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Best Things To Do in Calgary

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.  But Calgary is one of Canada's most multicultural cities. Known for its laid-back "Cow Town" atmosphere, it's also a bustling tech town. 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.

Sunset in East Downtown Calgary

Calgary is located on the Bow River, just 80 kilometres east of Alberta's majestic Rocky Mountains. Once home to the 1988 Winter Olympics, this charming city offers amazing outdoor experiences. 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.

Two people walk their dog on a pathway through Prince's Island Park

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. 

A family looks at an outdoor mandrill enclosure at the Calgary Zoo

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.

Group of skiers and snowboarders at the top of a ski hill in Winsport Canada Olympic Park

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.

Indoor display of antique vehicles in the Gasoline Alley area of the Heritage Park

#1 Travel Tip: Top restaurants

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Several of Calgary’s dining establishments have been featured in Canada’s Best 100 Restaurants list. In 2023, Major Tom, River Café, and D.O.P took places in the top 25 — so we recommend visiting those if you’re a foodie.

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

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.

Close up of one competitor in a horse jumping competition

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.

Person walking past a white tipi in a meadow at Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

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.

Person on a bucking horse at the Calgary Stampede

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.

Couple walking a tree-lined street on 17th Ave with shopping bags

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.

Person walking past a long colourful art mural in Calgary’s East Village

#2 Travel Tip: Alberta Boot Company

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Looking for a classic Calgary souvenir? Head to the Alberta Boot Company to find the perfect pair of cowboy or cowgirl boots. Founded in 1978, the iconic store also has western shirts, belts, and hats.

Katherine Foxcroft
Product Manager, Tours and Vacations

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.

Visitors playing instruments in a music room at Studio Bell

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.

View of The Calgary Tower and surrounding buildings

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.

Exterior view of a snowy field, Scotiabank Saddledome, and Calgary city skyline at night

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.

Two people riding bikes past city buildings on the Bow River pathway on a sunny day

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.

The Peace Bridge over the Bow River and downtown Calgary in the distance

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.

Horse and rider statue in front of a building at the Fort Calgary historic site

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.

TELUS Spark colourful building exterior at night with Calgary skyline in the background

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.

Couple sitting on a bench in front of the outdoor ice skating rink at Olympic Plaza

19. Glenbow Museum

With 33,000 works of art, the Glenbow Museum features the largest art collection in Western Canada. Pieces made by Canadian artists make up two thirds of the collection, and the rest are by international artists. It also includes one of the largest Indigenous collections in Canada. The museum has a selection of permanent and temporary exhibits that cover topics such as military history, decorative arts, cultural diversity in Canada, and more.  

Currently, the Glenbow Museum is closed for renovations. Glenbow at The Edison is a temporary location during this time. The museum’s opening hours vary, so it’s wise to check their website for the most up-to-date schedule.  

View of framed art on the walls in one of the exhibits at Glenbow Museum

20. Stephen Avenue Walk

In the heart of downtown Calgary, Stephen Avenue Walk is both a national historic site and a lively pedestrian street. It’s designated a historic site due to the well-preserved sandstone and brick buildings. With an array of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, galleries, performance spaces, and shopping malls, the area is a hub for entertainment and dining. 

In the summertime, the area comes alive with festivals, outdoor patios, and street performances. It’s also a charming space during winter when holiday lights are installed above the walkway.

Couple walking down Stephen Avenue

21. Devonian Gardens 

Devonian Gardens is an indoor urban oasis located in downtown Calgary. With over 500 trees, 50 plant varieties, a koi pond, and a dedicated children’s play area, it’s a haven for families and nature lovers. There’s even a vertical 900 square foot living wall, which is a great photo spot.  

These beautiful botanical gardens are open year-round, providing a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you are visiting Calgary during winter, you can visit Devonian Gardens to escape the cold temperatures outside.  

The gardens are located on the fourth floor of the CORE shopping centre and are free to visit. Hours of operation are usually the same as the CORE shopping centre (10am-6pm most days).

Tall green plants inside the Devonian Gardens

22. Craft Breweries

Calgary has a vibrant craft brewery scene. There over 40 breweries spread across different neighbourhoods in the city, so you can easily spend a day (or two!) hopping between them all.  

In downtown, the Manchester area has eight breweries within walking distance, including Annex Ale Project and Village Brewery. The Southwest brewery district is home to Wild Rose. Wild Rose Brewery is set within a WWII Air Force hanger and is an awesome place to spend an afternoon. Tool Shed Brewing in the Brewmuda Triangle district is worth the short journey from downtown.  

Breweries in Calgary offer tastings, tours, and a chance to savour small-batch beers. Opening times vary by location, and the most popular times to visit are on Saturdays and Sundays. You can explore many of the brewery districts on foot or by bike.

Group of friends trying beer at Tool Shed Brewing in Calgary

23. Calgary Farmers’ Market 

If you’re looking for fresh produce, artisanal goods, and mouthwatering food, there is no better place to visit than a farmers’ market. The Calgary Farmers’ Market have two locations that are worth checking out. CFM South is in the Fairview East Industrial area, while CFM West is in the Greenwich area (just 15 minutes from downtown).  

With over 75 vendors at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, you can find everything from handmade gifts to baked goods to locally grown fruit. These lively and welcoming local markets provide an authentic taste of Calgary’s culture. 

CFM South is open Thursday to Sunday, 9am-5pm. CFM West is open Wednesday to Sunday, 9am-7pm (5pm on Sundays).

