Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is one of the most popular Western Canadian cities to visit, Calgary, Alberta. This prairie city has a population of over 1.2 million residents. With that large of a population you know that there is plenty of things to do in Calgary. While you shouldn’t have any problems finding some fun while in this beautiful city, I thought I’d make it a bit easier and share some of the best things to do in Calgary.
Sky360 in the Calgary Tower
While it can be a bit touristy, and certainly isn’t the most budget friendly place to eat. You’re really paying for the views, although the food is actually really good as well. Make sure you bring along a camera, as the views are pretty spectacular. You’ll have the best view of downtown Calgary and being able to see all of the way to the Rocky Mountains is kind of unreal. Try to plan it on a clear day so you can get the best view.
Burger and fries will be around $18-20. Add beer & tip on that and you’re looking at approximately a $40-45 dollar bill.
Princes Island Park
Princes Island Park is located downtown Calgary. It’s one of the more popular things to do for visitors. downtown is very nice, and has a little café on it. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, or for an impromptu picnic. Each year Canada Day celebrations, as well as the Calgary Folk Festival are held on Prince’s Island Park.
The last time I went to the Calgary zoo was probably over 8 years ago. At the time they had a baby elephant, which if you’ve been following the front page of the internet, you’ll know that Baby Elephants are all over /r/all. If you’re an animal nut, this can be a great way to get up close to wild animals and snap some photos to show your friends or family back home. Tickets will run you around $23 for General Admissions. Discounts are available for children and seniors.
River walk by Eau Claire
Head for a walk, jog, or a bike along the River Walk by Eau Claire. Stop at the countless markets or watch for things going on along your excursion. There always seems to be something happening during the summer months along the River Trails. It can be a great way to burn off any of those extra calories from all of the big Calgary eats.
Go back in time to wild wild west. The Heritage Park is a great place to check out for history buffs, or anyone just looking to spend an afternoon exploring what it might have been like to live in a different era. Be sure to take the Steam Engine for a rip around the park, nothing beats traveling by rail! Even if it’s just within the city.
National Music Centre – Studio Bell
You know how most museums become pretty boring after about an hour? This one is different. Maybe it’s the design and layout of the museum, or the fact that they’re preserving Canadian music and showcasing musical talent from across the nation. But this is one place you should definitely make time for. If you’re a musician, or simple a fan of music in general, this is one of the best things to do in Calgary in my opinion.
A superb place to take the kids, or for nerdy adults who just want to have a little fun with the science exhibits. Check their website to see what the latest exhibit is. Regardless of what’s new, there’s a ton of classics that are sure to keep anyone interested in the natural world at least for a couple of hours.
The birthplace of Calgary, this historical location has a restaurant, as well as historical tours that describe life in the time of the settlers. There are regular events throughout the summer months. Make sure you check out their community garden if you have a green thumb. Or their Sunday Brunch if you have an appetite.
Walk around Mission, Kensington, or Inglewood
If you’re a fan of unique neighbourhoods, or just checking out how the locals live, browse the communities of Mission, Kensington, or Inglewood by foot or by bike. It’s a great way to enjoy a morning walk! There’s also a ton of shops nearby if you have a hankering for spending some money.
More history, this time a bit more fancy. Lougheed House is an old Victorian Manor. It’s a national and provincial historical site that sits on over 2.8 acres of beautiful grounds. It’s a pretty spectacular building and has been maintained incredibly well. Wear your Sunday best!
Reader Rock Garden
Lovers of nature, flowers, and gardening will find this thing to do in Calgary enticing. These plants were collected over one mans entire live during his alpine travels. This well maintained garden has a wild and diverse range of plants that would take you ages to see hiking throughout Alberta.
Lazy River Rafting down the Elbow River
While it’s gotten increasingly more difficult if you don’t do it correctly, Lazy River Rafting down the Elbow River is still a common pastime for locals and tourists alike. Just be sure to triple check what the rules are as they seem to change from year to year. As of 2017 it’s required to wear a lifejacket as well as carry an emergency kit. Yes, even if you’re just in an inner tube. If you get caught not following the rules you can get a ticket. But a quick visit to Canadian Tire or to a rental company like Lazy Day Raft Rentals will get you up to speed and you’re ready for a relaxing day on the water. Wear sunscreen, and make sure if you’re drinking you have a safe ride home. Also be sure to hide alcohol in unmarked plastic containers.
