Calgary is Alberta's largest city and Canada's fourth-largest, and is near where the prairies end and the foothills begin. That makes it the eastern gateway to the Rocky Mountains and an important center of trade and tourism for the western prairies. It is your best point of access for Banff and Jasper, and a worthwhile destination in its own right. Calgary is the heart of the largest metropolitan area between Toronto and Vancouver, with over 1.24 million people as of 2016 (1.4 million in the metropolitan area), making it Canada's fourth largest metropolitan area.
In 1883, the railway reached Calgary. It started to grow in every direction and became an agricultural and business hub. In 1884, Calgary was incorporated as a town in what was then the North West Territories. By 1894, Calgary's population had grown to 3900 people and it was incorporated as a city.
Alberta's first major oil and natural gas field was discovered in 1914 at Turner Valley, 60 km south of Calgary. Subsequent discoveries kept the oil and gas scene active in the Turner Valley area for the next 30 years. When the Turner Valley fields were depleted, the next major oil and gas find was at Leduc (near Edmonton) in 1947. By then, Calgary was already established as a centre of oil and gas business.
During the 1950s, oil became big in Calgary and major American oil companies started heading to Calgary and opening offices. The boom extended into the next twenty years, bringing the city to 720,000 people in the metro area by 1985. The relatively low-key low-rise downtown became filled with a sea of skyscrapers, starting with the Calgary Tower and some other towers in the 1960s. By the 1980s, Calgary's luck turned, and a drop in oil prices sent the Calgary metro economy downward. Unemployment raged, vacancies surged, and growth was slow or even negative in some years.
In 1988, Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics and brought world attention to Calgary. By the 1990s, it was on the rebound and began growing again. Calgary today has become a more cosmopolitan city of over one million inhabitants with genuine attempts to diversify its economy and expand its attractiveness to outside visitors.
Onward!, the official motto of the city, was never more apt than in the wake of the major flooding the city experienced in June 2013. A year later, the casual visitor would have been hard-pressed to find any traces of the flood.
Calgary is sunny and rather dry, with wide seasonal and daily temperature ranges. Summers tend to be sunny and mild, highs averaging about in July/August, usually accompanied by short afternoon storms. June is normally the wettest month, although the Stampede in July is notorious for at least a few heavy showers, so be prepared if you plan to visit during this time. Hot weather greater than is rare, occurring on average five times a year. Also, temperatures typically drop dramatically on wet days as well; there's always a couple days in the summer months that barely manage highs over .
Winter can also vary quite a bit. Temperatures can get extremely cold, below , at times between November and March, while is possible (on average five times a year). Though average highs in January are about based on a current 30-year average, there's nothing average with Calgary's weather. Because of the regular but unpredictable chinooks (warm Pacific winds), there's no guarantee of when the cold weather may strike. One of the coldest months in the last ten years was a March (about for average high), while one January was very mild, average high. Temperatures can swell into the range one day, and drop back into the sub-zero (sub 32°F) range several days later. A typical chinook rolls in fast and is very windy. The warming effects will usually linger for several days to more than a week. In strong chinooks, you can see a chinook arch to the west: an arch of cloud with clear sky below. Calgary can be very dry in winter, with humidity as low as 20%, causing dry skin and making it challenging for contact lens wearers.
Regardless of the time of year, temperatures usually drop quickly at night. Lows in summer hover around , while in winter they average about . Because of the higher elevation and dramatic temperature drops, snow can fall as late as June and as early as September. These unseasonable snowfalls usually result in chaos in the city, as they tend to be heavy and wet, with fallen trees being a major threat. Calgary's weather can be quite unpredictable and can vary dramatically from year-to-year. Check the forecast ahead of time, because it will usually give you a good idea of what you will need to prepare for.
First-time visitors to Calgary should be careful to bring sunglasses (even in winter) as Calgary is the sunniest city in Canada, and the sun can make things quite hard on your eyes, especially in the winter as it reflects off of the snow.
Calgary International AirportThe airport is spacious and modern, with all the facilities (free Wi-Fi, shopping, banking, etc) that you would expect in a major airport. The domestic terminal has three lettered concourses (A,B,and C), which are also labelled as meeting places, easy points of reference. The international terminal was completed in 2016 and has Concourse D for international flights (non-US destinations) and Concourse E for US bound flights. All terminals and concourses are part of the same structure, and you can easily walk between then all landside. The airport is well-served by Canadian and international carriers. The airport has many "White Hat Volunteers" dressed in white cowboy hats and red vests who are friendly and more than happy to direct you and answer questions on the airport or the city.
- WestJet. Calgary is the headquarters and hub for Canada's second largest airline. International destinations served by WestJet include Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York.
- Air Canada. Calgary International Airport is also a hub for Canada's flag carrier. International destinations served by Air Canada include Seattle (seasonal), Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, London-Heathrow, Frankfurt, and Tokyo-Narita.
- Aerome xico, daily flights to/from Mexico City
- American Airlines, multiple daily flights to/from Dallas/Ft. Worth.
- Alaska Airlines, multiple daily flights to/from Seattle.
- British Airways. Daily flights to/from London Heathrow.
- Delta, daily flights to Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Seattle/Tacoma.
- Horizon Airlines, multiple flights to Seattle. Owned by Alaska Airlines, but uses smaller aircraft.
- KLM. 5 weekly flights to/from Amsterdam.
- Lufthansa. Daily flights to/from Frankfurt.
- United. Several daily flights to/from San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and Houston.
From Europe there are non-stop charter flights from London, Glasgow, Manchester, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.