24. NHL Flames Games

Calgary’s NHL Flames bring ice hockey excitement to the city from October to April. Hockey games are held in the Scotiabank Saddledome. The energy in the arena, the sound of the crowd, and the intensity of the game make attending an NHL match an unforgettable event. Whether you’re a die-hard hockey farm or simply seeking an evening of entertainment, a Flames game is a quintessential Calgary experience. 

The Saddledome has a range of food, drink, and merchandise available on game days. You can check the website to see what days the Flames are playing and purchase tickets.

25. Calaway Park 

Calaway Park, Calgary’s premier amusement park, welcomes visitors from May to October. With thrilling rides, live entertainment, and delectable treats, it’s an ideal summer destination for families and adventure-seekers. The park’s attractions cater to all ages, ensuring a day of non-stop fun. There are 32 rides, which include twisting rollercoasters, a log flume, mini trains, dodgems, bumper boats, and more. 

During the summer season, Calaway park is usually open from 10am to 5pm or 7pm. 

Father and son having fun on a water ride in Calaway Park

26. Bowness Park

Next to the Bow River, Bowness Park is a beautiful outdoor space that offers something for everyone. In the summer, visitors can take a paddleboat out onto the lagoon, enjoy picnics by the water, or stroll along the scenic pathways. When winter arrives, the lagoon freezes and becomes an enchanting ice-skating rink which is free to use. It’s possible to go cross-country skiing during winter, too.  

Bowness Park is popular year-round and is accessible between the hours of 5am and 11pm.

Couple holding hands as they skate on the frozen lagoon in Bowness Park

27. Fish Creek Provincial Park 

Fish Creek Provincial Park is an urban park covering 3,300 acres in southern Calgary. Fish Creek runs alongside the park and meets the Bow River in the east. The park has 80 walking, hiking, and biking trails, perfect for all skill levels, and is a natural gem in the heart of the city.  

Over 200 bird species can be seen in Fish Creek Park, so it is a haven for birdwatchers and nature photographers. Fishing, boating, and picnicking are other popular activities. In winter, the park transforms into a snowy wonderland where you can go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.  

While visiting the park, spend time at the Bow Valley Visitor Centre, swim at the Sikome Aquatic Facility, and dine at the Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant.

Couple stands on a bridge as the sun sets behind trees in Fish Creek Provincial Park

28. Shakespeare by the Bow

Shakespeare by the Bow, an annual summer tradition, brings free outdoor theatre productions to Calgary. Usually held in Prince’s Island Park, recent years have seen this theatre festival move between different locations in the city. If you enjoy theatre, then this is a unique opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s timeless works in a relaxed and scenic setting.  

Past productions have included A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Merry Wives of Windsor, and The Comedy of Errors. Performance dates are in July and August.

Crowd sitting on the grass watching an outdoor theatre show in Calgary

29. The Hangar Flight Museum 

The Hangar Flight Museum is a captivating destination for aviation enthusiasts. Located near Calgary International Airport, this museum has a range of vintage aircrafts and artifacts on display, including military planes. Visitors can explore the evolution of aviation technology and learn about western Canada’s aviation history.  

Most people spend about an hour at the museum. Since it is located near the airport, you might be able to go here before your flight (if you have time to kill). The Hangar Flight Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm. Admission is around $15 for adults.

Yellow airplane and other vintage aircrafts inside the Hangar Flight Museum

30. Day trip to Drumheller 

For those that want to explore further out, a day trip to Drumheller is ideal. After a 90-minute drive, you can explore the geological wonders of the Badlands. A highlight of any visit is the Royal Tyrell Museum, a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils and paleontological discoveries. There are excellent hiking trails in the area, where you can catch amazing views of Horseshoe Canyon, Horsethief Canyon, and the Hoodoos. Climbing the 106 stairs of the World’s Largest Dinosaur is a fun way to end the day.

View of the Canadian badlands

When to visit Calgary 

The best time to visit Calgary is often during the summer months, June to August. With warm temperatures and regular sunshine — Calgary gets up to 333 days of sun per year — visitors can enjoy the city’s numerous parks, outdoor festivals, and nearby natural wonders. It’s the ideal time to unwind on one of the city’s patios, swim in a lake or river, and explore the beautiful walking and biking trails. Many festivals take place in the summer, including the Calgary Stampede. 

Between September and November, there are a few places where you can see fall colours, including Prince’s Island Park. For snow activities and winter sports, it is best to visit between November and March.  

What to know before you go 

There are a few things to keep in mind when planning and preparing for a trip to Calgary. Firstly, be prepared for variable weather and pack layers to accommodate temperature fluctuations, especially if you are travelling during winter and spring.  

Secondly, think about how you will get to Calgary. Most travellers choose to fly to Calgary International Airport, one of Canada’s largest airports, and this is the easiest way to reach the city. Some people choose to drive to Calgary from another location in Canada or the US. 

If you are visiting Calgary as part of a larger trip across Canada and are starting in Vancouver, you could take the Rocky Mountaineer train to Banff or the VIA Rail sleeper train to Jasper, before travelling by vehicle down to Calgary. Please contact your Vacation Advisor for more information on train trips in Canada. 

Final Thoughts 

Calgary offers a range of activities and experiences for visitors to enjoy. From exploring the city’s vibrant cultural scene to experiencing the annual Calgary Stampede, there’s something for everyone. The city’s numerous museums, art galleries, and historical sites provide ample opportunities for learning. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike, bike, and ski, depending on the season, and Calgary’s culinary and craft brewery scenes are sure to delight foodies all year round.  

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.

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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