Though downtown is slightly disappointing in its lack of activity (many of the storefronts are vacant), the city has much to offer. Lethbridge has two good art centers that display regional and touring art. The Southern Alberta Art Gallery (601 3rd Ave. S; tel. 403/327-8770; www.saag.ca), has a number of changing art shows throughout the year; the gift shop is a good place to go for local crafts. It's open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 1 to 5pm. The Bowman Arts Centre (811 5th Ave.; tel. 403/327-2813) is housed in an old school and is the fine-arts hub of Lethbridge, with studios, classes, offices for arts organizations, and two galleries featuring the works of area artists; it's open Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm and Saturday 10am to 4pm.
The Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives, at the west end of 5th Ave. S (tel. 403/320-4258; www.galtmuseum.com), is an excellent regional museum located in a historic former hospital. Exhibit galleries focus on the local Native culture, the city's coal-mining past, and the role of immigrants in the region's growth. Two galleries are devoted to the works of regional artists. The back windows of the museum overlook the impressive Oldman River Valley, with its natural park systems. It's open daily 10am to 4:30pm, with free admission.
The city's heritage as a frontier whiskey-trading center is commemorated at the Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Centre (tel. 403/329-0444; www.fortwhoopup.com) in Indian Battle Park (follow 3rd Ave. S toward the river). A replica of the fort -- the original was built by Montana-based traders of buffalo skins and whiskey in the 1870s -- stands in the park, with costumed guides providing horse-drawn carriage tours, interpretive programs, and historic reenactments. Mid-May to September, it's open Monday to Saturday 10am to 6pm and Sunday noon to 6pm; the rest of the year, it's open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 1 to 4pm. Admission is C$7 for adults, C$6 for seniors, C$5 for students, and free for children under 6.
The pride of Lethbridge is the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden (tel. 403/328-3511; www.nikkayuko.com) in Henderson Lake Park on Mayor Magrath Drive, east of downtown. Built for the Canadian centennial in 1967, the garden was championed by Cleo Mowers, publisher of the Lethbridge Herald, as a tribute to the many Japanese Canadians who endured a dark period of Canadian history: During the second world war, thousands of Japanese Canadians were placed in internment camps, often thousands of miles from their home, for fear of enemy collaboration. Mowers teamed with Reverend Yutetsu Kawamura, a Canadian Buddhist priest, and his wife Yoneko, to make the garden a reality. Remarkably, perhaps, a large number of Japanese interned near Lethbridge stayed in the area; almost 2 percent of the population is of Japanese descent. The garden represents unity between two cultures that, in the not so distant past, were deeply estranged.
The garden is extraordinarily tranquil. Its pavilion and dainty bell tower were built by Japanese artisans without nails or bolts. The garden is one of the largest Japanese gardens in North America; Japanese-Canadian women in kimonos give tours and explain the philosophical concepts involved in Japanese garden design. From late June to Labor Day, the garden is open daily 10am to 8pm; mid-May to late June and after Labor Day to early October, it's open daily 10am to 4pm. Admission is C$5 for adults, C$4 for seniors, C$3 for youths 6 to 17, and free for children under 6.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.