And their annual Taste of Waterton fest (plus these five local restaurants) prove just that.
Wildfires damaged one-third of Waterton Lakes National Park last September, and although many trails still remain closed due to slope instability and infrastructure damage, the charming lakeside town—with its calm blue lake, lush foliage and local eateries (many with patios)—is more than ready to welcome visitors once again. Waterton is a seasonal town, only open during the summer months, and is a wonderfully serene, not-too-crowded retreat only a leisurely two-and-a-half-hour drive southwest of Calgary. “Waterton has recovered nicely from last year’s fire,” says Shameer Suleman, president of the Waterton Chamber of Commerce. “The park is greening up, wildflowers are in bloom and it’s as beautiful here as it always has been.” And just in the nick of time, too. At the end of May, the Taste of Waterton festival (May 25 to June 3) returns to showcase local culinary talent by offering exclusive lunch and dinner packages and a number of other foodie activities.
Dining Under the Dark Skies (May 29 and 30) The dark sky dinner will feature a three-course meal of dark delights, followed by a guided tour of the park’s dark skies. Chef’s Table Dinner (May 27 and 30, June 3) Take in the stunning views of the Rockies as you enjoy a four-course dinner at either Lakeside Chophouse or Vimy’s. A Taste of Opera (May 26) This evening offers a sample of opera’s greatest hits—Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Rossini—with tenor Jason Ragan and mezza-soprano Bethany Yon, accompanied by pianist Joel Goodfellow. Together they perform beautiful music in honour of spring, paired with a wonderful dinner. Pie Cruise (May 26 and June 2) Perhaps the best event of all! For both festival weekends, local vendors will bake pies from scratch which you can then linger over while cruising by majestic towering cliffs, unique geological formations, beautiful waterfalls and snowy mountain peaks. Yes…you heard right. You eat a buffet of pie while cruising Waterton Lake. “The Taste of Waterton festival will celebrate family recipes, local ingredients and all the unique qualities that make Waterton so extraordinary,” Suleman says. But whether or not you attend the fest, these spots will keep you well fuelled for the trip. (Note: Visit mywaterton.ca for more info on the festival, restaurants, accommodations and events—many of these small businesses don’t have websites.)
5 Waterton Restaurants to Try Right Now
1. Larkspur Coffee House
The little white house you see on the town’s main street? That’s the Larkspur Coffee House. They brew Fratello coffee, bake amazing muffins and pies from scratch and make the most perfect grilled cheese with tomato and roasted red pepper soup I’ve ever had in my life. It’s the kind of place where you want to hang out, drink coffee, tap into the internet and chat about what’s happening in town.
Beside the ridiculously popular hot-dog joint Weiners of Waterton, Waffleton serves up classic buttermilk waffles and golden Liège waffles topped with anything from Nutella to real whipped cream and juicy strawberries. It’s also a great stop for ice cream (but tough not to indulge in a waffle, any time of day).
3. The Prince of Wales Hotel
The Prince of Wales Hotel is a Canadian icon. Built on a bluff overlooking the town in 1927 (the view is spectacular!), it became a National Historic Site in 1992—and needs to be the location of a Wes Anderson movie. Even if you’re not staying there, it’s worth checking out. Go for high tea, breakfast, lunch or dinner at the restaurant, or classic cocktails in the impossibly retro lounge—all with the best view in town.
On a busy corner on the main street of Waterton, Zum’s offers a complete breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, specializing in comfort food like fried chicken, decadent waffles, pasta and homemade pie—you may even find a Flintstone-sized bison rib. They also participate in the Taste of Waterton.
5. The Moose Lick
Located at the Waterton Lakes Opera House movie theater the Moose Lick is a tiny (but busy during the summer months) ice cream shop with a great selection of hard ice cream, freshly made waffle cones, floats, shakes, colossal sundaes and banana splits.