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> Starter Kit for Calgary, Alberta, Essential information about Calgary
moinmotion
post Apr 6 2008, 11:26 PM
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Starter Kit for Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Yes, it’s the gateway to Banff and the Rockies, but there is also lots to explore right here in this youthful, vibrant and booming city of 1 million where students and young professionals rub shoulders with cowboys and oil tycoons.


When to Visit
Due to its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, Calgary has erratic weather all year round, meaning that layering is always a good idea. Summers (June through August) are very pleasant, with daytime temperatures averaging in the mid 20’s Celsius / 80’s Farenheit, but evenings cooling off to the extent that a sweater is often required. This is the best time for festivals and enjoying various outdoor attractions, including the world-famous Calgary Stampede in July.

Winters (November through February) are all over the map. Temperatures can get as low as the -20’s Celsius (that’s below 0 in Fahrenheit), but are often moderated by Chinooks – a phenomenon caused when warm surface air is trapped underneath colder air at higher altitudes. The change can be very rapid – it’s not unusual to see a 10 or 15 degree change in the space of 24 hours!

My favorite time in the city is the month of September. Temperatures are still warm, autumn colors are on display, the fall arts season starts up again, and the tourist crowds have dwindled.


Getting Around

If you're staying downtown and plan to keep your sightseeing to the core, you can make do on foot, particularly in the summer.

Calgary’s transit system includes of the C-Train and a network of buses. While it will get you around to many of the sights around town, it’s not as efficient or comprehensive as it should be for a city of this size. Calgarians love their vehicles, and shifting people to transit is going to take a good long time.

Cabs are costly and often in short supply, so depending on what you want to do, it could very well be worth renting a car for at least part of your visit. While parking downtown is expensive, it’s affordable or free in all other parts of town, and a car is the best way to get to some of the places I mention below, such as Spruce Meadows and the parks. The city is easy to navigate, with a system of numbered streets and avenues radiating out into the 4 quadrants from the city centre. Rent-A-Wreck has rates from $20 per day.


What to Do

Calgary Tower – Start with a high speed elevator ride to the observation deck at the top for 360 degree views of the city skyline and mountains beyond. If you’re not freaked out by heights, you can also step out onto the glass-floored platform and look down at the traffic 525 feet directly below you! During the Winter Olympics in 1988, a flame was burned at the top of the tower for the duration of the games to symbolize the Olympic torch. Today, the flame is lit for special occasions such as Canada Day, or when The Calgary Flames hockey team makes it to the NHL playoffs.

+15 Walkway System – this unique network of walkways elevated 15 metres above ground (hence the name) connects the city’s downtown office towers. The indoor passageways come in very handy on the coldest of winter days. There’s a hidden “city within a city” up there – shops, restaurants, services, artwork. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re downtown during the week, but virtually deserted on weekends.

Stephen Avenue – An outdoor pedestrian mall located on 8th Ave between 1st St. SE and 4th St. SW. The best time to visit is around the noon hour when office workers pour outside for some fresh air, and you’ll often see live bands and buskers performing. Some of the oldest historic buildings in the city are here, as well as a number of restaurants, bars, theatres, stores, and shopping malls. You’ll also find Olympic Plaza on the east end, and Art Central (a complex of unique galleries, shops, and cafes) a block north on the corner of 7th Ave and Centre St.

Olympic Plaza - Built for medal presentations during the 1988 Winter Olympics, this site is still popular today for concerts, festivals and particularly for ice skating in the winter months. 8th Ave and Mcleod Trail SE.

Nose Hill Park – A huge natural grasslands park right in the middle of the city. Full of hills and valleys, it has tons of great hiking and mountain biking trails. Bus #5 will take you to the park.

Fish Creek Provincial Park – at the southern end of the city, this park is even bigger than Nose Hill. It too has a network of trails, and the ecosystem here is more varied, including forest, grassland, and aquatic areas. Buses: 28, 44, and 83 stop at the north-central edge of the park.

Spruce Meadows – Hang out with the horsy set at this premier show-jumping facility located in ranchlands on the southern edge of the city. Equestrian tournaments are held throughout the summer, and less frequently in spring and fall. For major tournaments, there is a free shuttle bus departing frequently from the Somerset/Bridlewood LRT station.

