Travel

15 Best Things to See and Do in Calgary

Heritage Park Historical Village
Heritage Park Historical Village

Canada is a vast country. The world’s second largest country by area spans six time zones. Canada also has the world’s longest coastline. Its border with the United States of America is also the world’s longest land border between the two countries. Canada also has some of the largest islands in the world. With such a vast size, Canada expectedly has a variety of geographical features. Geographically, Canada is a great many things. It’s British Columbia’s rugged wilderness; Saskatchewan’s endless fields of sunburnt wheat; It’s the rich traditions of the Arctic north, it’s the quirky communities of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and of course, it’s a unique selection of multicultural city centers, each with their own sense of identity. Calgary is one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in Canada. However, it is usually overshadowed by its big sister within the Province of Alberta, Vancouver. But Calgary is one of those quintessentially Canadian cities that provides its visitors with experiences they will not be able to enjoy elsewhere.

The fifth largest city of Canada, Calgary is located on the banks of the Bow River. The glorious Canadian Rockies are just 50 miles from Calgary. Even more interesting is the fact that a vast majority of Calgary’s population of 1.2 million are among some of the youngest in Canada. That’s right, the average age in this city is 35.7, which means one thing; You are guaranteed to have a great night out in this town. Don’t worry though, Calgary isn’t just a wild party town, it has lots of things to do for families as well. Calgary is as multicultural as Canada’s larger cities, with some 120 different languages spoken here. The city’s wide open spaces, and laid back atmosphere have given it the nickname of “CowTown”, couple that with the juxtaposition of a booming tech industry and a younger, multicultural demographic, there is an endless number of activities to keep you entertained.

Here are the best things to see and do in Calgary:

National Music Centre

Kicking off the best things to see and do in Calgary list is the National Music Centre. It is a 160,000 square-foot facility in Calgary’s East Village that is dedicated to sharing the love and understanding of music. This gorgeous music centre is designed by Portland based architect Brad Cloepfil. The National Music Center features a collection of over 2,000 rare instruments and artifacts, including one of Elton John’s pianos, as well as selections from the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

It also boasts a variety of interactive and engaging exhibits, displays, and daily performances and offers guided docent-led tours for visitors to enjoy. The historic King Edward Hotel is part of the National Music Centre facility and operates as a live music venue seven nights of the week.

Heritage Park Historical Village

Next on the best things to see and do in Calgary is the Heritage Park Historical Village. It is Canada’s largest living history museum, featuring more than 200 exhibits and attractions spread over 127 acres of beautifully maintained, natural parklands.

History buffs and leisure seekers alike will delight in the array of things to see and do in the park, which include an 1860s Fur Trading Fort and First Nations Encampment, an 1880s Pre-Railway Settlement, the Heritage Town Square, and the Heritage Park Historical Village. The Heritage Park Historical Village is a living historic village from the early 1900s featuring an array of exhibits showcasing the lifestyle during that time.

Explore an authentic steam train, an antique midway, and some businesses and shops, such as a working printing press and blacksmith shop, an ice cream parlor, and a bakery. If you are wondering what to do in Calgary today, this is a great place to visit. Costumed interpreters are on hand to share information and answer questions.

Calgary Pathway System

Next on the best things to do in Calgary list is the Calgary Pathway System. It is an extensive network of pedestrian pathways and cycling trails that connect the city’s natural parks and communities and offer a fun and healthy option of getting around and enjoying the outdoors by walking, jogging, running and cycling.

The system is made up of a combination of regional and local pathways, which provide access to various facilities throughout the community, and non-paved trails, which offer recreational routes through the city’s parks. The paths and trails wind along the Bow and Elbow Rivers, pass by the Nose Creek and West Nose Creek, wind through the Fish Creek Provincial Park and visit the Western Irrigation District Canal and Glenmore Reservoir.

The Military Museums

The Military Museums are dedicated to Canada’s military forces and educating the public about the honorable role the navy, army, and air force have played in world history. The Museum features eight distinct museums and galleries which visitors can explore and gain a better understanding of the victories, tragedies, and sacrifices of the Canadian Forces.

