All About Calgary Introduction – Calgary?
Calgary is a booming oil town in western Canada, and Alberta’s largest city. Located in the foothills below the Rocky Mountains, the city hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, and is now world-renown for its annual Stampede festival, “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” held for 10 days in early July. The city is also home to Canada’s conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (3 minority governments and counting). With a population of almost 1 million, it’s one of the most rapidly expanding cities in Canada, helped in large part by the low tax and unemployment rates, but the gorgeous nearby scenery certainly doesn’t hurt!City of CalgaryOrientation - Where the heck am I?
Calgary is divided into quadrants (NW, NE, SW, SE). Getting around downtown is easy, as the streets are laid out in a grid by streets (going N-S) and avenues (going E-W). Beyond the center, suburban neighbourhoods have named streets, often somewhat related to the community name (for example, Silver Ridge Dr, Silver Valley Blvd, and Silver Hill Rd are all located in the Silver Springs community).
The LRT (Light Rail Transit) runs along 7th ave, which makes for a good point of reference. Also worth noting is that the downtown core is well connected by its +15 system of aboveground tunnels, meaning you can travel far indoors on cold winter days.Calgary Transit+15 system mapTransportation - I need to get somewhere
It’s not difficult to get to most places using Calgary transit. The LRT and buses cover the better part of the city, though expansions to the outskirts are rather slow, and probably will be for some time given the labour shortage. Buses and trains run from around 5 AM to just after midnight, depending on the day of the week. Fares valid for 90 minutes can be bought on buses or at train stations, or you can buy discounted booklets of 10 or passes at most convenience stores. And riding the LRT is free on 7th ave!
Getting to/from the airport
is a bit of a hassle if you’re not shuttling to the centre or wanting to take a cab. The only public transport option is bus 57 that connects to Whitehorn LRT station.
bus station is located 850 - 16th St SW. Major Tourist Sights/Attractions – Show me something big and/or fancy! The Calgary Tower
– Built in 1968, an Olympic flame was added to the top in 1988, making it the world’s largest Olympic torch. Offers panoramic views of the city, as well as a glass floor.Heritage Park
– A lovely open air museum with a number of old buildings, old objects, and old-timey activities. It’s particularly nice to visit around Christmas time, when there are sleigh rides and caroling.Fort Calgary
– A historic fort built in 1875 by the Northwest Mounted Police (essentially the city’s foundation), it’s now a museum offering more old-timey fun!The Glenbow Museum
– Calgary’s main museum, featuring a bit of everything, from Canadian history to contemporary art. It’s a bit overpriced, but a good museum nevertheless.Canada Olympic Park
(COP)– Calgary played host to the 1988 Winter Olympics, and you can visit the main park which has Olympics exhibits, a couple ski jumps, and a bobsled run. In winter you can ski/snowboard, while in the summer you can go hiking and biking in the areaThe Calgary Zoo
– The zoo has been growing quite steadily over the years, with animals from all over the world. There are special events for Halloween, and lovely lights during Christmas time.The Science Center and Planetarium
– A great science museum with rotating exhibits and movies featured in the discovery dome.Military Museums
– Calgary’s military museum, includes a First World War trench.The Aero Space Museum
– Located near the airport, this museum contains numerous aircraft and space-related exhibits, including flight simulators.
City Hall/Olympic Plaza/Grace Presbytarian Church – Between 7th and 8th avenues, not a site per say, but a nice area nonetheless. You can see city hall, Grace Presbytarian Chruch (one of Calgary’s oldest, turning 100 in 2012), and events/skating take place at Olympic Plaza. Calgary’s main art center, the Epcor Centre, is also just behind the Plaza. Other Places of Interest – What else you got? Art Central
- A great artistic escape in the downtown core, the whole building breathes creativity. Four floors of art and decor shops, plus a cafe and restaurant. Come on first Thursdays (the first Thursday of each month) in the evening, when there is music and free wine and treats!Farmer’s market
– In an old airplane hangar in SW Calgary, get fresh and local products here from Friday to Sunday. Great Neighbourhoods – Let’s go for a stroll
8th Ave – AKA Stephen Avenue, a stretch of the street is pedestrian only, making for a great stroll, particularly on weekdays when most businesses are open.
17th Ave - There are great bars and restaurants open all along the stretch. It’s particularly nice at night.
Kensington and Inglewood – Lovely areas to stroll, with alternative shops and great restaurants.
Chinatown/Eau Claire Market – Calgary has a decent sized Chinatown, right next to the somewhat dying but still worth a visit Eau Claire Market.
Along the Bow River - There’s a wonderful bike path along the Bow River that will take you from North to South, passing by beautiful Prince’s Island Park, as well as the Calgary zoo. Prince’s island is another lovely place to stroll, and hosts a number of events throughout the year, including Shakespeare in the Park, and the Folk Festival.
Marda Loop – Another nice neighbourhood that holds the Marda Gras Street Festival every August.
