Calgary

Destination Location

Calgary, AB
  • 51.038371, -114.058685:primary
  • 51.113899230957, -114.019996643066:secondary

Overview

In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, located between the Prairies to the east and Banff National Park to the west, you will find Calgary, Alberta. As Canada’s fifth-largest city and home to Canada's largest rodeo, Calgary is sure to please the tourist seeking big city entertainment with a generous dose of small town appeal. 

Cowboy culture has deep roots in Calgary and is unmistakable when the Calgary Stampede rolls into town for 10 days every July. Catch western hospitality at its best at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. The Stampede, which began in 1912, annually attracts thousands of visitors looking to experience all things western. Its attractions include the rodeo, chuckwagon races, agricultural competitions and exhibits, the popular Indian Village and a whole lot more. Come to Calgary in July and you’ll also experience the famous Calgary Stampede parade kickoff, pancake breakfasts, dancing in the streets, a midway with over 40 rides, concerts by today’s hottest artists and nightly fireworks! 

Whatever month you come, you’ll never need an excuse to spend time outdoors here. Within city limits, there are numerous spots for cycling, inline skating, fishing, golfing, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and picnicking. If you’re willing to take a short drive, you can bet your cowboy hat that there are even more outdoor pursuits to chase down just outside of the city.

The unspoiled mountain playground of the Canadian Rockies is just an hour's drive west of Calgary. Whether you enjoy skiing and hiking or simply want a quiet retreat, Banff National Park and the surrounding area offer some of the best outdoor activities in the world any season of the year. Here, you'll discover world-class ski resorts (including Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort), stunning hotels and spectacular hiking trails among snow-capped peaks.

In the nearby town of Canmore, there are plenty of cultural, artistic and outdoor events and activities to keep you entertained. Go for a walk around the town's main strip and have dinner at one of Canmore's quaint cafes or upscale restaurants.

If you're interested in venturing out a little further, continue an hour west of the Canmore/Banff area and you'll find the Village of Lake Louise. Nestled against the majestic Victoria Glacier and often referred to as the Jewel of the Rockies, Lake Louise is home to pristine powder skiing at one of Canada's top ski resorts.

Prefer to watch sports? Calgary is home to a number of competitive sports teams, including the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League and the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders.

In the evening, downtown is the hub for big city entertainment. From live theatre to art galleries, a symphony, the ballet and plenty of nightclubs guaranteed to draw crowds, there's always something to do in downtown Calgary.

If you're travelling with the whole family, you'll also love Calgary's numerous family friendly attractions, including Calaway Park, the Calgary Tower, Calgary Zoo, TELUS World of Science and Heritage Park.

Calgary is a fantastic destination for:

  • culture and history
  • shopping and dining
  • outdoor adventure

Destination basics

No matter when you visit Calgary, be sure to bring a jacket for the evenings as well as boots, hats and scarves during the winter months.

Calgary is known as one of the sunniest and driest cities in Canada. Winters here can be extreme, with temperatures often ranging from -15 C to -30 C during the coldest spells. Calgarians look forward to chinook winds, which can warm things up dramatically as they pass through, often by as much as 15 degrees Celsius!

Although quite dry, Calgary summers offer a daily average temperature around 22 C in July and August, which is perfect for outdoor sports and activities. The mountains cool things off in the evening and often bring temperatures down to around 10 C. It's no wonder that so many locals see no need for air conditioning.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Calgary

Calgary is a city where an international population and a strong local culture assure a broad range of dining choices, whether you are looking for an old-fashioned family restaurant or feel the need to sample exotic foreign flavors. The bar and club scene is no less diverse with establishments catering to every crowd, from draft beer drinking traditionalists to martini-loving professionals.

There are several restaurant and bar districts, each with its own distinct flavor and character. From the refined pubs of Kensington to the rough and ready cowboy bars of the Stampede area, there is something for everyone to be found here.

