Calgary is the third-largest city in Canada, so you’d be right to expect plenty of things to do here! It’s one of the coolest cities in North America, and the citizens know it! Famed for its wild-west history, artistic sculptures of cows throughout the city are just one of the nods to this. Another is the Calgary Stampede, one of the wildest parties in all of Alberta!
It combines a historic past with a progressive attitude and outlook – in fact it was the first North American city to elect a Muslim mayor! If all this isn’t enough, let us add in the cool food and nightlife scenes… What more could you want from a city break!?
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the best places to visit in Calgary. From cool museums to galleries, to parks, there are ten cool things to do, so you definitely won’t get bored when visiting Calgary!
Best Places to stay in Calgary
Wondering where to stay in Calgary? In such a big city, that’s normal. To help you out as much as we can, we’ve taken a look at the coolest neighbourhoods in Calgary and picked out a few places to stay. A mixture of travel style and budget is included so there should be something to suit everyone. So, let’s take a look at three of the best places to stay in Calgary!
Best Hostel in Calgary: Wicked Hostels Calgary
If you’re thinking about where to stay in Calgary on a budget, then let us present Wicked Hostels! They proudly state that they have the longest list of free amenities in Canada. And while we can’t confirm that… it’s a pretty long list! Some of our favourite things are the free Nutella pancake breakfast, tea and coffee all day, and free use of hairdryers and straighteners! There are also plenty of hostel events, so solo travellers will have zero trouble making friends!
Best Airbnb in Calgary: Urban condo with great views
You can’t really get more central than this cool, clean little studio. Many of the top things to do in Calgary are right on your doorstep! From museums to beaches, parks, cafe’s and bars, make this the ideal spot if it’s your first time in the city. If times a factor, you really couldn’t ask for something more convenient than this.
Best Budget Hotel in Calgary: Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport North, AB
If you like the idea of saving your cash but don’t want to share a room. Let us present one of the best places to stay for budget travellers in Calgary – the Airport Park Inn. It may not be right in the city centre, but there are good transport links to and from the airport, so you’ll never be too far from the action. There’s a gym on-site and a free airport shuttle. Pretty useful perks to have!
Best Luxury Hotel in Calgary: Hotel Le Germain Calgary
Right in the city centre, which is easily one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Calgary, you’ll find this excellent luxury hotel. The five star offering is over the road from one of the best places to visit in Calgary, its tower, so if that’s on your itinerary, this is a great place to stay! When staying here, make the most of the continental breakfast, a 24 hour gym, and even in-room massages! Just make sure you leave enough time to actually get out and see some of the places on our list!
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighborhood in Calgary:
Downtown is a large neighbourhood located at the heart of Calgary. It is where business people and buskers rub elbows, and where you’ll find a great selection of historic landmarks and popular tourist attractions.
- Admire the amazing design of the Calgary Public Library.
- Browse the exciting exhibits at the Glenbow Museum.
- Catch a performance by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Calgary
#1 – Calgary Heritage Park
One of the more unique places to visit in Calgary
- See a typical village represented across four time periods
- Take a ride around the park on an old steam engine
- One of the best places in Calgary for a day out
Why it’s awesome: If you want to learn about the city’s past, then there’s no better way to do that than visiting the Calgary Heritage Park. It’s staffed by workers in costumes from different periods from the 1860s right up to the 1930s. This means you get a completely immersive experience and it’s like you’ve stepped back in time! This is one of the best places in Calgary for a family day out. It ticks the boxes of educational, informative, quirky, and interesting!
What to do there: It’s hardly surprising that in Canada’s largest heritage village, there’s a whole host of cool things to do. There are regular daily activities here, including Métis Bannock bread baking. Make sure you get to taste it! You can also ride across the park on a vintage steam train, and if you’re into vintage cars, don’t miss a trip to Gasoline Alley. When you’ve finished at the park, take a trip to nearby Glenmore reservoir, where you can enjoy a whole load of water-based activities. It’s a great spot for kayakers, rowers, and even sailors!
#2 – Calgary Tower
- Formerly the tallest building in Calgary
- An excellent spot to view the most famous landmarks in Calgary
- Especially beautiful and dusk and sunset!
