The city of Calgary is often overlooked when planning a trip through Canada, and to be honest I’m not sure why. This beautiful city is a perfect hub to plan outdoor adventures in places like Banff and Drumheller in addition to having a a slew of arts, cultural, and other activities to enjoy in the city proper. If you are planning a trip through Calgary take a look at our Ramblin’ Calgary Travel Guide for a great selection of things to do in the city.
It’s no secret that Lauren and I are absolutely head over heels in love with the city of Calgary. Heck, we love Calgary so much we’ve spent months in the city exploring it and even consider Calgary our second home. Calgary is Canada’s fourth largest city, and is a rich hub for tons of arts and culture. On top of all that, it’s easy access to the farms and ranches just outside of the city which mean that local restaurants have been on the forefront of the farm-to-table movement and have put together some exciting (and delicious) menu offerings. With all it has to offer, Calgary truly is a cosmopolitan city with the heart of a small country town and should be very high on your list of Canadian cities to visit. So without further ado, we present our Ramblin’ Guide to Calgary, and assure you that you can’t go wrong partaking in any, or all, of these awesome activities.
Things to Do in Calgary
As the second largest Zoo in Canada, the Calgary Zoo does a fantastic job of representing the local diversity of the wildlife that calls the Canadian Rockies home while also featuring exhibits from across the world. The Zoo is so diverse they even have an entire section dedicated to dinosaurs. On top of the great exhibits, the Calgary Zoo also features neat events like their annual Zoo Lights to keep things fun and fresh.
Click here to see our full post about the Calgary Zoo.
While most science museums have been relegated to the world of families and small children, the Telus Spark does a fantastic job of making their exhibits accessible to children of all ages. Then to make it super adult friendly, the Telus Spark Science Centre offers an Adults Only Night on the second Thursday of every month that’s the perfect setup for a fun date night. The evening starts off at 6 PM and features cocktails, special exhibits, and DJ’s spinning tunes all night.
Click here to see our full post about Telus Spark.
Aero Space Museum of Calgary
Located in a retired flight training hangar built in 1941, the Aero Space Museum of Calgary brings you up close and personal with Alberta’s rich military aviation heritage. With a large collection of lovingly restored aircrafts, it’s a fascinating window into early aviation technology. Visitors can take a guided tour which lasts about 2-hours or you can explore on your own.
Click here for more information on the Aero Space Museum of Calgary.
Opened in 1964, Heritage Park is Canada’s largest living history museum. It features a surprisingly wide range of activities that allows you to both learn about and interact with the past covering the period from the 1860’s to the 1950’s. It allows you to truly understand what life was like for a Western Canadian settler by visiting actual historical buildings and towns from 5 key periods in Canadian History. In addition to the historical buildings, Heritage Park is also home to Gasoline Alley which features a deep collection of vehicles and other automotive memorabilia from the golden age of automobiles. Although the Park is closed for the Winter, you can visit Gasoline Alley year round, as well as attending special events like Once Upon a Christmas.
Click here to see our full post about Heritage Park and Gasoline Alley.
Canada Olympic Park
There aren’t many places in the world where average humans like you and I have the opportunity to train side by side with Olympic Athletes. Here in Calgary though, you can do just that at the Canada Olympic Park. It’s the kind of place where an average can learn to luge, play hockey, ski, snow board, and even figure skate. Located on the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the COP is dedicated to one thing: training high-performance winter athletes. If you are looking for winter adventure I recommend the bobsledding. If summer time fun is more your thing they also have a zip line course and mountain biking trails.
Click here to see our full post about Canada’s Olympic Park.
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
Canada has a rich sporting tradition that is honored in this international award winning Sports Hall of Fame. With galleries dedicated to everything from Hockey to Curling and Motor Sports to Swimming there’s a little bit of something for everyone. What makes the Hall of Fame especially fun, is the fact that many of the exhibits have interactive touch and experience displays that let you see what it feels like to be a world class athlete.
