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Nine Old-School Saloons Around The Province That Just Scream ‘Alberta’

Posted on June 26, 2024 by Britanny Burr

When it comes to embracing the spirit of the Wild West and stepping into the boots of a cowboy, Alberta has some of the finest old-school saloons that capture the essence of rugged charm, hearty hospitality, and rip-roaring, boot-stomping good times.

Cowboy saloons hold a special place in the hearts of Albertans. Actually, basically everything country and cowboy-related is pretty special to folks around here. Today, we want to dive into the province’s saloons, so throw it back to our roots and give you an excuse to go on a very old-fashioned pub crawl.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these establishments were essential hubs for cowboys, ranchers, and pioneers who worked tirelessly on the vast prairie and rugged foothills of Alberta. Saloons provided a place for these hard working folks to relax, share stories, and build community after a long day of hard work. They weren’t just watering holes but social centres where deals were made, friendships forged, and local news exchanged. The lively atmosphere, often filled with the twang of country music, dancing, and laughter, encapsulated the essence of frontier life.

Today, many of Alberta’s historic country saloons are still thriving, offering visitors the opportunity to step back in time and experience a glimpse of the old West. Here are our top choices that you should throw on your bucket list.

Rosedeer Hotel: Last Chance Saloon

Step back in time to the quintessential Rosedeer Hotel and the Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne. Built by Rosedeer Coal Mining Company during the coal mining era, this historic hotel and saloon has served patrons since 1913 and offers a genuine peak of days gone by.

Wayne, once a bustling mining town and home to nearly 2,500 people in its glory, now houses only a couple dozen people. Hidden in the Badlands of Central Alberta, near Drumheller, the atmosphere is overflowing with history, complete with antique furnishing and walls covered in old black-and-white photos of times past. It’s not just the cold beer and great food that have visitors returning time again, but the friendly vibe, live music, and ghost stories within its walls.

Rockyview Hotel: Texas Gate Bar & Grill

Located in the heart of Cochrane, the Rockyview Hotel is a local landmark with a rich history. Established in 1904, it has been a cornerstone of the city and is one of its few remaining original buildings.

The Texas Gate Bar & Grill, with its old saloon feel, is a lively spot that patrons love for its rustic charm and vibrant energy.  Enjoy hearty meals, cold drinks, live music, good company, and line dancing the night away.

Bearberry Saloon

Hidden in the foothills near Sundre in the small community of Bearberry, the Bearberry Saloon is a charming slice of Western heritage. Abundant in history, the hotel was constructed in the early 1920s as a gathering place for local loggers, settlers, and ranchers seeking a warm meal and a cold drink. Renowned for its pub-style eats, homemade burgers, beers and spirits, and welcoming service, it’s an iconic landmark for locals and visitors alike.

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The exterior of the Bearberry Saloon near Sundre, Alberta, with many motorcycles parked out front / Bearberry Saloon

Water Valley Saloon

Established in the early 1900s, Water Valley Saloon has seen generations of ranchers and travellers pass through its doors. Today, it continues to be a hub of community activity, offering everything from live music to rodeo events. Its friendly service and laid-back atmosphere make Water Valley Saloon the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon and experience Alberta’s authentic cowboy heritage. Be sure to try the delicious wings, cold beverages, and classic pub fare, all at reasonable prices. Water Valley Saloon is located east of Cremona on Highway 579 and Range Road 52.

Powderhorn Saloon

The Powderhorn Saloon in the quaint hamlet of Bragg Creek is where history meets modern comfort. Originally built as a trading post, it has since transformed into a lively saloon that attracts visitors from all over. The saloon’s picturesque location at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains provides stunning views, while its menu boasts delicious comfort food and a wide selection of spirits. Don’t miss their themed event nights, live music, and outdoor patio, perfect for Alberta’s warm summer evenings.

Black Diamond Bar & Hotel

The Black Diamond Hotel is a monumental staple in Diamond Valley. This historic hotel and saloon have been welcoming visitors since the area was settled in the late 1800s. Known for its warm, inviting atmosphere, the saloon offers a glimpse into the past with its vintage furnishings and historic photographs. The hotel’s restaurant serves tasty dishes, and the saloon frequently hosts live music and open jam sessions, making it a vibrant place to visit after a day of exploring the beautiful countryside.

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An image of behind the bar at the Black Diamond Bar & Hotel showing bottles and the bar’s sign / Black Diamond Bar & Hotel

The Iron Lady Saloon at Gainford Hotel

Stepping into The Iron Lady Saloon at the Gainford Hotel is like taking a step back in time. This charming establishment in Parkland Country is known for its antique bar and Western appeal. The saloon offers a cozy setting with a selection of classic cocktails, local beers, and hearty meals. It’s a great place to unwind and experience authentic Alberta hospitality.

Manyhorses Saloon

Forestburg’s Manyhorses Saloon stands out as a favourite among those looking for an authentic Western experience. The saloon harks back to the days when cowboys roamed the plains and European settlers homesteaded the land in 1905. Manyhorses Saloon has welcomed visitors for more than a century. It was established in 1916 and was first known as the Forestburg Hotel. This old-time bar is known for its lively atmosphere and excellent service, where locals and visitors come together to enjoy great food, drinks, and conversation with a touch of nostalgia. The saloon hosts a variety of fun activities, including karaoke nights, pool tournaments, monthly crib tournaments, and comedy events. The Village of Forestburg is located in east-central Alberta, approximately 80 km from Stettler. This is one classic saloon you don’t want to overlook.

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A group of people gathered around a table playing cribbage and enjoying drinks at Manyhorses Saloon / Manyhorses Saloon

Ranchmans

Rounding out our list is Canada’s greatest HonkyTonk Bar, complete with weekly line dancing lessons and even a mechanical bull! Ranchmans is Calgary’s iconic country saloon and has earned the title of Calgary’s favourite Stampede hot spot for over 50 years. And for good reason. Get your boot shined up and brush up on your Two Step. Stampede 2024 is almost here!

There you have it. This summer, set out on an adventure that will transport you back in time to a place of rugged appeal, inviting ambience, friendly faces, and the best Western charm of an era bygone. Saddle up, unleash your inner cowboy, and shimmy on down the highway where Alberta’s best old-school saloons graciously await. Remember, folks, visiting these historic establishments is more than grabbing a drink or some grub; it’s a cultural experience that symbolizes the true spirit of Alberta and tells the story of how the West was settled. Check them out!

Britanny Burr is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the Great West Media & Southern Alberta Newspapers Hot Summer Guide advertising feature. The Hot Summer Guide is a special feature about summer activities, bucket list adventures, staycation options, road trips, attractions, events, and road trip-worthy food & beverage destinations across Alberta. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.

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