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Why Go To Calgary

From rags to riches, Calgary has experienced its very own Cinderella story. First founded as a Rocky Mountain outpost for the mounted police, this Canadian cow town went from honky-tonk to high-end with the discovery of oil in the early 1900s. Over the next century, shimmering office buildings replaced mom-and-pop businesses. By 1988, the city's reputation as a commercial powerhouse (plus its ideal location near the snowy Rocky peaks) earned it the honor of hosting the Winter Olympics. Since then, Calgary has been riding high.

Despite this transition, Calgarians continue to see their city from the eyes of the conventional cowboy: Here, leather boots and wide-brimmed hats still reign supreme. As Lonely Planet writes, "The vision of a Wrangler- and Stetson-clad urban cowboy stepping out of a Ferrari or Hummer isn’t uncommon." If your inner buckaroo still isn't satisfied, visit during the summer's annual Calgary Stampede, which summons bronco-busters from all walks of life to try their hands at wrangling. As any cattleman (or woman) will tell you, it's the most fun you can have with your boots on.

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Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on analysis of expert and user opinions. Read more about how we rank vacation destinations.

Best of Calgary

Calgary Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best times to visit Calgary are June through August, when most of the city's special events take place; and November through March when skiing conditions are in their prime. The winter months mark the city's low season with freezing temperatures that deter sightseers and force room rates down (at those hotels that aren't closed). Hotels re-open to greet summer visitors, but you can expect to find prices at their highest. You will find some good deals; however, if you book a few weeks in advance. If you're looking to save money without facing arctic temperatures, plan a visit for April or October when the city is free of tourists and winter's icy grip.

Weather in Calgary

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
-2.6
-13.5
-0.7
-11.6
3.8
-7.2
10.7
-1.5
16
3.6
20
7.7
22.6
9.7
21.7
9
16.4
4.2
12.2
-0.3
2.9
-7.5
-1.7
-12
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Average Precipitation (in)
0.01
0
0.06
0.52
2.16
2.54
2.63
2.37
1.85
0.2
0.02
0.01
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
See details for When to Visit Calgary

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Don't be strapped for cash The official currency is the Canadian dollar, which is roughly equivalent to the American dollar. You can avoid cash conversion fees by relying on credit or debit cards instead.
  • Don't forget your jacket Calgary's temperatures fluctuate frequently due to its location near the Rocky Mountains. Even during the summer months, it's a good idea to have some extra layers on hand.
  • Don't drive during the winter Because this can be dangerous, especially if you're not used to snowy conditions. Be wary of black ice and unplowed roads or, better yet, use public transit.

How to Save Money in Calgary

  • Rely on public transportation When cruising and perusing downtown, there's no need to splurge on parking or a taxi. The CTrain (Calgary's light-rail system) offers free rides within that area.
  • Bring your own hotel You can save money on lodging by laying your head at the Calgary West Campground, which features bathrooms, showers and laundry all for around $30 CAD per night.
  • Bundle up Winter is the cheapest time to visit, so pack your parka and prepare for a blizzard.

Getting Around Calgary

The best way to get around Calgary is by using public transportation. The Calgary Transit System provides efficient and affordable light-rail and bus service throughout the city. As such, you'll find you don't need a car; though one might be handy if you're looking to head westward into the mountains. When the weather is nice, many residents opt for bicycles instead. The region boasts hundreds of pathways and bike-lanes. If you're arriving in town by way of the Calgary International Airport (YYC), you can take the Calgary Transit bus to Whitehorn station. From there, ride the light-rail to your lodgings, or fork over $40 CAD (roughly $40 USD) for a cab.

Entry & Exit Requirements

A valid travel document (preferably a passport) is required for citizens of the United States traveling outside the mainland by air or sea, as well as for U.S. citizens trying to re-enter the country. If you are planning to drive, you can also use a NEXUS card, which allows for expedited border crossings for both private and commercial travelers through Canadian and U.S. border controls. For more information, visit the U.S. State Department website.

Photos

Calgary
Calgary
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The Scotiabank Saddledome is as much a part of Calgary's skyline as its buildings.

Stephen Desroches/Getty Images

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