Learn more about Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
The Military Museums is western Canada’s largest museum dedicated to military history, art and education. Interestingly the facility is actually a collection of 8 separately curated regimental museums located under one roof. The Military Museums feature much more than just the usual guns and medals though, as their mission is more than just historical preservation. The museum has a well curated collection of arts that depict the social impact of military conflict.
Click here to see our full post about the Military Museums.
Rocky Mountain Sidecar Adventures
Taking road trips is something we are known for. We spent many months covering ground in Alberta and seeing as much of the province as we could by car. After one trip with the team at Rocky Mountain Sidecar Adventures and I’ve had a change of heart. Fair warning: once you try this, traveling by car will never be the same. With tours that take you into the heart of the Rockies, through the lovely city itself, or through Okotoks and along the Cowboy trail, there’s something for everyone. It’s one of the most unique ways you’ll ever see Alberta and it’s worth every penny.
Click here to see our full post about Rocky Mountain Sidecar Adventures.
Arts and Culture in Calgary
Featuring 4 – 5 key performances each season the Calgary Opera is a fantastic chance to experience the opera in a warm and inviting environment. With world class performances from Canadian artists, the Calgary Opera has made a commitment to the development of local talent as well as the development of new productions.
Click here to learn more about current performances for the Calgary Opera.
National Music Centre
Being a lover of All Things Music, the National Music Centre holds a special place in our hearts. With two distinct missions in place, visiting and supporting the centre is an absolute must for any fan of music. The NMC is dedicated to to the development and support of Canadian musicians and seeks to strengthen relationships and explore the power of music. As if that weren’t a worthy enough goal to support, the NMC goes a step above by housing a massive collection of historical musical artifacts. The NMC’s collection can be toured or you can take in one of their many live music performances year-round.
Read more about the National Music Centre.
The Glenbow Musuem boasts the largest art collection in Western Canada and features an eclectic blend of classic and modern art. One of the things that makes the Glenbow unique though, is the fact that it also features an entire floor dedicated to the history of Alberta. It’s not often that you get to observe art and then learn it’s historical context in the same building, but that’s exactly what you get at the Glenbow.
Read more about the Glenbow Museum.
Stage West Dinner Theater
I never thought I’d say this, but if you find yourself looking for a fun date night, dinner theater is the way to go. We had a chance to see a production at Stage West and found the performance fun and engaging. The food, served buffet style, was the star of the evening though with blend of fresh and inventive recipes. Stage west hosts quite a few different shows each season from Locally Written plays to nationally acclaimed productions like Spamalot so there’s definitely something for everyone.
Learn more about the Stage West Dinner Theater.
Where to Eat in Calgary
Calgary Farmers Market
Visiting farmers markets is always a fresh and fun way to discover local foods and recipes, and the Calgary Farmers Market is no exception. Featuring over 70 vendors you can find everything from freshly cured meats to succulently prepared meat pies, to delectable baked goods. In addition to vendors the Farmers Market also has a food court with a wide variety of local and international cuisine that represents the ethnic diversity of the city.
More information on the Calgary Farmers Market.
It’s not often that we feature or recommend chain restaurants, but the Canadian Brewhouse is a small chain of sports bars that offers great food in a fun environment without having to head into downtown. Featuring a strong collection of pub food served with a twist you can’t go wrong with selections like bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers, fully loaded poutine, and burgers stacked two patties high and smothered with fried mushrooms, bacon and cheese.
Read our full review of The Canadian Brewhouse.
Ox and Angela
Located at the heart of Calgary’s 17th Ave Downtown District, Ox and Angela is serving up Spanish style tapas with a Canadian twist. With an energetic and warm environment, it’s a lovely spot to stop in for a snack and a drink after work, or a great venue for an evening of fun with a group of friends. – note: Ox and Angela has been renovated and renamed to Ox Bar de Tapas.
Read our full Ox And Angela Review
It’s not often that you can effectively mix fine dining with a casual and comfortable environment. Somehow though, the team at Muse has managed to do just that. Located in the trendy Kensington neighborhood just outside of downtown Calgary, Muse is a great spot to relax and enjoy a romantic evening while also pleasing the most refined of pallets.