Festivals and Events:

A sampling of festivals appears below; for more listings go to: http://calgary.foundlocally.com/Entertainm...stivalsList.htm

- Early February: Calgary Winter Festival – skating, ice sculptures, etc.
- Mid March: Rodeo Royal – indoor rodeo where the Stampede Queen and Princesses are crowned
- Late June: C-Jazz Festival – live jazz at a number of venues around the city
- Early July: Calgary Exhibition and Stampede – For 10 days every July, Calgarians don jeans and cowboy hats and generally embrace all things related to rodeo culture. It kicks of with a parade on the first Friday, and the festivities continue with a world-class rodeo, midway and exhibition at the Stampede grounds, pancake breakfasts on the streets (many of them free), and parties galore at bars and clubs all over town, many with live country music.
- Late July: Calgary Folk Music Festival
- First weekend in August: Heritage Day – multicultural event at Prince’s Island
- Late August / Early September – International Fireworks Competition at Elliston Park


Shopping

17th Ave SW: The area between 4th and 14th Streets has an edgy feel, with its mix of independent shops, art galleries, consignment stores, restaurants, and nightclubs. Gravity Pope is a super funky shoe store, Focus and A Store Called Worth sell fashion forward clothing, and iAppeal carries great gifts and accessories. For youthful styles, try Purr, Primitive Culture, and Frozen Ocean. Rubiyat sells unique home furnishings and accessories from around the world.

Kensington: Located just across the river from downtown, this area is a trendy hangout for students and young professionals. There are coffee houses, restaurants, and small shops, centered around the intersection of Kensington Road and 10th St NW. Favorite shops include Kismet (global clothing, jewelry, and home accessories), Sole Comfort (footwear), and Urban Barn (furniture and housewares).

4th St. SW: South of 17th Ave and stretching for about 8 blocks, this strip has a few interesting shops scattered between the restaurants. Highlights include Lululemon Athletica (the original and much-copied yoga wear store), Sage Wellness (essential oils and aromatherapy products), and Krickets (gifts and accessories, including a selection of unique baby items).

Inglewood: This is Calgary's original neighbourhood, dating back to before the railway came to town. Once rundown, it is the latest focal point of trendy developers. The main thoroughfare is 9th Ave SE, which is known for its cluster of antique and furniture stores.

Chinook Centre: Recently renovated, this large mall anchored by The Bay and Sears includes many of the hottest retail stores. They’ve got Sephora, MAC Cosmetics, Pottery Barn Williams & Sonoma, Banana Republic, Mexx, French Connection, L’Occitaine, and many more.

Market Mall: This northwest shopping centre has many of the same retailers as Chinook Centre, with the addition of H&M, Lululemon, and 9 West.


Where to Eat

Canadian Cuisine:
- River Café: Fine dining in a gorgeous setting in Prince’s Island Park, with a large patio for summer meals outdoors and cozy fireplace inside for winter. Accessed by footbridge only, so if you’re driving, park downtown or on Memorial Drive.
- Wildwood Grill: Interesting menu focusing on game and seafood. On the higher end of the price spectrum, but worth it. Also good beer brewed right on the premises, and you can go downstairs to the bar for drinks after dinner. Local bands play from Thursday through Saturday. Corner of 4th St. and 24th Ave SW.
- Saltlik Steakhouse: Excellent downtown spot for Alberta beef
- Earls: Mid-priced, hip, casual Western Canadian chain serving burgers, salads, pizza, pastas, salmon, chicken, and beef. Various locations.
- Diner Deluxe – Comfort food (think mac & cheese and meatloaf) in a funky retro setting. Very reasonably priced. Also great for breakfast. 804 Edmonton Trail NE (just north of downtown)

Vegetarian:
- The Coup – All-veggie menu with a focus on fresh, local, organic ingredients. 17th Ave & 9th St. SW.
- Tibet on 10th – This cozy and well-priced Tibetan cafe at 314 10th St. NW in Kensington has options for both vegetarians and meat-eaters.
- Buddha’s Veggie - Outstanding vegan Chinese food at 5802 Mcleod Trail SW.

(Reasonably) Cheap & Delicious:
- CoDo – Vietnamese noodle house on 17th Ave at 12th St. SW.
- Jonas: Delicious hearty Hungarian fare at 937 6th Ave SW downtown.
- Lazy Loaf & Kettle – Local coffee shop/bakery with yummy bread (the kettle bread is wheat and gluten-free), sandwiches, soups, muffins, cookies, and gooey cinnamon buns. Located at 8 Parkdale Crescent just north of the river – the bike path across Memorial Drive is a great place for a stroll before or after your meal or snack.
- Bumpy’s – Another coffee shop with great paninis, delicious soups, and tantalizing baked goods. Their cappuccino and espresso draw in a following of devoted locals. Downtown on 8th St and 11th Ave SW, open for breakfast and lunch only.

