#ExploreVermilion - Discover a Thriving Rural Downtown Destination


Linda Hoang

If you’re headed west from Saskatchewan, or east out of Edmonton, you’ll pass the charming town of Vermilion, Alta., located just off the Trans-Canada Highway. The thing is, you don’t want to just blow by this town – it’s well worth the drive in to discover Vermilion’s downtown – a thriving, revitalized, rural destination full of boutique, locally-owned shops and experiences.

Did you know you can take a virtual trip to Vermilion right now? 

On Wednesday April 22, 2020, #ExploreVermilion and its unique entrepreneurs, producers and creators with the #VermilionOnline Festival.

RSVP to #VermilionOnline on Facebook here.

Vermilion is home to one of the nicest small-town downtowns in Alberta. Vibrant, picturesque, and full of character, the main street is lined with restored heritage brick buildings – some, like Craig’s Cornerstone, are over 100 years old. 

It’s very Vermilion to love fall. #TakeItToTheLake and start your plans here.

My friend and I were on a mission to have a perfect shopping day trip in Vermilion and, yes, the town delivered. 

Photo: Linda Hoang

Downtown Vermilion has plenty of Instagram-worthy backdrops. 

Before we even started our downtown shopping adventure, we stopped to take a bunch of photos outside Craig’s Cornerstone. The building’s vintage signage and facades have been well maintained, making it a highly Instagrammable location for your impromptu day trip photoshoot.

Inside the historic building, you’ll find local shops. Craig’s Cornerstone itself is interesting because each main level store has its own entrance, but each store is also connected inside, like an indoor, open-air market or mini mall. 

Photo: Linda Hoang

Get your shoe and accessory fix at Harbrook and Paisley.

At Harbrook and Paisley, there are plenty of high-quality boots, shoes and jackets to peruse. As you move along the street and through the historic building, you’ll come to MACK: Modern Age Clothing for Kids, featuring trendy childrens’ outfits. Peeling paint inside reveals the building’s original brickwork from a century ago, giving it a cool, retro vibe. As you walk south through the store, you’ll enter Fresh Apparel, a men’s and women’s boutique clothing store with a beach bum lifestyle feel.

Photo: Linda Hoang

Stylish clothing can be found at Fresh Apparel.

Fresh Apparel owner Melissa Cusack moved to Vermilion over a decade ago from Saskatchewan and started her business this spring. Business has been booming, with about half of her clientele being local, and half coming from out of town, like us that day. Cusack says it’s an exciting time to be in Vermilion.

“It’s really going in a good direction,” she says. “There are a lot more local stores, and it felt like it was the right time to open a shop.” 

Photo: Linda Hoang

You just might find that health elixir you've been looking for at Lighten Therapy. The shop also offers wellness workshops.

Down the road at Lighten Up Therapy and Wellness Centre, owner Amber Howard beams as she talks about the town of Vermilion. “It’s a one-of-a-kind small town,” Howard says. “I can’t count the number of new businesses that have popped up. And there’s a good community feeling here.”

Lighten Up Therapy sells health foods, energy crystals, alternative therapy books and trinkets, and offers wellness workshops. It’s the only store of its kind in Vermilion and is attracting visitors from all over the prairies. Most of their wellness workshops are filled with tourists.  

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Mom and daughter duo Carolyn Greene and Kelsey McNutt own the Pet Boutique & Salon across the street, another new downtown Vermilion shop offering pet grooming and unique gifts and accessories for pets and pet owners alike, easily rivalling inventory you might find in big city stores. Fun fact: McNutt placed fourth in an international dog grooming competition earlier this year.

In between shopping, grab a bite to eat at Anthony’s Grill, where a sweet husband and wife duo will cook up some fine comfort food for you, including the best house-made fries, a perfectly cooked steak, and addictive lemon herb dry ribs. You’ll find small-town Alberta portion sizes here (that means – large!) and if you order the daily special, it’s not a question of soup or salad, you’ll get both. 

Photo: Linda Hoang

Head to The Red Brick for an afternoon pick-me-up.

One of the town’s most popular spots, The Red Brick cafe is an ode to Vermilion’s old red brick factory, which we learned operated for nearly a decade in 1906, producing more than 1.5 million bricks during that time. At The Red Brick, order an iced London Fog and have a giant snickerdoodle, then take home some locally produced honey. 

Photo: Linda Hoang

The Copper Cork, Vermilion's first and only distillery is opening in late September and will offer tours and tastings. You'll be able to take home a bottle (or two) of their spirits, too.

Don’t leave the city without a stop at the saloon, the speakeasy-style Copper Cork, Vermilion’s first and only distillery (opening late September 2019). We got a sneak peek visit with distiller and co-owner Todd Ree, who explained that the Copper Cork Distillery will make its own vodka, gin, moonshine, and amaretto. Visitors will be able to do tours, tastings and purchase full bottles (with copper caps!) to take home from their Vermilion adventure. We also learned that the Copper Cork Distillery equipment is named after the grandmothers’ of the four owners: Nellie, Helen, Shirley and Gertie, who lived during the prohibition era. Pretty neat. 

Photo: Linda Hoang

Todd Ree is one of the locals behind the Copper Cork, which will make vodka, gin, moonshine and amaretto. 

For Ree, opening the distillery here seems like the right thing to do, because as he says: Vermilion is a “happening place.”

Hours flew by and before we knew it, our day trip had come to an end and we still didn’t experience it all.

Don’t miss exploring this bustling small town’s downtown. #ExploreVermilion and discover a thriving, rural destination. You’ll find unique shops, friendly people, and an experience you won’t soon forget. 

Watch Artistic alchemy - #TakeItToTheLake in Vermilion on YouTube.

Try your hand at batik by signing up for the next workshop on Oct 23 at Heartworks Studio.

For more on how to #TakeItToTheLake this fall, search the tag on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or read more here.

Our friends at Travel Alberta want you to #ExploreAlberta this summer. Get going by visiting www.TravelAlberta.com 

Be sure to let us know what you find and share your adventures with the hashtag #TakeItToTheLake and #ExploreVermilion because you might be featured on ZenSeekers and our partners' social media channels.

Linda Hoang is a ZenSeekers' correspondent. Find her travel guides at www.linda-hoang.com, and follow her @lindork on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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