History in Heisler—a floating hotel door, Canada’s biggest baseball glove and the best, housemade burgers
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In Alberta, there’s no shortage of stops to make if you’re planning on taking some day trips this summer. Less than 2 hours south east of Edmonton, you’ll come across the Village of Heisler in Flagstaff County, with a population of just 160 Albertans and some must-see businesses and attractions.
Canada’s Biggest Baseball Glove
Located in Heisler’s DJW Park you’ll find Canada’s biggest baseball glove.
The love of baseball runs deep in this village, home to the Cardinals baseball team, who were back-to-back-to-back-to-back champions of the Battle River Baseball League in 2012 through to 2015. The giant glove, which stands at 13.5 feet tall and 6.5 feet wide, was built in 2007 and is located right next to the town's pride and joy baseball diamond. The giant glove was built as a way for the community to commemorate the sport and the individuals who helped make the village a strong baseball community.
Heisler General Store and Bendfeld Meats
Pick up a savoury snack (call it a tasty memento) of homemade jerky, sausage, pepperoni and more, at the Heisler General Store and Bendfeld Meats, located on Heisler’s Main Street. At any given time you’ll find the back of the store busy as the team cures, processes and does custom cutting in-house.
Note: this small town store is cash only.
The historic Heisler Hotel and Big Willy’s Bar
No visit to Heisler can be complete without a stop into Big Willy’s Bar in the historic Heisler Hotel. Let’s start with the unique hotel, built in 1925. The building has been designated as a historic resource, a significant monument on the corner of Main Street and Lougheed Avenue, once a hub located right by the main railway tracks that run through town. The building’s original brick facade is still intact, the windows and parapets are also original—from 1925—as is the stairwell inside the hotel, which now operates as a bed and breakfast.
You might notice from the street that the hotel building features a second floor floating door to nowhere. Passersby can pretend there’s something more supernatural about this mysterious door, and it’s true if you never enter the building and ask its current co-owner Kelly about it, it could live on forever as that very unique and strange building you passed in Heisler.
But the truth is, as you might expect from buildings built nearly 100 years ago, some aspects of the exterior have changed. There used to be a balcony from the floating second floor door that connected to stairs taking you down to the hotel bar. The balcony and stairs were removed over the years, but the door stayed in place—turning heads and making for a good conversation piece for residents and tourists alike.
Kelly keeps track of visitors who share how the historic hotel is a part of their own history. Many visitors mention how their parents worked at the hotel, or they spent their childhood in the area. Even descendants of the original hotel owners will come by to see their family’s legacy continue to thrive.
A thriving aspect of the business is Big Willy’s Bar, named after Kelly’s husband (last name Williams), the sport-themed pub features a full menu of must-order, housemade dishes including the bar’s famous burgers. Everything about these 8 oz, AAA beef burgers are made lovingly, fresh daily, in-house. There are set burgers as well as rotating features, including the delicious blueberry goat cheese beef burger I tried during my stop in. Gravies, dressings, and desserts are also all made in house. Try their hand-cut fries and from-scratch pizza crust with housemade sauces too. This is in no way you’re typical pub food and is a must-stop on your day trip (take advantage of the outdoor patio seats), and for locals, a great take-out spot as well.
Kelly with the Heisler Hotel and Big Willy’s Bar, is one of many Alberta small business owners who are participating in the first-ever #FlagstaffOnline Showcase taking place this summer June 11, 18, 25, and July 2 (Thursdays) on the Flagstaff County Facebook Page.
The virtual showcase is a way for Albertans to discover local entrepreneurs, creators, and experiences in the Flagstaff region through virtual tours, how-tos, giveaways, and online opportunities to #ShopLocal. Whether you’re in the area or just outside (Edmontonians, we’re looking at you!) virtually “visiting” the region through the showcase, and then actually planning an in-person visit, is just one way to explore your own backyard this summer.
Learn more about some of the great businesses and experiences in Flagstaff County, check out: Day Trip Travel Guide to Flagstaff County (central Alberta) - Stops to make in Daysland and Heisler