Good for People Watching:
- Raw Bar in Hotel Arts – loungey atmosphere, mouth-watering Asian-inspired menu, and most of the food is NOT raw!
- Jaro Blue – delicious tapas and small plates in a sleek, modern space. 17th Ave & 13th St. SW
- Globefish Sushi and Izakaya – excellent Japanese food that is much more than sushi in a casual, funky setting. Two locations: 326 14th St. NW and 2009 33rd Ave SW.
- Brava Bistro - Upscale Mediterranean menu and a beautiful wine bar at 17th Ave and 7th St SW

Breakfast:
- Galaxie Diner – Eggs, bacon, and breakfast burritos – yum! Get there early to avoid lineups. 11th St. and 14th Ave SW.
- Danube Creperie – All kinds of fillings, both sweet and savory. Downstairs at 1131 Kensington Road NW.
- Lazy Loaf & Kettle – See above
- Diner Deluxe – See above


Nightlife

Some hot spots by area, plus a couple of country bars in case you’re looking for the cowboy experience:

Downtown on Stephen Avenue (8th Ave SW):
- The Marquee Room (upstairs in the Uptown Cinema) – DJ’s and alternative bands
- Fuel, Opus - 2 sleek lounges
- James Joyce – an Irish pub, of course!
- Flames Central – a tribute to Calgary’s NHL team, they call themselves a “sports lounge of epic proportions”

Along 4th St SW:
- BLVD – upscale supper club / nightclub with DJ music and an excellent tapas menu
- Rose & Crown, James Joyce – Irish pubs
- Wildwood – brew pub and live music venue

“The Red Mile” (17th Ave SW):
- Republik – live alternative bands and DJ’s
- The Metropolitan Grill – dance club
- Mercury, Ming – a couple of martini bars
- Melrose, Yardhouse, 1410 Biermarket – upscale pubs

Country & Western Bars:
- Ranchman’s on Mcleod Trail SW – the most authentic C&W bar in the city
- Coyote’s – dance club playing a mix of country, top 40, and hip hop dance music


Where to Sleep

Under $100
Lodging is not cheap in Calgary. Since the only hostel is located in the dodgy eastern fringe of downtown, I would not recommend it. Better choices would be:
- One of the economy chain hotels (Comfort Inn, Super 8, etc.) in “motel village” at Crowchild Trail and 16th Ave NW, where you have easy access to the c-train.
- Ramada Downtown at 708 8th Ave SW. Close to two arthouse movie theatres and lots of restaurants
- Days Inn Calgary South at 3828 Macleod Trail S. Close to Chinook Centre mall.

$100 - $200
- Hotel Arts at 119 12th Ave SW. Trendy boutique hotel. Not the nicest part of downtown, but the hotel itself is very chic and has two great restaurants.
- Westin Downtown at 320 4th Ave SW. Close to Eau Claire Market
- Hyatt Regency at 7th Ave & Centre St. Right on Stephen Avenue Mall.

>$200
- Fairmont Palliser. Historic landmark hotel where the Queen stays when she visits. 9th Ave and Centre St. downtown.
- Sheraton Suites Eau Claire – across from Eau Claire market and steps from the river & Prince’s Island Park
- Kensington Riverside Inn – Memorial Drive and 10th St. NW, right in Kensington and across the bridge from downtown.
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starlagurl
post Apr 7 2008, 10:10 AM
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Very nice! Thanks very much for that Mona!


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moinmotion
post Apr 16 2008, 09:13 PM
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Fancy a Spot of Tea?

If you're visiting Calgary this time of year, or anytime other than summer really, the weather might occasionally be a bit chillier than you expected. There are so many Tim Hortons, Second Cup, and Starbucks locations here that coffee drinkers will have no problem tracking down a cup of joe, but a steaming pot of tea is my favorite way to warm up on a chilly day. Any coffee house will have a few token types of tea, but if you want a wider selection of quality loose teas, check out one of these places:
  • Higher Ground: 1126 Kensington Road SW
  • Oolong Tea House: 110 10th St. NW
  • Steeps Tea House: 880 16th AVE SW
  • The Bean Stop: in Eau Claire Market at 200 Barclay Parade SW

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travelingdiva
post Jun 25 2008, 05:52 PM
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I hope you don't mind my adding a couple tidbits about Calgary and places/activites I personally enjoy here.

Some facts for the visitor:
Nickname: Cowtown
Population (April 2007): 1,019,942
Altitude: 1,048m above sea level
No provincial sales tax!

