What to do in Calgary
Visit Calgary is to discover the largest city in Alberta and the highest city in Canada at 1139 meters above sea level.
With an exceptional location between the Canadian Rockies Mountains and the meadows, Calgary is an excellent base for visiting Banff and Jasper National Parks. It is therefore a must for a circuit in Western Canada!
Feel free to spend a few days to discover the main places of interest.
To help you plan your trip, we have prepared the top 10 things to do and see in Calgary. At the end of the article, you will also find our itinerary tips for visiting Calgary in 1, 2 or 3 days and our selection of the best accommodations.
1. Calgary Tower
The Calgary Tower is the main landmark of the city. It is considered the emblem of Calgary.
From the top of the 190-meter tower, you’ll have access to a 360- degree viewing platform and enjoy an exceptional view of Calgary, the rocky and the meadows. The Calgary Tower also has a glass floor, just to make some fears!
As in the Vancouver or Toronto observation towers, you’ll also find a revolving restaurant at the top to enjoy the view while enjoying a great meal. The SKY 360 makes the complete tour in 60 minutes for dinner or in 45 minutes for lunch.
There is also another restaurant, Ruth’s Chris Steackhouse on the second floor of the tower. It is famous for offering very good meat. Notice to the amateurs!
Find all the information to visit the Calgary Tower on the official website.
2. The Glenbow Museum
Located in the city center, the Glenbow Museum is Calgary’s main museum. It traces the history of the city and the region of Alberta.
With a collection of nearly 33,000 works of art from the 19 th century to today, it is the largest Western Art Museum of Canada!
The collection of First Nations artifacts is impressive, so it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the lifestyle of Native Americans on the plains!
The museum is really well done, the visit will take you between 2 and 3 hours.
In the museum’s library, you will also have access to numerous documents, books or brochures presenting the history of Western Canada.
Prepare your visit to the Glenbow Museum by visiting the official website.
3. Kensington Village
Kensington Village is for me the coolest neighborhood in Calgary. Fully pedestrian, you can walk quietly and quietly!
You will find plenty of original shops to do some shopping and especially many cafes and good restaurants. You now know where to go for a gourmet break in Calgary!
And if you want to continue to shop in Calgary, you can also go to 17th Avenue, on the avenue Stephen or CORE shopping center, the only shopping center in Calgary.
It is home to a tropical garden indoors with ponds filled with fish, fountains and tropical plants. Amazing in the west of Canada!
4. Heritage Park
Heritage Park is a very popular tourist attraction to do on your trip to Calgary.
This 51-hectare park offers an immersion in a typical Western Canadian town of the last century. You will find a forge, a bakery, a school, a church and many other stalls animated by actors in period costume. Perfect for learning a lot about the lifestyle of the time.
Some of the buildings are authentic and have been brought there to be preserved, so they are not just re-enactments.
In the park, you can also take a ride in an authentic steam locomotive or paddle steamer for the Tom Sawyer version. A great family activity idea to do in Calgary.
Allow at least 2 hours of visit because the park is vast.
Plan your visit to Heritage Park now by visiting the official website.
5. St Patrick’s Island
St Patrick’s Island is located in the heart of downtown Calgary and in the middle of the Bow River.
The island is the oldest park in the city. It was completely refurbished in 2015 to become a Calgary landmark. He is also very popular with locals. A new bridge has even been created to reach it directly from the East Village.
On the island you will find bike paths for bike rides, walking trails, a playground for children, a picnic area and a beach for dipping. The island also includes an amphitheater and a small 9-meter-tall hill created especially for enjoying views of all of Calgary.
It is really the ideal place for a nature break in the heart of the city.
St Patrick’s Island is full of events and festivals throughout the seasons. Of outdoor film screenings are well organized!
6. The Calgary Zoo
The Calgary Zoo is a place of interest to see, especially if you are visiting Calgary with your family.
It is home to around 1,000 animals from around the world, including hippos, giraffes, lemurs, grizzlies and gorillas. A part of the zoo is of course dedicated to animals from Canada with bears, wolves and cougars.
There is also a botanical garden and a prehistoric park dedicated to dinosaurs, particularly impressive.
The zoo is interesting because there are many animals and it is well laid out, so I advise you to spend an afternoon with your children.
From 2018, the zoo will welcome new members: 4 giant pandas!
If you want to visit the zoo, the information can be found on the official website.
7. Canada Olympic Park
The Canada Olympic Park is located west of the city. He hosted the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
Today the park is still used to train future Olympic champions and you can visit the facilities. Better yet, you can even test some!
On the program, a bobsleigh descent on the same track where the famous Jamaican team had fallen and whose story had inspired the film Rasta Rockett. Or a zip line downhill from a ski jump. It’s still the fastest and the longest in North America!
In winter, the park is transformed into a ski resort with toboggan runs, snow rafting and ice hockey.
Canada Olympic Park is also home to a Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, a venue celebrating Canadian athletes and their achievements through interactive exhibits.
Find the list of all activities to do on the official website.
8. The Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede is one of the largest festivals held each year in Canada. More than a million visitors flock to it every year and it has become a major tourist attraction in Calgary.
At this 10-day festival taking place in July, you can attend mainly rodeo but also parades, barrel races, shows and country music concerts. Every morning, guests can also enjoy a free pancakes breakfast served in the many stalls throughout the city.
