Visiting Calgary - What to See and Do
(Calgary International Airport YYC, Canada)
Ranchers, canyons, cowboys and cowgirls, rodeos, hunting, shooting and fishing - all these attractions spring to mind whenever Calgary
comes up in conversation. Admittedly, over the last century, the city's Wild West pedigree has gradually morphed into its New West persona, but urban cowboys complete with Stetsons and blue jeans can still be caught leaping from their modern-day Ferrari and Porsche steeds in the downtown commercial core.
It is boomtown time again in Calgary, with the city combining tradition with oil and gas wealth to create a unique feeling of energy and innovation. Set between the rolling prairies and the Canadian Rockies, the cityscape varies from the soaring skyscrapers of the Central Business District to the urban chic of Calgary's oldest neighborhood, Inglewood, once the city center.
Calgary's downtown heart is where the locals party, with its Festival District, Entertainment District and Arts District. The teeming Chinatown neighborhood is packed with authentic, informal eateries, while 17th Avenue and the Macleod Trail Strip (just southeast of the downtown area) bring it all on with neon-lit acres of drinking dens, bars and late-night clubs.
Ten things you must do in Calgary
- For a trip back in time, head to the Heritage Park Historical Village attraction. All the buildings here are guaranteed as being at least roughly 100 years old and have been reconstructed over some 26 acres / 11 hectares. It is a fun day out for families, with a steam train, a paddle boat chugging around the Glenmore Reservoir, a fort, church and grain mill, as well as the historic homes themselves.
- The wide expanse of the southerly Fish Creek Provincial Park is the place for walkers, hikers, birders and outdoor enthusiasts, with its labyrinth of interlocking wilderness trails, forested areas, streams and ponds, secluded hideaways and varied wildlife. It is set within the city's boundaries and has many convenient access points found within a number of Calgary's districts.
- Calgary Zoo is another family friendly offering, with around 1,000 animals homed in natural habitat enclosures waiting to be admired by visitors and their families. The complex also hosts a Botanical Garden boasting a tropical rainforest, seasonally changing displays of indigenous flora, a butterfly enclosure and a popular Prehistoric Park, complete with life-sized models of dinosaurs. A café, a picnic area and a famous elephant trained to paint complete the picture.
- Calaway Park is western Canada's biggest amusement park and comes with some 30 rides, ranging from mild to wild. Other fun attractions include a maze, a trout-fishing pond, live entertainment, lots of carnival games and a great choice of food vendors. There is a campsite here as well, and the park is conveniently only a short drive from the downtown district.
- Fort Calgary is a must-see for history buffs, as it was built in 1875 to protect the tiny settlement from Indian raids and other threats. The first fortified location for the Canadian Mounted Police, it is been carefully preserved and restored to its original condition. A visit here gives a glimpse of life in Canada's pioneer days, while kids can dress up as Mounties and visit the jail.
- The Calgary Stampede is a fabulous ten-day summer rodeo, festival and exhibition, and celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012. The authentic Old West comes to life every year with chuck wagon races and famous rodeo stars showing bare-back and bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping and much more. Tons of other events take place all over the city, and Calgary hotels are booked solid at this time of the year.
- The Aerospace Museum has a magnificent display of aircraft dating from WWI to the present-day, including a Sopwith triplane, a Lancaster bomber, and Avro CF100 Canuck jet fighter, a De Havilland Vampire, a Douglas DC3 and several helicopters. Other exhibits include the museum's fine collection of scale-model aircraft.
- Calgary's Glenbow Museum is the largest in Western Canada and covers the history of the region in its 20 galleries. Over a million artifacts and works of art are shown here, including a fascinating display of North American Indian items and information relating to the history of frontier exploration and immigration. In addition, artifacts from diverse world cultures are exhibited, as well as a gem and mineral collection.
- For a touch of low-key nightlife, head to the Kensington urban village district for its bars, restaurants and late-night shopping, set in roughly 250 venues covering all styles, from chic to cheap. Parking is free and easy here, and the streets boast low-rise, charming architecture. The riverfront district lies just across the Louise Bridge, linking downtown Calgary with its inner suburbs.
- Olympic Park was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics and is still a hub for outdoor sports of all kinds. Here you can zipline, bungee jump, ski jump, take a bobsleigh ride, try the climbing wall, ski and snowboard in winter, and hire a mountain bike in summer. The complex also hosts the Olympic Hall of Fame and Museum, and offers varied programs of outdoor activities.