With unique attractions and a lively arts and cultural scene, Calgary is bustling with activity every season of the year.
Attractions and events
From the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth to grizzly bears and dinosaurs, Calgary is bound to please. If you have ever watched the Olympics and thought to yourself, “I want to try that!” here’s your chance to follow through. Canada Olympic Park on the western edge of the city was the epicenter of events during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. Today it’s part of WinSport, where Olympic hopefuls continue to train in state of the art facilities and visitors can live out their own Olympic dreams. Ride the fastest and longest single zipline in North America from the top of a ski jump, or grab a seat in the back of a bobsled and ride the course that made the Jamaican bobsled team famous. Be sure to ride the Skyline Luge that parallels the Olympic track, twisting and turning for 5,905 feet and dropping over 328 feet by the time you get to the bottom. While you’re on the grounds, spend some time at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame with its 12 galleries and over 50 hands-on exhibits. Winsport is open year round so come back and ski this winter.
On the animal side of the attractions list is the fantastic Calgary Zoo. It is home to almost 1,000 animals, including the ones you would hope to see in their natural Alberta habitats. Visit the Canadian Wilds exhibit to see moose, elk, grizzly and black bears, wolves, cougars, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. The Dinosaurs Alive exhibit celebrates the fact Alberta has the largest deposit of cretaceous fossils in the world. Watch for the animatronic dinosaurs, a big attraction for dino fans of all ages.
Other animals that take center stage are the stars of the rodeo at the annual Calgary Stampede. Cheer on your favorite athletes, human and animal, in the barrel racing, bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc competitions and at the chuckwagon races. The whole city celebrates its western heritage for ten days every July. Country music, cultural exhibits, cowboy food and fashion can all be found on the Stampede Grounds and throughout the city.
Speaking of western heritage, no visit would be complete without a trip back in time at Heritage Park Historical Village. Canada’s largest living history museum has more than 180 interactive exhibits spread throughout 127 acres of land. Hop on board the steam train and tour the park, take a boat ride on the paddlewheeler, ride an old fashioned Ferris wheel and pick up homemade pastries and sweets.
Musical choices abound. The Calgary Folk Music Festival, Calgary International Blues Festival and the Opera in the Village are a few of the top draws. A must-see for music fans is Studio Bell’s National Music Centre, devoted to all things music, including performances, recording, technology and the promotion of musical education. Check out over 2,000 musical artifacts and 22,000 square feet of exhibitions that tell the story of music in Canada.
If you’re after something different, Beakerhead is an annual celebration where engineering and art make a happy mix. The streets of Calgary become a giant laboratory in which you might see engineers using technology to create art, home-built scientific contraptions, and all kinds of unique events. Sled Island pulls in a heck of a crowd, with the help of five days of music, film, visual arts and comedy at 35 different venues around the city. For everyone, there’s GlobalFest, a yearly multicultural festival and international fireworks competition. Come on, who doesn’t like fireworks?
How to spend a day in Calgary
You are spoiled for choice in Calgary but if you want to go with the flow and be part of the energy unique to this city, here are options in the heart of the city.
Start your day with a walk along the Bow River pathway system. Cross the river into pedestrian friendly Kensington Village and grab a raw food smoothie or a sit-down breakfast – more than 40 restaurants and coffee shops to choose from. Then let the shopping begin. After Kensington add to your shopping list stops at the CORE shopping center on Stephen Avenue and the trendy boutiques along 17th Avenue.
Hit the heights for lunch in the rotating restaurant atop the Calgary Tower, 4,029 feet above sea level. After, take the self-guided multimedia tour of the 360 degree observation deck and venture out onto a glass walkway, 626 feet above the downtown core.
Next stop is the nearby Glenbow Museum, home to the largest art collection in Western Canada and a great place to learn about its history. For more on the history of Calgary, visit Fort Calgary just 10 minutes away, established by the North West Mounted Police in 1875.
After a stroll around St. Patrick’s Island, a green escape on the Bow River, it’s time to get dinner. There are plenty of eclectic choices in nearby Inglewood, Calgary’s oldest neighborhood, or along historic Stephen Avenue Walk downtown.
Are you ready for a night on the town? Try a dose of culture downtown at Arts Commons, where you can take in live theater at a number of venues or a symphony at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. Afterward, return to 17th Avenue or the Kensington area to visit any number of bars, pubs and clubs.
Getting tired? Grab your next Facebook cover photo in front of the beautifully illuminated Peace Bridge crossing the Bow River and then call it a night.
Learn more about Calgary.