And do not miss a trip to the Midway Fair to experience the rides and the Ferris wheel.
On the banks of the Bow River, you can learn more about First Nations history through a re- enactment of one of their village with teepees.
It’s time to put on your cowboy hat and set off to conquer the West!
9. Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Royal Tirell Museum
Although located approximately 2.5 hours drive from Calgary, I recommend you take the time to visit the Dinosaur Provincial Park.
The park is located in the Badlands, an area of low fertility south-east of Calgary. It is reputed to be the largest cemetery of dinosaur fossils worldwide and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than 500 specimens of 35 different species dating back to 75 million years have been discovered.
In the park you will find dinosaur exhibits, and you can see the fossils found on site. It is also an opportunity to learn more about the geology of the region and the unique conditions that have preserved these precious remnants of ancient times.
The park is huge and minibus excursions are organized so you do not miss anything.
You can also hike to discover the sublime landscapes.
And to complete your visit, you can also visit the Royal Tirell Museum, a museum dedicated to paleontology. It is located in Drumheller, approximately 1h30 from Calgary. About forty complete skeletons of dinosaurs are exposed. The museum is really beautiful and very well done!
10. Banff and Jasper National Parks
As I said earlier, Calgary is often just one stop on a trip to Canada before visiting Banff and Jasper National Parks.
The city is only 1 hour drive from the entrance to Banff National Park. It is therefore an ideal base.
The Banff Park is renowned for its sublime natural landscapes and lakes for water color ultra photogenic! The opportunity to make beautiful walks in the countryside.
You can then take the glacier route to Jasper Park, just as beautiful as Banff Park.
How many days to visit Calgary?
2 days are enough to see Calgary’s main points of interest. On the third day you will be able to drive to the most famous national parks in Western Canada.
Visit Calgary in 1 day
To visit Calgary in 1 day, I suggest the following route:
- Glenbow Museum Tour to Discover First Nations
- Ascent to Calgary Tower
- Lunch break
- Discovery of the Heritage Park village
- In the late afternoon, shopping and dining in Kensington Village
Visit Calgary in 2 days
To visit Calgary in 2 days, I advise you to resume the itinerary of 1 day and to add:
- Visit of the Dinosaur Provincial Park
- Discovery of the Royal Tyrell Museum on the return
- If you have some time left, stroll on St Patrick’s Island at the end of the day
Visit Calgary in 3 days
As you may have noticed, 2 days are enough to see Calgary’s must-sees. On the third day, I suggest you explore the surrounding area of Calgary and the surrounding area on your way to Banff National Park.
If you have the time, on the way between Calgary and the park, I advise you to stop at the Olympic Park to experience the bobsleigh descent!
Where to stay in Calgary
- Wicked Hostels: Hostel located across from the Calgary Stampede. Dormitory bed from €25, breakfast included. Most: the central location, the full breakfast, the warm atmosphere and the free laundry. An excellent choice where to stay inexpensively in Calgary!
- Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel & Suites by APA: Located in the city center, 900 m from the Calgary Tower. Comfortable and warm studio with kitchen from €130 per night, breakfast included. Most: the central location, the full breakfast, the cleanliness. It is our favorite for its price/performance ratio in Calgary.
- Gray Eagle Resort: Located 10 min drive from the center. Modern and comfortable double room from €160 per night. Most: the indoor pool, the size of the rooms, the reception.
- Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Downtown/Beltline District: Located 800 m from the tower. Modern studio, spacious and decorated with everything, with kitchen, from 210€, breakfast included. Most: the hearty breakfast, the view from the rooms, the location.
- Hotel Le Germain: The hotel is located just opposite the Calgary Tower, ideal for visiting the city on foot. Modern and spacious double room from €250 per night, breakfast included. The pluses: an exceptional hotel with attentive staff, a very good breakfast, comfortable rooms, size of bathrooms. I highly recommend it for an exceptional stay in Calgary.
Where to eat in Calgary
- River Café : Restaurant located on Prince Island Park. He was voted one of Canada’s Top 100 Restaurants in 2017! The dishes are delicious and really well presented. In summer you can eat on the terrace at the edge of the water in a very pleasant setting. A reservation is recommended.
- Cactus Club Café: Located a little away from the city center on 39 th Avenue. If you like burgers, this is the place, they are simply delicious.
- Ten Foot Henry : Located 200 meters from the Glenbow Museum. The dishes are tasty and of excellent quality and the atmosphere and decor are warm. In addition, the prices are very reasonable for Canada. I recommend you book.
How to get to Calgary
Calgary has an international airport so you can choose to land directly there.
If you are already in Canada, you can also choose to take a domestic flight from Vancouver (1h35 flight) or Montreal (4h30 flight) for example.
By car, it takes at least 3 hours to reach Calgary from Edmonton, 10 hours from Vancouver and 37 hours from Montreal!
Since flight prices for Calgary vary enormously, it’s a good idea to compare them as soon as possible.
Calgary Tourist Map
To help you visualize the city a little better, I made you a tourist map of Calgary listing the places to visit I’m talking about in this top 10 things to do. You can display the legend of the map by clicking on the button at the top left with a small arrow.
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