While the airport is connected quite well to other Canadian cities, there are fewer options for Americans in neighbouring states, with most flights to the US going to major airline hubs. In some cases, it may be better to drive from locations just across the border—especially northwestern Montana. The four closest U.S. airports that have service to Calgary are Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Minneapolis.
Since it's a major Canadian airport, Calgary International has US border pre-clearance facilities; if your flight goes from Calgary to the States, you will go through American customs and immigration immediately after check in at the International Terminal. Thus you get off the plane at your stateside destination as if you were on a domestic flight and make quicker connections there. The price for this perk is that you should budget more time when departing; most airlines recommend for you to check in at least 90 minutes before flight time when travelling to the U.S. Passengers are not permitted to access US security more than 2 hours before their flight departs.
Ground transportationLike most large airports, there are many options for getting into the city:
- Simplest: Taxi ($40–45 typically) Should take 20 minutes on a good day. Uber can pick up on the departures level (upstairs) at Doors 1 & 12.
- Easy: Private shuttles ($15 per person) These offer scheduled service to downtown hotels. Many airport-area hotels also have a free shuttle bus service to pick up and drop off their guests at the airport. As of September 2013, no downtown hotels have free shuttles.
- Still easy: Calgary Transit bus Route 300-Airport/City Centre ($10.50 if you board at the airport, $3.30 if you board at any other stop). The stop at the domestic terminal has a ticket machine that accepts credit cards. This fully accessible express bus leaves the airport approximately every 20 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends running from 5:30AM to midnight every day. Board at bus bay 7 across from Arrivals Door 2 of the domestic terminal or at bus bay 32 across from Arrivals Door 15 of the international terminal. Travel time to downtown is estimated at 30–45 minutes. While the ticket from the airport is expensive, it is a full day pass for all transit.
- Cheapest (and slowest): Calgary Transit bus Route 100-Airport/McKnight Station and C-Train (LRT/tram) Route 202. ($3.30/adult, exact change) Take the Rte 100-Airport/McKnight Station bus to McKnight-Westwinds LRT Station and board a downtown C-Train (tram). The bus runs every 20–30 minutes, stopping at 1AM on weekdays and earlier on the weekend. Since the train isn't really designed for air travellers, there will be little room for luggage, especially during rush hour. However the bus and all stations are fully accessible and have elevators. Board the bus at bay 7 on the arrivals level of the domestic terminal or bay 32 of the international terminal. Travel time is estimated at about 60 minutes.
- Also possible: Car rentals are also available as at any airport.
For connections to other parts of the city by transit, consult the Calgary Transit website, or call their service centre at +1 403-262-1000.
It is also possible to fly into the Edmonton International Airport, around three hours drive from Calgary.
address: 175 MacLaurin Dr, Rocky View CountySpringbank Airport acts as a general aviation reliever for Calgary International Airport, the city's main airport. The airport is classified as an airport of entry by Nav Canada and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). CBSA officers at this airport can handle general aviation aircraft only, with no more than 15 passengers. There is no public transit service between Calgary and the Springbank Airport.
By carCalgary is roughly 90 minutes' drive east of Banff (on the Trans-Canada Highway, aka Highway 1), and about 3 hours south of Edmonton on Queen Elizabeth II Highway, aka Highway 2. From the U.S., use the I-15 Freeway (east side) or U.S. Hwy 93 (west side) from Montana or U.S. Hwy 95 from Idaho. Calgary is about 320 km (200 miles) north of the border.
- Banff Airporter. A year-round scheduled shuttle service between the Calgary airport, Canmore, and Banff.
- Brewster Banff Airport Express. A year-round scheduled shuttle service between the Calgary airport, downtown Calgary, Canmore, and Banff. In summer, also connects to Kananaskis and Jasper.
- Red Arrow. Provides luxury coach service to several Alberta cities, including Edmonton, with its bus stop on 9th Ave at 1st St SE. It's best to book seats a few days prior to departure as the bus may be fully booked by departure time. Sister brand Ebus offers service to Red Deer and Edmonton in standard motorcoaches.
Rider ExpressBus service along the Trans-Canada Highway from Vancouver to Calgary, twice daily. Service from Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, Merritt, Kamloops, Chase, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Revelstoke, and Golden (British Columbia); Lake Louise, Banff, and Canmore (Alberta).
Tower CentreThere has been no Via Rail passenger service to Calgary since 1990. In the summer, the Rocky Mountaineer tourist train runs to Banff, Lake Louise, and Vancouver, but is slow and expensive as this is a daytime-only sightseeing train. CP runs a luxury excursion tourist train as the "Royal Canadian Pacific" but service is infrequent and prices exorbitant (thousands of dollars) as this is nostalgia, not practical transportation.
By transitIt can be fairly easy to get to most destinations of interest by bus and/or light rail transit (LRT, trams). In the downtown core, 7th Avenue South is for public transit only.
Calgary's public transit system was first established in 1909. The first leg of Calgary's LRT (tram) system was completed in 1987 as part of preparation for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Today, the LRT lines are the backbone of Calgary Transit. Calgary's LRT is called the C-Train (or CTrain) and runs reliably, frequently, and is entirely accessible, with elevators at every station. In the downtown, you can ride the C-Train for free for 14 city blocks along the length of 7th Avenue.
Information about the transit system is available on Calgary Transit's website, or by phoning their information line +1 403-262-1000 from 6AM-9PM, local time. Train times are displayed on large electronic signs at stations, using Calgary Transit's real-time information system. Next bus information can be obtained by calling Teleride at +1 403-974-4000, or texting 74000 with the bus stop number, which can be found on the bus stop sign. This information is based solely on bus schedules, and times are not adjusted if buses are delayed by weather or other factors.
