

Wildlife spotting opportunities are numerous, with the orchards attracting tons of birds, bees and bats. With sunflower fields and picnic areas as well, this is definitely a place you can spend a relaxing half day or more.

On the fruit side of things, DNA Gardens is oldest commercial Saskatoon grower in the world. It is also possible to pick tart cherries, blackcurrants, raspberries, apples, plums and pears.

Consider planning your visit around one of DNA Gardens’ special events, such as the biweekly Bootlegger Brisket or Long Table Dinner. Seriously, this place has everything! And in a location you’d probably never expect.

Close up of large sunflower with other sunflowers in background at DNA Gardens
Sunflower field at DNA Gardens

Take a trip to the village of Alix

For a taste of nature, consider a half or full day trip to the village of Alix.

Alix is much smaller than Stettler but has surprisingly good walking trails (Alix Nature Trail, Kuhnen Natural Area), some tasty eateries and paddling opportunities as well. The drive is around half an hour one-way from Stettler.

Looking across calm lake on Alix Nature Trail, with trees lining the shore and trees
Alix Nature Trail

Another great road trip destination would be Donalda, home to the world’s largest lamp. Donalda is also half an hour’s drive from Stettler. Be sure to check out the beautiful walking trails at Willow Canyon.

Big Valley is also worth a stop to/from Stettler. I enjoyed exploring the old railway roundhouse as well as the grain elevator and St Edmund’s Church (the ‘blue church on the hill’).

Side view of 1920s two story Big Valley railway station, taken from train tracks
Big Valley station

The best places to eat in Stettler

Get transported to the Maritimes at the East to West Lifestyle Pub on Stettler’s Main Street. This fun place blasts Celtic music all day and is decked out with lobster traps on the ceiling and fishing memorabilia on the walls.

The menu boasts seafood and donairs, with lobster options when the (Nova Scotian) owner can get it. With JR being from New Brunswick, he absolutely loved the taste of home! The East to West Pub was definitely our surprise find in Stettler.

Close up of two baskets of food at East to West Lifeastyle Pub, with lobster sandwich and fries in foreground, fish and chips glass of beer in background
Lobster sandwich and fish and chips at the East to West Lifestyle Pub

Stettler has plenty of casual lunch options, including our favourite, the Coffee Tree. This welcoming spot has a wonderfully sunny patio and a wide variety of freshly made sandwiches, burritos, soups, paninis and sweet treats.

Brenda’s Cozy Cafe was also recommended to us as an alternative, but was sadly closed for refurbishment while we were visiting.

Empty Oaklynn and Vine bistro with large, bright corner windows and minimalist furniture
Oaklynn and Vine bistro

New to downtown Stettler, Oaklynn and Vine is making waves with its upscale bistro, wine bar and boutique combination. The minimalist modern style is reminiscient of the big city, as is the wine menu and concise, but tasty, menu.

Bloke’s Bakery is a local institution, with the cream filled Long Johns being a Stettler staple. And when I say institution, I mean it – the bakery has been around since 1966 (!) The owners have changed over the years but the great taste of the bread, cakes and pastries remains the same.

Close up of six cream filled Long John doughnuts in paper box
Bloke’s Bakery

Where to stay in Stettler, Alberta

We stayed at the Town of Stettler Campground. The location and surroundings are ideal, with the campground situated opposite West Stettler Park. It is so incredibly quiet! Best of all, you can walk to the free Music in the Park on Wednesday evenings.

There are 63 campsites, some with full service, some with partial and some unserviced. The large, flat spots are ideal for RV users.

The shower and washroom building is kept immaculately clean, with the showers being free as well. Reservations are essential and can be made online.

If you’re not camping, I would suggest a stay at the Ramada by Wyndham Stettler. It’s just across the park from the campground, with easy access to Highway 12. A highlight is the large indoor swimming pool.

View of white van parked in spot at Town of Stettler campground with picnic table to left
Town of Stettle Campground

Other Alberta posts you may find helpful for trip planning:

The Best Things to Do in Alix, Alberta: Complete Village Guide

19+ Fun Things to Do in Lacombe: Your Guide to Central Alberta’s Most Happening Little City

Pigeon Lake Ice Golf Tournament: Alberta’s Most Unique Winter Event

11 of the Best Things to Do in Sundre, Alberta

Hiking the Kananaskis Valley from Mount Engadine Lodge, Alberta

The 'heart' of Alberta can be found in the small yet surprisingly expansive town of Stettler. This local hub of 5k punches well above its weight, with more interesting things to do in the area than you may initially expect. Click to discover everything you need to know!
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