HomeTrue North Blog

Best Hidden Gems in Calgary

Are you tired of visiting the same old tourist hotspots on your vacations? Do you want to experience something off the beaten path? Look no further than Calgary, Canada.

People river tubing and lazy river floating in Bow River enjoying the outdoors and blue sky

Calgary is a city that offers a wide range of options for travellers, from natural beauty to cultural treasures, but it can be overwhelming to know where to start and what to see. Many travellers stick to the usual tourist hotspots, missing out on the city's unique experiences.

But don't worry; we've done the hard work for you. At Canadian Train Vacations, our team of travel experts has scoured the city to find the best hidden gems in Calgary. There are historic villages, nature parks, iconic landmarks, and museums. So, whether you're a nature lover, a history buff, or just looking for a fun time, our curated content has something for everyone. These 20 hidden places in Calgary will surely make your next trip unforgettable. 

1. Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek Provincial Park is in the south of Calgary and has plenty of hiking and biking trails and a variety of wildlife. Visitors can enjoy birdwatching, hiking, walking, and fishing in one of the best Calgary secret spots. Sikome Aquatic Facility is a great place to go swimming. 

The park can be reached by car or public transportation. The park is open year-round. The best time to visit is during the spring or fall when there is beautiful foliage and fewer visitors. The average time spent at the park is 2-3 hours, but it can be longer if you decide to go hiking or cycling.

[ Explore: Best Calgary Train Vacations ]

Wild owl with speckle patterns on its soft feathers looks forward with big piercing yellow eyes at rest, on a tree branch, in Shaw's Meadow in Fish Creek Provincial Park

2. Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre is a fantastic place for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. The sanctuary is a 15-minute drive from downtown Calgary and is visited by 200 species of birds and 21 species of mammals. There are walking trails, educational programs, and bird-watching opportunities.

The sanctuary is free of charge, and the average time spent here is 1-2 hours. It is easily accessible by public transportation or by car. It is open year-round, and the best time to visit is between June and August. 

Purple heron with blue shading flies in Calgary wildlife reserve

3. Panorama Hills Coulee and Ponds

Panorama Hills Coulee and Ponds is one of the hidden places in Calgary that has natural beauty in a residential area. The coulee is a natural ravine that provides a haven for wildlife. The coulee and the two ponds are popular spots for short nature walks. There are a few connected pathways, so you can make your walk as long or as short as you want.

The Panorama Hills Coulee and Ponds are located north of the city and can be reached by car or public transit. The park is free to see, and the average time spent here is 1-2 hours. The park is open year-round, and the best time to visit is in the spring or fall. 

4. Carburn Park

Carburn Park is a hidden gem in Calgary known for its natural beauty and peaceful surroundings. Located along the Bow River, this park offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, fishing, and picnicking. To reach the park, take bus routes 19 or 46 from downtown Calgary. 

Carburn Park is a perfect destination for those seeking a tranquil escape from the city and is one of Calgary's secret spots for locals. The park is open year-round and is free to visit. Early mornings and evenings are the most peaceful. On average, visitors spend 1-2 hours exploring the park's trails and enjoying the scenery. 

[ Explore: Vancouver to Calgary Train Trips ]

Row of green and yellow leaved trees reflected in the water located in Calgary's Riverbend

5. Secret Heritage Trail

Explore Calgary's rich history and culture by walking along the Secret Heritage Trail. This hidden gem is a self-guided walking tour that takes visitors past some of the city's historic buildings. Discover churches, schools, and gardens.

The Secret Heritage Trail is located in the central part of the city and can be easily accessed by foot or public transportation. The trail is open year-round and is free to access. The average time spent on the trail is about an hour, depending on how much you want to explore along the way. The trail leads you along 13th Avenue SW.

Children play with water in Central Memorial Park and near fountain

6. Historic Restaurants

Take advantage of the opportunity to dig into a delicious part of Calgary's past and add a visit to one of the city's historic restaurants to your itinerary. These restaurants — located in 100+ year-old houses and buildings — transport you back in time while indulging your taste buds with local dishes and ingredients. Examples include Rouge, a farm-to-table restaurant located in the historic Cross House. The house was built in 1891 by one of the founders of the Calgary Stampede. Another noteworthy location is Teatro, an Italian restaurant in the Dominion Bank Building (built in 1911).

These restaurants are easily accessible by public transportation or car. They are open for lunch and dinner year-round. The average time spent having a meal is 1-3 hours.

Chef entertains guests in backyard, while holding tray of drinks, with vegetable garden and lush lawn of Rouge Restaurant

7. The CORE Shopping Mall

The CORE Shopping Mall is another hidden gem in the heart of Calgary. This state-of-the-art mall features a wide variety of shops, including high-end fashion, electronics, home decor, and more. Don't miss the secret garden on its top floor!

