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20 Free Things To Do in Calgary

Calgary is an underrated tourist destination, but it has lots to offer, including free outdoor activities, public parks and cultural experiences. Located in the western province of Alberta, Calgary is the third largest city in Canada.

Aerial view of Calgary city skyline and the Bow River

Exploring any city can be expensive. That's why our travel experts have put together this guide. Our list covers many fun things to do in Calgary for free. It will help you plan a memorable and cost-effective tour of this city.

Here are the 20 best free things in Calgary.

1. Devonian Gardens

Devonian Gardens is a welcoming indoor park located in downtown Calgary. It has water fountains, fish ponds, a 900-square-foot living wall, more than 50 varieties of plants, more than 500 trees, and a playground. With natural light and pleasant temperatures all year long, it is a great place to unwind, read a book or grab a coffee from the food court nearby.

Devonian Gardens is on the fourth level of the CORE Shopping Centre.

2. Central Library Tours

If you're an avid book reader, you'll love spending time at the Central Library. This modern library, with its stunning architecture, is home to a collection of more than 1.4 million items that you can borrow. It is one of the best things to do in Calgary for free.

Featured in The New York Times article "52 Places to Travel in 2019", the Central Library received more than one million visitors during its first three months after opening.

It has a coffee shop, multiple private reading rooms, more than 30 free community meeting rooms, outdoor plazas, recording halls and a performance hall.

The Central Library also organises tours for its visitors. For more information, you can visit their website. (1)

View of curving stairways inside the Calgary Central Library

3. Esker Foundation

If you are a fan of contemporary artwork, you must visit Calgary's Esker Foundation. This contemporary art gallery opened in 2012. The Esker Foundation is a non-profit that gives a platform to emerging and established artists who explore contemporary issues through their artwork.

It organizes exhibitions that change every quarter. View beautifully curated artwork from various artists with no entry fees.

#Travel Tip: Explore Calgary by the Plus 15

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You can easily explore Calgary in winter thanks to the Plus 15, a system of underground walkways that connects all major shopping malls while providing shelter from the cold.

Blog Author - Athena McKenzie
Athena McKenzie
Content Manager

4. Rocky Mountain Show Jumping

Rocky Mountain Show Jumping, also known as RMSJ, is a prominent horse riding facility and tournament management company, half an hour from Calgary.

You can enjoy free entry into their facility, take a stroll around their park and watch riders compete at different levels of the sport.

Every season, this facility has more than 20+ tournaments, from the grass root to the international level.

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5. Spruce Meadows

Close to the Rocky Mountain Show Jumping venue is Spruce Meadows. This multi-purpose sports facility contains a complex for horse riding, as well as a 6,000-seat football stadium. It is the home venue of Cavalry FC (Canadian Premier League), owned by the Spruce Meadows themselves.

The facilty hosts a Christmas market, a playground, pubs and food stalls, among other attractions.

A horse and rider show jumping on a sunny day

6. YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre

Become a forensics expert at the YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre — it's among the best things to do for free in Calgary. This police museum tells stories of the Calgary Police Services. It contains over 100 years of policing history and Alberta's largest collection of police artifacts. The museum also has exhibits on true crime and the Canine Unit and Forensic Crime Scene teams.

7. Baitun Nur Mosque Tours

Famous for being the largest mosque in Canada, the Baitun Nur Mosque is a vast complex built by the Ahmadiyya Muslims. This community follows the teachings of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, Abraham and Confucius.

More than a mosque, it is a gathering place for people of all cultures and religions. It also has a dining hall, kitchen, library, multi-purpose gym and bookstores.

Tourists and visitors can book a tour here to get more information about this mosque.

8. Scotiabank Saddledome Tours

Scotiabank Saddledome is a multi-use indoor arena located in Stampede Park. It is the home of the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League. Previously, it hosted figure skating and ice hockey at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

As a tourist, you can book a behind-the-scenes tour of the complex to see how they convert the hockey arena to a concert hall and the luxury suites.

View of Scotiabank Saddledome area, skyscrapers and Calgary tower

#Travel Tip: Downtown murals

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Go for a walk downtown and discover all of the beautiful murals that decorate Calgary. You’ll also find many unique public art pieces dispersed throughout the city.

Katherine Foxcroft
Product Manager, Tours and Vacations

9. Art at Glenbow Museum

The Glenbow Museum is a regional museum dedicated to the art, culture and history of Western Canada. Its collections span centuries, from the stories of Canada's first humans, including indigenous people, to the lives of people in the modern era. You can also enjoy travelling exhibitions that explore historical and contemporary art, fashion, design and innovation from around the world. As well, the museum will give you insights into the history of Calgary.

Admission to the museum is free and timed tickets must be reserved in advance.

A person looking at framed artwork inside the Glenbow Museum

10. Calgary’s Skyline from Scotsman’s Hill

Head up to the top of Scotsman's Hill for one of the best views of Calgary's skyline. On Scotsman's Hill you'll find a nearby off-leash dog park, benches, and stairway access that lead to Enmax Park, the Elbow River Pathway and Downtown Calgary. From here, you can observe amazing views of the skyscrapers and landmarks in Calgary, including the Saddledone and the Stampede Grounds.

You can also explore the trails that start on the hill. The best time to visit it is during sunrise or sunset, when you can get amazing photos of the Calgary skyline.