Kensington
Kensington is the place to find the exotic and unusual in Calgary, with several blocks packed with small shops and restaurants. This is where the ethnically diverse establishments such as the Marathon Ethiopian Restaurant and the Kensington Pub. This is also ground zero for coffee shops, with over a dozen establishments in the area.

Inglewood
Inglewood is the oldest region of the city, and the area where the first settler in the Bow Valley built his homestead. The buildings date from the turn of the century, with many built in the now-crumbling sandstone blocks. The local businesses reflect the frontier character by offering a more down-home Canadian atmosphere than the upper-crust cuisine of Kensington. This is where you will find Kane's Harley Diner, located in a Harley Davidson shop, as well as the Hose and Hound Pub, which occupies a deserted fire-hall.

17th Avenue
Fashion, flash, and panache dominate 17th Avenue. Home to most of the city's upper-end clothing and jewelry designers, this is where the young and upwardly mobile strut their stuff. Martini and hibachi bars line the east end, while family and international restaurants nestle amongst the shops of the west end. The Chianti Café and Restaurant and the Buon Giorno's Restaurant specialize in traditional Italian dishes, and the Spicy Hut offers other types of distinct regional cuisine.

Stephen Avenue Walk
Stephen Avenue Walk is a cobblestoned street in the heart of the city which is closed to vehicles and has become a gathering point for Calgarians from all walks of life. This is where you will find a host of street cafes and small restaurants. Located beneath the towers of Bankers Hall, the sidewalks are always alive with street performers and buskers plying their trade amongst a steady stream of business people and travelers.

Fourth Street
Between 17th street and the Elbow River, both sides of Fourth Street are jammed with dozens of restaurants serving fare as like the Burger Inn's ostrich burger. The Fourth Street area is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best places to eat in western Canada because of its ethnic diversity and wide range of restaurants.

Macleod Trail
If you are looking for a chain restaurant, it will probably be found somewhere on Macleod Trail. A drive along the strip will reveal at least one franchise of every American fast food restaurant imaginable, as well as the Southcentre and Chinook shopping malls. Lined with McDonald's, Pizza Huts and similar establishments, the strip is 10 miles of blazing lights and deafening music emanating from the many boisterous nightclubs. 

Stampede
This area contains some of the wildest and most interesting bars in the city. As it is close to the Stampede Grounds and the Saddledome, hockey fans and Stampede-goers make sure that an exciting time is had by all. The area is often frequented by sports celebrities traveling incognito. The country-western tradition is especially strong here, with many bar patrons sporting cowboy boots and large-brimmed Stetson hats. Local saloon owners are also fiercely loyal to the home hockey and football teams.

The skyscrapers of downtown Calgary seem out of place rising unexpectedly from the shallow Bow River Valley. They contrast sharply with the dry, flat prairie stretching off to the east and south, and are dwarfed by the jagged ramparts of the Rocky Mountains looming to the west. Pinched between the slopes of one of the world's most rugged mountain ranges and the soft, fertile waves of the grasslands, Calgary is a city constantly on the move, rarely pausing to catch its collective breath before the next boom sweeps it off its feet.

The city sprawls from the foothills of the Rockies in the northwest to the rolling hills and farm country of the southeast. It is divided into four quadrants intersecting at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, which meet at right angles in the city center. Center Street runs north to south, and Center Avenue east to west, with all streets laid out in a grid expanding outwards from the center.

Downtown/Eau Claire
Less than a century old, the city hasn't had time to develop a rich heritage, but instead has built a rough and ready character full of youth that thrives on spectacle and excess. Calgary's downtown area is bustling and always on the move. From the noise and bravado of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, billed as the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," to the more subdued opulence of the Fairmont Palliser Hotel's famous galas, the city vibrates with a barely-controlled energy straining to rush after the next trend.

Calgary Tower remains downtown's most recognizable landmark, and is a must for those looking to get a bird's eye view. Devonian Gardens is a welcome refuge for nature lovers. Olympic Plaza offers ice-skating in the winter and a wading pool in the summer.