The CORE is located in the city's downtown area and can be accessed by car or public transportation. The shopping centre is open year-round, with extended hours during holidays and weekends. The average time spent at the mall is 2-3 hours.

CORE Shopping Centre from top floor

8. Nose Hill Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel

Nose Hill Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel is one of the hidden gems in Calgary, located on the northern edge of town. The Medicine Wheel is a sacred site for the siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot) people. For thousands of years, medicine wheels have been used for spiritual ceremonies and teachings. 

The Medicine Wheel is accessible by car and public transportation, with a parking lot and walking trails leading to the site. It is open year-round and is free to access. The best time to visit is during the day, and the average time spent at the site is 1-2 hours. 

#1 Travel tip: Music events Check

Quote IconQuote Icon

Studio Bell’s event calendar for performances and concerts while you’re in town.

Katherine Foxcroft
Product Manager, Tours and Vacations

9. National Music Centre

The National Music Centre (NMC) is a cultural institution that celebrates and preserves the rich music history of Canada. It is home to a museum, performance space, and recording studio facility known as Studio Bell. Studio Bell features five state-of-the-art recording studios, a flexible performance space, and a recording studio residency program.

Make sure to add the NMC to your itinerary and immerse yourself in the music world. This hidden gem in Calgary is perfect for music lovers of all ages, offering a unique and interactive experience that will leave you humming a tune. 

The NMC is located downtown and easily accessible by public transportation or car. The Centre is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. The average time spent at the Centre is 2-3 hours.

Senior couple visit music instrument interactive exhibit at Studio Bell National Music Centre

10. Peace Bridge

Take a stroll across the iconic Peace Bridge, a hidden gem that connects the north and south sides of the Bow River in Calgary. This stunning architectural structure, designed by Santiago Calatrava, offers a unique pedestrian experience with beautiful views of the river and downtown skyline. 

The Peace Bridge is located in the downtown area and is easily accessible by public transportation or car. The bridge is open year-round. The best time to visit is when the sun shines. The average time spent on the bridge is around 30 minutes.

Sun shines towards modern glass panelled bridge with red railing design stretching above Bow River

11. The New Central Library

Explore the new Central Library, one of Calgary’s hidden gems in the East Village. This stunning building is much more than a library, and offers a oasis in the city — plus lots of photo ops.

The library boasts a collection of over 600,000 items, including books, e-books, audiobooks, magazines, and more. Additionally, it offers spaces for study, collaboration, and relaxation, as well as programs and events that engage the community and encourage lifelong learning.

The Central Library is easily accessible by public transportation or car and is open year-round, with extended hours during holidays and weekends. It is near City Hall. The average time spent at the library is around 2-3 hours.

Couple walk up wooden entrance staircase of Central Library with modern geometrical façade leading to upper floors and atrium

12. Udderly Art Pasture

Udderly Art Pasture is a hidden gem in Calgary, showcasing a unique blend of art, agriculture, and nature. This place has a collection of cow sculptures. Enjoy the natural beauty of the site and discover the creativity of local and international artists.

Get there by car or bus. No entrance fee is required. The best time to visit is in the daytime. Spend an hour or so viewing the artistic cow sculptures in the peaceful setting — a must-do for those searching for unique experiences in Calgary's secret spots.

Download our Canada By Train Brochure

Keep reading or discover more travel inspiration in our brochure. This guide showcases our world-famous train journeys, with ideas for personalizing your Canadian vacation.

Download brochure

13. Travelling Light

"Travelling Light", now known as The Blue Hoop, is a stunning public art installation in Calgary. This thought-provoking piece is a free-standing 17-metre blue ring with street lamps attached. Located in the city centre, it is easily accessible via public transportation. 

"Travelling Light" is accessible 24/7 with no entrance fee. The average time spent on this art piece is around 15 minutes. Stroll past this unique and captivating piece of art, one of the best hidden gems in Calgary.

14. Reader Rock Garden

The Reader Rock Garden is located in the central area of the city, and it is easily accessible by public transportation or car. The garden is open every day from sunrise to sunset. The best time to visit is during summer and spring when the flowers bloom. The average time spent in the garden is around 1-2 hours. 

This garden is perfect for those looking to escape the city's hustle and bustle and enjoy nature's beauty. Visitors can explore the rock garden and admire the water features, flowerbeds, and trees. There is also a cafe where you can grab some refreshments. It's an excellent place for nature lovers and those looking to relax and unwind. The garden is a provincial historic site.

Small wooden bridge in garden

15. Bowden Sun Maze

Make the trip to the Bowden SunMaze, one of the hidden gems near Calgary. It's a unique and intriguing attraction in Bowden, Alberta. There is a sunflower maze, a u-pick vegetable garden, and a u-pick flower field.