Why it’s awesome: Standing at 191 metres tall, this used to be the tallest building in Calgary. Although a number of developments now stand taller than it, there’s no better place to get a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding landscapes. The observation deck has space for 250 people to look out, and it’s certainly an experience you won’t want to miss. Observation towers are popular through Canada and a great way to see the city. Although this one isn’t as tall as some of the others like the CN Tower in Toronto, it’s still one of the best places to visit in Calgary!
What to do there: Make sure you don’t forget your camera as you’re going to get some really great pictures once you’ve taken the 62-second ride to the top of Calgary Tower! If you really want to make your visit special, why just stop at the observation deck? The tower has an observation deck, and if you take the views into account it’s definitely one of the best places to eat in Calgary! Head up at sunset for a really memorable evening!
#3 – Fish Creek Provincial Park
A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Calgary
- The largest urban park in Canada
- Swim in Sikome Lake during the summer
- Get a taste of nature without leaving the city
Why it’s awesome: Fish Creek Provincial Park is the biggest urban park in Canada, and it’s a great place to spend half a day or even a whole one! It’s not just about nature though, there are a number of heritage buildings in the park too. Stretching 19km from east to west, it’s easy to find your own spot where you can relax with a book, have a picnic, or play some sports if you’re in a group! Lake Sikome becomes the park’s centrepiece during the summer months, as you can cool off in it with a swim!
What to do there: There’s so much to do in this massive park! Explore it using the walking trails that will guide you through the woodlands and along Fish Creek itself. If you’d prefer to stick to one place, there are a number of attractions aside from the Heritage buildings. The Artisan Garden in the eastern section of the park is a great place to pick up some souvenirs and handicrafts for friends and family back home. Also, the Bow Valley Ranche fine dining restaurant is one of the best places to eat in Calgary.
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#4 – Glenbow Museum
- See rare exhibits which tell of the development of Western Canada
- Temporary international exhibitions popular here too
- Events held throughout the year
Why it’s awesome: If you only have time to visit one museum when you’re visiting Calgary, then the Glenbow Museum is a pretty convincing option to pick. Not only does it tell the story of the city from the pre and post-war periods, it has a number of exhibitions dedicated to the historical art and the indigenous population. Some of the most important periods of the city’s history have included the fur trade and the development of the oil industry. All of that is covered here at one of the most interesting attractions in Calgary!
What to do there: Explore the fascinating events which tell the history of Calgary. If you’re looking for something extremely engaging and interesting, then check out the museum’s events calendar. They regularly hold events like talks, and sometimes they get really hands-on! If you want something properly interactive, try a crafting class. The museum opens later on a Thursday, so it’s a good idea if you’re stuck for an evening activity! You won’t regret adding this place to your Calgary itinerary!
#5 – Rocky Mountaineer Rail Journey
A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Calgary
- Take an unforgettable journey on the luxurious “Rocky Mountaineer” train
- Look out for some of the most incredible views in Canada on this journey
- One of the best Calgary vacation ideas if you’re in the city for a few weeks
Why it’s awesome: So, technically this isn’t something that’s in Calgary, but you are able to start from there! The Rocky Mountain Express is a privately-owned luxury train which takes you through one of the most stunning natural landscapes in North America. If you hadn’t already guessed, we’re talking about the Rocky Mountains! The train travels Calgary all the way to Vancouver, so if you’re touring Canada or have a few days in town without plans, this is a great way to get to know Canada.
What to do there: On this luxurious train journey? Just sit back and enjoy the views. Some of the best are weather dependent, of course. So, perhaps it’s best planning this journey for the spring or summer months. Highlights include a view of the “Three Sisters” at Canmore, Lake Louise, and the brilliantly named Kicking Horse Pass. Bring a few layers of clothing, as you’ll get as high as 3,600m on this incredible train ride. Oh, and of course, don’t forget your camera!
#6 – Devonian Gardens
One of the most incredible free places to go in Calgary
- An unexpected yet brilliant attraction
- Hidden away on the 4th floor of a shopping mall
- More than 10,000 plants call the gardens home
Why it’s awesome: Most tourists who visit the Core shopping centre will be going there to hunt for bargains or get a souvenir for a loved one back home, we imagine. However, get ahead of everyone else and visit something pretty cool and hidden away. The Devonian Gardens are located on the 4th floor of the mall, and they are a fantastic find for the curious traveller. There are more than 10,000 plants in here, including tropical palm trees! You certainly wouldn’t expect them here considering how cold winter can get in Calgary!
