Fort Macleod was founded as a North-West Mounted Police barracks, and is named in honour of the North-West Mounted Police Colonel James Macleod. The fort was built as a 70 by 70 meters square (233 by 233 ft) on October 18, 1874. The east side held the men's quarters and the west side held those of the Mounties. Buildings such as hospitals, stores, and guardrooms were in the south end. Stables and the blacksmith's shop were in the north end.
The town grew on the location of the Fort Macleod North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) Barracks, the second headquarters of the NWMP after Fort Livingstone was abandoned in 1876. Fort Macleod was established in 1874 on an peninsula along the Oldman River, then moved in 1884 to the present town location.
Once agricultural settlement and the railway came to the region, Macleod boomed. The town became a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) divisional point and frontier wood construction began to be replaced by brick and sandstone. In 1906 a fire devastated the downtown and destroyed most of the wooden buildings. From 1906 to 1912 Macleod had its greatest period of building, as more new brick and stone building replaced the destroyed wooden ones. Then in 1912 the CPR moved the divisional point and 200 jobs to Lethbridge, devastating the local economy. Fort Macleod ceased to grow, and in 1924 was forced to declare bankruptcy. Until the 1970s, the town's economy stagnated and the buildings from the turn-of-the-century remained untouched.
Ang Lee's Academy Award-winning movie Brokeback Mountain was filmed in part in Fort Macleod. The laundry apartment is located at 2422 Third Avenue, where a sign is posted marking the "passionate reunion" of Jack and Ennis. Passchendaele was also filmed in Fort Macleod's historic downtown, which acted as a stand-in for Calgary circa 1915. Scenes involving the dust storm and Matthew McConaughey's character were also filmed in Fort Macleod in Christopher Nolan's 2014 film Interstellar, where the giant dust clouds were created on location using large fans to blow cellulose-based synthetic dust through the air.
Highway 3 approaches from the west and east, Highway 2 approaches from the north and south; they intersect just east and west of the city, and run together through the city.
Highway 2 is Alberta's main north-south highway; it comes down from Edmonton and passes through Calgary east of downtown. Within Calgary, part of it is called the "Macleod Trail".
- 1 Fort Macleod Airport. General aviation only, no scheduled service. Many of the buildings date from its days as a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan base.
- 1 Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (Estipah-skikikini-kots) (From the major intersection of Highways 2 and 3, go about 1 km north on Highway 2, turn left (west) onto Highway 785 West, follow signs for about 15 km), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Summer 9AM-5PM, Winter 10AM-5PM. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been in use for 5,500 years as a place where the aboriginal people of the plains killed buffalo by stampeding them over a cliff. An interpretive centre built into a cliff has exhibits on the buffalo hunt. $9/adult, $5/youth, under 7 free.
- 2 The Fort Museum of the North West Mounted Police, 219 25th Street, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. May 1-18 and Sep 4-late Oct: W-Su 10AM - 4PM; May 19-Jun 30: daily 9AM-5PM; July 1-early Sep: daily 9AM-6PM; late Oct-April 30: by appointment only. Commemorates the role of the North West (later Royal) Mounted Police in bringing English authority to the Canadian Plains during the 19th century. Interpretive exhibits, museum displays. Demonstration of horseback riding four times daily during the summer. $7.50, youth $5.50, child $4.50; less in shoulder season.
- The Collective, 210 Main St, ☏ . Vintage & artisan market gallery, repurposed/restyled/chalk painted decor, handcrafted objects made by local artists including jewellery, felting, paintings, mixed media.
- Cafe Orange, 257 24street, ☏ . M-W F 8AM–5PM, Th 8AM–8:30PM, Sa 9AM–4PM. Coffee shop, café, breakfast and lunch menus. Gluten-free options.
- BJ Teriyaki House & Waffles, 2323 7 Avenue, ☏ . Tu-Sa 9AM-9PM, Su 9AM-8PM. Two restaurants in one building: sushi on one side, waffles and ice cream on the other. Japanese, Sushi, Asian. No teriyaki waffles, because that would be gross.
- Homestead Bakeshop, 228 24 St, ☏ . M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa 7AM-5PM. Artisan baking of bread and pastries from scratch using ingredients from local producers and farmers where possible.
- Buffalo Jump Cafe (Head Smashed-In Cafeteria) (18 kilometres (15 minutes) north and west of Fort Macleod on secondary Highway #785 (paved)), ☏ . Apr 10-Oct 1: daily (hot grill closes at 4PM). 60 seat café offers native-themed fare, including buffalo stew, buffalo burgers and buffalo chilli. Traditional lunch bar fare includes burgers & fries or soup & sandwich.
- 1 Century II Motel, 462 24 Street, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Each simply furnished room includes wi-fi (in all areas), flatscreen cable TV, microwave, fridge, coffee machine, ensuite bathroom with hairdryer. Some rooms feature a kitchenette. From $69.
- 2 Sunset Motel, 104 Hwy 3 W, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Free WiFi and a flat-screen cable TV. 5 km from Fort Macleod airport. Free WiFi in all areas. A microwave, refrigerator and a coffee machine are provided in all rooms. A private bathroom is included. Some rooms feature a kitchenette. From $86.
- 3 Heritage Motel, 146 24th Street, ☏ .
- 4 Fort Motel, 451 24th Street, ☏ . Free Wifi, air conditioning, non-smoking rooms, kitchenette, pets allowed. From $59.
- 5 DJ Motel, 416 24th Street (Colonel Macleod Boulevard), ☏ .
|Routes through Fort Macleod|
|Calgary ← Claresholm ←||N S||→ Cardston → Great Falls via|
|Cranbrook ← Pincher Creek ←||W E||→ Lethbridge → Medicine Hat / Great Falls via|