Compared to the rest of Canada:
The most sunshine of all major Canadian cities - 2,400 hrs per year (too bad they can't all be warm hours!)
The youngest average age at 35 years old.
Third highest percentage of visible minorities (1. Toronto 2. Vancouver)
Second highest number of head offices at 89.

Compared to the rest of the world:
- Cleanest city
- 25th safest city


Attractions
One attraction that hasn't been mentioned that I love is The Calgary Zoo - With over 1,000 animals, botanical gardens and a prehistoric park, the Calgary Zoo is one of the top zoos in North America. It is also conveniently located on the C-train line near downtown. This zoo is big on conservation and education and always has exciting exhibits for animal lovers.


Museums:
- Glenbow Museum which focuses on western heritage.
- Military Musuems - one of North America's largest military museums.
- Aero Space Museum of Calgary - exhibits on Western Canada's aviation and space contributions
- Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller is an amazing and worthwhile daytrip from Calgary. This museum is exclusively dedicated to the study of palaeontology and is world famous with fantastic fossil displays and history of life on Earth. I highly recommend this one!


Activities:
Markets
We have a couple of year-round markets, the Crossroads Market and the Calgary Farmer's Market.

Casinos
There are a lot of casinos in Calgary, and as of January 2008 there is no smoking permitted inside the casinos which makes it even more enjoyable. The larger casinos include the Deerfoot Inn and Casino, the Stampede Casino (on the Stampede grounds), Elbow River Casino & Entertainment Centre, and Grey Eagle Casino & Bingo.

Outdoor activities
The Glenmore Reservoir is a nice place to go if you are looking for water in this landlocked city. It is a man-made reservoir on the Elbow River. So come play on our drinking water! You can rent boats or take sailing lessons on the reservoir. It's also a popular place for kayaking and canoeing.

Kananaskis Country is a provincial park that has dozens of excellent hiking trails and campgrounds through the foothills, all within a couple hours' drive from the city. The trails are well marked and offer spectacular views of the surrounding environment. This is also a great place for mountain biking, with many bike trails available. In the winter there is downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.

moinmotion mentioned two great urban parks, Fish Creek and Nose Hill. Both these parks have extensive paved bike trails throughout. Another great trail in the city is the Douglar Fir Trail in Edworthy Park.

Canada Olympic Park has a wide variety of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. In the winter it is used for snowboarding, downhill and cross-country skiing and you can also try bobsleighing (comes with a professional!). The park also offers a climbing wall, a zipline down the ski jump, luge rides, eurobungee, and a ski jump tower with an observation deck at the top where you can get the highest view in Calgary. They have also just introduced zorbing for the summer - "strapped into a life-size opaque ball, 1 or 2 people flip and slip as the ball rolls down the lower part of the hill". Other summertime activities here include mini-golf, and the very popular mountain bike park. COP also offers mountain bike school if you want some lessons.

Another great spot for climbing is the University of Calgary's Outdoor Centre with 1,900 square meters of climbing walls. They also offer instructional courses and rentals, guided tours and destination trips. Hiking, camping, skiing, snowshoeing, paragliding, cycling, climbing, rafting, canoeing, kayaking - they're the people to talk to.

If you feel like lacing up your ice skates there is also the indoor Olympic Oval where the ice is world-renowned. It is primarily a speed-skating arena but you can skate as slowly as you like on the inner track. The Olympic Oval has rentals available and is located on the grounds of University of Calgary.

If you prefer to ice skate outdoors, there is ice skating at Olympic Plaza downtown and at the lagoon in Bowness Park

If you like golfing there is a long list of courses in and around the city. Glencoe Golf and Country Club, Glen Forest and the Calgary Golf and Country Club have all been rated among the top fifty in Canada.

For any outdoor activity, chances are you can rent the gear you need for it from the University of Calgary. They have everything I have ever needed and at very reasonable rates.

The Shooting Edge is Calgary's indoor shooting range.

They say Alberta's favourite pasttime is fishing, and here are a couple places that can take you on an excursion: Fishing Pole Guiding Inc. and Foot & Chain Fly Fishing Exchange.


Sightseeing tours:
- Helicopter tours of Calgary and the Rockies with Mountainview Helicopters
- Calgary Ghost Tours - walking tour of Calgary's haunted locations
- Calgary's famous brewery, Big Rock Brewery, offers tours but you have to book in advance.

Sporting Events
What a great city to live in (or visit) if you like sports. Probably most well known would be the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League. The Flames play at the Calgary Saddledome, an iconic image of Calgary in itself, with the LRT taking you as close to the door as it can get.