Southwest
The Southwest extends from the forests of Kananaskis Country to the office towers of downtown, and is a mix of residential and business districts. It includes the natural beauty of North Glenmore Park and the haute couture and fashion of the 17th Avenue shopping section. The Southwest is also home to the Fourth Street Restaurant district and the Elbow River, which winds its way from South Glenmore Park down through the city center until its rendezvous with the Bow River near Inglewood. The Eau Claire Market and riverfront trails around Prince's Island Park provide a clean and refreshing break from downtown, and are popular lunch spots with downtown office workers.

Southeast
The Southeast is home to vast oil refineries, fabrication plants, and heavy industry, as well as trendy new housing developments and the world famous Spruce Meadows equestrian facilities. Its western boundary is defined by the Macleod Trail Strip, 10 miles of flashing neon, huge nightclubs, malls, hotels, and luxury car dealerships. In the north end is the Saddledome and Stampede Grounds, as well as the historic district of Inglewood and the old town-site of Fort Calgary.

Northeast
The Northeast is separated from the rest of the city by the Deerfoot Trail, a freeway which carries most of Calgary's commuter traffic and is one of the most dangerous roads in Canada. Comprised mostly of older working-class neighborhoods interspersed with industrial areas, the Northeast is the place to find factory-outlet shopping, as well as the Calgary Zoo Botanical Garden and Prehistoric Park and Calgary International Airport. The area around the airport is currently undergoing heavy development, whose goal is to transform the district into a comfortable village where air travelers can find all types of accommodations, dining, and shopping without ever leaving the area.

Northwest
In the Northwest you can find many of the city's academic institutions and athletic facilities, as well as its upscale residential districts. Both the University of Calgary and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology are located here, as well as the Canada Olympic Park and McMahon Stadium. On the banks of the Bow River and close to downtown is Kensington Village, a collection of shops, galleries and restaurants catering to the more artistic crowd. Kensington's famous eateries represent almost every ethnic cuisine, from Thai to Ethiopian to Irish, and are popular lunch spots for downtown executives.

A lack of entertainment is never a problem in Calgary. Known for its sense of adventure, there's always an activity here to get your blood pumping.

As soon as you mention Calgary, most people immediately think of the noise, dust, and excitement of the Calgary Stampede, but there is much more to the city. From the world-renowned sports facilities to over 4,000 restaurants of every nationality and culinary discipline imaginable to a vibrant performing arts community, Calgary provides enough entertainment choices to stave off any sort of boredom.

Sports
The Saddledome and McMahon Stadium are Calgary's two largest sports venues, and home to the Calgary Stampeders CFL team and Calgary Flames NHL hockey team. For a unique football experience, drop by McMahon Stadium on any chilly autumn Sunday to see rabid fans, wearing nothing but bathing suits and body paint, as they cheer on the Calgary Stampeders amidst driving sleet and hail. Impervious to cold, such hardcore cheering squads often brave -10° Celsius weather, and fueled by a healthy supply of beer, will remain outside for the duration of the game.

After hosting the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, the city gained attention for its excellent athletic facilities, and became a destination for world-class athletes. At 4,000 feet above sea level, the high altitude and thin mountain air enhance training and attract athletes from all over the planet. The Olympic Oval speed skating track is a famous spot for the setting of world records. Spruce Meadows is one of the world's most famous equestrian facilities, and the site of several prestigious show jumping competitions.

The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede is undoubtedly Calgary's biggest event, and claims to be the largest festival in Western Canada. Over a million people pour into the city to watch the bull and bronco riding, chuckwagon races, and receive a heaping dose of cowboy culture.

Outdoor Activities
If you want to get some skiing done but don't have time to drive to Banff and the Rocky Mountain ski resorts, Canada Olympic Park, site of many of the events in the 1988 Olympics, is located about five minutes from downtown and features several lifts and lots of artificial snow. For a real adrenaline rush, watch the Nordic ski jumpers as they launch themselves off the 90-meter ski jump and float hundreds of feet through the air. For a more relaxed skiing experience, Wintergreen Ski Area lies just outside the rustic hamlet of Bragg Creek, a 40-minute drive from downtown. With several small lifts and cross-country ski trails, it is ideal for the naturalist or beginning skier.

