Founded in 1875 as a Mountie outpost, Calgary is the largest city in Alberta, Canada. Following construction of a railway and the discovery of oil, Calgary soon became a business and agricultural nerve center in the southern region of the Canadian province. Located in the middle of a prairie, Calgary boasts one of the sunniest climates in the country, and at the same time offers extensive winter sport opportunities both at Canadian Olympic Park and surrounding areas.
Known worldwide for the Calgary Stampede, the city turns into a hopping cowtown each summer during the 10-day rodeo and festival filled event dubbed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. Calgary is also a business destination and gateway to the Canadian Rocky Mountains and exquisite nature destinations like Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise.
Calgary offers sights like the Heritage Park Historical Village, where you can be transported back to the Wild West of the 1800s, the Calgary Zoo with life size dinosaur replicas, or Canada Olympic Park where the Olympics were held in 1988. Here are seven ideas for your visit including where to stay, what to eat, and what to do while you are there.
Located downtown right under the Calgary Tower, Hotel Le Germain is a luxury boutique hotel with modern design, bright colors and a charming staff. The location makes it a convenient hub for exploring the city and the comfort level and hip decor make it a fun place to stay. Big soaking tubs, contemporary furniture, and little touches like your room number etched on water glasses are pleasant surprises. The petite Sante Spa is located on the top floor should you desire some extra pampering during your stay.
A crisp, bright breakfast dining room is a great way to start your day, while downstairs there is an attached restaurant frequented by locals. The popular Charcut Roast House offers an urban rustic atmosphere and wonderful starters like Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Mint, and Buffalo Mozzerella with Sourdough Bread perfect for sharing with friends over cocktails before a hearty main course like the daily spit roasted and smoked rotisserie.
This 160-meter landmark offers 360-degree views of the city. Especially beautiful at sunset and twilight, the tower has a small glass floor for those who really love heights. Yes, newer, taller skyscrapers have literally overshadowed the tower, but it is an icon of downtown Calgary, and worth a visit. It’s also an excellent way to get an overview of the city when you first arrive.
Just a block from Hotel Le Germain, Catch is a seafood restaurant with an urban industrial atmosphere located inside an old bank building. Downstairs features the Oyster Bar while upstairs is more upscale dining with a fabulous and creative menu. Enjoy to-die-for Crab Cakes or some Naked Lobster which is shelled and perfectly cooked lobster meat served on a bed of wild rice and kale.
For an exhilarating activity with beautiful views, the Skyline Luge offers giddy fun for all age groups. The Calgary Skyline Luge is the longest luge in the world at 1800 meters. Adults enjoy the luge as much as children as they navigate the winding track. When you get to the bottom, you can hop back on the chairlift and do it again.
If you are traveling with kids, a stop at Telus Spark Science Center with interactive exhibits and an outdoor play area is a great way to occupy budding scientists and explorers. It is colorful, modern, and open, presenting various learning opportunities amidst a lot of visual and tactile stimulation. There is an outdoor play area with a big slide kids have to access via a series of climbing challenges.
Located very close to Telus Spark is the Calgary Zoo. Recently renovated, the zoo features the Prehistoric Park with life size animatronic dinosaur models. The most popular exhibit in the zoo, the Penguin Plunge, features the daily Penguin Walk where the penguins do a ten minute walk outside of their enclosure and guests are able to get a better look at these humorously dapper creatures.
This zoo also has a botanical garden with meandering pathways and a tropical conservatory with a butterfly garden, pineapple plants and banana trees. Inside the conservatory you will find interactive exhibitions that highlight alternative energy technology.
When the Olympics came to Calgary in 1988, many of the events were held at Canada Olympic Park. Now, the park is a tourist destination and you can go to ride the zipline in the summer and ski and snowboard in the winter. Operated by WinSport Canada, the park is used for both professional athletic training and as a recreational outlet for the public.
In the winter you can take ski and snowboard lessons. Thrill seekers will find plenty to get the adrenaline going by experiencing the bobsleigh or the zipline, which goes so fast they added little parachutes to slow you down a little bit.
Leah DeAngelis is Editor of Best Travel Gear.