Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Calgary
By: Tiasha Chatterjee
Calgary is a fantastic destination for trips that involve skiing, hiking, or sightseeing. But there are also several tourist attractions for those looking for entertainment directly in the city.
Calgary has never shed its "Cowtown" image, despite being the largest city in Alberta, the country's oil capital, and one of the most significant economic and financial hubs in North America. This name, which alludes to the area's lengthy history as the hub of a huge cattle-rearing region, has been extremely valuable to tourist marketers since it evokes romantic notions of cowboys, cattle drives, and an untamed Wild West.
Therefore, there are lots of related things to do when you visit this vibrant city, from attending the famous Calgary Stampede each July to visiting the city's pioneer-era Heritage Park (especially fun for families). For those who appreciate gorgeous vistas as well, it is an especially attractive location. On the western horizon, the Rocky Mountains rise from the plain like an impassable barrier.
Due to the proximity of these mountains and its well-known national parks, Calgary is a fantastic destination for trips that involve skiing, hiking, or sightseeing. But there are also several tourist attractions for those looking for entertainment directly in the city. Walking through the famous Peace Bridge and across the city's enormous Prince's Island Park at night, either before or after dining at a fantastic restaurant in the downtown area, is quite enjoyable.
Check out our comprehensive guide to Calgary's best attractions and things to do to help you pack as much as possible into your itinerary.
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The 10-day Calgary Stampede, which has roots dating back to the 1880s and is the summertime high point of Calgary, Alberta, solidifies this city's status as Canada's "Stampede City." This well-known rodeo, dubbed "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," takes place in July and features a variety of cowboy- and rodeo-themed performances and displays.
Accordingly, the locals and up to a million tourists alike dress, and blue jeans and vibrantly coloured Stetsons become the uniform of the day. A large parade, rodeo contests, exciting chuck waggon races, a real First Nations village, concerts, stage acts, a fun fair, pancake breakfasts, and agricultural displays are among the events.
The festival's permanent location, Stampede Park, is easily accessible by public transportation or by driving, and there is enough parking. One of the best things to do in Calgary is still to visit and take a tour of the city, or perhaps attend a concert there, even if you are there during the off-season.
Ontario is the home to Toronto, the largest city in the country, as well as Ottawa, the nation's capital. But what makes Ontario stand out is its extensive stretches of wilderness, pristine lakes, and Niagara Falls, one of Canada's most popular natural attractions. Learn more at Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Ontario.
Banff & Lake Louise
Banff National Park and the town of Banff are unquestionably one of Canada's most picturesque settings, and they are the ideal day excursion from Calgary. While there are several ways to go from Calgary to Banff, having a car - either your own or a rental - might be the ideal choice if you like taking your time and having the freedom to stop whenever the need strikes.
The trip itself is nothing short of stunning, taking in amazing mountain panoramas right after leaving the city, and they didn't let up along the way. It can be driven in under 90 minutes. You will arrive in Banff town after crossing Canmore (which is an excellent place to stop for some sightseeing) and passing through the park's gates. There are many choices for dining and shopping, making it a terrific spot to explore before or after visiting the park.
The sight of Lake Louise, however, will be one of the pleasures of your trip. The ultimate (safe) selfie spot, especially with the handsome Fairmont Château Lake Louise in the background, it's known for its dazzling turquoise waters framed by stunning snowcapped mountains, the tallest reaching heights of over 3,000 metres. It's also a great place to pause and reflect on the magnificence and natural beauty of this region of the world.
Other enjoyable activities at Lake Louise include taking a stroll along the gorgeous lakefront route, going for a canoe trip, or riding the Lake Louise Gondola to get some fantastic views of the area. There are many choices for dining and shopping, making it a terrific spot to explore before or after visiting the park.
