Things YOU GOTTA SEE when visiting the Calgary area
Here are some quick suggestions for visitors with limited time in the City. The schedule is a suggestion for those who want to see the essence of Calgary in only a couple of days. we also have tips just for Stamnpede Week
One Day Stay
Here are the things you should try to do on your first day (this may take more than a day if you are travelling with children)
Visit the top of the Calgary Tower, to see the city, its dense cluster of office towers, and the countryside in all directions, and especially the nearby mountains.
Head to Stephen Avenue, Calgary’s predestrian mall, to the Glenbow Museum with 6 floors of first rate exhibits of native Indian culture, pioneer life, and the oil & gas industry.
Two blocks east is the National Music Centre, with exhits of keyboard instruments over several centuries, and Canadian musical talent over the years.
For a quick “breather”, visit The Core and TD Square with its 4 acre Devonian Gardens rooftop garden park, with fishponds, greenwalls, and views of the 3 block long mall. Outside, on Stephen Avenue you see the white “Palm Fronds” sculptures which actual serve a purpose: they deflect and disperse winds that may be funnelled from the tall towers around this block of the pedestrian mall. Head north on 1st Street past the “Bow” office tower and the “Wonderwall” white sculpture of a human head (pictured above).
Head down down 3rd Street to the Bow River and the iconic Calatravas designed Peace Bridge and then have a walk along the river pathways with a stop for an ice cream at the Eau Claire Market.
Continue east toward on the south bank of the Bow River to the East Village boardwalk, visit Fort Calgary and cross the river to St Patrick’s Island.
If you have children with you, you can continue east over the visit the Calgary Zoo (you can take the Northeast L.R.T. line from downtown to the “Zoo” station) to see the Prehistoric Dinosaur Park and the Mountain Wilderness areas.
It’s open every single day of the year!. If you don’t have kids with you you can cross back to the south side of the Bow River and check out the shops, galleries, reastaurants, and pubs in quaint Inglewood.
Feel like checking out Calgary’s night life? The under 25 set is generally found along 1st Street SW (around 13 Avenue) and clustered around 17th Avenue and 4th Street SW.
If you’ve got kids, end the day at Eau Claire, where there’s a movie theatre, a variety of shops and services, and two blocks away is Calgary’s Chinatown where you can sample the products and tastes of the Far East.
Two Day Stay
Here are suggestions for a second day in Calgary:
If you are staying downtown, have breakfast at the historical 1886 Cafe.
Head west from downtown and cross the Box River to Memorial Drive west, which connects to the Trans Canada and takes you up the hill to Canada Olympic Park (just watch for the Olympic Ski Jumps). See the Canada Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park, and try the ski jump simulator and the bobsled simulator. If you have the will, take the actual bobsled with a trained driver.
Head uphill/south along Sarcee Trail (with great views of Downtown Calgary, to the east) and then Crowchild Trail South to Glenmore Park North and Weaselhead Flats, where you can see some of Calgary’s local wildlife in a natural setting.
Drive around the reservoir to Heritage Park which is a living history of pioneer Alberta from before the First World War (open seasonally) and a great exhibit of early cars and oil & gas exploration.
Explore the many shops, restaurants and boutiques along 4th Street SW, 17th Avenue SW (around 8th Street), in Inglewood (“Atlantic Avenue”, known for its antique shops and pubs), or in Kensington (just across the Bow River via the Peace Bridge), all of which are a short hop from downtown.
If you are spending more time, we have more information about Calgary’s attractions!
Calgary for Stampede Week
Stampede Week always begins the Friday following July 2nd (to give the American cowboys extra time to drive up to Calgary). The world televised Stampede Kick off Parade begins at 9 am on the first Friday of Stampede Week, though you many show up as early as 6 or 7 to get a good front row seat. The Parade runs along 9th Avenue (westbound, against the regular traffic direction), 10th Street SW, and back (eastbound) on 6th Avenue, but the best lighting for photos is now along 6th Avenue). Many Stampede parties (and the various “saloons”) already start on the Wednesday or Thursday prior to Parade.
Check out the FREE Stampede Breakfasts outside downtown office buildings between 7 and 9 am (for the workers), and outside many hotels and shopping malls between 9 and 11 (for tourists, not for the workers!).
You can also get chow every morning at “Rope Square” in the Olympic Plaza between 10 and noon. Some breakfasts come complete with Indians in traditional attire, marching bands from all over the world, gunfighter shootouts, and wagon rides. The biggest breakfasts are held the Saturday after the parade at Chinook Centre (in the south) and Market Mall (in the northwest), which typically feed tens of thousands, while listening to a variety of country acts! A savvy visitor can attend 3-4 pancake breakfast each day, for the food, the fun, and the festivities!
Square dancing, marching bands, and Indian dances are held at Rope Square (in Olympic Plaza by City Hall) from 10 until noon.
From 2 p.m. on, you can party at one of the saloons set up for Stampede Week, look for the huge tents on parking lots. You could also stop in at the popular country bars, including Ranchman’s (on Macleod Trail), as well as a number of saloons set up for Stampede Week around the downtown core.
Even the “regular” bars get into the act with straw on the floors and live country bands, and a cowboy theme.
We suggest heading down to the Stampede Park and taking in the Rodeo at 1 pm (this is what the Stampede is all about, after all). After the rodeo, tour the midway and the indoor vendors booths in the “Calgary Stampede Marketplace “in the BMO Centre (formerly called the Roundup Centre) in the Big Four Building. You can see a wide range of animals on display in the barns beside the Saddledome, and see Indians in their teepees (you may get to tour/inspect some) in the Indian Village across the Elbow River from the Saddledome and barns. For the Evening, either hit the Chuckwagon Races and Grandstand Show at 8 pm. The rodeo prizes are the biggest in the world for rodeo and chuckwagon races, and the show is always a thrill.
For those not into the animals, you can take in the Country Music at Nashville North all afternoon and even, and for pop-oriented acts head to the Coca Cola Stage adjacent to the BM Centre and the 17th Ave/MacLeod Trail main entrance. For those staying late (which may be tough with small kids) the Fireworks Show begins by around 11 pm each night (its coordinated with the Grandstand Show). The Stampede Midway and displays are open from 9 am until 1 the next morning with tons to do for all ages (if you’re taking the LRT, the last train) is well ALWAYS… the LRT runs 24 hours a day during Stampede Week.