Calgary Transit offers a real-time bus information system that displays stop and schedule information on buses.
LRT/tramThere are two LRT lines, both of which run on 7th Ave downtown: Route 201 (red on Calgary Transit maps) will be most useful to visitors, while Route 202 (blue) is more useful for locals. Route 201 runs from Tuscany Station in the northwest to Somerset/Bridlewood station in the southern suburbs, passing through the city centre and serving attractions such as the Stampede grounds. Route 202 serves mostly residents and runs from Saddletowne station in the northeast, passes through downtown, and ends at 69th St station in the southwest. LRT platforms are labelled with reference to downtown rather than by compass direction, and the trains are well signed.
Trains run every 10 minutes (5 minutes or less in rush hour and 15 minutes on holidays). First trains are between 4 and 5AM, and last trains are between 1 and 2AM—slightly earlier on Sundays. During the Calgary Stampede and on New Year's Eve, the C-Train runs all night and some bus routes have extended hours of service. Check Calgary Transit's website for details if you'll be visiting at this time.
Although buses come along less often, and tend to serve commuters more than tourists, it is still possible to get around to the main places without too much difficulty. Bus routes usually service either downtown or an LRT station, and run from around 5AM-1AM. Depending on the route, frequencies can be as low as one per hour in outlying suburbs, although 20 or 30 minutes is more typical. Buses numbered in the 300-399 range are rapid buses intended to provide service like a train: they only stop at major streets and large bus terminals, and run relatively frequently. Bus routes with word 'express' in their name only run during rush hour and take commuters to and from downtown. Most major bus routes use low-floor buses equipped with ramps; the express routes are the exception, using 1970s-era buses.
Transit tickets ($3.30/adult $2.30/youth) permit 90 minutes of travel on trains and buses, with round trips allowed. Day passes ($10.50/adult, $7.50/youth) and books of 10 transit tickets ($33/adult, $23/youth) are also available at most convenience stores. Ticket machines at C-Train stations and platforms sell day passes and regular tickets. These machines accept coins (but not bills), credit cards, and debit cards. A monthly pass can also be purchased for unlimited usage within the pass's designated month ($103/adult $75/youth), but is not cost justified unless you intend to commute to downtown daily. The ticket machines allow you to purchase multiple tickets (e.g., 2-day passes) in one transaction but you must press the "Multiple" button before selecting the type of ticket.
The C-Train operates on a "proof of payment" honour system. This means there are no turnstiles, but inspectors (usually 'peace officers' employed by Calgary Transit) randomly check for valid tickets, transfers, or passes. There is a $250 fine for transit riders unable to present proof of payment. There is no charge for travel on the C-Train in the downtown free fare zone. An automated onboard announcement is made when trains enter and leave this zone.
By carIt is easy to be confused by Calgary's quadrant address system at first, but it is very logical and systematic.
Streets run north-south and avenues run east-west. Centre Street and Macleod Trail divide the city into east and west, while the Bow River (west of Deerfoot Trail) and Centre Avenue and Memorial Drive (east of Deerfoot Trail) divide the city into north and south. Together these split the city into NE, NW, SE, and SW: the four quadrants. Thus any time you get an address on a numbered street, you must get whether it was NE, NW, SE, or SW. Street and avenue numbers—and thus address numbers—increase as you move away from Centre St or Centre Ave.
Many of Calgary's roads are numbered, but this is less common in the newer developments. Important roads are often named "Trails," but there are many exceptions. Newly-built neighbourhoods may not yet appear on maps, either paper or GPS. If you are travelling to these places, it may be a good idea to ask for directions beforehand.
The names of small suburban roads usually incorporate the community name at the start of the names of all roads in that community. This means that Taralake Garden, Taralea Place, Taralea Bay, Taralea Way, Taralea Green, Taralea Circle, and Taralea Crescent are all separate roads, in the same community – Taradale. It can be very confusing for tourists and locals alike to navigate an area where very small differences in street names are so important to finding your way. If travelling in the suburban communities, have a map or directions and pay attention to the full, exact name.
Calgary's downtown core is bounded by the Bow River to the north, the railway tracks to the south (between 9th Ave S and 10th Ave S), 11 St W, and 4 St E. Almost all of the roads in the downtown core are one-way, so look carefully at your map for the direction of traffic on each road when planning your trip. When driving in downtown, watch for one-way signs. 7th Avenue S in the downtown core is for Calgary Transit buses and C-Trains (trams) only; cars driving on 7th Ave may be ticketed and will definitely draw stares and glares from waiting transit commuters.
For many years, parking in downtown Calgary has been the second most expensive in North America, after New York City's. Parking fees of over $25/day are not unusual. Street parking in downtown (and many other parts of the city) is through the city's ParkPlus system. You will find a ParkPlus pay station in every block. Before you leave your parking spot, note the 4-digit ParkPlus zone number on a sign near your car. Also note your rental car's licence plate number. Go to the ParkPlus pay station, where you will need to type in that information, and pay for your parking either with a credit card or with coins ($2, $1, $0.25). If you set up a ParkPlus account before your visit, you can pay using your cell phone. The MyParking app can help you find available parking more quickly.
In general, the city's driving situation is a result of rapid, unanticipated growth, so prepare for the roads being grossly inadequate and gridlocked during rush hour. Outside of rush hour, traffic is not usually a problem. Also watch for lane reversals during peak times on weekdays (6:30AM–8:30AM and 3:30PM–6:30PM) when going in and out of downtown on some larger streets (e.g. Centre Street, Memorial Drive, 10 Street NW). This increases the traffic flow in one direction by "borrowing" a lane normally going the other way.
