With food tours, winter sports and cultural hot spots, Calgary is a hidden gem. Nestled in the province of Alberta, it is often overshadowed by its more glamorous siblings, Vancouver and Toronto. Once home to the 1988 Winter Olympics, this charming city offers unique experiences.
Calgary is one of Canada's most multicultural cities. Known for its laid-back "Cow Town" atmosphere, it's also a bustling tech town. Located on the Bow River, it lies just 80 km east of Alberta's majestic Rocky Mountains.
One of the best things to do in Calgary is to explore its vibrant cultural scene. From galleries and museums to festivals, concerts and theatrical performances, there are many options if you are wondering what to see in Calgary, Canada.
For lovers of the outdoors, there are many things to do. Try skiing and snowboarding in the winter and whitewater rafting and camping in the summer. If you're looking for an exciting getaway, this vibrant Canadian city is the perfect destination! Our Canadian rail tour experts have put together a list of the top things to do in Calgary, Canada:
1. The Military Museums
The Military Museums of Calgary is the largest tri-service museum in Western Canada and the second biggest military museum in the country.
On June 30th, 1990, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the Museum of The Regiments in Calgary Armed Forces Base (CFB). This museum consists of four buildings; the Lord Strathcona Horse Regiment Museum, the King's Own Calgary Regiment Museum, the Canadian Forces Art Gallery, and the Shearwater Aviation Museum.
It is accessible via several transportation options, including bus and cabs, and is open from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm from Monday to Sunday. Admission fees are charged based on age and membership type. The average time required to explore this unique place is around two hours.
2. Prince's Island Park
Prince's Island Park is an idyllic urban sanctuary in downtown Calgary. The park was named in honour of the founder of Eau Claire Lumber Mill. It offers over 20 acres of trails, wetlands, woodlands, and wide open spaces. The park is open daily from 5 am until 11 pm and does not require any fees. Consider visiting earlier in the day when fewer people are around.
Visitors can use a series of pedestrian pathways along the Bow River. Vehicles are also allowed access via Prince's Island Causeway that leads to Eau Claire Ave and 6th Street.
3. Calgary Zoo
The Calgary Zoo is spread over 127 acres and is one of the largest zoos in Canada. It is home to over 1,000 animals and houses a large variety of plants as well. Located at 210 St. George's Drive NE, it offers a great educational experience for adults and kids alike.
Getting to the Calgary Zoo is easy by car, public transport, or bike. Its location near downtown makes it accessible via LRT as well. It is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The admission fee for adults is $29.95, and seniors (65+) are charged $27.95. It is advisable to visit the zoo towards the end of the day.
The Calgary Zoo also has an on-site restaurant. It is certainly one of the most popular places to visit in Calgary and is visited by thousands of people every year.
4. WinSport Canada Olympic Park
WinSport Canada Olympic Park is a major tourist attraction located in Calgary, Alberta. It was the major venue for the 1988 Winter Olympics. This park is among the most popular things to do in Calgary in winter. It is a hub for sports and recreation enthusiasts.
The park is open from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm every day. There are no entry fees but there are costs to try different activities like tubing and skiing. Public bus services are available from many parts of Calgary. The best time to visit the park is in the afternoon when you can enjoy the spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.
5. Heritage Park
Heritage Park is a popular tourist attraction located in the heart of the city. It has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The park features several memorials, monuments, and sculptures that pay tribute to local and national history.
There are several bus stops located near the park. It is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. It is one of the top things to do in Calgary for free. The best time of day to visit the park is during the late afternoon or early evening.
The popularity of Heritage Park has grown significantly in recent years. According to the city's tourism bureau, it was the second most visited attraction in 2017, with over 4 million visitors.
6. Spruce Meadows
Spruce Meadows has earned a reputation as one of the most important equestrian competition venues in the world. Located just outside Calgary, it has hosted some of the most elite athletes from around the globe since its founding in 1976.
The quickest way to reach Spruce Meadows is by car from Calgary International Airport. However, there is public transportation available for those traveling by bus.
The venue follows seasonal timings and opens to visitors between late May to early September. During this time, it opens daily from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. Admission to the grounds is free.
