For those who don’t know, Calgary is the Third Largest Metropolitan area in Canada, next to Vancouver & Toronto. It is fueled by Cowboys, Oil, Tourism, and Honky Tonk Women. Calgary has become the centre for Country music in Canada, some refer to it as the “Nashville of the North”. Calgary has many things to see and do in and around it. Unfortunately the Hostel/Backpacker scene is still in its awkward teenage years. There are only two hostels in Calgary. Fortunately the scenery and culture in and around here will make up for the lack of infrastructure for the budget travellers. Banff is only a short drive away, but before you grab the next bus out of here, stick around. Calgary has many nooks and crannies to explore.
Calgary zoo makes for a relatively cheap afternoon. Stroll around the massive park enjoying animals from all over the world, over 1000 to be exact. Some of my personal favourites were the Moose, the Prairie Dogs, The Monkeys, The Wolves, and the Giraffes. Calgary Zoo is the proud owner of a baby elephant, which was born in 2008. Be sure to check it out.
Canada Olympic Park
Prior to the ’88 Calgary Winter Olympics, Local Albertans, particularly Calgarians, came to ski this hill. Nowadays, Canada Olympic Park is active year round, with many activities, ranging from: Mountain Biking, Luge Rides, Bungee Trampolining, Outdoor Wall-climbing, and more. The Hill also provides great views of the city.
Prince’s Island Park
Craving an escape from the metropolitan area? Find your way to Prince’s Island Park, which is located in the Bow River. Prince’s Island Park is a great place for locals and tourists to get away from the hustle bustle of big city living. If you’re keen on working those muscles, biking, hiking, and fishing are all available here. Or just lounge around in the many parks and picnic areas. During the summer months it can be a great way to enjoy the weather.
Calaway Park is Western Canada’s largest amusement park. Although it seems to have aged quite a bit in the last couple years, the attractions are still worth checking out if you’ve got the time. Calaway Park has a roller coaster, train ride, log ride, ferris wheel, and many of the other classic amusement park rides. To get into the park you pay an up front fee and get access to all the rides.
The Calgary tower is one of the major tourist attractions in Calgary, however, this rather lame fact should be ignored as there are countless other things to do. If however you are looking for an amazing view of the city and mountains, and are willing to pay for it, then by all means check it out. Perhaps I’m just cheap, but once you’ve seen one tower, you’ve usually seen them all.
The Calgary Stampede is probably the single most largest event in Calgary. This massive rodeo/party takes place between July 5th – 14th of every year. Find a Cowboy Hat, a plaid shirt, and a good pair of Levis, and make your way to the Saddle Dome (shaped like a saddle, hence the name) The Calgary Stampede is the biggest week of partying in Calgary. Head to the Rodeo Events and watch what real cowboys do best. Check out the bull riding. If speeds you’re thing, be sure to go to some of the Chuck Wagon Races. Finish it all off with a concert from one of the handfuls of different Concerts playing during the week, and you’ve got yourself a true Calgarian Memory.
The 2009 Concert Line-up includes: Taylor Swift, Reba McEntyre, Kenney Chesney, George Strait, The Offspring, Rise Against, Coldplay, No Doubt, Megadeth, Kings of Leon, Bachman Cummings, Rod Stewart, Keith Urban, and the Blue Man Group. In order to get into the grounds you’ll need a ticket to at least one event. Check out Calgary Stampede website for more information.
If you haven’t gotten around to checking out an NHL game, then be sure to get tickets to the next Calgary Flames game. Watch as a sea of Red & Black enters the building and cheers on their favourite team. Grab a beer for each hand (Always!) and enjoy Canada’s National Sport. If you can’t make it to the game itself, the after parties are as good as the game itself.
Raft the Bow River
If its a warm summer day, you’d have to be crazy not to consider renting a raft and having a relaxing paddle down Calgary’s Bow River. Outdoor Center has rafts, or try “Lazy Day Raft Rentals”. They’re located in the curling club on Memorial Drive by Prince’s Island Park. Don’t forget to wear a lifejacket as local police will fine you if they catch you not wearing one. And just to be safe, try to go with somebody who has their Alberta boat license. You can never be too safe on the Bow River, and that extra bit of safety knowledge can sometimes make all the difference.
Get to Banff National Park
So you’ve seen all you need to see from Calgary, and now you’re off to Banff. There are daily departures from the Airport, which will usually cost you 50$ one way, or 95$ round trip. The buses have plenty of room for backpacks, skis and snowboards. Depending on the season the buses can get crowded as they make several stops along the way. Banff is home to mountain biking, some of the best hiking in Canada, as well as some of Canadas most well known mountains for ski & snowboard.