Winter driving is very different from driving in other seasons. Major roads are ploughed, salted, and sanded, but smaller residential streets have very little snow removal or winter maintenance. The city bans snow route parking: after a heavy snowfall priority routes in the city – marked as snow removal routes with blue snowflake street signs – become no parking zones for 72 hours; this includes some residential streets, so bear this in mind if you have parked on the street during the winter.
As confounding as driving in Calgary may be, driving is still the best way to explore and see the city.
If you need to hire a car to explore the city or head out into the surrounding area check the prices from agencies on Macleod Trail, you may get a better deal than in downtown or at the airport.
On footDowntown Calgary is a compact area which is easily accessible on foot. The pathway system, Eau Claire Market area and Stephen Avenue Walk (8th Avenue) are the primary walking destinations of downtown workers in the warmer months. In the wintertime, everyone navigates their way around the downtown core via the Plus 15 system, so called because the enclosed walkways joining buildings are approximately 15 feet (5 m) above ground.
By bicycleWith approximately 760 km of paved pathways and 260 km of on-street bikeways within its boundaries, the City of Calgary boasts the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America. Pathway are available online and are available from Calgary swimming pools and leisure centres in the warmer months.
Calgary has cycle tracks in the downtown core. (A cycle track is a bike lane that is protected from other traffic by physical barriers, such as concrete medians.)
- The 7th St SW cycle track goes from the Bow River to 8th Ave SW.
- There are cycle tracks along 5th St W, 8th Ave S-Stephen Avenue Walk-9th Ave S, and 12th Ave S.
Downtown, there are many pathways along the rivers and park areas. Though Calgary can be thought of as a safe city, use common sense when biking at dusk and at night. This is particularly true on the east side of downtown along the river (close to the neighbourhood of East Village), which is a rougher end of town.
Calgary has a good network of off-street bike paths, although motorists are sometimes less than courteous. Weather is unpredictable, and snowy cycling conditions may occur any time from September to May. Some bike paths are cleared of snow in winter. Bike racks are fairly common, especially in shopping areas. Be sure to use the bike racks provided, or another solid object to lock you bike to; as simply locking your back wheel will not provide sufficient security. Calgary Transit has bike racks at C-Train stations and allows bikes on the C-Trains during off-peak hours (at no additional fee). Folding bikes can be taken on C-Trains and buses at any time when folded and stored in a case that protects other travellers from dirt and grease. All buses on Route 20—Heritage/Northmount are equipped with bike racks on the front. Cycling is not allowed on 7th Avenue SE/SW in downtown Calgary, between 1st St SE and 8th St SW. This section of 7th Avenue is reserved for Calgary Transit vehicles and emergency vehicles; offenders risk a $350 ticket. Bicycles are also prohibited from using the Deerfoot Trail freeway (Hwy 2).
Cyclists must obey the same rules of the road as other vehicles. All cyclists must have a working bell on their bike, and cyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet. Only cyclists under 14 may ride on sidewalks.
Another major pathway extends north up Nose Creek valley just east of the zoo, including two overpasses to cross Deerfoot Trail (a busy freeway). While there is a pathway that leads to the airport, connecting to it requires crossing an industrial area, which is not recommended for novice cyclists.
Lime have an e-bike dockless rental operation in Calgary. Download their app to hire.
- Calgary Tower (in City Centre). The Calgary Tower may not be quite as impressive as the CN Tower in Toronto, but it still commands a great view over the city and the surroundings. On a clear day you can see the Rockies to the west. It features a revolving gourmet restaurant, a bar, and an observation deck. The tower is best approached from 8th Avenue, as the 10th Avenue side is dominated by railway tracks, parking lots, & parkades.
- Stampede Park (in City Centre). The site of Calgary's world-famous exhibition and rodeo, the Calgary Stampede grounds are east of the Beltline in Victoria Park. Not only are the grounds the site of the excitement of every July's Calgary Stampede, they also house a conference and exhibition centre (the BMO Centre) and a casino.
Museums & educational attractions
- Calgary Central Library (in City Centre). Flagship branch of the Calgary Public Library, opened on November 1, 2018. interior centres around a four-storey central atrium topped by a skylight. The lower floors contain the library's meeting spaces and activity centres, while the upper floors feature book stacks with space for 450,000 titles and a reading room. Also features a 340-seat theatre, conference rooms, and small café. Named one of the 12 Most Anticipated Buildings of 2018 by Architectural Digest.
- Calgary Zoo (in Northeast). The world-class Calgary Zoo is home to over 1,000 animals from all over the world, as well as to the Botanical Garden and a Prehistoric Park for dinosaur lovers. It is the second largest zoo in Canada.
- Fort Calgary (in City Centre). Fort Calgary, a Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP, now RCMP) fort was built in 1875 at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers (near modern Inglewood). It became the nucleus around which Calgary grew. The original fort was destroyed decades ago. Today's Fort Calgary is a museum and historic site focusing on the history of the city and of the RCMP.
- Glenbow Museum (in City Centre). Western Canada's largest museum, with over of exhibition space on three floors. More than 20 galleries are filled with artifacts from Glenbow's collection of over a million objects, emphasizing local history. Permanent exhibitions include Indigenous Cultures, Western Canadian History, Asian Art, West African Art, and Military History. The Glenbow has changed focus to be more of an art gallery, and this is reflected in the temporary exhibitions.