Great parks in Calgary include Fish Creek Park, Nosehill Park, Bowness Park, Confederation Park, Riley Park, Shouldice Park, and Edworthy Park. Each has various annual events, from sports to Christmas light displays. Restaurants and Pubs - I’m hungry and/or thirsty Cafe Deville
– Our favourite cafe, right on 7th ave, hopefully the quality keeps up as it expands to other locations.Murietta’s
– A beautifully set bar and grill in downtown Calgary.Mango Shiva
– Delicioius Indian fusion cuisine on Stephen ave.Caesar’s Steakhouse
– Downtown, it’s a bit on the expensive side, but a great steakhouse!
4th Street Rose – A nice, casual bar and restaurant downtown.Sunterra
– Has a few branches in Calgary; a serve-yourself restaurant with delicious food that’s generally on the healthy side.
The Chocolate Bar – If you’re not feeling like healthy food, though, this is a great little dessert place on 17th ave for chocoholics.Ming Eat Drink
– A neat little bar on 17th ave. The Ship and Anchor
– Another decent bar on 17th ave.Globefish
– Slightly upscale, this “izakaya” offers some of Calgary’s best Japanese eats (write us for more Japanese suggestions!)
Muku – Next to the Globefish Kensington location, it’s a new ramen shop, Calgary’s first, and not a bad one at that!Higher Ground Cafe
– A nice coffee shop in Kensington.
Marathon – Ethiopean eats in Kensington.Pulcinella
– Delicious, authentic Italian pizzas in Kensington.The Broken Plate
– Great Greek grub, also in Kensington.Crave Cupcakes
– Delicious, expensive cupcakes! Clubbing - I wanna drink and/or get jiggy with it Cowboys
– One of Calgary’s oldest clubs, come for the occasional line-dance and cheap beers. This place was good enough for Prince Harry...do you think you’re better than Prince Harry? The Whiskey
– This is one of Calgary’s most popular nightclubs, playing a variety of music throughout the week.Tantra
– Another nightclub, this one with an “eastern feel.” The Arts - I wanna feel cultured and/or artsy fartsyTheatre Calgary
– Calgary’s biggest theatre company runs a pretty safe collection of modern plays at the Epcor Centre.Alberta Theatre Projects
(ATP) – Another well-established company, performing contemporary works, including new Canadian works, also at the Epcor Centre.One Yellow Rabbit
(OYR) – An alternative theatre company. While you risk seeing a flop here and there, OYR is one of English Canada’s best venues for contemporary theatre. Again, also at the Epcor Centre.The Jack Singer Hall
- Hosts the biggest concert hall acts passing through Calgary. Epcor Centre.The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
(CPO) – Calgary’s main classical orchestra.The Jubilee Auditorium
– Another concert and conference hall, it hosts operas (about 4-6 a year), ballets, Broadway, and other shows passing through town.
Other good theatre companies include Theatre Junction
at the Grand (also hosts contemporary dance), and The Loose Moose Theatre Company
, a small theatre in Inglewood, known primarily for it’s improv games.
Mainstream cinemas can be found at Eau Claire Market and Chinook Mall. Alternative and indie flicks are shown at the Globe and Uptown cinemas (across from each other on 8th Ave SW), and at the Plaza (in Kensington). Check out www.cinemaclock.com
for showtimes. Sports - I wanna drink and/or yell at people to try harder
Calgary’s sports teams include the Calgary Flames
hockey team (1988 Stanley Cup champions). They play at the Saddledome, a sports and concert hall built for the Olympics on the Stampede grounds. The Calgary Stampeders
Canadian League Football (CFL) team, as well as the Calgary Vipers
baseball team both play at McMahon Stadium, in the northwest (LRT station – Banff Trail). Major university teams include the Hitmen
hockey team and the Dinos
football team. Shopping - I need to give in to my consumerist temptations TD Square
- A somewhat upscale mall downtown. Though currently under renovation, its Devonian Gardens make for a great escape from urban life, particularly during the winter.Chinook Mall
- Easily accessed by LRT, it’s one of the city’s largest malls, with a little bit of everything, from supermarkets and movie theatres, to clothing stores and gift shops.Mountain Equipment Coop
– Best place for outdoor gear, on 10th Ave SW.Pages Bookstore
– Good bookstore in KensingtonBernard Callebaut
– Famous in Calgary, a great chocolate shop!Sleeping – I’m tired!
Being from Calgary, I don’t usually stay in hostels are hotels, but here are some suggestions:The HI hostel in Calgary
- It’s had decent reviews on hostelworld.
