When people travel to Calgary, they're usually doing so for one of two reasons: they're on their way to the mountains, or they're here for the Calgary Stampede.
We'd like to encourage those travellers to take a bit of time to explore Calgary - the area that lies outside the Calgary Stampede grounds. Summer or spring is the best time to play tourist, with nice warm weather and plenty of sunshine. And with many outdoor festivals and destinations like the Calgary Zoo, Fort Calgary and Heritage Park, it's a great place to bring the entire family.
Here our some of our recommendations for the best eating and sight-seeing on a tight schedule. Next time you come through Calgary, tack on an extra couple days to experience our unique and youthful city.
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6:30 p.m. - Land in Calgary. While waiting for your luggage, check out the impressive displays on the baggage carousels, which give you a sneak peek of what the province has to offer. Head outside to hail a cab, or save a bit of money and take an airport shuttle or Calgary Transit's #300 bus, which will get you to downtown in less than 30 minutes.
7:30 p.m. - Get settled into your hotel. For those with a relaxed budget, we recommend the Fairmont Palliser Hotel, Hotel Le Germaine Calgary or Hotel Arts. However, downtown Calgary has plenty of accommodations to suit every budget.
8 p.m. - If you make a trip to Alberta, trying our beef is a must. Downtown Calgary has plenty of wonderful steakhouses to choose from that are within walking distance of all hotels.
9 a.m. - Saturday morning brunch is hugely popular with long lines of young people and families pouring out onto the sidewalks, hoping to grab a table at their favourite breakfast joint. The earlier you head out, the better chance you'll get fed before noon, so ask your concierge about the best hidden breakfast gem in your hotel's area. Or you can choose from one here.
10:30 a.m. - One of the great things about Calgary is that it's sunny the majority of the time - in fact, we're the sunshine capital of Canada. Take advantage of the nice weather with a stroll west along the Bow River. Stop to take in Prince's Island Park, feed the ducks and admire the milky blue colour of the glacier-fed river.
11:00 a.m. - Stroll across the Calgary's newest pedestrian bridge and stop for a photo op. Admire the architecture of the Peace Bridge and marvel at how much it looks like a Chinese finger-trap. Listen to locals on the bridge grumble about how much it cost to build.
11:30 a.m. - One you've made it across the Peace Bridge, continue a block and a half west to the Kensington Business District. Easily one of Calgary's most charming neighbourhoods, you can wander the streets, do some boutique shopping or sit outside a coffee shop or Riley Park and people-watch.
1:30 p.m. - Stop at the nearby Kensington Brasserie for one of their specialty poutine, or grab a more casual lunch on a patio along Kensington Rd. Try a local beer - we recommend anything by Brew Brothers.
3 p.m. - Take a stroll back across the Bow River or catch the Calgary Transit C-Train back into downtown Calgary. Stop at one of the many boutique wine stores for a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers - we recommend Metrovino on 11th Ave. Head back to your hotel for some rest.
7 p.m. - Take a cab or walk over to Calgary's neighbourhood of Inglewood, just a few short blocks from downtown. It's the best neighbourhood for antique shopping and the window shopping possibilities are fantastic. Take a stroll from one end of 9th Ave. to the other, while stopping to check out menus of the area's diverse restaurants.
9 p.m. - After dinner, head over to either the Ironwood or the Blues Can in Inglewood to catch some local talent. Both venues offer a mix of country, blues, folk, rock-a-billy and bluegrass music to suit any western taste. Bring your cowboy boots and ask a local to teach you the two-step.
9 a.m. - After breakfast at the hotel, take a stroll down Stephen Ave. (8th Ave/) in the heart of Calgary's downtown core. On the far east side you'll find Olympic Plaza with its statues of the Famous Five. The farther west you go, you'll find shops and restaurants. Veer off one block to 7th Ave. to catch the C-Train for a faster commute, or head south to find the design district and walk the tree-line streets and unique architecture of the Beltline.
11 a.m. - Spend a few hours at the Glenbow Museum, taking in the local talent featured by artists from the area. Learn the full history of Alberta by visiting the Mavericks exhibit. With over 700 artifacts and interactive displays, it's a great way to spend a few hours and is good entertainment for everyone in the family.
2 p.m. - After a quick lunch, make sure to stop by the Calgary Tower. While it's no longer the tallest building on the Calgary skyline, a trip up will give you the best view of the Rocky Mountains towering over the foothills. You'll also have a fantastic view of The Bow - the tallest skyscraper in Canada west of Toronto.