- Heritage Park (in Southwest). One of the largest living historical villages in North America, on 66 acres of land near the Glenmore Reservoir. Attractions include a working passenger train, 155 historical exhibits, a candy store and bakery, old fashioned amusement park, and riding on the S.S. Moyie, a paddlewheel boat. In the winter, only a few attractions are open.
- Telus Spark (in Northeast). Canada's first purpose-built new science centre in over 25 years is a place where people of all ages and abilities can put their imagination into action. Constructed on over 18 acres of reclaimed land, the new facility features over one hundred hands-on exhibits, four exhibit galleries, plus a travelling exhibition gallery, an expanded and enhanced Creative Kids Museum, Calgary's only HD digital Dome Theatre, a new Presentation Theatre and Learning Centre, a 10,000 square-foot atrium, and a four-acre outdoor park.
- Fish Creek Provincial Park (in Southeast). Fish Creek Provincial Park is one of North America's largest urban parks, covering 13.5 km². This natural area park stretches along the banks of Fish Creek and the Bow River in south Calgary, from roughly 14 St SW in the west to the Bow River in the east.
- Olympic Plaza (in City Centre). This public square was built as the site of medal presentations during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
- Prince's Island Park (in City Centre). Calgary's largest inner city park is an island with a number of pleasant trails for walking and relaxing.
- Nose Hill Park (in Northwest). Nose Hill Park, one of the largest municipal parks in Canada and North America, is in the northwest quadrant of Calgary, Alberta. It is a natural environment park, commonly regarded as a retreat from city life and a place to enjoy nature. It is the second-largest park in Calgary, surpassed in size only by Fish Creek Provincial Park.
- WinSport (Canada Olympic Park) (in Northwest). Take a tour of the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics, which includes going to the top of the ski jump for a fantastic view. Four runs are available for your skiing pleasure during the winter months, and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame museum is open year-round.
- Scotiabank Saddledome (City Centre). On the Stampede Grounds, Calgary's largest hockey arena plays host to the Calgary Flames (ice hockey), the Calgary Hitmen (junior ice hockey), the Calgary Roughnecks (box lacrosse), and many concerts.
- Spruce Meadows (in Southwest). Just south of the city on Highway 22X, Spruce Meadows is a world-renowned show jumping and equestrian facility. The facility also houses ATCO Field, a soccer stadium that's home to Cavalry FC, a soccer team in the Canadian Premier League.
Events and festivals (in date order)
phone: +1 403-269-9822address: Stampede ParkDuring Stampede Week, the whole city goes western! During "the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", there are events all around the city, but the highlights are the rodeo and chuckwagon races which boast the world's richest prizes.
High Performance Rodeo(January, 3 weeks) This unconventional international festival of theatre, dance, music, comedy, visual art, and more has been gracing Calgary venues of all sorts for over 25 years.
address: Hyatt Regency Calgary, 700 Centre St SE(March, 2 days) Weekend of all-night salsa parties and Latin dance performances featuring both world-class and local talent. Includes qualifiers for the World Latin Dance Cup.
Calgary Spoken Word Festival(April, 2 weeks) Canada's largest spoken word festival takes place in bars, pubs, bookshops, and an intimate theatre setting. Poetry slams, workshops, and the Golden Beret Award.
address: Stampede Park(April, 3 days) Pop culture festival featuring fantasy, sci-fi, horror, gaming, comics, anime and manga.
phone: +1 403-228-7888(Late May, early June; 11 days) A festival of comedy in halls, clubs, pubs, and bars across Calgary.
phone: +1 403-294-7414address: Arts Commons(May, 4 days) Performing and visual arts festival for children, with many free activities at Olympic Plaza. Paid performances of music, dance, and more take place in the nearby Centre for the Performing Arts.
phone: +1 403-453-7424address: 4 Street SW; between 13 Ave SW and Elbow Drive)(June, 1 day) Annual street festival features over 500 vendors such as entertainment stages, street dancing, musical talent, artisan vendors, food, and other business stalls.
phone: +1 403-229-2901(June, 4 days) Independent music and visual arts festival, which takes place at over 30 venues.
phone: +1 403-774-1300address: Shaw Millennium Park(June, 1 day) Calgary's annual festival celebrating the city's large West Indian population starts with a parade downtown to Shaw Millennium Park for the day's festivities.
phone: +1 403-233-0904address: Prince's Island Park(July, 4 days) An extremely broad definition of "folk music" is used for this well-established festival. In addition to seven different stages with dozens of international performers, there is an area with performances & activities for kids, a market, food, and lots more.
address: Prince's Island Park(July & August, 4 weeks) Shakespeare presented in an outdoor setting, an annual co-production of Mount Royal University and Theatre Calgary.
phone: +1 403-261-4667(Late July & early August, 10 days) Learn about local history through talks, behind the scenes tours, and walks.
Calgary International Bluesfest(late July & early August, 4 days) Calgary's got the blues! Many performers at a variety of venues.
phone: +1 403-451-9726(August, 10 days) Calgary's festival of uncensored & unjuried theatre takes place at a variety of traditional and unconventional venues.
phone: +1 403-569-9679address: Elliston Park - 1827 68 St SE(August, 5 days) Fireworks competition and multi-cultural festival at Elliston Park. There is no parking at Elliston Park, but there is a shuttle bus from Marlborough Mall for $6.
phone: +1 403-293-2888address: Eau Claire Festival Plaza, 200 Barclay Parade SW(August, 4 days) Enjoy a wide variety of foods at Calgary's outdoor dining festival. Music at the Taste Stage.
address: North Glenmore Park(August, 2 days) Dozens of 20-person dragon boat crews race to the beat of their drummers on Glenmore Reservoir. Kids' activities, food, and entertainment are all available in the park.
phone: +1 587-351-7787(September, 5 days) Combines the arts/culture sectors with the science/technology sectors to encourage collaboration, innovation, and science education through interactive art exhibits, engineered installations, entertainment, and workshops.