If you love hockey (or just want to experience a live game) you should definitely check out the Calgary Hitmen. They represent Calgary in the Western Hockey League (WHL), one of three Canadian (CHL) major junior hockey leagues. These boys are the NHL stars of tomorrow. Many of them have already been drafted as the league consists of players 16-20 years old. The WHL games are much more affordable and usually easier to get tickets for than the Flames and are highly entertaining. They also play their home games in the same arena as the Flames.

Hockey Canada's headquarters are located in Calgary so the national teams often practice here before an upcoming international tournament (including the Olympics) at the Father David Bauer Olympic Arena. These practice sessions are often open to the public.

Another very Canadian sport is lacrosse, and the Calgary Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League play a very exciting, action-packed game in the Pengrowth Saddledome.

Let's not forget the Canadian version of football, the CHL. The Calgary Stampeders (better known as the "Stamps" around town) play in the open-air McMahon Stadium (also near an LRT station) to a loud and energetic crowd of fans and spectators.

Then there is professional baseball. Fairly new to the city (2005) is theCalgary Vipers of the Golden Baseball League who play at the Foothills Stadium.

The University of Calgary has the Dinos athletic teams - baseball (men's and women's), basketball (men's and women's), hockey (men's and women's), volleyball (men's and women's), rugby, football, soccer(men's and women's), field hockey and wrestling.

From March through June annually, the Grandstand on the Stampede grounds hosts live thoroughbred racing on its half-mile dirt track. You can engage in off-track betting year-round in the same facilities.

While we are on the topic of horses I should mention that you can watch polo at the Calgary Polo Club from June to August.

Monster trucks, drag races, and super bike races can all be seen at Race City, a multi-track auto racing facility.


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starlagurl
post Jun 26 2008, 08:33 AM
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No way, that's totally awesome, diva, thanks!

Have you heard this nickname for Calgary?: "The City of Champions" hahaha I heard it on CBC's R3-30 podcast.


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travelingdiva
post Jun 26 2008, 08:40 AM
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QUOTE(starlagurl @ Jun 26 2008, 09:33 AM) *

No way, that's totally awesome, diva, thanks!


My pleasure! I should probably do up a Vancouver list when I've got some time, that's the city I know best.

QUOTE(starlagurl @ Jun 26 2008, 09:33 AM) *

Have you heard this nickname for Calgary?: "The City of Champions" hahaha I heard it on CBC's R3-30 podcast.


I think that's Edmonton, not Calgary! But it's not fair we never had Wayne Gretzky playing in Calgary! We're just the lowly Gateway to the Rockies.


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travelingdiva
post Jun 26 2008, 08:49 AM
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I should mention a couple clubs I am particularly fond of here in Calgary that visitors can enjoy.

The Calgary Outdoor Club is awesome. Membership is free and everything is done online. You can sign up as a member even if you are in town for a short time. The club encourages you to donate $2/event you attend to a maximum of $20/year. The great thing about this club is they take you on excellent outdoor activities in and around the city but they also organize carpools for events. You just split the cost of the car pool (the price is estimated on each event description), so you don't need a car to enjoy the great outdoors in southern Alberta. And their volunteer coordinators are great (I'm not just saying that because I was one! devil.png )

The amazing founder of the COC, Rhonda, also founded the Calgary Culture Club, which works much the same way but is geared towards cultural events in Calgary.

These are great clubs for visitors and locals alike, so check out their website if you are in town and see if anything on the calendar interests you.


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starlagurl
post Jun 26 2008, 10:11 AM
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Yeah, Vancouver would be awesome, I don't think we have one of those yet.


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moinmotion
post Oct 23 2008, 12:09 AM
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If you're in Calgary and looking for some artistic or musical entertainment, check out the websit Real Live Arts - Calgary. It's got really well organized listings of theatre performances, concerts, art exhibits, literary events, and even galas and fundraisers. It's one of my new favorite websites, and goes to show that Calgary is much more than rednecks and roughnecks! punk.gif
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urbantraveller
post Mar 28 2013, 04:10 AM
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Hi! Maybe you guys might want to consider having an UrbanQuest while in Calgary? It's a small taste of the Amazing Race – you’ll explore parts of Calgary solving clues and puzzles to unlock your final answer. You can do your Quest for fun and learn about the city along the way. Or, you can choose to end your Quest at a mystery restaurant, where a reservation has been made for you or your group! Cool eh?!

Try it, and you'll surely have fun! Check out their website at www.urbanquest.com for more details.
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