Experience life at the helm in a Second World War wheelhouse in the Naval, Army and Air Force Museums of Alberta or walk through a First World War trench in the four regimental army museums. In-depth tours of the museums are offered, including through the Naval Museum and Tank Park, as well as a close-up tour of the world-renowned Mural of Honour.

Fort Calgary

Next on the best things to do in Calgary list is Fort Calgary. It is a historic site and museum dedicated to presenting and preserving the history and heritage of Calgary. Located on 40 acres of parkland at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, Fort Calgary was established in 1975 as Fort Brisebois and was the birthplace of the city known as Calgary today.

A modern interpretive center features several exhibits showcasing the history of the city and guided tours take visitors through the beautiful landscape surrounding the fort and the historic Deane House, Home of the Superintendent of Fort Calgary, Captain Richard Deane. Interactive displays allow visitors to try on an authentic RCMP uniform and pay a visit to the fort’s jail, offering a truly hands-on experience.

Calgary Zoo

The Calgary Zoo, Botanical Garden & Prehistoric Park is one of Canada’s largest zoos. It has over 1,400 species of animals living in diverse habitats. The zoo is located on St. George’s Island in the middle of Bow River. 

The zoo features several ecosystems in which visitors can experience the animals as they would exist in the wild, including a unique nocturnal exhibit called Creatures of the Night; a Mesozoic landscape featuring 22 life-size dinosaur replicas known as Prehistoric Park; and the endangered ecosystems of Canada in the exclusive Canadian Wilds section.

If you are looking for fun things to do in Calgary with kids, this is a great place to visit. Explore the plains of Africa in the Destination Africa area, which showcases two African ecosystems, namely the African Savannah and TransAlta Rainforest, and is home to the largest indoor hippo habitat in North America. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Calgary.

Skyline Luge 

Another entrant on the best things to do list in Calgary is the Skyline Luge. Fast-paced and exhilarating, Skyline Luge Calgary is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Located at Winsport Olympic Park, the luge covers a distance of over 5,905 feet (1,800 meters) on a continuous downhill trajectory making it one of the longest in the world. The Skyline Luge features over 50 twists and turns and visitors of all ages can have a great time. 

The custom-built luge carts are gravity-fueled and a unique braking and steering system allows the rider full control over speed, direction and braking and safety helmets are provided for every rider.

Prince’s Island Park

Next on the best things to do in Calgary list, is the Prince’s Island Park. It is a beautiful urban oasis in the heart of Calgary that provides the residents with a beautiful green space in which to enjoy a variety of recreational activities.

Established in the 1950s, Prince’s Island Park features several picnic areas, water fountains and playgrounds for children, winding pathways and hiking trails, flowers gardens and canoe access to the river in the summer months. During winters, the park provides excellent cross-country skiing and outdoor skating options.

The East end of the Park features the Chevron Learning Pathway. It is an environmental educational pathway. It’s built around a protected wetland and has some recreational resources as well. Events held at the Park include the Calgary Folk Festival and Canada Day celebrations.

Glenbow Museum

Next on the best things to do in Calgary list is the Glenbow Museum. It is dedicated to inspiring and encouraging people to experience art and culture. Established by well-known philanthropist Eric Lafferty Harvie, the Glenbow Museum features a variety of world-renowned traveling and permanent exhibitions, showcasing the largest art collection in Western Canada.

Home to more than 33,000 works dating from the 19th century to the present, the Museum’s collections focus on works pertaining to the northwest of North America and several permanent exhibitions on the third floor of the museum tell the story of Southern Alberta and the West.

Glenbow’s Library and Archives is an important research center for historians and students alike, and the Museum offers a range of art-based educational programs to children of all ages, including the School Programs and Chevron Museum School. The Glenbow Museum can be hired for corporate and private functions: it offers a 210-seat theater, meeting rooms and three gallery floors as event space.