In the summer, horseback riding and cycling are the best ways to explore the forests and mountains of the parks surrounding the city. Guided tours are available in Kananaskis Country to the west of the city, as well as in and around the city itself. For those looking for a more leisurely adventure, canoes and drift boats can be rented for a pleasant float down the Bow River.

Theater and Comedy
Theater groups include the Loose Moose Theatre, which is renowned for its hilarious improvisational sessions. For large theatrical productions, the Calgary Center for Performing Arts has five venues scattered throughout the city, ranging from the 1,800-seat Jack Singer Concert Hall to the 180-seat Big Secret Theatre.

Shopping
Shopping in Calgary is easy. There are about a dozen shopping areas in the city, each unique in character, price and merchandise. 17th Avenue is lined with trendy clothing and jewelry shops, Kensington Village caters to the artistic and international crowd, downtown is home to both Bankers Hall and Stephen Avenue Walk, and Eau Claire Market is a showpiece of independent small business. Inglewood and Marda Loop areas cater to the more eclectic shoppers with vintage galleries and unusual import shops, and Macleod Trail boasts a selection of hundreds of discount warehouses and huge shopping malls like the Chinook Centre.

Cinema
Calgary has a plethora of mainstream and alternative cinema choices for the discriminating moviegoer. Cineplex Odeon theaters are scattered throughout the city, and every major shopping center has a cinema hidden in it somewhere. The Plaza is a pillar of the local independent film community, while the Westhills 10 Calgary has all the newest, big-budget flicks.

Concerts and Music
Calgary plays host to most North American rock and pop tours with a steady stream of concert dates throughout the year. Jazz and blues fans will be delighted by the Calgary Jazz Festival, held every year in July. Aficionados of classical music will enjoy the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, which performs on a regular basis at events throughout the city.

Museums and Interpretive Sites
For explorers young and old, Calgary has a wealth of museums and exhibitions, including the Glenbow Museum and Heritage Park Historical Village. The Calgary Zoo, Botanical Garden and Prehistoric Park showcases flora and fauna from every corner of the globe, while an hour's drive from Calgary in the town of Drumheller, the Royal Tyrrell Museum will astound and fascinate dinosaur lovers and naturalists with one of North America's largest dinosaur skeleton collections.

Calgary

Province: Alberta

Country: Canada

Calgary by the Numbers
Population: 1,230,000
Elevation: 1045 meters / 3428 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 42 centimeters / 16.5 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 129 centimeters / 51 inches
Average Winter Temperature: -7°C /19°F  
Average Summer Temperature: 15.5°C / 60°F

Quick Facts

Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-7; Mountain Standard Time (MST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 403; 587; 825

Did You Know?

Colonel James Maclead named Calgary for a Gaelic word thought to mean "Clear Running Water." However, during the 1975 centennial celebration historians discovered the city's namesake actually means "Cove Garden." 

Orientation

Calgary is located at the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The city is located 243 kilometers (151 miles) north of the USA border and 676 kilometers (420 miles) from Vancouver, BC.

The city of Calgary was incorporated as a city in 1894, but it is estimated that the Bow River Valley has been inhabited for the last 10,000 years. At the end of the last Ice Age, the ancestors of the present-day native tribes made their way across the Bering Sea from Siberia, traveling down through Alaska before settling in the Rocky Mountain foothills. There they formed the Blackfoot, Sarcee, Blood, Stoney and Shaganappi nations, and subsisted on the seasonal migrations of American buffalo herds. Their way of life remained relatively unchanged until the late 1870s, when Europeans hunted the buffalo to near-extinction. With the buffalo gone, the natives began trapping beaver and other fur-bearing mammals for the Hudson's Bay and North-West Trading companies, who set up trading posts in the Bow Valley and at Rocky Mountain House to the northwest. The local furs were especially prized by designers in Paris and New York for their richness and quality, and commanded high prices from the traders.

