10 stomping reasons to stampede over to Calgary in Alberta, Canada

The Canadian city of Calgary, in Alberta, has vibrant culinary and craft beer scenes. With a smattering of museums and art galleries, plus plenty of shops, it proves a good base for a city break and exploring the surrounding countryside.

Renowned for hosting the annual Calgary Stampede, which takes place in July, one of the best spots for gaining an overview of the city’s evolution is at the Glenbow Museum.

1. Test your nerve on Calgary Tower’s glass floor

At a height of 191 metres above the city sidewalk, the panorama deck of Calgary Tower (101 9th Avenue SW) provides a 360˚ vista of the city, the prairies and Canadian Rockies. It’s a good spot to orientate.

If you have the nerve you can even stand on a section of glass flooring and look down onto people and traffic below.

Looking down through the floor of Calgary Tower.

Looking down through the floor of Calgary Tower.

2. See the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio at Studio Bell

Studio Bell, the home of Canada’s National Music Centre, opened in 2016. It’s a must for music fans.

Designed by architect Brad Cleophil, Studio Bell is the home of country’s music halls of fame and hosts five floors of interactive exhibitions. The instruments housed within the building are still in regular use and musicians record in the studios.

The King Edward Hotel on the far side of the road to the main building, and linked by a walkway, has long been a celebrated live music venue. Within it you can see the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio, where some of the biggest hits of the 1970s were recorded.

Studio Bell, home of Canada's National Music Centre.

Studio Bell, home of Canada’s National Music Centre.

3. Go for a cycle ride without the hassle of picking up gear

Visit the Nomad Gear Rentals (tel. +1 587-585-6531) website to order a bicycle for exploring the city and surrounding countryside. They deliver equipment to hotels, apartments and Airbnb properties, removing the hassle of getting across town before and after going out for a ride. (They also supply stand up paddleboards and winter sports equipment.)

One of the most popular cycle routes in Calgary is along the banks of the Bow River. The presence of cycle paths makes riding relatively safe and provides good views of the downtown area. Several of the streets running through Calgary, which is designed on a grid plan, have cycle paths.

The Calgary skyline seen from Prince's Island Park in Calgary.

The Calgary skyline seen from Prince’s Island Park in Calgary.

4. Sink a craft beer or two

Alberta is a prairie province, so grain, one of the key ingredients of beer, is in plentiful supply. Craft beer is in vogue and the brewing scene is on the up.

Heading to the Inglewood district of Calgary means you’ll be able to sample brews at the Cold Garden microbrewery and High Line Brewing. If you want to sample a cross-section of their beers ask for a flight, meaning you’ll be served a handful of small glasses.

A flight of beers at Cold Garden in the Inglewood district of Calgary.

A flight of beers at Cold Garden in the Inglewood district of Calgary.

5. Tuck into fresh, local produce at Calgary Farmers’ Market

To sample local delicacies, ranging from bison jerky or seasonal fruits, head to Calgary Farmers’ Market. The market is open from Thursday to Sunday (9am to 5pm) and proves a popular draw among locals.

Stalls selling hot food, smoothies, freshly brewed coffee mean you don’t have to shop on an empty belly. The cuisines available range from Greek and Italian through Asian flavours to smokehouse cooking.

It’s a good place to stock up on supplies when you arrive, so that you can enjoy tasty picnics and can nibble on fruit throughout your time in Calgary.

Calgary Farmer's Market.

Calgary Farmer’s Market.

6. Feel the spirit with a craft distillery tour

The Eau Claire Distillery (113 Sunset Boulevard NW; +1 403-933-5404) is based in a building that was constructed as a cinema back in 1929. It lies approximately 45 minutes’ drive south of Calgary at Turner Valley, which can be reached via a road known as the Cowboy Trail.

The distillery produces premium whisky, gin and vodka plus seasonal specials. Visiting gives you the chance to learn about the process of making small-batch premium spirits.

