Known as the gateway to the Rockies, Calgary, Alberta is a booming oil town where people come from all over Canada to take advantage of its scenery and outdoor life. There is no shortage of things to do, with year round entertainment and clean atmosphere you are sure to always have the time of your life.
Here is just a small list of things to do in the city of Calgary.
10. Museums and Cultural Centres
Heritage Park Historical Village
The park is located on 66 acres (267,000 m²) of parkland on the banks of the Glenmore Reservoir, along the city's southwestern edge. It is one of the city's most visited tourist attractions. It is also the largest living historical park in Canada. The park is branded as a living museum since it features a village that was recreated to appear as it might have in late 19th and early 20th century Alberta. Many of the historical buildings are real and were transported to the park to be placed on display. Others are re-creations of actual buildings. Most of the structures are furnished and decorated with genuine artifacts. Even the park's staff costumes and maintenance vehicles are true to the time.
- Make sure to visit the baker's shop to buy bread, you'll never find tastier food.
- Don't forget the train exhibit. It's off the beaten path and can sometimes be overlooked.
Calgary also has several museums, such as;
- The Glenbow Museum
- Aero Space Museum
- The Naval Museum of Alberta
- The Military Museums
- Fort Calgary
9. Calgary Parks
If you prefer the tranquility of parks, Calgary has a few to choose from. Here are my three favourite;
Nose Hill Park
The park is one of the largest municipal parks in Canada and North America. It is a natural environment park, commonly regarded as a retreat from city life and a place to enjoy nature.
- Since the park is a natural preserve, stick to the trails.
The park is located along the Bow River in the city's northwest district. It is a local favourite for winter skating, summer canoeing, and year round access to trails and fire-pits.
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The island has a surface of 20 hectares and is linked by three bridges. It is part of the pathway and hiking trail system lining both sides of the Bow River. The southern arm of the river has been landscaped into a lagoon, while the eastern end of the island re-creates a wetland environment. Geese and mallard ducks are abundant in the park.
The park hosts many festivals such as the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Shakespeare in the park, Carifest, Canada Day, Heritage Day, Afrikadey and Barbeque on the Bow, as well as busking events.
- If you have an affinity for fine dining, go to River Café, a world-class restaurant that can only be accessed by foot over one of the bridges to the island.
8. Farmers Market
The Farmers Market offers local farmers the opportunity to sell their products directly to their customers. Inside the market you can find many aspiring musical artists showcasing their talent.
- The market can get very crowded (since it is a local hotspot) so avoid peak hours.
7. Eau Clair Market
Forming the heart of vibrant Eau Clair and adjacent to Prince's Island Park, Eau Clair Market has over 60 stores, restaurants and services and 6 Cineplex Screens, making it Calgary's unique downtown shopping and entertainment destination.
6. Calgary Olympic Park
During the 1988 Olympics, Calgary Olympic Park was the primary venue for ski jumping, bobsleigh, and luge. They still maintain the facilities for training and competitive purposes. In the winter, the park is used for downhill skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. In the summer, the park is used for warm-weather sports such as cycling (there are 25 km of bike trails) and is also the site of a number of summer festivals. The park is also home to a National Sports School and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.
5. Calgary Tower
Officially opened June 30th 1968, the ‘Tower' has become the City of Calgary's most famous and identifiable physical landmark. One of the first towers of its kind, the Calgary Tower offers the best view in Calgary for tourists.
The Tower has an Observation Deck that allows people to step onto a glass floor and look strait down 525 feet. Above the observation deck is the Panorama Dining Room, a restaurant that serves the finest Canadian cuisine.
Throughout the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, a flame burned at the top of the Tower, making the Calgary Tower the "World's Largest Olympic Torch."
4. Devonian Garden
The Devonian Garden is a large indoor urban park in the heart of downtown Calgary. The indoor park covers 2.5 acres of climate controlled area located on three floors of the Toronto Dominion Square, near the pedestrian street of Stephen Avenue. The garden contains more than 20,000 plants representing 135 tropical and local species that are housed in an area decorated with waterfalls, fountains, bridges, koi and turtles pools. Sections of the park have been named Quiet Garden, Sun Garden, Creek Bed and the Reflecting Pond in case you are planning on meeting up with anyone there. Various sculptures dot the garden, as well as hosts a permanent art exhibition showcasing the work of local artists.
- The food court is adjacent to the garden in its upper level and eating in the garden is permitted.
3. Spruce Meadows
Located at the very edge of Calgary's southern border, Spruce Meadows is a place where some of the best come to compete in international equestrian (horse-jumping) competitions. The best part about the major events is that they are free to enjoy and watch. Just enter the grounds and reserve your seat. There is also an indoor clubhouse that offers a terrific view of the field for a premium cost.
- If at all possible select a seat in the shade.
2. Calgary Flames and the Red Mile
Calgary has more to offer than just mountains and cowboys. One of the typical Calgarian pastimes is to go see a Flames hockey game at the Calgary Saddledome. And after the excitement of the game is over, spectators spill out into the streets and celebrate on 17th Avenue, otherwise called the Red Mile.
- Never go to Flames game without wearing Red. You'll feel awkward if you don't.
1. Calgary Stampede
Most people will tell you that the best time to visit Calgary, Alberta is during Stampede Week in early July. Everyone dusts off their favourite Stetsons and joins in with the festivities. You'll find waiters at restaurants, and tellers at the bank wearing western attire.
Getting tickets can be expensive as they charge a park entrance fee as well as the events tickets. The entrance fee will get you access to the park and the shows that are preformed throughout the day. The rides and venues are extra and have a way of emptying your pockets fast. So here's my tip as a local who has learned how to enjoy the events without busting my budget;
- If you are going to the park leave your car. Parking is a major revenue producer for these people and can charge you over $20 for a pass if you can find one. The LRT (light rail transit) is just over $2 and it is convenient.
- Get to the park early. I might get into trouble saying this but you can avoid paying the entrance fee by getting to the park before they open. Be the first in line for the free pancake breakfast and if you decide to leave you can get your hand stamped and return later for the night performances.
- The same trick works for the parking. If you park in a lot before the attendant stands watch it's free of charge, and they can't tow it away.
The Calgary Stampede attracts million of visitors each year, but don't confine yourself to the Stampede Park. Since it can get very crowded, Calgarians prefer to put on their own community Stampede events. All over the city little festivities are going on. They may include free pancake breakfasts and activities for the children. Just keep an eye in the paper for event times and places.
Festivals and Events
If you love excitement, Calgary offers year round festivals and events.
- Dragon Boat Race
- Calgary Marathon
- Calgary Folk Music Festival
- Shakespeare in the park
- Canada Day
- Heritage Day
- Barbecue on the Bow
- Taste of Calgary
Calgary is often overlooked because of its ‘cowtown' reputation. I hope I have helped develop a better understanding of the many things this great western city can offer.