The best time to visit Spruce Meadows would be during the morning as there is typically less crowd.
7. Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located near Fort Macleod, Alberta. This ancient cliff was used by the Indigenous people of the Plains for hunting buffalo over 6,000 years ago. It is one of the most significant archaeological sites in North America.
To get here, you can take a bus from Calgary or drive from nearby towns like Lethbridge or Medicine Hat. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am–5:00 pm year-round and closed on Mondays. There are no fees for visiting the museum. It is one of the major things to see and do in Calgary.
The most popular time to visit the Jump is during the summer months when the weather is warm and pleasant. Visitor numbers peak over July and August.
8. The Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede is an iconic event held annually in Calgary, Alberta. It is one of the largest outdoor events of its kind in the world, with an attendance of over a million people each year. This ten-day event celebrates all aspects of western culture and heritage – from rodeos to concerts, and exhibits to pancake breakfasts. It is one of the most fun things to do in Calgary.
Getting to the Stampede is easy, as the Stampede grounds are within walking distance of downtown.
The Stampede runs from the first Friday in July until the second Sunday, with various events going on throughout the days and evenings. It’s recommended that you arrive earlier in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds.
9. Shop 17th Ave & The Entertainment District
The 17th Ave & The Entertainment District is a vibrant neighbourhood full of restaurants, shops, boutiques, and nightclubs. It is very popular with locals.
It can be easily reached by public transportation, on the bus lines and Calgary C-Train light rail. It is also accessible by car, taxi or bike. The district is located between 14th Street and 17th Avenue SW.
Most stores open at 10 am and close around 8 pm during regular business days. On weekends and holidays, store hours may be reduced. Restaurants and nightlife hotspots may be open much later. The best time to visit is during the evening when the district really comes to life.
10. Public Art Tour
Public art plays an important role in Calgary, highlighting its creative spirit. A self-guided public art tour is a great way to explore the city’s diverse public art landscape. Visitors can gain insight into its cultural history by viewing the many sculptures, paintings, and other installations throughout the city. The tour is free of charge and open to all ages. Simply download the online map and follow along.
Visitors can take public transportation from any part of the city. The tour takes about two hours. It is one of the trendy Calgary Canada things to do in summer.
The most popular time of day for people to view the art is in the evenings.
11. Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre
Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre is a one-of-a-kind heritage building in the East Village of Calgary. It is also home to five state-of-the-art recording studios. It showcases artifacts from Canada's musical history, archives, and libraries.
Studio Bell is easily accessible by public transportation and is just a few blocks from Calgary's downtown core. It is open seven days a week, with extended hours on Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Admission fees vary depending on the type of visit.
Its popularity continues to grow each year, with hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world. It is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the very best of Canadian music.
12. Calgary Tower
The Calgary Tower is an iconic landmark in the city of Calgary. It stands 191 m tall and offers 360-degree views of the city below. The tower was built in 1968.
The Calgary Tower is also used for special occasions such as New Year's Eve fireworks shows. The tower remains open year-round. It is located at 101 9th Avenue South East in downtown Calgary. Visitors can take the LRT from any station in the city.
The Calgary Tower is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. Admission fees for adults is from CAD 21 and CAD 10 for children between 6 and 11 years old.
The Tower is especially popular during the evening when you can watch the city lights come alive in the twilight hours. It is estimated that more than two million people visit the tower each year.
13. Scotiabank Saddledome
The Scotiabank Saddledome is a multi-purpose indoor arena. It has been home to some of the most memorable entertainment events since it first opened its doors in 1983. The Saddledome was initially built to host ice hockey games but has since been adapted to host concerts, conventions, circuses, and much more.
Several bus lines provide regular service to the venue, and Calgary Transit also offers an express bus route from downtown. It is open year-round. Timings may vary depending on the type of event. Admission to most events is ticketed.
Over 1 million people visit the Saddledome annually and it is recognized as one of the top entertainment venues in Western Canada.
14. Bow River Pathway
The Bow River Pathway is a part of the City’s pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, offering a scenic route from its start near Fort Calgary to its end at Edworthy Park. It offers breathtaking views of the city’s skyline along with many opportunities for outdoor activities like cycling, running, jogging, and walking.