Tours and tastings are available seven days a week during the summer season, from May to the end of September.

Equine sculpture on the Calgary Stampede grounds.

Equine sculpture on the Calgary Stampede grounds.

7. Give yourself a Real Treat

Munch on handmade cookies baked without additives, preservatives and shortening. Made in small batches at nearby Cochrane, Real Treat cookies are made with fair trade, organic and non-genetically modified ingredients.

A handful of flavours are available, including dark chocolate chunk with smoked pecans and salted caramel shorties with fennel.

A bison at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump interpretation centre.

A bison at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump interpretation centre.

8. Ride the world’s longest luge track

Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics of 1988 and Canada Olympic Park stands as a legacy.

One of the most popular summer attractions within the expansive park is the Skyline Luge, whose track runs for 1,800 metres. The track can be ridden by people of all ages, so long as they are taller that 110cm, making it a popular family attraction.

The vertical drop over the length of the track is 100 metres, meaning gravity helps pull you to the bottom. The luges are easy to steer and braking is controlled by pulling and pushing the handlebars.

Calgary Stampede royalty.

Calgary Stampede royalty.

9. It’s a great base for exploring Alberta’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The province of Alberta is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and four can be visited during day trips from Calgary.

Banff National Park lies within the Canadian Rocky Mountains Park while Waterton Glacier International Peace Park straddles the border with the USA. Both can be reached within a couple of hours.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is an ancient First Nations hunting ground with a fascinating interpretation centre. The site is close to Lethbridge, less than a two-hour drive south of Calgary.

Numerous well-preserved fossils of skeletons have been excavated from Dinosaur Provincial Park in the Badlands around Drumheller, a couple of hours’ drive north-east of Calgary.

The fifth, Wood Buffalo National Park is in the north-east of the province.

Rock formations at a canyon in the Badlands, near Drumheller.

Rock formations at a canyon in the Badlands, near Drumheller.

10. It doesn’t cost an arm and leg to get there with Air Transat

Air Transat flies direct to Calgary from London Gatwick. It’s possible to upgrade economy class travel by booking Air Transat’s Option Plus, which gives priority check-in with a dedicated counter and a supplementary allowance on checked baggage. Option Plus also means seat selection, priority boarding plus perks for onboard comfort. Air Transat’s Club Class travel means benefits such as a welcome cocktail, selection of wines, a comfort kit plus gourmet cuisine from the Chef’s Menu by Daniel Vézina.

The Quebec-based chef Daniel Vézina has partnered with Air Transat to produce the selection of six meals provided to Club Class passengers. Economy travellers have the option of purchasing the dishes, which are served with a cheese platter, a dessert and a glass of wine. The meals should be pre-ordered (£15/€20) from the www.airtransat.com website and a limited number are available onboard.

The Calgary skyline at night.

Safe to walk – Calgary at night.

Further information

Book travel and holidays in Canada via the Canadian Affair (tel. +44 (0) 20 424 6313).

For more information about the attractions of Calgary, see the Visit Calgary website.

For ideas about things to do in the surrounding region, check out the Travel Alberta and Explore Canada websites.

Stuart Forster, the author of this feature, won the 2017 British Annual Canada Travel Award for Best Online Coverage. He writes regularly for his own blog, Go Eat Do, where you will see further coverage from around Calgary over coming months. He also supplied the photos published here.

5 Comments

  1. Jules Keegan says:

    I stood on that glass floor. Gee, I felt nervous! Well done on getting a photo of the street below.

  2. Chris Wilkinson says:

    I love returning to MannedUp. We have booked a fly-drive holiday that’ll start in Calgary. Looking forward to it and hoping to experience some of your suggestions.

  3. Colin Green says:

    Love the photos. I’m gonna get to that music centre. It looks awesome.

  4. Ed Davis says:

    Really useful. I’m planning on starting a driving holiday in Calgary.

  5. Jonny Carlton says:

    I reckon I’ll head there in August. Thanks for the cool list!

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