Read our full review of Muse
The brainchild of award winning executive chef Dave Bohati and restauranteur Vanessa Salopek, Market features a menu composed of regional and seasonal cuisine. With dishes like Spicy Lamb Tartare, Octopus and Chorizo, and a Pork Belly Hot Pot you know any trip to Market will always be a culinary adventure.
More information on Market.
Located just South of downtown, Calgary Tango Bistro takes the concept of Spanish Tapas and combines it with traditional Canadian dishes to make a fun and unique dining experience. If the just the thought of dishes like Smoked Duck Poutine, Wonton Crusted Prawns, Wild Boar Bacon Wrapped Beef, and a fresh Seafood Tower make your mouth water, Tango Bistro is a place for you.
Read our full review of Tango Bistro
Tucked away on the tiny Prince’s Island Park, the River Cafe provides fine dining in a unique setting. There is no parking on the actual island so a trip to the river cafe requires a short jaunt through the park. Upon arrival at the cafe you are treated to a culinary journey through some of Calgary’s best regional cuisine. The River Cafe’s unique setting and comfortable yet romantic atmosphere make it an exceptional choice for a romantic evening.
More information on River Cafe
If you are looking for more places to eat in Calgary, you might want to take a look at out post that features the most unique and best brunches in Calgary.
Calgary Craft Breweries
Craft Breweries are popping up all across North America bringing innovative and finely produced beers to the masses. Even though we’ve visited literally hundreds of breweries and brewpubs the Village Brewery in Calgary still stands out as one of the best. Not only do they make a fantastic brew (try the Blacksmith or Brünette) they also have a huge commitment to their local community and have even gone as far as brewing their Gardner beer with only locally grown hops and honey. They truly do prove that it takes a Village to brew a great beer. Village does offer limited tours, and also features an onsite tap room with growler fills.
read our full review of Village Brewery
It’s not often that you find a craft brewery that’s proud to tell you that you can’t have their beer. That’s exactly what you’ll find though when you visit the Wild Rose Brewery. If you ask them, they’ll tell you that they started their craft brewery with the single mission of freeing themselves from “the tyranny of boring beer”. If you ask me, they’ve succeeded. The only catch is, you have to be in Alberta to get it. Wild Rose currently offers limited tours at their new brewery, or offer pints and growlers at their classic taproom in the Currie Barracks.
read our full review of Wild Rose Brewery
Big Rock Brewery
Founded in 1985 Big Rock Brewery is one of Alberta’s oldest craft breweries and they’ve made it their mission to produce “deliberately different” craft beers. With a deep selection running from a traditional Brown Ale to a Steel Cut Oatmeal Rasin Stout there’s something for everyone. You can book a tour of the brewery and sample quite a few of their brews, or just stop in to their bottle/gift shop and pick up a sampler. Either way you won’t lose.
more info on Big Rock Brewery
Pet Friendly Hotels In Calgary
Thanks to the growing art, music, and fine dining scene, Calgary has developed as Alberta’s cultural hub. Sitting at the center of this young and rapidly growing city is Hotel Arts. As Calgary’s first boutique hotel of it’s kind, it serves as a great downtown location for taking in what the city has to offer. By combining the white hat service Calgarians are legendary for with beautiful fine art in a luxury and pet friendly environment the team at Hotel Arts in Calgary have put together a destination that is truly unique.
Read out full review of the Pet Friendly Hotel Arts
Aloft Calgary University
Located outside the downtown core the Aloft Calgary University is an excellent choice if you want to visit the cities attractions but stay somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Aloft hotels are pet friendly without a fee, and offer nice amenities including an indoor pool, fitness center, and an onsite bar with restaurant. Plus with their arf pert friendly program, your pooch is as comfortable in the room as you are.
More info on the Aloft Calgary University
We hope you enjoyed this Calgary travel guide, if we missed any of your favorite things to do in Calgary let us know in the comments.