WordFest(October, 7 days) Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival includes readings, panel discussions, performances, interviews. Festival des mots in French, some programming in Spanish.
Marda Loop Justice Film Festival(November)
Places to visit
Calaway Parkaddress: (in Northwest)Western Canada's largest amusement park, roughly 15 minutes west of Calgary. Gate admission pays for all rides; games, food cost extra.
Harvie PassageThe area around Calgary Bow River Weir was remade into a Class II and III white water park for paddlers. Harvie Passage is meant only for experienced canoe and kayak paddlers; all others should portage around it.
Spectator sportsCalgary is home to a number of professional and amateur sport teams. The Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League (NHL) are the most recognized team and play at the 19,289-seat Scotiabank Saddledome, located inside Stampede Park in the City Centre. Tickets are available, but games are routinely sold out, and tickets must usually be bought from a broker at higher prices. The major junior Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL) also play at the Scotiabank Saddledome, while several junior 'A' teams play in and around Calgary. Tickets to these games are available at the door.
The Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League (CFL), 2018 holders of the Grey Cup (league champions), play at the 35,400 seat McMahon Stadium, located at the University of Calgary in the Northwest. Good seats can be bought in advance, but few games are sold out (a notable exception being the annual Labour Day Classic against the rival Edmonton Eskimos) and tickets can be purchased at the door. The Calgary Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) play box lacrosse at the Scotiabank Saddledome, and are holders of the 2019 Champions Cup (league champions). Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League play professional soccer at ATCO Field on the grounds of Spruce Meadows in the Southwest. There is no professional baseball in Calgary, but the collegiate Okotoks Dawgs play at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks.
For varsity athletics, the three major post-secondary institutions have comprehensive athletic programs, though not at the high profile as their American counterparts:
Calgary Dinosaddress: University of CalgaryIce hockey (men's & women's teams), field hockey (women), Canadian football (men), basketball (men & women), rugby (women), soccer (men's & women's), swimming, track & field/x-country, volleyball (men & women), wrestling.
MRU Cougarsaddress: Mount Royal UniversityIce hockey (men's & women's teams), basketball (men & women), soccer (men & women), volleyball (men & women).
SAIT Trojansaddress: Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT)Ice hockey (men's & women's teams), basketball (men & women), soccer (men & women), volleyball (men & women).
Performing artsCalgary has a very vibrant theatre scene. It seems that Calgary has live theatre for every taste: avante-garde (One Yellow Rabbit), traditional (Theatre Calgary, ATP), mystery (Vertigo), lunch breaks (Lunchbox), improv (Loose Moose), clown arts (Green Fools), and more. The two daily newspapers provide some theatre coverage. The City Centre contains Arts Commons which hosts multiple live theatre companies, as well as the Jack Singer Concert Hall, home of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Other live theatre venues are located in the City Centre, as well as the National Music Centre (Studio Bell), which features a performance hall and museum.
The Northwest is home to the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, a large concert hall and home to Calgary Opera and Alberta Ballet. The Southeast contains some small live theatre venues as well as the Stage West Dinner Theatre, while Jubilations Dinner Theatre is located in the Southwest.
- University of Calgary (U of C) (in Northwest) is Calgary's largest degree-granting facility composed of 14 faculties and over 85 research institutes and centres. The main campus is located in the Northwest and a smaller south campus is located in the City Centre.
- Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) (in Northwest) provides polytechnic and apprentice education, granting certificates, diplomas and applied degrees.
- Mount Royal University (in Southwest) offers 12 degrees and 32 majors.
- Ambrose University (in Southwest), private Christian liberal arts university.
- Alberta University of the Arts (in Northwest), formerly known as Alberta College of Art & Design (ACAD), art and design university.
- Bow Valley College (in City Centre), offers year-round career programs that lead to certificates, diplomas, and post-diploma certificates, as well as adult upgrading and English language learning. Branch campuses are located in Airdrie, Banff, Canmore, Cochrane, High River, Okotoks, and Strathmore.
- Columbia College (in Northeast) is a vocational education institution offering certificate and diploma qualifications in a range of subjects, as well as adult upgrading and English language learning.
- St. Mary's University (in Southeast) is a private Catholic university and offers degrees in the liberal arts, sciences and education.
- Busking is common in the summertime, along Stephen Avenue downtown at lunch time, near Eau Claire on weekends, and along 17th Avenue at night. Busking permits are available for Stephen Avenue; busking in Eau Claire Market proper is restricted to auditioned performers, ruling this option out. 17th Avenue has potential, if you can deal with drunken hecklers.
- One common pick-up spot for day labour is Centre Street south, between 12th and 13th Avenues. Arrive early for black market jobs, especially in the summer (construction) season. Can also check out Calgary Job Board.
- Calgary is a city with a strong volunteer spirit, which was embraced during the 1988 Winter Olympics and continues to be a foundation of the community. Volunteering is a great way to meet people in any city you visit. If you are unable to find a volunteer opportunity on your own, try Single Volunteers of Calgary.
- 17th Avenue (in City Centre). 17 Avenue S between 14 Street SW and Macleod Trail SE is Calgary's best-known urban business street and a major venue for boutique shopping, bars, pubs and restaurants.