For hotels, checkout: www.discovercalgary.com/Calgary/WheretoStay/HotelsMotels
And for camping, visit: www1.travelalberta.com/en-ab/index.cfm?pageid=226 Events – I feel like a festival...not literally though Stampede
– Calgary’s major claim to fame, the Stampede is a 10-day cowboy festival that takes place every year in early July. People throw on their cowboy hats and boots (and sometimes even spurs!), and head out to pancake breakfasts, or the Stampede grounds, where you can go on rides, check out concerts, drink in beer gardens, or watch the rodeo competitions. Events range from cow milking and trick riding, to bull riding and chuckwagon races.Folk Festival
– Held at the end of July on lovely Prince’s Island. Enjoy folk singers and other bands, while relaxing in the sun!Lilac Festival
– A one-day flower festival held at the end of May every year, with events and activities all along 4th Street.Jazz Festival
– Enjoy jazz at various venues throughout the city in summer.Shakespeare in the Park
– Held every summer on Prince’s Island Park. A lovely outdoor event organized by Mt Royal. Admission by donation. Fringe Festival
– One of Canada’s newest fringe festivals, it’s been growing over the years. Offers fringe events over 9 days in the summer.Zombie Walk
- Like other major cities, Calgary has also started an annual zombie walk...check out our pics from 2008!Activities and Courses – Let’s DO something already! Calaway Park
– Just outside the city, a medium-sized amusement park that’s great for kids.
Glenmore Reservoir – A large reservoir in Calgary that offers canoe and kayak rentals for use at the reservoir or abroad.Lindsay Park Sports Centre
– Everything from pools and gyms to exercise equipment and a track.Kart World
– Come for go-karting near the airport.
Waterparks – Head to Village Square and Southland Leisure Centres for waterslide fun!Spruce Meadows
– Just outside Calgary, come see horse jumping and shows. The University of Calgary
(U of C) - While a far cry from one of Canada’s best, it still offers a wide range of programs, as well as the Nickel Arts Museum. Better still are the sports options available. At the university you can swim, rock climb, use the pools and gyms, and even go skating in the oval (built for the Olympics). You can also rent equipment for trips out to the Rockies. The campus is lovely to roam around…just beware of the extreme (sometimes harassing) pro-life group!
For college level and other courses, check out Mount Royal University
(formerly a college), Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
(SAIT), and the Alberta College of Art and Design’s
(ACAD) websites. Newspapers – Let’s read like a Calgarian
Calgary has 2 major newspapers, Canwest Global’s Calgary Herald
and Quebecor SunMedia’s slightly more conservative Calgary Sun
. Free papers include the weekly FFWD
(good for what’s on each week), and the daily Metro
(what big city doesn’t have a Metro paper these days?) Other Useful Information – Let’s go to the tourist office and/or report an emergency
Emergency Number – 911 for Police, Fire, and Medical emergencies.Tourist Info
– Offices are located at the airport, in the Calgary Tower, and in Southcentre mall.Post Office
– The main post office is located at 639-5th Ave SW. Calgary Library
– The main, and largest, is near City Hall. Nearby – What’s not too far?
Being near the Rocky Mountains (the Rockies) means skiing, snowboarding, and other outdoor activities are never far away.
Great hiking and cross-country skiing opportunities can be found in the Bragg Creek
areas. The best downhill skiing/boarding can be found at Sunshine Village
and Lake Louise
, the latter of which also has a lovely chateau on crystal clear Moraine Lake. A smaller, but cheaper and closer downhill resort can be found at Nakiska
. The beautiful scenery and plentiful skiing opportunities mean loads of winter jobs, bringing many Ozzies and Kiwis up for the season.
Some other great towns/cities to visit:Banff
It’s hard to talk about Calgary without mentioning nearby Banff National Park. Canada’s first National Park, and originally set up as a resort getaway, there are now serious debates going on about the rate at which it has grown, as it continually encroaches upon wildlife habitats.
A quiet little town set in the heart of the Rockies, it’s more than obvious tourism is the lifeblood of its economy, so much so that Japanese has practically become a third language in souvenir shops and restaurants.
Banff is also home to a wonderful arts center that hosts numerous cultural events, including jazz, writing, and film festivals. And above the town sits the majestic Banff Springs Hotel, a five-star resort with proximity to the Sulfur Mountain natural hot springs, as well as the scenic gondola ride up Tunnel Mountain.www.banff.comCanmore
Another town worth visiting near Calgary is quaint little Canmore, which is somewhat less affected by tourism (so far).www.canmore.caDrumheller
The Drumheller area is also worth visiting, and is famous for the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum and its archaeological finds. The sci-fi canyons and hoodoos are not be missed!www.traveldrumheller.comEdmonton
Further north (about 3.5 hrs drive from Calgary), and you’ll reach Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, and second largest city. Edmonton is home to West Edmonton Mall (one of the world’s largest malls, with over 800 stores and attractions!). Edmonton is home to the Edmonton Oilers hockey team, and the Edmonton Eskimos CFL team (both of which are staunch rivals to their Calgary counterparts). The city also hosts one of Canada’s best fringe festivals (also Canada’s original fringe). Backpacker Hint: There’s a campground near the city centre!)www.edmonton.ca