Calgary, CANADA

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE STAMPEDE

THERE'S WILDERNESS AND CULTURE TOO

WHY I LOVE

CALGARY

  1. Environment and topography play such a big part in defining Canada and, in turn, the lifestyle of a city's people. With Calgary being on the cusp of the mountains and the plains, you have a tonne of outdoor activity options in both summer and winter.
  2. Pubs! The Ship and Anchor is a world-famous-in-Calgary kind of place. There's also a great craft beer scene with local breweries such as Wild Rose and bars with a bazillion beer options like The National and Craft Beer Market.
  3. Calgary is starting to prove its arts and culture chops beyond its rodeo upbringing with awesome initiatives like Beakerhead and the National Music Centre, and grassroot theatre companies like The Kinkonauts and Lunchbox Theatre.

24 HRS IN CALGARY

SEE, EAT & DO

Breakfast at La Boulangerie. Crepes to die for. My favourite is the salmon with arugula and cream cheese. Calgary has a great trail system surrounding its rivers – download the pathways app from the City of Calgary for maps and tips. Head out for a run, hire a bike, or just meander. Or head to Butter Beauty Parlour right next door to La Boulangerie for some pampering.

If it’s summer, grab a tube and float the Bow River! They have tightened up the rules after too much drunken tomfoolery though – every floater will need a lifejacket, bailer and whistle but you can easily pick these up from a Walmart or hire from Lazy Day Raft Rentals.

If it’s winter, go tobogganing! There are a ton of great hills that’ll give you enough of a rush when you whizz down but aren’t too steep that you won’t want to climb up it again. The City of Calgary lists good spots on their website.

If it’s a Saturday head to Wurst for Bavarian night. Then catch a gig at Broken City. Other fab dinner options include Model Milk or Market on 17th Avenue.

TOP 5 BEST

SPOTS TO EAT

Village Ice Cream whip up their super delicious creamy goods on site, using local suppliers like Phil and Sebastian Coffee. Expect line-ups, especially at the Victoria Park location, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Every month they switch out their specials with different creations like Chilli Chocolate and Cereal Crunch.

 

Budget.

Calgarians love their pho! Every neighbourhood seriously has a Vietnamese restaurant (or three). My favourite by a long shot is Pho Huong Viet on 17th Ave.

 

Budget.

The Lazy Loaf and Kettle is a cozy cafe and bakery with the best make-your-own sandwiches. It’s on the main drag heading west out of the city, so stop here to grab your lunch for day hikes in Kananaskis and Banff National Park.

 

Budget.

A local institution and situated beside the Bow River, River Cafe is an idyllic spot for a splash out. It’s contemporary Canadian menu is top notch.

 

High end.

The Container Bar is an alleyway bar, tucked behind the Winebar in Kensington. Made from recycled goods and furnishings, it’s a unique spot for a summer afternoon tipple.

 

Mid Range.

INSIDER TIPS

  1. Drumheller and Royal Tyrrell Museum. Alberta is dinosaur country and even if dinos aren’t normally your thing, the Royal Tyrrell Museum is a well-curated museum, dedicated to paleontology. And, make sure you get a milkshake from Bernie and The Boys Bistro on the way back to Calgary. It’s a really typical North American roadside diner – burgers, fries and all the greasy trimmings. But they have 50+ milkshakes flavours. And they’re pretty darn amazing.
  2. Kananaskis Country. Everyone knows about Banff National Park and the flagship Lake Louise. But before you hit Banff there is a gorgeous nugget of Canada called Kananaskis Country. Snowshoe and hike in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park or have lunch and a browse around the shops in Brag Creek.
  3. Waterton Lakes. Really close to the Montana border, this is another often-overlooked National Park. Great buffalo and bear spotting! Hike up to the top of the Bear’s Hump for stellar views.
    1. If you’re heading to the Chuckwagons or Rodeo during Stampede, go budget and get standing area tickets. You’re closer to the action and the atmosphere is livelier than the grandstand.
    2. The Telus World of Science Centre hosts adults only nights on the second Thursday of every month.
    3. Check out Market Collective for local artists and lovely things.

Get outside! Bike beside, or ice skate on, the Bow River. If you’re traveling further afield, drive the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper. It’s breathtaking in both summer and winter.

10 days of cowboy hats, daisy dukes, free flowing alcohol aka the Stampede. Love it or hate it, the Stampede is certainly unique, and with a mix of rodeo, chuckwagon races, showgrounds, carnival rides, deep-fried food, and tons of gigs, the Stampede generally has something for everyone.

 

Corporate Calgary switches its ties for cowboy shirts and people only go to work for the boozy client lunches. Apparently the saying goes ‘it ain’t cheating, if it’s stampeding’.

Music: The Rural Alberta Advantage and Windigo

Apps: The City of Calgary pathways and bikeways

Websites: Calgary is Awesome, Dote Magazine, Avenue

Calgary on Instagram: @tourismcalgary, @gerard_yunker, @theglobaldish

ESSENTIALS

  1. Eat Vietnamese. Every corner has a Vietnamese restaurant. The meals are always big and the bill is consistently cheap.
  2. If you’re in Calgary for the ski hills, stop by 7/11, Costco, or Macs for discounted lift tickets.
  3. Feel smug with Alberta’s 5% tax. If you’re travelling throughout Canada, stock up with what you need before heading to the next province.
  4. Several times a season, Mt Norquay offers $2 lift tickets with their Toonie Tuesday program
  5. Free admission is generally offered by the Glenbow Museum on public holidays and on other special occasions. Keep an eye on their website.

For some classic Canadian experiences:

  1. Go curling. Most curling clubs rent out sheets for group events. Hurry hard!
  2. Have caesars, wings, and poutine at a local bar, preferably while watching hockey, eh.
  3. Go tail-gating before a Stampeders game (Canadian football).

The downtown core has a mix of accommodation with a range of prices and is convenient to transit options. The downtown can be pretty quiet on the weekends though, so look for airbnb places in fringe suburbs like Kensington, Inglewood, the Beltline or Bridgeland so you’re handy to good eats and things to do.

Calgary is, unfortunately, a city built for cars. The main highway system segregates the communities and neighbourhoods of wider Calgary, so stumbling across new spots can be tricky. Given that though, the downtown area and fringe suburbs are easily walkable and the public transit system is generally reliable. Hire a car if you can, so you can explore further afield.

 

On a positive note, Calgary has jumped on the carsharing bandwagon with Car2Go. It is membership based but, if you’re a member in your home city, your membership can be used in all Car2Go locations.

If the Stampede doesn’t sound like your thing, avoid Calgary in early July because it seriously becomes all about the cowboys. Also, the downtown core is a snoozeville on the weekend, so search out entertainment in the Beltine and Kensington.

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