View of Calgary skyline in the snow from Scotsman’s Hill

11. St. Patrick’s Island

St. Patrick's Island, also known as St. Patrick's Island Park, is a family-friendly public park on an island. It is a multi-award-winning park that hosts more than 75 annual events, including festivals, family picnics and guided nature walks. It is also one of Calgary's oldest parks, with amenities like an amphitheatre, a fishing area, public art installations and hiking and biking trails.

This island is at the Bow and Elbow Rivers intersection, northeast of downtown Calgary.

Two friends walking their bikes along the riverwalk during summer on St. Patrick’s Island

12. Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek Provincial Park is among the largest urban parks in North America. Located in a natural forest area with a creek, it is an ideal setting for nature lovers. At the park, you can enjoy bird watching, explore the hiking and biking trails, swim or observe wildlife.

There is also a cafe and a restaurant near the Visitor Centre.

Senior couple stands on a bridge looking out at a creek in Fish Creek Provincial Park

13. Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is a prominent birding spot in Calgary. The sanctuary has 270 bird species, 21 mammal species and 347 plant species. It also has a fishing pond and trails through forests and open grasslands.

The sanctuary is a 5 km drive east of downtown on the Bow River and is open all year round.

A great blue heron flying over green grass in Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

14. Ralph Klein Park

The Ralph Klein Park is a small park located inside a 200-hectare engineered wetland habitat.

It has the following amenities:

  • Community orchard: This orchard has a variety of pear and apple trees.
  • Hawk Hill Calgary Sentinels: These are fascinating monolith sculptures found in the park. 
  • Manmade wetland: It is the largest wetland in Canada, constructed for stormwater treatment.
  • Natural playground: The playground has a zip line, a sand play area, and a climbing wall.

15. Reader Rock Garden

Designated as an official national historic site in 2018, the Reader Rock Garden is one of the hidden gems of Calgary. Situated on a hill, this 1.65 hectare features bridges, benches, rock pathways and a cafe called Reader's Garden Cafe. It's the perfect spot in the city for walking, reading a book or relaxing in the sun.

You can visit the Reader Rock Garden in downtown Calgary.

16. Shaw Millennium Park

Famous for being the largest free outdoor skatepark in Canada, the Shaw Millenium Park has 75,000 square feet of skateable surfaces. It has separate areas for beginners, intermediates and experts. A new addition to the park are three climbing boulders, known as The Three Little Brothers. They allow new and experienced climbers the opportunity to boulder outdoors on natural rock while also adding an aesthetic touch to the space.

Shaw Millenium Park is designated as a family activity park and hosts over 35,000 visitors annually, with the famous Calgary International Blues Fest happens in this park every year.

A person skateboarding in a colourful outdoor skatepark with train overhead

17. Prince’s Island Park

Prince's Island Park is a wonderful place to relax in downtown Calgary. It is located on an island in the middle of Bow River where you can find many hiking trails, art sculptures, gardens, picnic areas, outdoor skating and fountains. Prince’s Island Park hosts many significant events throughout the year, including the Canada Day Celebration and Calgary Folk Festival.

The island also has a cafe called River Cafe, known for its weekend brunch.

Two people walking through green gardens in Prince’s Island Park

18. Self-guided Walking Tours

A self-guided walking tour (2) in one of Calgary’s parks is the perfect way to spend a day. You can explore grasslands, wetlands, creeks and riverbanks. Popular walks include Bowmont Natural Environment Park, Griffith Woods Park, and 12 Mile Coulee.

19. City of Calgary Wading Pools, Spray Parks, and Outdoor Pools

Wading pools, spray parks and outdoor pools are a great way to beat the summer heat. It is among the fun, free things to do in Calgary. They're found in various areas of Calgary and are open to the public. You can find more information about them here (3).

Entry is free, and these pools are usually open from mid-June to Fall.

20. Swimming or Skating at Bowness Park

Bowness Park is among Calgary's most popular parks. It has a shallow lagoon where you can go paddle boating in the summer and ice skating in the winter. It also has a wading pool, usually open from mid-June to Fall.

Bowness Park also offers a couple of playgrounds, a mini train experience, picnic sites with bbq pits and a view of the Bow River.

Couple holding hands as they ice skate on a frozen lake as the sun sets

Final Thoughts

While Calgary has many tourist attractions worth visiting, we have covered all the free things to do in Calgary, Canada, to allow you to plan an experience in this city without burning a hole in your pocket.

These experiences will also give you the best bang for your buck as you'll learn more about Calgary's landscape, history and culture at no cost.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I go when bored in Calgary?

Many places to visit and experience in Calgary will help you fight boredom. Interesting places you can visit in Calgary for free include: Prince's Island Park, Fish Creek Provincial Park, Bowness Park, Devonian Gardens, and Spruce Meadows.

How can I spend a day in Calgary?

If you want to spend only one day in Calgary, ensure you're in the downtown area, as you'll get plenty of options for food, accommodation and places to visit. Some places you can cover in a day include: Glenbow Museum, Devonian Gardens, Prince’s Island Park, and Reader Rock Garden.

About the author: Katherine is Product Manager with Fresh Tracks Canada. Having worked in the Canadian travel industry for almost 20 years, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. She is based in Calgary and one of her favourite Canadian destination is the... Read more

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