4th Street Calgary

4th Street Calgary is one of Calgary’s premiere business and event districts, located at the junction of the city’s Beltline, Cliff Bungalow, and Mission communities. The recently-revitalized district is home to a plethora of public art sculptures and works, installed under the supervision of the Fourth Street Public Art Society. A wide variety of retail stores line the district, including designer boutiques and consignment stores, health food stores, independent bookstores, and art galleries. Also present in the 4th Street are wonderful restaurants, cafes and sandwich shops that serve food from all over the world.   The district also serves as the host of the annual LilacFest. Live music, children’s activities and a lot of artisan vendors make the fest a wonderful place to be. 4th Street Calgary has to be on any best things to do in Calgary list.

Calgary Farmer’s Market

Next on the best things to do in Calgary list is the Calgary Farmers’ Market. It is an inviting market held every Thursday through Sunday throughout the year that features over 80 vendors selling their locally-sourced, handmade and homemade products.

Laid out in an easy-to-navigate system, visitors to the market can find everything from fresh, seasonal produce, such as fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers, meat, poultry and fish, prepared foods and baked goods, organic products, handmade jewelry, clothing and more.

The Calgary Farmer’s Market also serves as the host of several weekend events. The events range from kids cooking classes, book signings and chef guided market tours. 

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Center

Golden Eye, Inglewood bird Sanctuary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Another entrant on the best things to do in Calgary list is the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre. It is a large wildlife reserve located southeast of Calgary that serves as a resting place and home to over 270 species of birds. The center has been providing migratory birds with a place to rest since 1929 and to date 270 species of birds, over 20 species of mammals and nearly 350 species of plants have been recorded.

The Nature Centre is open to visitors year-round and offers an array of interpretive exhibits and information about conservation and local wildlife. The Center also provides a range of nature-based activities, such as birding adventure courses, volunteer opportunities, summer day camps for children ages 4-12 years, and school programs for all grade levels.

Calgary Stampede 

Next on the best things to do in Calgary list is the famous Calgary Stampede. The Calgary Stampede is a non-profit community organization that preserves and celebrates western heritage, culture and commitment to the community by presenting a year-round calendar of events such as exhibitions, expositions galas, concerts, conferences, and rodeos. The annual Calgary Stampede is the most popular event of the city. The Calgary Stampede is a huge annual rodeo festival. It features a wide variety of live music, endless entertainment, exquisite exhibits, fabulous food and beautiful beverage stalls, and of course, rodeo shows!

The Calgary Stampede also offers a range of youth initiatives and community programs aimed at getting the community involved and inspiring interest and understanding of Western culture.

CalgaryWalks

Next on the best things to do in Calgary list is CalgaryWalks & Bus Tours. Experience Calgary one step at a time with an adventurous and informative walking tour of the city. Tours are led by local Calgarians with a love of their city and a passion for sharing its hidden treasures.

Visitors get a chance to explore the city’s rich tradition of art and architecture, history, and heritage. Visitors will get a face-to-face introduction to the city, visiting the most popular attractions and beautiful public places, learning the best spots to wine and dine and discovering how to get around downtown for free!

Calgary Tower

Next on the list of the best things to do in Calgary, is the Calgary Tower. Standing 191 meters above street level, the Calgary Tower offers breathtaking 360° bird’s eye views of the city below and further afield to the foothills and prairies of the majestic Rocky Mountains. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the Tower, beginning at the modern Visitor Information Centre and winding through the history, landmarks and future plans of this popular attraction.

The Calgary tower also has two wonderful restaurants. Sky 360 is located 155 meters above street level and slowly rotates during lunch and dinner, and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which is on the second level of the Tower and serves excellent steaks.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Rounding off the list of the best things to do in Calgary is Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Dedicated towards honoring the long line of exceptional Canadian sports personalities, the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is an award-winning facility. Based in a vast 40,000-square foot building, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame showcases the stories of inducted ‘Honored Members’ with a collection of more than 95,000 artefacts, 52 hands-on interactive exhibits and displays in the Grand Hall, touch-screen sport lessons and 3D simulations, a truly inspiring “Canada’s Greatest Sports Moments” film in the Riddell Family Theatre, and sports challenges in the Changing Gallery.

The Hall of Fame also has an Education and Resource Centre. The place also features the Pepsi Café.

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