To reach the Pathway, visitors can take public transportation or drive to any of its starting points near Fort Calgary or Edworthy Park. It is operational 24 hours a day with no fees required. It’s recommended to visit the pathway earlier in the day to avoid crowds.
The Bow River Pathway is one of the best things to do in Calgary in summer, with an estimated 8 million visitors per year.
15. Peace Bridge
The Peace Bridge of Calgary, Alberta, is a unique architectural feature that is a must-see when visiting the city. This iconic bridge was designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava and spans the Bow River in downtown Calgary. The bridge is meant to symbolize the spirit of peace and harmony.
The bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge also provides access to nearby parks and recreational areas, including Prince's Island Park and the Bow River Pathway.
The bridge operates 24/7, and no fee is required for crossing. Visiting the bridge at sunset is a great way to experience the beauty of the city and take in the stunning views of the skyline as the sun sets.
16. Fort Calgary Historic Site
Fort Calgary Historic Site Is the city of Calgary's birthplace. It was built in 1875 as an outpost for the North West Mounted Police and later became the trading hub. The park consists of restored barracks buildings, historical displays, and a replica North-West Mounted Police detachment.
You can take the bus from downtown Calgary (Route 31) or drive to the park, which is located at 750 9 Ave SE, Calgary. The park is open daily from 8 am-6 pm in summer and 9 am-5 pm in winter.
There is no fee to visit the park. You can visit the Park at any time during the day, but some attractions, like museums, are open until 4 pm.
The park also hosts several events throughout the year, such as ghost walks, living history days, and concerts.
17. TELUS Spark Science Centre
TELUS Spark Science Centre is an interactive science museum in Calgary that opened in 2011. It is one of the largest science centres in Canada. With over 250 hands-on interactive activities, TELUS Spark Science Centre provides a fun learning experience for everyone, from kids to adults.
Reaching TELUS Spark Science Centre is easy, as it is located right off of Calgary’s Stampede Park in southeast Calgary. It is accessible by public transport, bicycle, and car.
The centre is open seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. The fees for the general public are $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for children over 3 years old. The weekends and holidays tend to be a peak time for visitors.
18. Olympic Plaza
Olympic Plaza was opened in 1988 to commemorate the 15th Winter Olympic Games that were held in Calgary. The plaza features a reflecting pool, an amphitheatre, and the Olympic Flame bronze statue.
Olympic Plaza is easily accessible via public transportation. LRT has two stops within walking distance from the plaza, one at 7 Avenue S.W./City Hall Station and the other at 4 Street S.W./Olympic Plaza Station.
The plaza is operational throughout the year and is usually open 24 hours a day. There are no fees to access Olympic Plaza. Evenings and weekends tend to be the most popular times for visitors.
The plaza serves as a popular destination for events, festivals, and recreational activities, drawing more than 200,000 people each year.
Frequently Asked Questions
What food is Calgary famous for?
Calgary is well-known for its diverse and delicious food scene. Some of the most famous dishes include Alberta beef, Calgary-style pizza, Ukrainian perogies, and prairie oysters. Some of the most popular restaurants include Cattle Baron Steakhouse, The Palomino Smokehouse & Social Club, and Gianna's Italian Kitchen.
How many days is enough for Calgary?
Most travelers recommend at least three days in Calgary. This will give you enough time to explore the city's top attractions.
What is the best month to go to Calgary?
July and August are the most popular months to visit Calgary, as these are the warmest and sunniest months.
What are the best night activities in Calgary?
There are numerous bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants and many unique things to do in Calgary. You can also check out live music, comedy shows, and theater performances.
Is it better to stay in Banff or Calgary?
It depends on what you're looking for. If you want to explore the stunning beauty of Canada's Rockies, then staying in Banff would be the better choice.
Where can I hang out in Calgary?
Calgary has many places where you can hang out, like Kensington, 17th Ave, and Inglewood, along with several parks, cafes, and restaurants.
What are the best outdoor activities in Calgary?
Popular activities in Calgary include hiking, biking, camping, skiing, and river rafting.
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