- Downtown (in City Centre). Includes Stephen (8th) Avenue pedestrian walk, Barclay Parade, and The Core Shopping Centre which contains approximately 160 retailers on four levels.
- Kensington Village (in Northwest). Centred on 10 Street NW and Kensington Road NW, Kensington is home to art galleries, fashion retailers, and antiques.
- Inglewood (in Southeast) Centred on 9 Avenue SE, east of the Elbow River, Inglewood is an urban shopping area and historic district that highlights are the coffee shops, art galleries, trendy clothiers, and upscale furniture shops.
- Chinook Centre (in Southwest). Calgary's largest indoor mall and one of the best shopping experiences in the city for variety and amount of retail shops.
- CrossIron Mills (in Northeast). This large indoor mall is in the neighbouring hamlet of Balzac, north of Calgary. Similar in format to other "mills" malls, it has many well-known stores and outlets as the first new enclosed mall to be built in the Calgary area in a generation.
- Market Mall (in Northwest). Calgary's second largest indoor mall.
- Southcentre Mall (in Southwest). Calgary's third largest indoor mall.
Calgary is also home to numerous farmers' markets such as the Calgary Farmers Market and Crossroads Market, both located in the Southeast.
Calgary is also home to a very culturally diverse population, with a very wide selection of international restaurants, especially from East and Southeast Asia, and the Mediterranean from Italy through Lebanon. Calgary is, however, generally lacking in decent Mexican food, and the inland location means that a good meal of seafood is sometimes hard to find. The highest density of restaurants are located along 17th Avenue (Beltline), 4th Street (Mission), or Stephen (8th) Avenue - all located in the City Centre district.
Restaurants in the downtown area are very busy between noon and 1PM on weekdays due to the lunch crowd of office workers; if you can, try to stagger your lunch to start around 11:15 or 1:30. You'll face much shorter lineups. Buffets are often only prepared once for lunchtime, and visiting a buffet after 12:15 or so will typically be a depressing dining experience.
Calgary is also the city of founding for major Canadian restaurant chains Hy's, Original Joe's, and Moxies. (The original Calgary Hy's Steakhouse closed in 2006.)
Calgary's most abundant ethnic specialty is Vietnamese. Most neighbourhoods have at least one Vietnamese noodle shop or Vietnamese sub (banh mi) joint.
Calgary is the original home of the Caesar cocktail, sometimes called Canada's national cocktail. There are many bars throughout the city, although the core is where the trendiest clubs are. There is also the ever-popular 17th Avenue SW (in City Centre), home to the Red Mile.
- CRAFT Beer Market. 100 local and international beers, including a one-of-a-kind weekly cask brew, and an extensive list of wine, cocktails and spirits. Three locations throughout Calgary.
- National. Restaurant & entertainment venue inspired by North American tastes, with games and events, extraordinary food, and select craft beers. Three locations throughout Calgary.
- Ranchman's Cookhouse and Dance Hall (in Southwest). Year-round destination for all things Western: line dancing, country music, and more. Very popular during Stampede Week.
Calgary has a large selection of craft breweries located throughout the city.
Wild Rose BreweryA Calgary-based brewery founded in 1996. Popular beers include their IPA and their Velvet Fog wheat ale.
CafésStarbucks and Tim Horton's are everywhere in Calgary. If you're looking for something different, try one of these.
- Analog Cafe. Local coffee chain serving Fratello coffee (sister company). Seven locations throughout Calgary.
- Good Earth Coffeehouse and Bakery. Calgary-based Good Earth has nearly 30 locations across Calgary, and others across Western Canada. Many of their cafes have patios.
- Rosso Coffee Roasters. Local coffee company with direct sourced coffee. Offers grab-and-go as well as a pour over bar. Seven locations throughout Calgary.
- Waves Coffee House. "Waves" refers both to the Vancouver origin of this coffee chain, and also to the fact that every location has free wi-fi. Nearly 10 locations across Calgary.
There are several campgrounds near Calgary, but only one is inside the city limits.
Calgary drivers are typical drivers for a mid-sized western North American city. Culturally, Calgary is a mash-up of small town culture and big city living, and driving in Calgary is no exception. If you come from a small town in rural North America, the drivers would be considerably more aggressive than you are used to. If you are from a larger busier urban area, or are from Europe for instance, Calgary drivers can be considered quite timid and under-skilled. A driver from New York, London or even Montreal and Toronto would consider the Calgary driver to lack confidence more than anything. Calgarians are generally quite aware of pedestrians and usually give pedestrians right of way, as required by law. Calgarians are generally safe and cautious (some consider overly cautious) drivers, though. Calgarians are probably some of the best inclement weather drivers in the world. Blizzards, storms, floods, etc., are where Calgary drivers shine compared to the rest of the world's drivers and they can navigate them safely with the minimum of problems.
Calgary freeways are nowhere near as congested and confusing as L.A. freeways or the 401 in Toronto, but Deerfoot Trail is to be avoided if you're not comfortable with 100 km/h freeway driving, and even by experts at rush hour (accidents occur on a daily basis). A second freeway, Stoney Trail, now exists on the northwest, north, and east sides of the city providing an alternate, less hectic route.
Be aware of lengthy wait times at the emergency rooms of the city's hospitals. It may take 1 to 2 hours or more to see an emergency doctor (this is a province-wide problem). There is a web page where Alberta Health tracks the current wait times for Calgary emergency departments.
