Canada is lots of different things. It’s the rough wilderness of British Columbia and the endless fields of sun-baked wheat in Saskatchewan. It’s the rich traditions of the Arctic north and the strange communities of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. And of course, it’s a unique mix of multicultural city centers, each with its own sense of identity.
Calgary, which is in the province of Alberta, is one of Canada’s most understated cities. It is often overshadowed by Vancouver on the west coast and Toronto in the east. But Calgary is one of those cities that is very Canadian and gives visitors things they can’t get anywhere else.
Calgary is the fifth largest city in Canada. It is near the Bow River, about 50 miles east of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. Even more interesting is the fact that some of Calgary’s 1.2 million people are among the youngest in Canada. Yes, the average age in this city is 35.7, which means one thing: you’ll have a great night out if you go out in this town. But don’t let that fool you.
Calgary isn’t just a party town. There are lots of things to do with your family there. About 120 different languages are spoken in Calgary, which makes it just as diverse as Canada’s bigger cities. The city’s wide open spaces and laid-back vibe have earned it the nickname “Cow Town.” With a growing tech industry and a younger, more diverse population, there are a lot of things to do to keep you busy. The 10 best things to do in Calgary are:
1. The tower in Calgary
Every big city in Canada has a great way to see what’s going on from above, and Calgary is no different. The Calgary Tower, which is 1228 meters above sea level, gives you a 360-degree view of the city. This is one of the best ways to get a feel for a city. From the bottom, it takes 62 seconds to get to the first observation deck, where you and 249 of your closest friends can enjoy views that go on for miles. And once you’ve completely lost your breath, head to the second observation deck for a cocktail, some snacks, and the best view in town.
2. The zoo in Calgary
Canada has a number of well-known and respected zoos, and the Calgary Zoo is now one of them. In fact, it is the best when it comes to successful breeding programs, a wide range of animals, research dollars, and educational programs. With Hippos, Mountain Gorillas, Giraffes, and anything else you might find on the Serengeti, the Calgary Zoo will take you on a trip through the heart of Africa. Come experience the wilderness of Canada and watch playful grizzlies and naughty mountain goats. There are more than 1000 animals, as well as botanical gardens, a butterfly conservatory, and the Centre for Conservation and Research. This is one of the most fun things to do in Calgary if you have kids with you.
3. Go to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump
If you are staying longer in Calgary, you should think about some of the great day trips that are just a short drive away, especially if you are interested in history or archaeology. Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump is an archaeological site that is known all over the world for how well it has kept the culture of the Plains People. The Plains People were the first people to live in the area around Calgary. They were skilled hunters who led these huge animals over cliffs and later set up very complicated stations to butcher and prepare the meat. This is a very important part of Canada’s archeological history, and Unesco has named it a World Heritage Site.
4. The Historical Village in Heritage Park
This place has won a lot of awards and is one of Western Canada’s most popular. It is also known as Canada’s largest living museum, which is a big deal. The Heritage Park Historical Village has more than 200 exhibits spread out over 127 acres of beautiful land. It is good for the whole family and is a feast for the eyes and ears. Living museums bring history out from behind glass so that visitors can experience it for themselves. There is a First Nations Encampment from the 1880s and a look at how settlers lived before the railroad.
5. Calgary Stampede
Most people think of rodeos in the south. Maybe the rolling hills of Montana or Wyoming, or even better, Texas, the world’s ten-gallon hat capital. But the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” takes place right here in Calgary, a small city. This show from 100 years ago meets the modernity of the 21st century to make one of the most entertaining Wild West heritage shows. Rodeo is the main event every night, but there are also chuck wagon races, cattle auctions, midway rides and games, an amazing range of southern and not-so-southern food, and lots of cowboys. The Calgary Stampede takes place every July and is a great reason to visit the city at that time.
6. Shop on 17th Avenue and in the Entertainment District
Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are better known for their shopping, but Calgary’s young population means that the famous 17th Ave has just about everything you’d find in the bigger cities, plus a few unique shops you won’t find anywhere else. From well-known stores like Gravity Pope, West Elm, and Frank & Oak to cool record stores, stylish knitting shops, and glitzy jewelry shops that any Manhattanite would love, there is something for everyone. If you want to go shopping and then have a drink at the hottest wine bar in town, you can choose from more than 400 shops, restaurants, and services.
7. Go on a tour of public art
Calgary was named the cultural capital of Canada in 2012, even though it is known as a rough and tumble cowboy town. After getting this designation, the number of outdoor art installations has exploded, and artists from all over the country (and the world) are flocking to Calgary to try out their own unique mediums. Grab your camera, clear your mind, and go for a walk along the Stephen Avenue Walk or somewhere similar. Here, there are 10 white metal tree sculptures that stand between 21 and 26 meters tall and are lit up at night. The trees are both a piece of art and a cool way to stop the sudden gusts of wind that happen along 8th Avenue S.W. If you like murals, you should check out the temporary works by Calgary artists Ivan Ostapenko, Daniel J. Kirk, and Kai Cabunoc-Boettcher in the East Village area.
8. Game Catch a Flames
There are 7 NHL teams in Canada, and millions of people all over the country love hockey. The Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, where Wayne Gretzky played, are both Stanley Cup-winning teams from the province of Alberta. If you go to Calgary between October and April, you can enjoy some of the most exciting and fast-paced hockey in the league by watching either team play.
9. You should go to the Royal Tyrrell Museum
Alberta is a great place for people who like fossils. If you want to go back in time 65 million years and see the richest dinosaur fossil deposits on Earth, all you have to do is drive for 1.5 hours from Calgary. Put “Drumheller” into your GPS, grab the kids, and head straight for the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Here, you can see 30 of the most complete dinosaur skeletons in the world, interact with different exhibits, and talk to experts who can take you on a trip back in time. A marine speck that is 75 million years old is a brand-new exhibit at the museum.
10. Day at Calaway Park
Because Calgary has an unusually young population, it also attracts young families. This means that the city is full of activities that are good for families. Calaway is Western Canada’s largest outdoor amusement park. It is often ranked as one of the best things to do in Calgary. This park has 32 rides, 23 carnival games, a 3D theater, and enough food vendors to keep the whole family fed. It also has great views of the Rocky Mountains.