If I combine a booming economy with a friendly wild-west feel, then I automatically think of Calgary, Alberta in the wide-open spaces of Canada. Beautifully sited on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, this city of about 1.4 Million residents is large enough to offer the amenities of a big city while being small enough to have a sense of community.
What’s the point of the Calgary Tower?!
You’ll probably fly into YYC Calgary International Airport which is the home of Westjet Airlines. The airport is very modern and convenient. The simplest way to reach downtown is by taxi which should cost you between C$40-C$45 (£23-£26). The trip to town usually takes around 20 minutes depending on traffic. Once in the metropolitan area, Calgary is a very walkable city. It’s compact and most of the sites are very close together.
Here’s a pro-tip: If you’re planning on staying more than a few days and want to explore further afield, then I would recommend you rent a car. A car will allow you to visit neighbouring areas such as the Rockies and Banff National Park.
There are so many fun things to see and do in Calgary. It’s amazing location near the Canadian Rockies means that it’s the perfect destination for day trips. Here’s my shortlist in and around Calgary:
- The Calgary Stampede– Each July, Calgary comes alive with one of the biggest western-themed parties in the world; the Stampede. Experience the best of wild-west heritage at “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. In addition to the rodeo events, there are theme park rides, street food, barbecue and lots of cowboys! Big name music acts, especially from the country music genre, hold rousing concerts. This year, the Stampede is from July 9-18 and it’s fixin’ to be huge after the pandemic!
Take a hard right on Rodeo Drive!
- The Calgary Tower–Take the 62 second elevator trip to the observation deck of the Calgary Tower and catch a panoramic view of the city. You can even grab a cocktail with some appetizers with the best view in town.
- 17th Ave & The EntertainmentDistrict – With over 400 shops, this area is perfect if you’re looking for retail therapy. The area offers unique, quirky shops, jewellery stores, record shops and wine bars.
- Prince Island Park– Located on the Bow River, this downtown park is the perfect place for a picnic and stroll during the summer. The park features paved hiking trails, picnic areas, flower gardens and hosts cultural events.
- Calgary Farmer’s Market – This is the best place to sample local produce and mingle with artisans. It’s home to over 75 vendors and excellent street food.
- Horseback riding– Once you’ve visited the Stampede, it’s time jump in the saddle yourself. With Calgary’s proximity to the Canadian Rockies, it’s perfectly positioned for day trips.
- Heritage Park Historical Village– This is Canada’s largest living historical It’s a great way to learn about Calgary’s past by literally walking through history. The Historical Village covers local life from 1860 until the 1950s by staff in full period costume. You can enter all of the houses, stores and saloons and there’s even an old-fashioned ice-cream parlour.
- Royal Tyrrell Museum – This museum is located in Drumheller, 90 minutes away, but is 100% worth the journey. You’ll find 30 of the most complete dinosaur skeletons in the world, interactive exhibits and plenty of experts to walk you through a prehistoric journey. They also have a prehistoric marine exhibit that shows sea-creatures from 75 Million years ago.
Why does Banff sound like you’re holding back a naughty word?!
- Banff National Park– No trip to Calgary is complete without a trip to the Rockies. Banff, a UNESCO world heritage site, is just 1.5 hours away and is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Take the Banff gondola up Sulphur Mountain for unbeatable views. Apart from a wonderful drive, Banff is the perfect place to spend the day.
Calgary has a trendy food scene and there are constantly new eateries opening. Here are some of my recommendations for delicious places to eat:
- Tsujiri Calgary – This unique café is infamous for its curious teas, sweets, and meals made from green tea leaves from Uji in Kyoto. This Japanese tea house offers some of the most Instagram-able treats in Calgary. Make sure to try the matcha souffle pancakes.
- Moonlight & Eli– One of my favourite spots is this unique fondue eatery. What’s better than champagne and fondue? The restaurant is known for its quirky and welcoming service. Their pink building is inviting and the atmosphere is perfect for a girl’s night or date night.
- The Big Cheese Poutinerie– You shouldn’t visit Canada without trying their signature dish; poutine. This restaurant offers a delicious variety of poutine recipes which include the freshest french fries, authentic cheese curds, and an assortment of secret gravy sauces.
Don’t get saucy with me, Poutine!
As you’d expect for a youthful community, the city also attracts numerous concerts and cultural events. Calgary has a busy bar scene and lively nightlife. These are my favourite party spots:
- Cowboys Dance Hall– There’s no better place to party during the Calgary Stampede, or any other time of the year! I love pulling on my boots, donning a cowboy hat and heading out for a night of dancing and music.
- Habitat Living Sound– Over the last 10 years, Habitat has been instrumental in developing Calgary’s house music scene. It’s hosted some legendary DJ over the years, including long-time residencies and developed some amazing social events.
- Last Best Brewing & Distilling– This venue is all about beer culture. The bar offers their unique, in house beers which are delicious and fresh. Ales, IPA’s and Lagers aren’t the only drinks on offer. They also have a specially curated cocktail menu and their outdoor patio is the perfect spot to enjoy a drink or three.
Calgary is known for its modern and welcoming accommodations. In addition to home-stays through the usual sites, these are my favourite hotels:
- Hotel Arts Kensington– This beautiful and stylish hotel offers elegant rooms with state of the art amenities. It’s located just steps from the Bow River in a quiet area but only 2 minutes from the city centre.
- The Fairmont Palliser– This excellent hotel is a landmark building with a rich history, beautiful architecture and luxurious feel. It’s seen the likes of celebrities and royalty. The hotel’s large indoor pool and hot tub will force you to relax.
- Hotel Le Germain– This eco-friendly hotel sits perfectly in downtown. Its luxury spa is the perfect retreat for a break from the busy city life.
Here’s another pro-tip: During the Calgary Stampede, accommodation prices and flights can be high and less available. If you’re planning on visiting during the Stampede, then plan ahead so you can save.
Finally, The Fairmont Banff-Springs is one of the most beautiful hotels in the entire world and was a centre during the Calgary Winter Olympics of 1988. Check it out and at least have a relaxing lunch there on the banks of the lake, even if you don’t stay there.
Go uptown in downtown Calgary!
Calgary is an awesome, wealthy, yet welcoming metropolis with a young population. It’s an amazing place to witness classic western culture, enjoy excellent food and fun nightlife while being close to some of the most beautiful natural sights in the world. Visit Calgary and tell them, ‘Isabella says howdy!”