This lucrative market lured opportunists from the United States, who began selling cheap bootleg whiskey to the traders and native trappers. The resulting anarchy inspired the parliament to create the North-West Mounted Police (now known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) in 1893. This same force was dispatched to build Fort Calgary and restore order later in 1875. Meanwhile, farmers were beginning to move into the fertile Alberta prairies. The first settler in the area of what is now Calgary was John Glenn and his family. The Glenns were situated near Elbow River where Fish Creek Park is currently.

In the late 1800s, Western Canada was still mostly wilderness and the Canadian government was afraid that the United States might try to annex the as-yet-undefined provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. To unite the nation, a railroad was proposed stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Construction began in Canada in 1881 and reached Calgary in 1883. It drastically changed the nature of the city, transforming it from a remote frontier outpost into a bustling jumping-off point for the settling of the Western Prairies.

The Calgary townsite had the good fortune to be built at the entrance to the Kicking Horse Pass, one of the few passages through the sheer eastern wall of the Rocky Mountains. The 10,000-12,000 foot-high peaks denied access to a railway all along their thousand-mile length, except for a narrow valley which led from Calgary into the heart of British Columbia. This meant that the railroad had to be routed through Calgary, which became a major supply station during the construction process. Hotels, saloons and shops sprang up to serve the construction workers, and the first train loads of immigrant farmers and ranchers began pouring in. The fertile plains to the west of Calgary made ideal grain farming territory, while the rich and abundant natural grasses also produced a grade of beef unequaled in North America. In 1894 the City of Calgary was incorporated with a population of 3,900. It grew slowly until the event occurred that would determine the city's direction for the rest of the century. In 1914, just before the start of the First World War, huge reserves of oil were discovered in the surrounding hillsides. Half the local ranchers became instantly wealthy, and a boom rocked the city. When the demand for oil dried up after the war, recession set in and many residents set off to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Starting with its first show in 1912, the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" (also known as the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede) finally became an annual event in 1923 when Calgary Stampede joined forces with the Calgary Industrial Exhibition. Originally started by an American promoter and four local ranchers seeking to revive the floundering local economy, this celebration of cowboy culture and the ranching lifestyle became the most celebrated festival in Western Canada. The rodeo competitions are still a showcase of the best and toughest cowboys and cowgirls in the world.

As the Second World War was winding down, a vast oilfield was discovered to the north, near Edmonton, ushering in a new boom. While most of the actual drilling and processing of the oil was centered around Edmonton, most company headquarters, refineries and related industries chose locations closer to the railroad in Calgary.

In the 1990s, many of Canada's largest corporations moved their head offices from the more traditional business centers of Montreal and Toronto and have set up shop in downtown Calgary. The electronics and e-commerce industries have found the community appealing, and are now a driving force behind the city's development.

A nature lover's haven and a cosmopolitan traveller's paradise, Calgary has a reputation as an easygoing, relaxed place with all the amenities of an urban metropolis.

Calgary offers endless opportunities to spend time in the great Canadian outdoors, hitting the ski slopes or simply walking and biking along scenic park trails. Visitors to the city can also get a close-up view of the Canadian Rockies by making the scenic hour-long drive to Banff National Park. There, you'll find luxurious hotels and gorgeous alpine views - perfect for a romantic getaway or relaxing retreat. Hit the trails at Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort or head to nearby Canmore for incredible hiking paths as well as cultural events.

If you come in July, you can also take part in the uniquely western Calgary Stampede. Head to Stampede Park and take in the rodeos, animal and livestock shows, midway and tasty food. You'll also find plenty of local restaurants serving up special Stampede breakfasts and delicious meals, along with vibrant nightclubs offering a mix of country and dance music.

Still have time for more? Calgary is also home to a zoo (with an animatronic dinosaur park!) and fantastic indoor and outdoor shopping areas (head to Eau Claire Market for unique gifts and souvenirs). You can also go to Heritage Park, a frontier village with historical re-enactments of how Western Canada was won.

For an urban cowboy (or cowgirl) lifestyle you won't find anywhere else, head to Calgary.

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