The sight of Lake Louise, however, will be one of the pleasures of your trip. The ultimate (safe) selfie spot, especially with the handsome Fairmont Château Lake Louise in the background, it is known for its dazzling turquoise waters framed by stunning snowcapped mountains, the tallest reaching heights of over 3,000 metres. It is also a great place to pause and reflect on the magnificence and natural beauty of this, region of the world.
Other enjoyable activities at Lake Louise include taking a stroll along the gorgeous lakefront route, going for a canoe trip, or riding the Lake Louise Gondola to get some fantastic views of the area.
Calgary Zoo and Prehistoric Park
The Calgary Zoo, one of the most popular family attractions in the city and the largest and busiest zoological park in Canada, has roots dating back to 1917. It is located on a 120-acre location on St. George's Island in the Bow River. In addition to having botanical gardens, the zoo is home to over 1,000 creatures from over 272 species, many of which are rare or endangered. As fresh animals arrive in the spring, it's always fun to travel.
The Land of Lemurs, Destination Africa, and the Canadian Wilds are three popular must-see areas. The latter is where you can get up-close views of exotic animals like grizzly bears and the most recent additions, a pair of pandas.
Spending time exploring the six-acre dinosaur attraction's full-size model dinosaurs is another enjoyable activity. Visit the annual Zoolights Christmas festival here at night if travelling in the winter.
British Columbia is one of the most well-liked travel destinations in Canada thanks to its mountains, lakes, islands, and rainforests, as well as its scenic cities, charming towns, and world-class skiing. Learn more at Complete Travel Guide to British Columbia.
With a large number of historically accurate structures that have been faithfully recreated and engaging costumed interpreters from four distinct eras, Calgary's Heritage Park is a typical pioneering hamlet. One of the features of a visit here is riding the ancient steam engine that offers transportation around the park, in addition to displays and structures that range from a fur-trading fort in 1860 to a town square in 1930s.
Another option is a paddlewheel tour boat, which offers gorgeous cruises across the Glenmore Reservoir and lots of fantastic photo opportunities. Additionally, the reservoir is a well-liked location for water sports like sailing, canoeing, and rowing.
Make sure to add a little additional time to your Heritage Village agenda so that you can visit the Gasoline Alley Museum, which is well-known for its interactive, hands-on one-of-a-kind vintage vehicle exhibits.
A glass-floored viewing platform with a rotating restaurant is located at the top of the Calgary Tower, where visitors may experience the exhilarating feeling of being 191 metres above the city in one of its iconic structures.
The tower, which was first built in 1968 and stood as the city's highest building until 1984, continues to provide spectacular views of both the city and the mountains beyond. It is especially lovely at night, when the tower itself is stunningly illuminated.
The tower's enormous torch, which still burns on exceptional occasions, witnessed the Olympic spirit in 1988. A humorous film that is frequently screened in the structure emphasises the tower's construction.
WinSport: Canada Olympic Park
The odd-looking WinSport buildings, Calgary Olympic Park's home, rise in the foothills of the mountains to the west of the city. This served as the main venue for the XV Olympic Winter Games in 1988. The hill is still accessible for skiing and snowboarding today, and visitors may also bobsled, zipline, toboggan, ride a snow tube, and mountain bike down the hills and slopes.
There are additional opportunities for indoor ice skating, including organised contests, open sessions, and entertainment for visitors and locals. The Calgary skyline may be seen in its entirety from the top of the ski-jump slope on a guided ski jump tower tour. The park also houses Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
Prince's Island Park
A sizable 50-acre park known as Prince's Island Park is situated to the north of Calgary's city centre. The park, which is located next to the Eau Claire Market and is situated on an island in the Bow River, is frequently visited together with this popular tourist destination.
The park, which is connected to the mainland by three footbridges, features places for walking and biking as well as summertime outdoor performances of plays and concerts. There is a renowned restaurant on the island.
