Story and photos by Elle McLean
As Calgarians, we suffer the joy and the burden of endless out-of-town friends and family visiting us with one thing in mind: Banff. While Alberta’s national parks are beautiful and the mountains are stunning, our city has a wide variety of highlights to offer visitors as well. The best thing about Calgary is the multitude of interests that it caters to. The following is in no way an exhaustive list, but it gives you a great sample of the classic, the offbeat and the one-of-a-kind experiences we have here!
If your guests are interested in…
…music, here’s where to fill your ears:
–The Palomino Smokehouse – for local bands, a classic pub atmosphere, barbeque and a fun Calgarian experience, hit up the Palomino!
–Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre – displaying Canadian musical talent of all genres, alongside interactive exhibits and instruments that visitors can actually play!
–Music Mile in Inglewood – 9 Ave. SE is known for its array of bars, pubs and cafes that play host to many genres of live music – you’re sure to find something going on in Inglewood seven nights a week! Music Mile stretches from Studio Bell to The Blues Can in Inglewood.
–Broken City – home of the popular Rockin’ 4 Dollar’s night, Broken City is a hit among locals and is sure to have crowded dance floor.
–Ship and Anchor – live music, a huge outdoor patio and good vibes – what more could you ask for? The Ship also hosts an old-school arcade night once a month.
–King Eddy – recently reopened across the street from Studio Bell, this historic venue features both local and well-known artists.
…sports or the Olympics, score a goal by visiting:
–Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame – showing off Canadian athletes, every sport under the sun (think horseback riding, figure skating and curling, along with hockey, baseball and more!), and the Olympics, with a particular focus on the 1988 Winter Games hosted in Calgary.
–Scotiabank Saddledome – catch a game or go on a tour! You may even get to see the Calgary Flames locker room… The Dome is home to the Calgary Flames NHL team, alongside the WHL Hitmen and the National Lacrosse League’s Calgary Roughnecks.
–WinSport – Canada Olympic Park – This is the site where much of the 1988 Winter Games took place! Today, there around many activities to do there year-round, including Skyline Luge, bobsled, mini golf, a zipline, skiing and mountain biking.
–Olympic Plaza – This peaceful little park in downtown Calgary is where the Olympic medal ceremonies took place. It’s a great spot to relax, with lots of seating, grassy areas and a wading pool fountain (which turns into an ice rink in the winter!), surrounded by little cafes.
–Olympic Oval – for fans of speed skating, the Oval is sure to be a hit! This is where the ice events look place during the Olympics, and it has open public skating times when guests can experience “the fastest ice in the world” for themselves.
…dancing and theatre, give these spots a twirl:
–Ranchman’s – for a true “cowboy” experience, head to this spot, famous for its line dancing, live bands and mechanical bull.
–StageWest – with huge buffet brunch or dinner alongside award-winning performances, an outing here is sure to be a hit!
–Jubilations Dinner Theatre – usually featuring parodies and comedic theatre, Jubilations gives you an interactive theatre experience and a delicious meal.
–Aussie Rules – a unique experience with duelling pianos, this lively location takes pride in involving the audience in their shows.
–Alberta Ballet – for the ballet lover, catch both classic and contemporary performances put on by the Alberta Ballet.
–Decidedly Jazz Danceworks – always an exciting show, Decidefely Jazz offers guests world-class jazz performances.
…art, feast your eyes at the following:
–New Central Library – the architecture of Central Library is impressive in itself, but add that to creative spaces and art pieces spread throughout the facility and you have a masterpiece. Be ready to take lots of photos!
–Glenbow – this museum has the largest art collection in western Canada, and also features history about Calgary, the Alberta area and First Nations peoples, an impressive geological collection and unique rotating exhibits throughout the year.
–Esker Foundation – this gallery is free to the public and always has a variety of new projects and pieces on display.
–The Peanut Gallery at John Fluevog – if you love unique shoes, you’ll want to check out John Fluevog’s shop, but perhaps even more interesting than the store is the little gallery in the basement of the building. You never know what you’ll find there!
–cSpace King Edward – this 100+ year old school was converted into a creative space, and now hosts many artists, workshops, a café and a farmers market on Saturdays!
…history, go back in time at:
–Fort Calgary – if you’ve ever wanted to know what life was like in Calgary when the city first began, look no further! At Fort Calgary you can see the site of the very first European building in what later became our city, as well as learn about the Mounties, First Nations peoples and the pioneers of the province.
–Heritage Park – this “living historical village” allows visitors to truly experience what life was like in the late 1800s through until the 1950s in a fully immersive old-fashioned town. Heritage Park comes complete with old-time shops, a midway and early settlers’ homesteads, as well as a fur trade fort and a car museum.
–The Military Museums – while specifically aimed at those interested in the military and navy, these four museums in one are engaging, enlightening and a must-see for any Canadian!
…food, take a bite out of:
-One of our many farmers markets! Each one has a little something different to offer, whether you’re looking for healthy produce, unique meals, local goods, a European style dining hall or a flea market setting.
–Jinya – home to incredible ramen and other Japanese dishes, along with fun, trendy urban vibes, slurping is encouraged at Jinya
–Pigeonhole – headed by an award-winning chef, be sure to make a reservation to try out the one-of-a-kind food and extensive wine menu at this local gem.
–The Coup – specializing in vegan, gluten-free and good-for-you meals, non-vegans can find lots to eat here too! The food here tastes so good you won’t even know it’s healthy.
–Without Papers Pizza – this pizza place is unlike any other! With thin crust, unique topping combinations and house-made cheese, its food is a must try. The atmosphere is neat too, with old movies being projected onto the walls all day long.
