As you catch a glimpse of Calgary through the airplane window, you’ll realize that you’re about to embark on an adventure in a bustling metropolis! With over 1.6 million residents, Calgary is the fourth-largest city in Canada. There’s an abundance of things to see and do here that you might not even want to sleep: the expansive and award-winning zoo with its humane treatment of animals, the Stephen Avenue with its myriad of shops, and Downtown with its bars, clubs, and stores. Calgary also boasts a thriving arts scene. Despite the vibrant lights, numerous hotels, restaurants, and cultural institutions, the city makes it easy for you to explore nature.
Day 1 – Strolling Through the Downtown on Foot
Exploring a city on foot often provides the best opportunity to get to know it. You can observe locals, discover quaint cafes and shops, visit landmarks, and soak up the urban atmosphere.
Calgary is divided into several neighborhoods, each with its own unique ambiance. Trying to explore the entire city in one day would be pretty ambitious. However, most tourists are drawn to a particular neighborhood.
For many tourists, Downtown is their first destination, and it’s not without reason. Here, you’ll find Stephen Avenue (8th Avenue SW), a bustling pedestrian zone that’s always buzzing with activity. On weekdays, it’s a mix of business professionals, street performers, and musicians. Numerous shops offer fashion, art, decor, and accessories. Excellent restaurants are scattered throughout, and a significant part of the entertainment scene is anchored by several theaters.
In Inglewood, located east of Downtown, it might be less crowded, but it’s equally diverse. You can take a leisurely stroll along the Bow River, which meanders through Calgary. This historic district is teeming with unconventional pubs, shops, restaurants, and venues. Popular spots like High Line Brewing, Cold Garden, and Ol’ Beautiful are a hit with beer enthusiasts, as they serve excellent craft beer. Inglewood’s many unique features earned it the title of Canada’s best neighborhood in 2015.
Day 2 – Delve Deep into the City’s History
Calgary offers an incredible wealth of culture, museums, theaters, and concerts. One well-known museum is the “Heritage Park Historical Village,” an open-air museum that spans a total of 127 hectares and features over 180 exhibits and 55,000 artifacts. History enthusiasts will find plenty to explore here, and adventurers among you are guaranteed to have a great time, too.
For example, the park houses an antique steam train that you can visit. There’s also a paddlewheel steamboat, and at the Gasoline Alley Museum, one of the museums on the site, you’ll see one of the world’s largest public collections of antique vehicles.
History comes alive in this museum and is a special experience for both young and old. Heritage Park not only offers the opportunity to travel through time from 1860 to 1950 and discover unique treasures from each era, but it also makes history tangible. On the grounds, you’ll find shops that exclusively sell locally-made products from Alberta. Additionally, there’s an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and stores offering vintage toys, clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics.
In the evening, you can take the opportunity to see Calgary from above: The Calgary Tower stands at an impressive 191 meters in height and offers a breathtaking view of the city. The very brave among you can test your nerves by stepping onto the glass floor on the upper floor – don’t worry, the glass has been well-maintained!
If you have the desire and time, you can combine your sightseeing excursion with a special dinner because the tower is home to a revolving restaurant called “Sky 360.” You can also enjoy brunch and lunch there, but during dinner, you can gaze out at the beautifully illuminated city. In the entrance hall, there’s also a restaurant called “Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse,” along with a souvenir shop and a tourism information center.
Day 3 – A Day Full of Animal Adventures
Animal enthusiasts will be thrilled to discover one of the city’s top attractions – Calgary is home to Western Canada’s second-largest zoo. Spanning 2.5 hectares, it houses over 1,000 animals from 120 different species.
Located in the Bridgeland neighborhood, known as Little Italy, it’s secretly considered the locals’ favorite breakfast spot. A standout choice is the “OEB Breakfast Co,” where you can enjoy brunch featuring organic eggs, among other delectable options.
After fueling up, your adventure continues. The zoo’s grounds are divided into various themed areas, and the “Canadian Wilds” section may be of particular interest to tourists.