Rocky Mountaineer Rail Journey
Between Calgary or Jasper and Vancouver (the company's headquarters), the award-winning, opulently furnished Rocky Mountaineer rail journey travels westward over the venerable Canadian Pacific line, passing through the towering mountain wall of the Rockies. If the weather is cooperative, you can see the snow-covered Three Sisters, a collection of mountain peaks that provide an absolutely spectacular backdrop to your journey, from Canmore.
The well-known ski resort of Banff is soon reached. There are many alternatives for day trips, including Lake Louise, Kicking Horse Pass, and Rogers Pass are just a few of the other highlights in this alpine region (where peaks reach 3,600 metres). You might split up your journey as well.
Stopping over in Banff for a few days of hiking in Banff National Park is a popular choice for those who enjoy the great outdoors.
Regardless of how you decide to approach this epic rail journey, a word of caution: planning your excursion well in advance is advised, especially if you have a yearning to ride the first-class GoldLeaf dome car. This is because the route is one of North America's busiest scenic rail journeys.
Québec is a sizable province that comprises roughly one-sixth of Canada. Its varied landscapes range from remote Arctic tundra to ancient metropolis. The region is bordered by the American states of Vermont and New York in the south, the Arctic Circle virtually to the north, Hudson Bay to the west, and Hudson Bay to the south. Learn more at Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Québec Province.
The Glenbow Museum, which opened in 1966, houses a number of unique exhibits that trace the evolution of Western Canada throughout history. The museum takes visitors back in time as it examines early fur traders' lives, the North West Mounted Police, Louis Riel's Métis rebellion, and the growth of the oil industry. Temporary exhibitions from all around the world are also held at this intriguing museum of art and history. There are also accessible guided tours and educational events.
Telus Spark is yet another recommended museum. This outstanding scientific museum offers a wide range of exciting interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations, as well as lectures and educational seminars, making it ideal for families to explore together.
The National Music Centre's home, Studio Bell, in Calgary's East Village neighbourhood, debuted its brand-new, cutting-edge space in 2016. The massive building, which has musically-related attractions such as the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Collection, can be traced back to 1987.
A staggering 2,000 music-related artefacts, including many vintage and rare instruments, are housed in this group of institutions. A mobile recording studio that originally belonged to the Rolling Stones and an Elton John piano are two of the major exhibitions.
The structure is quite gorgeous, especially inside, where there are more than 226,000 lovely terra-cotta tiles. Along with its numerous exhibits - many of which are interactive and hands-on - Studio Bell also presents a varied schedule of educational activities and workshops, daily performances, and concerts. There are guided tours available, as well as a fun backstage pass tour where you may try out some of the instruments you see.
Ottawa, the provincial capital of Ontario, is renowned for its stunning Victorian architecture. Ottawa is located alongside the Ottawa river and is a well-liked tourist destination because there are so many sites to see there. Learn more at Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Ottawa.
Fish Creek Provincial Park
Fish Creek Provincial Park, the second-largest urban park in Canada, has an area of around 14 square kilometres. This vast green area in the far south of Calgary is well-known for its numerous pleasant walking routes that wind through forests and alongside a creek, some of which connect to other trails that wind around the city.
For those seeking a taste of nature, Fish Creek Park is ideal because it has been recognised as a natural area. 200 different species of birds have been documented as dwelling here, making it a well-liked location for bird viewing.
Additionally, enjoyable activities include fishing, swimming, riding, and taking a guided nature walk. The park also has a tourist centre, a restaurant, and some historic structures that are interesting to explore.
Try to fit a visit to Bowness Park into your Calgary travel itinerary if there is still time for another park outing. This expansive 74-acre urban green area is situated in the northwest corner of the city and is especially well-liked by families. It is a terrific place for picnics, barbecues (fire pits are supplied), or even a fun paddleboat trip in the summer. For the kids' enjoyment, there is also a fantastic small train ride.
In the winter, skating is the main form of entertainment, along with the interesting new activity of "ice biking" (yep, it is a bike on skates!). Cross-country skiing, hockey, and curling are further winter sports. When the leaves are changing colours in the fall, it's an extremely lovely area to visit.