What do you need for Rafting Down the Elbow River?
- A PFD / Lifejacket
- A bailing device to remove water from inside the watercraft. Yes even if you’re in an inner tube. Doesn’t make sure but it’s the rules.
- A paddle
- A whistle to warn others of your location
- A floating rope
- Navigation or safety light
- Canadian Tire sells a whole setup for about 20 bucks, or talk to a rental company.
Winsport at Calgary Olympic Park
Zip-lining, bobsledding, luge, mini-golf and more. They’ll get you set up and teach you everything you need to know to enjoy some adrenaline within Calgary. While prices aren’t exactly cheap, you can easily cross off a few unique things to do off your bucket list.
Visit A Bar or Pub
Check out National, Craft, Trolley 5 bar, James Joyce, Kensington Pub, Ship&Anchor, The Bear and Kilt, Lot 102. Or just hop on Google and look for nearby pubs. Calgary has a ton of watering holes. Remember to plan a safe ride home.
Soak up the booze from the night before and pop into OEB breakfast, Blue Star Diner, Coup, or Dairy Lane. Nothing beats a hangover quite like a greasy breakkie.
Dine Out in Calgary
There are a ton of great places to dine out in Calgary. This list may be out of date, but look for River Cafe, Una Pizza, Anju Korean, Notable, Charcut, White Rose (Veggie), Veg-In, Suzettes, Bolero, Rouge, Sky 360 (in Calgary Tower), Model Milk, Bonterra, La Brezza, Scopa, Anejo. Or hop onto Urban Spoon and find out what’s the latest place to eat out.
Get Outside Of Calgary
One of the perks of Calgary is that it’s so close to so many amazing places to see and things to do. Check out:
- Tyrrel Dinosaur Museum (1.5 hour drive one way).
- Banff (1.5 hour drive one way – opposite to the Tyrrel Museum). Lots of awesome hiking, some hot springs, cute little mountain shops, superb views…this place has it all. And this year its free to enter the park (2017)!
- Elbow Falls (~45min drive): Cute picnic area by some water falls. You can drive to them then its just a short 5-10min walk. Easily accessed, so it gets busy in the summer. If you’re after photos go early in the AM to avoid the crowds.
- Columbia Ice Fields Tour: Easily one of the most awe inspiring tours you can do in Alberta.
- Troll Falls Hike (~45min Drive or so, 3 hour hike max) – Very easy hike, and there is a nice waterfall at the end. Perfect for a half-day hike. Great for beginners.
- Lake Louise is about a 40min drive from Banff. Get’s a bit touristy during the summer season but great for photos.
- Peyto lake – kind of a hidden gem. Emerald blue water, it’s kind of eerie how blue it can get.
- The Minnewanka loop. This hike takes you on a short drive past Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack lake – these lakes also have that beautiful teal colour you see in the movies and TV.
- Mount Norquay road – This hike is a winding switchback road up the side of a popular local ski hill. There is a pull-over spot. Some great views of the Bow Valley.
- If you like Golf, check out the Banff Springs Golf course – Nine holes will set you back about $90 each
Easy Hikes Outside Of Calgary:
Sometimes the world of hiking can seem intimidating. If you’re new to hiking, or just want to try it out for an hour or two max, and not be stuck on a full day hike, check out some of these easy hikes outside of Calgary.
- Super busy and touristy but the Johnston canyon hike is very easy and is also nicely paved. The views are pretty wild.
- You can do varying degrees of hiking at lake Louise, if you choose to do the tea house hike pack extra water and bring proper footwear, it’s not that tough, but not super easy either. Definitely helps to be in shape for this one.
- Upper and lower Kananaskis lakes also have some great trails
- Heart creek for a simple nature walk. Very easy and gentle. Won’t take long either.