When most people think of things to do when visiting Calgary, they may automatically think of the Calgary Stampede.
While the 10 days of boot-stomping, ya-hooing fun is a highlight (and has definitely made it onto this list), there are plenty of other things to do around Calgary that may be a little less obvious.
All around the city, there are buildings to explore, cool things to do, and hidden gems just waiting to be discovered by the willing traveller.
So, given all that, we’ve decided to put together a list of all the things you need to seek out on your next trip to Calgary to make it a truly memorable experience.
Stroll the Stephen Avenue Walk
This one is particularly famous. If you’re in Calgary for any significant amount of time, you’ll hear people talk about Stephen Avenue.
Hailed as Calgary’s only pedestrian mall, Stephen Avenue is home to year-round shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.
Walking along Stephen Avenue is the prime downtown Calgary experience. A beautiful blend of old and new buildings tower above you while you walk past countless shops, public art pieces, pubs, and more. Stephen Avenue is Calgary’s pulse and a trip to the city isn’t complete without a visit.
Attend the Calgary Stampede
Well, we said we were going to include it, didn’t we?! Probably the most iconic event to check out in Calgary, the Stampede only runs for a week and a half in July, but it is definitely worth planning your trip around.
For 10 days straight the city comes alive with rich food, thrill-seeking rides, memorable parties, home-grown talent, exciting entertainment, and so much more. It’s a celebration of the city’s history and a look towards the future.
Known as Canada’s most visited zoo, there are over 700 animals who call the 92-acre park home.
The zoo is divided into different sections including The Canadian Wilds, The Land of Lemurs, Penguin Plunge, and the Rocky Mountain Bird Aviary. There’s also a six-acre Prehistoric Park featuring life-sized dinosaurs in their recreated environments.
Most recently, the zoo opened the Panda Passage, the temporary home of a family of giant pandas on loan from China who had lived in the Toronto Zoo for the last five years.
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
The best way to see Calgary is from above, and the Calgary Tower is the best place to get that bird’s eye view. On the tower’s observation deck, you have a full 360-degree view of the city and what lies beyond. Even though there are buildings much taller than the tower, it’s still a defining part of the city’s skyline.
Hours: 9 am to 9 pm
Canada’s largest living history museum, Heritage Park, is one of Calgary’s most visited tourist attractions — and for good reason.
The exhibits at the museum depict life in western Canada from the 1860s to the 1950s. The exhibits are in the form of historical buildings such as a post office, a newspaper office, or a school, fully furnished with artifacts and populated by actors in the roles of someone who works there, who will even answer questions from visitors.
Hours: 10 am to 4 pm.
Snap a photo of the Peace Bridge
Take a walk across this Santiago Calatrava-designed bridge at sunset and you’ll have no trouble getting great photos as you marvel at how pretty the entire surrounding area is. If you park at 6th Street and 1st Avenue SW you can even stay in your car… if that’s more your thing.
Relive 1988 glory at Olympic Plaza
Originally built for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games as the site of the medal presentation ceremonies, this park still sees use today hosting events and festivals year-round, and is a favourite lunch hour spot for Calgary’s downtown workers.
The park features a stage, ample seating, waterfalls, a pond in the summer that becomes a seating area in the winter, and independent concessions.
Hours: 10 am to 9 pm
A huge and beautiful indoor park and garden in the CORE Shopping Centre.
As Calgary’s only indoor park, it’s hugely popular and a great place to relax while downtown. Tropical plants, natural light, water fountains, a living wall, and fish ponds are all featured here, as well as an indoor playground.
Hours: Monday to Wednesday, Saturday: 10 am to 6 pm. Thursday to Friday: 10 am to 8 pm. Sunday: 12 pm to 5 pm.
Relax at Prince’s Island Park
Named after Peter Anthony Prince, the man who founded the Eau Claire Lumber Mill, Prince’s Island Park is a beautiful downtown park that hosts many of Calgary’s greatest events.
The city’s Canada Day celebrations are hosted at the park, as is the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Expo Latino, Shakespeare in the Park, and Heritage Day celebrations.
There are also lots of public art pieces and wide open green spaces that are perfect for picnics after you’ve travelled along the many walking and bike trails.
Hours: 5 am to 11 pm
Interactive exhibits, presentations, and demonstrations are the order of the day at the Telus Spark Science Centre.
The museum offers a wide variety of media, workshops, school and youth programs, sleepovers, and summer camps throughout the year.
Much of the museum is directed for children and youths, but there’s plenty that adults will be interested in, including the HD Digital Dome Theatre which shows films or live planetarium shows, and the monthly Adult Only Nights — adult beverages included.
Hours: 10 am to 4 pm
Find the perfect vantage from Scotsman’s Hill
Scotsman Hill, on the southeastern end of Salisbury Street, offers the perfect viewpoint for sunset watching. It’s no wonder that this area is frequented during the annual Stampede fireworks.
A total of 80 tv screens, more than 100 arcade games, a virtual reality room, and 16 beers on tap… Basically, it’s the place that a teenage-you would have created if you’d won the lottery, right?
No need to go out and buy that Scratch & Win, because the Rec Room at Deerfoot City just opened up, and it has all that and more.
As the fourth Rec Room opened up by Cineplex – the others being in West Edmonton Mall, South Edmonton, and Toronto Roundhouse – the new entertainment and food destination features two restaurants, 9,000-sq-ft of arcade/VR/augmented reality games, a space for live music and shows, and two patios.
Gaze at some art at the Glenbow Museum
The Glenbow Museum has been a fixture of Calgary culture for the last 50 years. It’s a showcase of culture and art from Alberta, both historic and contemporary. On occasion, special exhibits make appearances at the museum as well.
See the entire city from Nose Hill Park
Drive just 10 minutes from Sonoma to Nose Hill Park where you’ll get unobstructed views of Calgary in all directions. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic where you can take in a romantic sunset over the Rocky Mountains. These breathtaking views make for a great example of Calgary’s natural beauty. Oh, and you might even see the incredible Northern Lights there, too.
Combine a culinary wonderland, a charming historic space, and dazzling views of the Bow River, and you’ve got the iconic Simmons building that adorns the riverwalk in the East Village. Originally a mattress factory, this space has been turned into a gastronomic hotspot, as it is home to Phil and Sebastian, Sidewalk Citizen, and Charbar.
Make the evening memorable as you enjoy a candlelit dinner set to the backdrop of a rustic dining room overlooking the river, or simply grab a delicious cup of coffee as you stroll your way through Prince’s Island Park at this iconic cafe.
Grab your binoculars and set out for an afternoon in the wild! Home to more than 270 species of bird The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary also houses everything from unique mammals, amphibians, and fish.
A great way to get out into nature — without straying too far from downtown!
Walk the halls of this centre, learn about the greats in Canadian music history, and peruse their collection of musical instruments that spans back over 450 years – you may even catch the odd performance or two. If you head down on a Sunday, take advantage of their Backstage Pass tours and catch a glimpse of the artists in their recording studios.
Grab a drink on 17th Avenue
17th Avenue is one of the best places to go in Calgary if you’re looking for a refreshing beverage, delicious meal, or the perfect place to people watch. Dozens of restaurants, shops, and bars line the streets, so where you’ll end up depends entirely on your own two feet!
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