The maze is located in Bowden and can be reached by car. It is currently closed but will re-open mid-August when the sunflowers are in bloom. The average time spent at the maze is 1-2 hours, and the entry fee is about $14 for adults. The Bowden SunMaze is a family-friendly must-visit hidden gem.

Farm field full of bloomed sunflowers in Red Deer County, Bowden

16. Griffith Woods Park

Explore the hidden gem of Griffith Woods Park, a natural oasis in southwest Calgary. This beautiful park sits along the banks of the Elbow River. You can walk along the park's trails and see various plants, flowers, and wildlife. There are orchids, and spruce and balsam poplar trees. Keep an eye out for moose and deer!

Griffith Woods Park is easily accessible by public transportation or car. The park is open year-round, and the best time to visit is in the summer and spring. The average time spent at the park is around 1-2 hours.

17. Elbow Falls

Discover the beauty of Elbow Falls, a hidden gem near Calgary, located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This natural wonder is a must-see attraction for nature lovers, featuring a small set of waterfalls cascading over a series of rocks and boulders. Visitors can enjoy a picnic while taking in the views or explore the hiking trails that lead to the falls.

Elbow Falls can be reached by car and is only a short drive away from Calgary. The falls are open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the spring and fall when the water flow is at its highest. The average time spent at the falls is around 1-2 hours.

Water tumbles down nearly frozen waterfall lined with huge rocks covered in white layers of snow in the Rocky Mountains

18. Tucked-Away Trails Downtown

There are so many trails in downtown Calgary that you'll be amazed. Enjoy these hidden gems in Calgary with a cup of coffee in hand. You can people-watch at the historic Harmony Park or check out the aptly-named High Park, located on top of a parking building with a fantastic city view.

Take the lift to the fourth floor of the CORE Shopping Centre and explore the Devonian Gardens for something off the beaten path. Or, stroll the city streets on a self-guided public art tour — there are simply no wrong turns here.

Couple walk beneath public art in the city after snow

#2 Travel tip: Indoor paradise

Quote IconQuote Icon

Devonian Gardens is a free indoor botanical garden. It’s a great spot to warm up or get out of the rain or snow during winter.

Blog Author - Hannah Poaros-Mcdermott
Hannah Poaros-McDermott
Travel Writer and Senior Content Coordinator

19. Big Rock Brewery

Visit Big Rock Brewery, a popular destination for craft beer enthusiasts. It is a microbrewery that offers various beers, from traditional ales and lagers to experimental brews. Visitors can tour the brewery, learn about the brewing process, and sample some beers on tap.

Big Rock Brewery is easily accessible by car or public transportation and is open Wednesday to Sunday. The best time to visit is during the summer and fall. The average time spent at the brewery is around 1-2 hours.

Visitors inspect craft brewing equipment on a tour in Big Rock Brewery

20. The Military Museums

The Military Museums in Calgary are a must-see for history buffs and military enthusiasts. This museums is a group of eight separate museums, including Naval, Army and Air Force Museums of Alberta. The Military Museums offer a comprehensive look at the history of the Canadian military, with exhibits covering everything from the First World War to modern-day peacekeeping operations. The museum's collection includes artifacts, weapons, uniforms, and other historical items. There are interactive displays and educational programs.

The Military Museums is located southwest of Calgary and can be reached by bus or car. The museum is open seven days a week, and the admission fee is approximately $15 per adult. The best time to visit the museum is during the weekdays, as weekends can get quite crowded. The average time spent at the museum is 2-3 hours.

Final Thoughts

From the Military Museums to the Big Rock Brewery, Calgary is full of hidden gems that cater to all interests. Whether you're a nature lover, a history buff, or a craft beer enthusiast, there's something in Calgary for you.

Explore these hidden gems and make your next trip to Calgary memorable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I go when bored in Calgary?

When bored in Calgary, there are plenty of hidden gems to explore. Dine at one of the heritage restaurants, walk around the Core Shopping Mall, or discover Nose Hill Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel. Each of these destinations offers a unique experience that everyone can enjoy.

What's special in Calgary?

Calgary is known for its blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and hidden gems. From exploring the picturesque Fish Creek Provincial Park to discovering hidden gems like heritage Restaurants and the Military Museums, there is a lot to learn and enjoy in Calgary.

Where is the best location in Calgary?

The best location in Calgary depends on individual preferences and interests. The parks along the Bow River are the best locations for an urban walk; Winsport is the best location for winter sports; and 17th Avenue is the best location for entertainment and nightlife.

What is Calgary's Nickname?

Calgary's nickname is Stampede City. It is also known as Cow Town.

What is Calgary known for in food?

Calgary is known for its steak and bison cuisine.

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

Popular Train Trips to Explore Calgary

Discuss your Canadian train vacation with a local travel expert

Cartoon polar bear speaking on the phone

Or call us toll free

Cartoon polar bear speaking on the phone