Calgary skyline along Bow River. Image from Canva

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If you want to explore Canada, I have a city suggestion for you: one with lots of greenery, the sunniest in Canada, and also one of the cleanest and most livable on Earth. Sound cool? Well, ladies and gentlemen, meet the city of Calgary.

This largest city in Alberta is located in the transition zone between the Canadian Rockies foothills and the Canadian Prairies. Approximately 1.3 million people have found their home here, and they have some advice for you: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.” Funny people, right? And that’s a bonus, for sure. If in any moment you need help, you’ll find it easily here, as Calgary has the highest number of volunteers per capita in Canada.

So, what are the must-dos in this cool, eclectic city after landing in YYC? Find out in this Calgary travel guide.

Browse Hotels in Calgary Here

Calgary Stampede Parade
Calgary Stampede Parade. Image from Canva

1. Calgary Stampede

Get your cowboy hats, good vibes, and pancake cravings ready because it’s time for the (drumrolls, please) greatest outdoor show in the world. The Calgary Stampede is a must-see and one of the top attractions in the city. Every July in downtown Calgary, millions of visitors gather to jump into the real Cow Town. This ten-day event offers rodeos, parades, various competitions, a First Nations village, and live music in the world-class Grandstand show. Trust me, it’s really grand.

These days, the City of Calgary is all about euphoria: thousands of volunteers participate in the organization, and even office buildings put their cowboy boots on. Long story short, when you visit Calgary, this century-old show will show you why this city is nicknamed Cow Town. Also, during these days, please forget about your diet because pancakes and barbecue are among the top attractions.

Canadian Rockies
The Canadian Rockies. Image from Canva

2. Rocky Mountains

If you want a reminder of just how stunning and powerful Mother Earth is, I promise the day trip to the Canadian Rockies will leave you speechless. This top attraction stretches from northern Alberta and British Columbia to New Mexico. You can explore it on foot, by bike or by car. Just keep in mind that the wind here is really strong, with occasional gusts. This is something you’ll be reminded of by the floating, lost stuff of other visitors. Also, the roads bordering on steep cliffs test even those who believe they don’t have a fear of heights.

In return, you’ll enjoy beautiful scenes: flowery meadows with wild animals; noisy rivers; unreal mountains; and if you’re lucky, you’ll see elk and deer. Although that sounded sweet, be aware that elk, characteristic of North America, can reach several hundred kilograms.

If you still want to see elk, as well as many other animals, start sightseeing early in the morning before they hide from visitors. Also, make sure to visit the top attractions of Bear Lake and Alberta Falls. You can also try hiking, camping, mountain biking and picnicking in the milder months, or skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

If you want to take sightseeing in the Rocky Mountains to a whole new level (like, the whole new level), buy a ticket for a luxurious and award-winning train to Vancouver. During those 10 hours, you will enjoy food prepared by award-winning chefs and be stunned by alternating scenes through the glass window and the roof. This world-class experience is once in a lifetime, so if you are able, as Nike would say, just do it.

Glenmore Reservoir
Glenmore Reservoir. Image from Canva

3. Heritage Park Historical Village

If you want to visit the past, it awaits you at Heritage Park Historical Village. This is one of the best outdoor activities in downtown Calgary, as confirmed by travelers on TripAdvisor, who added it to the world’s top 10 percent of attractions.

This year-round museum about the history of Western Canada is located 15 minutes from downtown Calgary, next to Glenmore Reservoir, and you will sail the reservoir by, wait for it, a paddle-wheeler. During the walking tour through the park, you will discover the history and success of Western Canada from 1860 to 1930.

A bunch of interactive exhibits will get you back there: a steam train ride, costumed interpreters, a historical village, an amusement park, restaurants, and much more. Also, don’t miss visiting one of many people’s favorites, the Gasoline Alley Museum. So buy some fresh cinnamon rolls and jump into this 127-acre history. Oh yes, if you have children, this is a must-see. Trust me, they will thank you.

Book a 3.5 Hour Bus City Tour with Gasoline Alley Museum

Calgary Tower
Calgary Tower. Image from Canva

4. Calgary Tower

One question: would you dare to step on the glass floor at a height of 190 meters? If your answer is yes, test your mental strength at Calgary Tower. If your answer is no, that’s ok too; simply enjoy its light shows from the ground, as well as the fact that you are not up there.

But for those who step onto the observation deck, this top attraction will offer a panoramic view of the city’s hustle and bustle as well as the Rocky Mountains. If you do not want to just get off as soon as possible, eat something nice in a restaurant or buy a souvenir that will remind you of your own bravery.

If you want a more specific reward, you can escape the city for hiking in Kananaskis, watch show jumping at Spruce Meadows, visit the Military Museums, or go to a game of the most popular Canadian sport, ice hockey. A Calgary Flames battle at the Saddledome will set you on fire, especially if it’s against their great rival, the Edmonton Oilers. If your inner flame becomes too strong, you can just balance it with a famous beer. It might be the most expensive beer you’ve ever had, but Go, Flames, Go.

Book the Calgary Tower General Admission Ticket

Things to do in Calgary Canada

5. Studio Bell: National Music Centre

Once you dare to step onto the glass floor of the Calgary Tower, your inner rock star will definitely awaken, and that’s the perfect time for another must-do activity: visiting Studio Bell. The National Music Centre is located in the East Village, a neighborhood of good energy, optimism and the future. Sounds perfect, right? With five floors of stunning architecture and over 3,000 objects, it will take you through more than 450 years of musical history.