The Hangar Flight Museum
The history of Canadian aviation, namely in Western Canada, is the main emphasis of the Hangar Flight Museum. The museum was founded by Canadian pilots who served in World War II and has since expanded significantly to feature a wide range of aircraft - at last count, there were 24 planes and helicopters on display here - simulators, aviation art prints, radio equipment, and facts on aviation history.
An intriguing exhibit of items and data pertaining to Canada's space programmes is also there. The museum is housed in a sizable structure close to Calgary Airport. There is also a wide range of programming offered, including talks, excursions, activities, and movie nights focused on planes.
At the junction of the Elbow and Bow Rivers, Fort Calgary, the first outpost of the North West Mounted Police, was built in 1875. The ancient fort's foundations may still be visible, and the Fort Calgary Museum aids in explaining how the city came to be. Deane House, a home built in 1906 for the commandant of the fort, is located on the other side of the bridge.
A gift shop with mementoes and RCMP artefacts is also there, as is a movie theatre exhibiting relevant films. If you go on a Sunday, get there early to enjoy the facility's well-liked brunch (reservations recommended).
The Military Museums
The history of Canada's army, navy, and air force is examined in this group of military museums. Walking through WWI trenches or operating a ship from a wheelhouse are just two examples of interactive experiences that are emphasised in exhibits.
There are many tanks and other military vehicles on the property, as well as a library that is open to the public. The museum has a gift store on-site and holds lectures and activities all year long.
Spruce Meadows, a renowned equestrian complex, welcomes guests all year long to explore the stables, observe show jumping and dressage champions in action, and stroll the lovely grounds.
Spring is when outdoor tournaments are held, and other seasons are when indoor competitions are held. On the 505-acre property, there is a football stadium as well as shops and restaurants.
Visitors will discover Devonian Gardens, a flower wonderland, somewhat unexpectedly on the fourth level of the Core Shopping Center. The interior gardens, which span roughly one hectare, have 550 trees, including magnificent tropical palms, as well as sculptures, fish ponds, fountains, and a 900 square foot living wall.
The displays are made up of about 10,000 plants, which survive Calgary's chilly winters by thriving beneath a glass roof. There is a playground on the property. The public is welcome to wander the free Devonian Gardens.
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Calgary Lodging Options for Sightseeing
The dynamic downtown district of Calgary, which is in the middle of many of the city's top attractions, is the ideal place to stay when visiting. Staying close to the Bow River, which flows directly through the heart of the city, will place you close to scenic parks and walking paths. 17th Avenue is a popular neighbourhood of downtown that offers a wide range of enjoyable activities, including shopping at its hip boutiques and dining at its top-notch eateries. Here are a few excellent hotels with great locations:
Luxury lodging options:
- The Calgary Tower and EPCOR Center for the Performing Arts are both easily accessible by foot from the opulent Hotel Le Germain Calgary, which is situated in the city's major commercial sector.
- The contemporary Hyatt Regency is next to the Telus Convention Center and offers rooms with city views, a rooftop sundeck, and an indoor pool.
Midrange lodging options:
- The luxurious International Hotel is located in the heart of downtown, a short stroll from Prince's Island Park in the Bow River, and it offers spacious suites at a reasonable price.
- All of the rooms at the award-winning, boutique Hotel Arts, which is close to the Calgary Tower, feature modern bespoke décor.
- The Wingate by Wyndham Calgary is a short distance from Fish Creek Provincial Park and south of the city centre. This hotel is a wonderful option for families as it has an indoor pool and waterslide.
Budget lodging options:
- The BEST WESTERN PLUS Suites Downtown offers extra-large rooms with either a complete kitchen or kitchenette as a good downtown low-cost choice. Large suites with city views are available at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, and breakfast is provided free of charge.
- The BEST WESTERN PLUS Calgary Centre Inn, which has very affordable prices, is located just south of the city centre, close to the Stampede grounds.
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