–OEB Breakfast Co – Calgary is well-known for the incredible brunches its many diners provide, and OEB is at the top of the game with its ‘Soul in a Bowl’ breakfast poutine, among several other hits.
–Peters’ Drive-In – practically a Calgary institution, this joint has been serving burgers, fries and milkshakes with over 4500 flavour combinations since the 1960s.
–Fiasco Gelato – a local favourite, visitors have gotta try this gelato! Their parlour also offers tours, for those looking for a little insight about how this delicious treat is made (you may just get some free samples out of the deal too)!
…craft beer and spirits, drink up at:
–Village Brewery – featuring a community-minded attitude, large upstairs tasting room, and interactive tours.
–Big Rock Brewery – Calgary’s first craft brewery, this is a must-see for any beer lover!
–Cabin Brewing Company – recently opened in Calgary, Cabin offers a new take on microbrews and the aesthetically-pleasing interior is everything you would expect it to be from its name.
–Last Best – an upscale pub venue in addition to being a brewery, Last Best has a large outdoor patio complete with a firepit, a great local menu and some of the best nachos you’ll ever taste.
–Burwood Distillery – one of the area’s few distilleries, Burwood is making waves in the spirit industry.
–Eau Claire Distillery – Although technically not in Calgary, it’s worth making the 45-minute drive to Turner Valley to visit this stunning facility. They offer fun, interesting tours in which participants may get to sample a not-yet-released spirit.
…adrenaline, get your heart beating here:
–Calaway Park – all-inclusive admission for classic amusement park rides, shows and non-stop fun!
–B-Line Indoor Bike Park – perfect for cycling enthusiasts of all ages, this space is a great fit for those just learning to ride a bike and anyone looking to practice their tricks on B-Line’s obstacles and varying terrain.
–Skyline Luge – the world’s longest cement luge track, this attraction lets visitors control their journey down the ski hill using non-electric, go-kart style transportation. Thrills for any age!
–WinSport’s Zipline –North America’s fastest zipline runs from the top of the ski jump at Canada Olympic Park, and lets you feel the thrill of this Olympic jump with a gentler landing.
…good plain fun, satisfy your inner child at these spots:
–Big Fun Play Centre – with tons of inflatable obstacles, this spot plays homage to the show ‘Wipe Out’.
–InjaNation – part obstacle course, part climbing centre and part trampoline park, InjaNation is a unique venue that will have you testing skills of all kinds!
–Flying Squirrel – kids and adults alike will enjoy this indoor trampoline park – get in a workout while you jump!
–BATL – visit Calgary’s only indoor axe throwing venue!
–Calgary Zoo – not all zoos are created equal, and with a penguin exhibit, giant pandas and a lemur habitat that you can step right inside, the Calgary Zoo is a must-do.
–Telus SPARK Science Centre – with something for all ages, Telus SPARK is a fun and interactive way to learn about science and various aspects of planet Earth. On warm days, step outside to enjoy their “Brainasium”, featuring a 63-foot slide, a six person teeter-totter and a variety of other engaging and educational obstacles.
–Calgary Tower – a classic while in Calgary, this attraction seems almost painfully touristy, but the view is worth it. Use the Tower to help visitors orient themselves with the city. On a clear day, you can even see the Rocky Mountains!
…the great outdoors, take a walk on the wild side at these locales:
–Fish Creek Park – this huge provincial park has several entrances and many paved and dirt pathways for walking, running, biking and more. A great place for picnics and bonfires in the summer!
–Bowness Park – a perfect spot to get out on the river, whether it be on ice skates in the winter or paddle boats and kayaks in the summer.
–Inglewood Bird Sanctuary – this beautiful space is home to birds, deer and other wildlife, and offers a relaxing meander on its paved pathways while getting in touch with nature.
–Prince’s Island Park, the Peace Bridge, St. Patrick’s Island and RiverWalk – stroll along the Bow River and explore the many little parks and pathways on your way between the iconic Peace Bridge and recently revitalized St. Patrick’s Island with its urban park vibe.
–Devonian Gardens – on the top floor of the CORE Shopping Centre in downtown Calgary, you can wander through this peaceful oasis to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
…shopping, shop till you drop at one or more of these:
–Chinook Centre – quite possibly Calgary’s most popular mall, this shopping centre hosts many upscale shops such a Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as more affordable stores, a bowling alley, a beautiful dining hall style food court, several sit-down restaurants and a movie theatre.
–Inglewood – running along 9 Ave. SE, Inglewood was Calgary’s first main street, and this neighbourhood has been revitalized into a vibrant area, featuring tons of unique local shops, several breweries, and many hidden gems.
–Kensington – this eclectic neighbourhood is sure to satisfy any shopper with its huge array of independent stores and restaurants!
–17th Avenue SW – Calgary’s “Retail and Entertainment District”, 17 Ave. and the surrounding area are lined with boutiques, one-of-a-kind stores, restaurants, breweries and pubs.
–Stephen Avenue (8 Ave.) – closed to vehicular traffic from 6 a.m. through 6 p.m. daily, Stephen Ave is a picturesque pedestrian road with local stores and restuarants, souvenir shops and a massive multi-store mall spanning several city blocks
–CrossIron Mills – outlet shopping, a massive Bass Pro Shops store and a few well-known boutiques thrown in for good measure.
By all means, satisfy your visitors’ requests to see the Rocky Mountains – we’re so lucky to live this close to them that we often take it for granted. Just don’t forget to show off our incredibly diverse city as well!