You will see an impressive collection of memorabilia and musical instruments (for example, a Gibson Les Paul guitar or Elton John’s piano, but also a Rolling Stones recording studio), listen to live music, or visit four Canadian Music Halls of Fame. Of course, you will have the opportunity to show off your skills too. Who knows, maybe a new world hit will emerge? I suggest ending this tour with a meal at King Eddy because your inner rock star has now really earned a reward.

Calgary Peace Bridge
Peace Bridge. Image from Canva

6. Bow River and Elbow River

I have one unusual suggestion for you: let the river be your tour guide for a day. The Bow River and Elbow River both have a lot to offer, but the Bow River is more popular because it runs through the center of Calgary. It’s perfect for walking tours and sightseeing. The river will take you to the striking red Peace Bridge that connects Memorial Drive to Eau Claire Park. Go ahead and cross it since it was made precisely for pedestrians and cyclists.

If you’re in the mood, you can try rafting but definitely don’t miss visiting Prince’s Island Park and the Calgarians who chill there. Feel free to join them in this wonderful plan, and after that, you can dine at River Cafe. (Also, when talking about parks, consider Nosehill Park and Fish Creek Provincial Park too.)

If you’re a history lover, visit the Fort Calgary Museum, and if you’re a fan of fishing, you’ll be amazed by the fact that the Bow River is one of the best trout-fishing rivers in the world. Long story short, at the end of the day, you will be very satisfied with your local guide.

Stephen Ave Walk
Stephen Avenue Walk. Image from Canva

7. Stephen Avenue Walk

You’d be really missing out if you didn’t go to the Stephen Avenue Walk along the most beautiful and historic street in the heart of Calgary. This pedestrian mall is an eclectic mix of boutiques and galleries and a stage for artistic and cultural events. It’s also a favorite spot for walking, shopping or drinking coffee. From here, you can easily reach numerous other attractions, such as the Glenbow Museum, a world-class public library, or Studio Bell.

And if you’ve never seen what $1.4 billion looks like, head up to the 236-meter-tall Bow. That’s the price of this third-tallest building outside of Toronto. Although you will certainly see this top attraction without looking for it, get closer. Why? Because the entrance to Wonderland awaits you ahead.  This must-see Wonderland Sculpture is a 12-meter public art installation in the shape of a woman’s head in front of the Bow. You can enter it and assess whether you see what the creator wanted to present: the dreams of young people from the province.

Calgary Olympic Plaza
Calgary Olympic Plaza. Image from Canva

8. Winsport (Canada Olympic Park)

Are you in the mood for some sports? If so, it’s time for the premier outdoor activity center, WinSport. True sports fans may remember that Canada Olympic Park hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics in the city of Calgary. On as many as 260 acres, WinSport offers year-round activities such as mini-golf, cycling and the fastest zip-line in North America in the summer.

Meanwhile, in the winter, you can demonstrate your skiing, snowboarding or tubing skills on world-class slopes. If you get tired or are not a fan of these activities at all, head to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Here, you’ll learn some fun facts about sports and see the torch that was lit at the 1988 Olympic Games.

9. The Calgary Zoo

I’m usually not someone who would put a zoo on a list like this, but the Calgary Zoo really is a must-see top attraction. By buying a ticket, you enter the home of more than 800 animal species from all over the world, including Africa. This is a year-round activity, but on Sundays, you can start the day there with a really nice Sunday Safari Brunch.

After that, you can visit botanical gardens, and if you have children, they will be impressed by the life-size models of dinosaurs and the many playgrounds. By the way, if you need more activities to animate your little ones, I also suggest the Telus Spark Science Center, Drumheller with its surrounding badlands and the largest outdoor park in Western Canada, Calaway Park. If you’re not so much into the animals but still want to please your kids and take them to the Calgary Zoo, don’t despair; they have a chocolate fountain at Sunday brunch.

Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake Image from Canva

10. Banff National Park and Canmore

I believe I saved the best for last: the dream road trip to the surreal sights of Banff National Park and Canmore. If you prefer less famous and crowded spots but still want to see those magic scenes of the Rocky Mountains, choose Canmore, which is not yet as popular as Banff. But why not choose both?

Banff is Canada’s first national park, and its value is recognized by UNESCO. It borders some other must-see attractions, such as Yoho, Kootenay and Jasper. Although visiting Banff is a year-round activity, if you’re a fan of skiing, come between November and May. However, if you are more of a warm-weather person and want to come during the summer months, you can enjoy hiking, sightseeing and cycling.

Book a day tour to Banff National Park out of Calgary

Also, when in Banff, treat yourself to a luxury stay at the magic Fairmont Hotel. This amazing castle, with its surrounding stunning nature, has so far hosted numerous members of the royal family and Hollywood stars.

When visiting this area, make sure to head to must-see Lake Louise and Lake Moraine for a dose of unreal beauty. You can visit Lake Louise regardless of the time of year, but if you plan to include Moraine Lake, I recommend the summer months. The only thing that’s left is to take a gondola ride and enjoy a moment of pure beauty. Also, if you’re looking for that perfect Instagram viral backdrop, it’s here. So, finally, pick up your camera and say, Cheese.

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