A self-guided Heartland tour

See Heartland in Person
See Heartland in Person
See Heartland in Person

A self-guided Heartland tour

Just 30 minutes south of Calgary, the Town of High River is the ‘Home of Heartland’ and the filming location of the popular TV series

With the craggy peaks of the Rocky Mountains on the horizon and legit ranching country minutes from the city limits, it’s no wonder so many iconic films and TV series have been filmed in and around Calgary. 

Take Heartland, for example. It’s a series that follows the highs and lows of a ranching family, and is now one of the CBC’s longest running TV shows. Heartland is filmed not only on a studio set in Calgary, but at several venues less than an hour’s drive away. If you’re a fan of this family drama, it’s a cinch to follow in your favourite character’s footsteps. 

Here’s a self-guided tour that’s easily done as a day trip from Calgary. 

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Museum of the Highwood

Museum of the Highwood in High River Alberta.

Hudson is actually High River

Insider tip: Heartland parks the crew trailers right behind the museum, so you’ll be able to tell at a glance if they’re filming that day. If they are, be sure to hang around for a spell, so you can spot the actors going to and from set. What’s more, this museum, housed inside a historic Canadian Pacific Railway station, has its own Heartland exhibit. As a nod to the other movies and TV shows filmed in the area, they also have props from The Revenant, Unforgiven, and Fargo.

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Maggie’s Diner Menu and other Heartland memorabilia.

 Maggie’s Diner Menu and other Heartland memorabilia.

Heartland exhibit at the Museum of the Highwood.

Heartland exhibit at the Museum of the Highwood.

Back to Heartland, you’ll be able to view several costumes worn by the actors and props such as the detailed doll’s house given to Roy’s daughter, Katie, in Season 7. There’s also a test your Heartland knowledge quiz and an actual Maggie’s Diner menu. This is the spot to snap up Heartland souvenirs such as baseball hats, journals, tree ornaments, and wrist cuffs.

Yep, saunter down 3rd Avenue, and you’ll feel like you’re stepping right into the fictional town of Hudson. It may seem as though the entire street is one giant set, but rest assured, there are several indie shops open for business that are worth popping into.

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Van Born Travel Agency on 3rd Avenue in High River Alberta.

Van Born Travel Agency on 3rd Avenue in High River Alberta.

Visiting Maggie’s Diner on 3rd Avenue in High River Alberta.

Visiting Maggie’s Diner on 3rd Avenue in High River Alberta.

Yep, saunter down 3rd Avenue, and you’ll feel like you’re stepping right into the fictional town of Hudson. It may seem as though the entire street is one giant set, but rest assured, there are several indie shops open for business that are worth popping into.

The big deal on 3rd Avenue, however, is Maggie’s Diner. Sadly, we civilians can’t pop into Maggie’s for a slice of pie and a cup of joe, though it looks like a fully kitted out cafe. Peering through the windows, you’ll notice just how intricate the set design is. Fret not, High River boasts a real life Maggie’s Diner on 4th Avenue, but now we’re getting ahead of ourselves. (More on that later…)

Beside Maggie’s Diner is Bartling and Sons Mercantile and Hudson’s Antique Mall. A few doors down, you’ll spot Van Born Travel Agency (such a pretty storefront, you’ll want to take a selfie here) and across the street is the Hudson Times. For fun, pick up a copy of the real life High River Times to see what a small town newspaper reads like. It’s free. 

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Corosi’s Coffee on 4th Avenue in High River.

Corosi’s Coffee on 4th Avenue in High River.

Outside, one of Collosi’s exterior walls is a chalkboard. They supply the chalk, and a sign encourages visitors to “espresso” themselves. Go ahead and mark it up, then turn around and admire the wall mural of Fort Spitzee by Terry Winter. Fun fact: There are lovely murals all over High River depicting early pioneering life.

 

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Evelyn’s Memory Lane is the real life Maggie’s Diner.
Evelyn’s Memory Lane is the real life Maggie’s Diner.
Getting some ice cream at Evelyn’s Memory Lane.

Getting some ice cream at Evelyn’s Memory Lane.

Right next door to Collosi’s sits Evelyn’s Memory Lane. This is the real life Maggie’s Diner I was talking about. So much is made from scratch here, from their ice cream (go local with the Medicine Tree, a vanilla base with pralines, butterscotch and chocolate swirls) to their bread to mile-high pies. I’m partial to the loaded Hutterite chicken sandwich, but really, you can’t go wrong with any of the meals served up at this retro diner

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At the George Lane Park gazebo in High River Alberta.

At the George Lane Park gazebo in High River Alberta.

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The High River Motor Hotel in High River.

The High River Motor Hotel in High River.

The street leading into the park is 5th Avenue and at the end of the street - across from the historic Wales Theatre - lies the High River Motor Hotel. This classic small town motel is in a few episodes and you may also recall it from the movie Fubar. Spoiler alert: It’s just as sketch in real life as it appears on the big screen. This isn’t a place you want to be caught coming out of, but it does make for some fun photos.

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Millarville Anglican Church

Millarville Anglican Church

Back on the ranch

Though High River is used as a location a fair bit, much of Heartland’s filming takes place at a working ranch west of Millarville. Sadly, nobody will disclose the exact location of this private ranch (where the homestead scenes are shot). But, I did receive one awesome tip about that ranch when I took a trail ride. Be sure to read the next section for details on that.

Saturdays from mid-June until early October are when you want to visit, as that’s when the Millarville Farmer’s Market takes place. There are seriously over 100 vendor stalls to peruse, and you can skulk around the track reliving your favourite racing episodes.

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Riding with my daughter at Anchor D Outfitting

Riding with my daughter at Anchor D Outfitting

Back in the saddle

 

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Wranglers at Anchor D Outfitting.
Wranglers at Anchor D Outfitting.

Trail rides run every day, twice a day and children as young as six-years-old can ride. Even if you’re not into horseback riding, it’s worth stopping by to meet real legit cowboys if you’ve never had the pleasure. Owner, Dewey Matthews with his leather chaps and a handlebar moustache that rivals Heartland’s grandpa Jack’s is easy to spot. And there’s always wranglers exercising the horses, who are happy to stop for a chat and a photo if you ask nicely.

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Trail riding with Anchor D in Kananaskis Country.

Trail riding with Anchor D in Kananaskis Country.

Trail rides are an easy introduction into the cowboy way of life. More importantly, you’ll gain an appreciation for just how talented those Heartland actors truly are. Imagine having to look fit and attractive all the time, memorize lines and be an accomplished equestrian! It’s no short order.

If you’re a super fan, ask for the John Ware ride, as that trail overlooks the general area and background scenery from the show. All horse rides amble through the bucolic countryside, where cattle graze between copses of trees and the scent of spruce is ever present. You’ll likely head into Kananaskis County, moseying your way along a ridge which delivers sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains.

Yep, these are the very same vistas you watch in pretty much every Heartland episode. By trotting through this countryside and strolling down the streets of High River, you’ll have hit every public Heartland filming location. When you see these sites firsthand, there’s a shift from being a viewer to feeling like you’re actually a part of the series. Take this as your cue to place yourself in the scene.

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By
Jody Robbins

Jody Robbins is a Calgary-based lifestyles writer, who spent 18 of the best years of her life in High River. She was president of her High River high school class until an unfortunate incident at the Halloween dance got her suspended. She has since grown out of her Georgina phase.