Panhandlers are a sight in Calgary's downtown core. The majority of them just need to be told 'No' but some can be persistent. A great number of agencies exist to assist the disadvantaged in Calgary and true charity cases receive assistance from them regularly; money is far better spent donating to these agencies as it ensures that those truly in need will receive it. For that reason, visitors are encouraged not to give money to strangers in the street. Panhandlers have also been found at signalized intersections, holding a cap or hand out to drivers stopped at red lights.
Take care when crossing LRT (tram) tracks, as the trains are quiet. There are no electrified rails. There are usually bells and barriers at pedestrian crossings; heed them.
Boaters on the Bow River should note the Calgary White Water Park (Harvie Passage) just downstream of the Calgary Zoo; heed the warning signs. People have perished here, the strongest swimmers among them.
Winter driving always requires caution. The key to winter driving is to slow down, as the main hazard in winter is slippery roads due to snow, ice, or slush. Remember, your vehicle – whether it's a compact car or an SUV – relies on four surfaces, each the size of the palm of your hand, to grip the road. When you drive faster, or drive on a slippery surface, that means less traction. So the solution for slippery roads is to slow down to give your car a better grip on the road surface. (Winter tires help too: If renting a car in winter, request winter tires, because not all rental cars have winter tires equipped.) In the worst winter driving conditions, you may see drivers on 100 km/h roads drop down to 60 km/h for safety. By slowing down and significantly increasing your following distance, you can safely navigate through most winter road conditions. Winter road conditions are available online from Alberta Transportation and the Alberta Motor Association.
Although Calgary doesn't get a lot of heavy snow, temperatures below freezing can allow ice to form on many roads. The most dangerous condition is when the ice is a clear sheet which resembles the road, called "black ice". Black ice is most commonly seen on bridge decks and other elevated roadways such as on- and off-ramps, where the road surface cools more quickly and so is more prone to freezing. Black ice most dangerous times to drive in these conditions are the two or three days immediately following the first major snowfall of the year. Black ice can also form after a period of warmer weather, such as in late fall, early spring, or after a winter chinook, when melting snow can turn to ice overnight. Freezing rain is not often seen in the Calgary area, but sometimes happens in late fall or early spring, when an evening shower is followed by overnight lows that drop below freezing, covering the roads with ice.
Weather in Calgary is unpredictable from fall through spring. It is always best to dress in layers and come prepared for extremes, even within the same day.
phone: +1 403-943-5465(943-LINK.) Registered nurses provide telephone advice and information about health symptoms and concerns. Health Link nurses help find appropriate services and health information.(Within Alberta, 811 can also be called.)
HospitalsAll hospitals operate 24-hour emergency departments.
phone: +1 403-955-7211address: 2888 Shaganappi Trail NWFor patients aged 17 and under. Look for the multi-coloured building near the top of the hill. Patients over age 17 should go to the Foothills Medical Centre, which is close by.
phone: +1 403-944-1110address: 1403-29 St NWFor patients aged 15 and older. Patients under 15 years of age should go to Alberta Children's Hospital, which is very close to Foothills Medical Centre.
phone: +1 403-943-4555address: 3500-26 Ave NE
phone: +1 403-943-3000address: 7007-14 St SW
phone: +1 403-956-1111address: 4448 Front St SEThis new hospital was fully operational in July 2013. Located at southeastern edge of Calgary.
Urgent Care CentresUrgent care centres deal with issues which are not life-threatening but require attention within the same day or evening. For serious and life-threatening health concerns always go to your nearest emergency department, or call 911. Problems which urgent care centres typically deal with include broken bones, sprains, asthma, cuts, dehydration, infections, and pain.
phone: +1 403-943-9300address: 31 Sunpark Plaza SE
phone: +1 403-955-6200address: 1213 4 St SW
Walk-in ClinicsThere are many walk-in medical clinics across the city that deal with routine medical concerns. Medi-Centre is a chain of walk-in clinics with locations across the city, but there are also many independent walk-in clinics.
- Emergency Services 911 (City of Calgary only) – Fire, Police, Ambulance, Hazardous Materials Spills.
- Non-Emergency Ambulance (403) 261-4000
- Non-Emergency Police Service (403) 266-1234
- Banff and Lake Louise. Nearby, well-known winter ski areas and mountain summer escapes.
- Black Diamond and Turner Valley - Turner Valley Gas Plant National and Provincial Historic Site is a pioneering natural gas plant 45 minutes (by car) south of Calgary, where the Dingman No. 1 well's centennial was celebrated on May 14, 2014. See how natural gas from Canada's largest gas field was processed prior to WWII.
- Brooks. 2 hours east of Calgary; a 73 km 2 Dinosaur Provincial Park, one of Alberta's 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, boasts one of the best dinosaur fossil beds in the world.
- Cardston. The Remington Carriage Museum houses the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America with over 250 carriages, wagons and sleighs.
- Drumheller. 90 minutes east of Calgary. The world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum houses many palaeontological specimens.
- Edmonton. The nearest urban, metropolitan centre to the North is host to North America's largest mall and has a vibrant cultural scene. It is a 3-hour drive north of Calgary on Highway 2.
- Fort Macleod. A 90 minute drive south of Calgary. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, one of Alberta's 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is 18 km NW of Fort Macleod with an excellent interpretive centre open year round.
- Jasper. A well-known mountain destination about 4 hours drive northwest of Calgary.
- Kananaskis Country and Canmore. Mountain destinations about an hour car travel away.
- Red Deer. A city with its own list of attractions, halfway between Edmonton and Calgary.
- Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. A 3-hour drive south of Calgary.