Calgary is more than just cowboys and oil. The “Heart of the New West”, it’s a city that’s evolving as readily as it celebrates its western roots. At the same time as being famous for throwing one of Canada’s biggest parties, it’s not so famous for its burgeoning food and wine scene - one that is quickly injecting a sense of sophistication and flair. Nestled at the foothills of the iconic Rocky Mountains where two scenic winding rivers meet, Calgary is a worthy mention on any Canadian bucket list. Here’s the best of the best of what Calgary has to offer.
Best View: Calgary Tower
It is possible to see all the way to the Rocky Mountains from the centre of Calgary, but the only way to do that is to get up high. That’s where the Calgary Tower does its magic, offering incredible panoramas out over the entire city, the rolling foothills, the prairies and to the top of the soaring snow-capped peaks jutting out of the horizon in the distance. Stand on the glass-bottom observation deck, above the buzz of the city streets below, and take in these 360-degree panoramas from 191 metres high. Alternatively, dine in and take your time to admire the views from a different angle at 155 metres high, at the SKY 360 restaurant.
Best Restaurant: Model Milk
This former dairy turned hip restaurant has been turning heads since its 2011 inception, and for good reason. The unlikely yet charming historic setting is immediately welcoming: the transformed space oozes contemporary industrial-chic cool, from the bare brick exposed wall to the wingback chairs and the collection of funky low-hanging lights. But the main attraction here is of course the food. The constantly changing and evolving menu ensures the flavours are always fresh and inventive, and quality local ingredients are used as much as possible. Indulge in anything from cured trout to a maitake mushroom burger and Nashville hot chicken with buttermilk waffles and peanut coleslaw.
Best Event: Calgary Stampede
Wondering when’s the best time to visit Calgary? In time for ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, the Calgary Stampede! A world-famous celebration infused with western charm and cheer, this 10 day party is headlined by one of the biggest and richest rodeos on earth. Snag a seat in the grandstands for the bucking broncos, steer wrestling, bull riding and iconic chuckwagon races, or else don a cowboy hat and explore the agricultural showcases, food stalls, rides, cultural events and live music acts, from country music legends to international rock bands. All the heart-stopping action, with 40 events over 10 days, begins on the first Friday after Canada Day (1 July).
Best Park: Fish Creek Provincial Park
Escape the buildings and bustle and find solace in 3349 acres of abundant nature at Fish Creek Provincial Park, a patchwork of grassland, wetlands, forest and riverine areas cradling the southwest edge of the city. The largest urban park in Canada, for years it's been the favourite place to go for a wander or leisurely pedal through the wilderness, a spot of fishing or paddling in the winding waters, or simply to recoil from it all and find some peace. The true history of the area though spans over 10,000 years, with links to First Nations groups and European settlements. Drop into the Bow Valley Ranch Visitor Centre, the restaurant, bakery or the Artisan Gardens - and don't miss the ever popular Sikome Aquatic Facility, a sunny man-made beach.
Best Museum: Glenbow Museum
Be immersed in the colourful displays of art, culture and ideas that tell the story of Western Canada, from pre- to post-oil, at the Glenbow Museum. Over 120,000 people pass through these doors every year to admire the ever-changing array of travelling exhibitions and the extensive permanent collections gracing the halls and galleries. Art lovers can revel in the largest art collection in Western Canada, largely made up of northwestern North American art in an impressive repertoire of drawings and prints. History buffs will enjoy the story-worthy artefacts, from centuries-old swords to sparkling gems and thousands of cultural relics from across the globe.
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