Here, you’ll find only indigenous animals from the country. Established in 1929, the zoo ranks among the region’s most beloved attractions and has received multiple awards for its ethical treatment of animals.
Day 4 – Active Exploration of Calgary
Calgary is surrounded by stunning and pristine natural beauty, drawing both tourists and locals alike year-round.
Just a short drive from the city, there are several lakes perfect for swimming and paddling. For instance, Quarry Lake, just an hour from Calgary, is renowned for being the warmest lake in the region.
The area in and around Calgary offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and climbing, with numerous parks that provide both relaxation and recreational activities. Fish Creek Provincial Park, the second largest urban park in Canada, boasts over 100 kilometers of hiking and cycling trails. Edworthy Park, though smaller, offers picturesque hiking along the banks of the Bow River.
In the winter, skiing enthusiasts have a range of options, with various ski resorts of varying difficulty levels near the city.
Whether you’ve spent the day swimming or skiing, you’ll surely want to unwind in the evening. Calgary boasts a multitude of pubs and bars, especially in the downtown area. One noteworthy spot is “Jameson’s Pub” on 17th Avenue, which prides itself on catering to everyone’s tastes, offering not only breakfast and lunch but also dinner or simply a cozy place for drinks. Another recommended option is the “Rooftop” bar, where you can relax under a vast awning surrounded by lush plants and flowers while enjoying cocktails and cuisine. There are also delightful pubs and bars scattered throughout other parts of the city.
Day 5 – Embracing the Nightlife: Exploring Culture by Day, Reveling in the Nightlife
In July, it’s that time of year again: the Calgary Stampede is back! This Stampede stands as the largest and most beloved festival in the region, attracting an ever-increasing number of tourists. It’s a ten-day agricultural exhibition featuring a vibrant evening program and many rodeo shows. In fact, the Stampede is recognized as the world’s largest rodeo spectacle and is often dubbed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”
Nestled in the heart of the Bow River is Prince’s Island, home to Prince’s Island Park. Despite being in close proximity to the city with skyscrapers in view, you’ll hardly notice the urban hustle and bustle here. On the contrary, it’s a tranquil, lush green oasis. The sounds of people relaxing on the lawns or park benches blend harmoniously with occasional quacks of mallards and the honking of Canada geese that have made it their home. This park hosts various events throughout the year, including the Calgary Folk Music Festival, a celebration that showcases both renowned and emerging bands. It’s all organized by a dedicated volunteer team.
Come Friday evening, let’s dive into the nightlife scene! What better way to cap off a Friday night than with great music and a drink in hand at one of Calgary’s numerous nightclubs?
If you’ve ever dreamt of immersing yourself in a Western experience, Ranchman’s is the place to be. This country club has gained immense popularity over the last five decades and is perfect for those who can already groove to country music or want to learn.
At “The Palomino,” you’ll discover sizzling grilled cuisine paired with live music spanning various genres from around the world. Enjoy your meal and drinks while relishing the live tunes.
For those seeking a lively atmosphere, “Back Alley Calgary” offers themed bars, expansive dance floors, draft beer, whiskey, and the chance to let loose and dance the night away with a drink in hand.
“Twisted Element” club distinguishes itself by creating a welcoming haven for the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone is embraced here, where you can revel in good music, partake in karaoke, enjoy drag shows, and savor delicious drinks.
TIP: For those who are interested in exploring the beauty of Calgary, I recommend checking out this informative article that delves into the top 9 must-see sights in the city. It’s a great resource for anyone who wants to make the most of their time in Calgary and experience all the unique and breathtaking sights that the city has to offer.
That’s a wrap on my week in Calgary! From the non-stop adventure of the Stampede to the vibrant energy of the city, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Whether you’re a foodie, a culture enthusiast, or just looking for a good time, Calgary has something for everyone. I can’t wait to come back and explore more of this amazing city. Until then, I’ll be reminiscing on my non-stop journey into big city life.