What to do there: The Devonian Gardens are one of the coolest free and best attractions in Calgary. Under the glass ceiling, these plants thrive and create a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours. As well as lots of plants, take a wander around the fish ponds, past fountains, admire the sculptures that have been placed throughout the gardens. It may not be the first thing on many a Calgary itinerary, but that’s only because it’s such a hidden gem! Make sure you don’t miss out on it.
Quick Note – Staying Safe in Calgary
Canada is one of the safest countries in the world, and Calgary is one of the top 10 safest cities in Canada. So, it’s looking like a pretty safe place to visit. Obviously, as a tourist, you will stand out and you should still be cautious and careful where possible. However, the chances are that nothing bad is likely to happen to you!
Do you need Travel Insurance for your trip? I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable. They may also let you buy or extend a policy once you’ve started your trip and are already abroad which is super handy.
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#7 – Calgary Farmer’s Market
A Calgary must-see for foodies!
- One of Calgary’s best food markets
- Take a guided tour from a chef
- Try out some of the tastiest and freshest local artisan produce
Why it’s awesome: One of the best spots for foodies in town, don’t miss visiting the Artisan Market! There’s only one downside to the market – it’s closed from Monday to Wednesday. You’ll find a whole host of delicious locally produced items, from foods like honey and cheese to cool jewellery. Surely, a perfect souvenir to take home! The market also houses some of the best places to eat in Calgary. And although you can try Canadian staples like poutine, those who are looking for international food like sushi will be sated here too!
What to do there: Those who really want to find the best places to eat in Calgary should consider taking a chef’s tour. They’ll show you all the best spots in the market for delicious and high quality local and international food. There’s also a crowded events program which is available on the Farmer’s Market website. While on the subject of the website, check it out if you want to re-create something you tried at the market, as it regularly adds new delicious recipes to their page!
#8 – Canada Olympic Park
- Get a view of the Calgary skyline from the top of the ski-jump slope
- Check out the legends who made it into Canada’s hall of fame
- One of the best places in Calgary for adrenaline-fuelled activities!
Why it’s awesome: Back in 1988, Calgary hosted the 15th Olympic Winter Games. More than 30 years later, the unusual structures are still standing and make for one of the coolest places to visit in Calgary. Especially if you’re into sports! The Olympic Park lies a little to the west of the city in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The ski jump slope is probably the most recognisable landmark, but there’s plenty more to see, including Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame!
What to do there: Take a guided ski jump tour to get an unrivalled view of the city skyline. You’ll actually be able to see the Calgary Tower in this one! The great thing about the Olympic park is that it’s one of the best places in Calgary to try a range of outdoor activities. During the winter, you can ski or snowboard here but that’s not all. If you’ve ever wanted to try bob-sleighing or tobogganing, that’s on offer too! In the summer, zip-lining and mountain biking are the most popular activities. It’s easy to tick some items off your bucket list here!
#9 – Calgary Stampede
- The highlight of a Calgary summer!
- Make sure you pack a Stetson and blue jeans
- A number of cool competitions and exciting events make for a great atmosphere!
Why it’s awesome: So, it’s kind of cheating including this in a list of the best places to visit in Calgary. However, if you’re in town during the summer it’s something you simply can’t miss! Calgary is immensely proud of its moniker as Cowboy Town, and the Stampede is the perfect time to see that spirit captured and harnessed! As well as rodeos, there are flag flying events, cowboy-style entertainment, and every morning just has to start with a pancake breakfast. Don’t miss this Calgary must-see!
What to do there: Each July the Calgary Stampede takes place, and you’ll want to be among the 1 million revellers who have an incredible time each year. It’s said to be the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and although that’s a self-branded title, it’s kind of hard to disagree. The parade, rodeo, and derby are real highlights, while the market is a great place to get some cowboy-related memorabilia. This is an unmissable event to learn more about the city’s history!
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So, that concludes our list of the best places to visit in Calgary. We hope that our list has been useful, informative, and has given you an insight into having the best experience when you travel to Calgary!
Whether you want to check out the cool museums and galleries, see an incredible local tradition, or just find your own quiet spot to disconnect and relax, we’ve tried to include everything you could possibly want to stay! Added to that, you should have a better idea of the best places to stay in Calgary too.
So, all that’s left for us now is to wish you a fantastic holiday. Whether you’re just visiting Calgary, or it’s part of a wider trip across Canada and North America, our list will help you to make the most of your time there!
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