Calgary Canada: The Stampede and a Whole Lot More
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The Stampede is an event like no other. I know because I have been twice. The first time was eleven years ago and this time was in July. If you’re wondering, I plan to go again. And, not just for the Stampede but to see more of the wonderful city of Calgary.
Calgary is a great Western city, but it is not a “cow town.” Even if you had absolutely no interest in rodeos and all the things mentioned above you could fall in love with Calgary.
Art and ArchitectureI’m a fan of architect Santiago Calatrava. You may know of some of his beautiful structures around the world. One of my favorites is the Milwaukee Art Museum. I’ve seen a couple of his bridges and photos of many other structures that have made him world famous and, sometimes, a bit controversial. The Peace Bridge over the Bow River in Calgary should be near the top of your list when you visit. Not to be ignored is an even newer bridge, known by some as the “Skipping Stone” bridge that leads to St. Patrick’s Island with art installations, picnic areas and wetlands.
The world famous Glenbow Museum houses Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta. Here you’ll learn the fascinating history of the people who forged the province. You can also find the gallery titled Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life demonstrating the history of the Blackfoot people of Alberta.
Nearby is the iconic Calgary Tower. During my previous visit I actually witnessed a horse being taken up the elevator to the observation deck. The horse didn’t go onto the glass platform but the rider did have him perform a few tricks before leading him back to the elevator. If you know anything about horses you know that is not an easy feat. The views from the deck are excellent. This is a perfect way to see the city and get a good understanding of exactly where you are and how to get around.
Also nearby, Stephen Avenue Walk is reminiscent of Las Ramblas in Barcelona or Florida Avenue in Buenos Aires. While you may not find tango dancers on the walking only street, you will discover many buskers and vendors for your enjoyment. You’ll be only a couple of blocks from Olympic Plaza, dedicated to the memory of the Calgary Olympic Games in 1988. Do you remember “Eddie the Eagle”?
Arts Commons is the hub of Calgary’s arts and culture. There are a number of theatres where you will find performances and events year-round. The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Theatre Calgary are here as well as the Ca’Puccini, the Teatro Group’s cafe serving espresso, food and drinks all day on performance occasions.
One of Canada’s leading ballet companies, Alberta Ballet, can be found giving performances in Calgary and Edmonton, as well as on tour nationally and internationally. The Calgary Opera performs at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and, if you prefer dinner theatre you won’t be left out. Just head over to the Jubilations Dinner Theatre with a dueling piano bar adjoining the theatre. And, Karaoke on Sundays!
If Zoos are among your interests you don’t want to miss the Calgary Zoo, Botanical Garden and Prehistoric Park with over 1,000 animals. The Red Pandas are my favorite.
Olympics Adventures, Gaming, and Craft BeersThe Olympic grounds are on the edge of town, but well worth the visit. If you want a bit of urban adventure be sure to ride the Skyline Luge. You take a lift ride to the top, get on a luge and zip down the long downhill run as fast as you want to go. The run is wide enough for several at a time so you might get passed by a more experienced “luger” on the way down. It really is a lot of fun and worth the time to get to the park. And, if you have kids with you and want a fun biking experience there are great downhill bike runs there as well. Even a zipline.
There are a number of casinos in Calgary including one that is adjacent to the Calgary Stampede park – the Cowboys Casino with a dance hall, bars, food, 400 slots & 34 table games and a private high limit room for serious gamblers.
A lot of travelers look for local craft breweries whenever they visit and you can be certain that Calgary will not disappoint. One of the most modern craft brewing facilities in North America will be found at the Red Rock Brewery, known for their production of premium, batch-brewed ales and lagers. Other micro-breweries include Minhas Micro Brewery, Tool Shed Brewing Company, Village Brewery and the Wild Rose Brewery & Taproom.
Calgary FestivalsCalgary is a festival city so you can plan a visit according to an event you will really enjoy, but be sure to leave time to see the city beyond the festival. Some of those great events include the Calgary Folk Music Festival in July, the Calgary International Blues Festival in late July, the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo in April, the Calgary International Film Festival in late September, the Reggae Festival in August, Expo Latino Festival in late August, Opera in the village in mid-August, the Calgary Highland Games in September and even a Dragon Boat Race & Festival in August. Yes, August is a busy month in Calgary. But, that’s not all, just too many other to mention here. Well, maybe one more. The International Festival of Piano every September showcasing the world’s best classical pianists, chamber musicians, innovative artists, authors and lecturers from music, art and history in September.
Have we left anything out? Absolutely. There is way too much going on in Calgary to squeeze into this one feature. I could mention the Inglewood Sunfest, the Calgary Fringe Theatre Festival and much more, but, really, we’re about out of room.
O.K., one more. The Pride of Calgary – the city’s colourful LGBTQ community. A Pride Parade during Pride Week in August, the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association rodeo and music festival in June, the Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival in May and more. Enjoy a great visit to Calgary and . . . Keep on Traveling.
When You GoI stayed at the very convenient Marriott Downtown that is within walking distance not only of the Stampede grounds, but many of the other fine opportunities offered by the city.
For more help in planning your Canadian adventure be sure to click on the website for Calgary at Visit Calgary. And, for more information on more things to do in the area don’t forget to visit Travel Alberta and click on the trip planning section.
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Robert Painter is an adventure travel writer currently residing in Southern Utah. When not traveling around the globe his time is spent hiking and exploring the wonderful and beautiful red rock surroundings of his new home.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author