Calgary Travel Guide

Canada  
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Courtesy of Henryk Sadura/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Calgary

There are numerous reasons to go to Calgary, the most obvious one being to hit the slopes. Perched in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, the city becomes a home base for many winter sports enthusiasts. Stop by the Canada Olympic Park to watch athletes train or even try out some of the facilities for yourself. And remember that there's much more to this city than ski slopes and hiking trails. You can relive the former Wild West glory days at Heritage Park, cheer on the local sports teams at the Saddledome, or indulge in a little retail therapy along the Stephen Avenue Walk. If you have kids in tow, take a walk on the wild side at the Calgary Zoo.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated May 30, 2018

  • #1
    Things to do in Calgary
    View all Photos
    #1 in Calgary
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    According to a TripAdvisor user, this island park near the Calgary Zoo is "A great place to go for a walk, play some Frisbee, toss the football around or have a picnic. I was amazed of how such a clean family friendly park could exsist in the middle of a city." Trails lined with cottonwood trees appeal to walkers and bikers alike, while regular festivals and an outdoor theater beckon to culture-hounds. For food, just follow the footbridge across the Bow River to the stalls of Eau Claire Market. Looking for more refined dining? Then check out the River Café.

    The park is open all day, every day, and you don't have to pay to play. For more information, visit the Prince's Island Park website.

  • #2
    Heritage Park
    View all Photos
    #2 in Calgary
    Museums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Calgary's Wild West past still thrives at this 66-acre living-history village. Nestled beside the Glenmore Reservoir and just south of downtown, this history-lover's paradise swarms with costumed staff re-enacting times gone by. You'll explore an 1860s replica of a fur-trading post, a ranch and a historic village—all of which are still functioning. You can take a ride on a steam locomotive or a horse-drawn wagon or cruise the reservoir by paddle-wheeler boat. For a better understanding of Calgary's history, check out the Gasoline Alley Museum, home to numerous artifacts representing the city's frontier days.

    Recent visitors agree that Heritage Park is a must-see, especially if you have kids. One TripAdvisor user writes: "Kudos to the hard-working people who conceived this place and those who work here every day. We thoroughly enjoyed stepping back in time. Great for all ages."

  • #3
    Glenbow Museum
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    #3 in Calgary
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Heralded as one of Canada's finest, the Glenbow Museum caters to history buffs and art aficionados alike. Exhibits here focus mainly on the culture of Western Canada, featuring everything from interactive displays on the First Nations tribes to an extensive collection of military memorabilia. However, there are also displays of European Art, Asian sculpture and even West African artifacts, plus plenty of hands-on activities to keep children entertained.

    Some complain about the downtown museum's small size, but others claim that this is to Glenbow's advantage. As one Yelp.com user writes, "I can spend a couple of hours here, be exposed to a wide range of exhibits and information and not feel overwhelmed."

  • #4
    Spruce Meadows
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    #4 in Calgary
    Sports
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If the Calgary Stampede doesn't satisfy your appetite for equine action, make your way to Spruce Meadows. This top-notch sporting facility—whose name springs from the surrounding spruce trees—hosts some of Canada's most prominent horseback riding events. Here, talented jockeys compete for national titles (and prize money) in adrenaline-pumping events like show-jumping and cross-country. According to one TripAdvisor user, "Stampede comes but once a year and is full of tourists. Spruce Meadous is where you see real Calgarians (and their pets) enjoying themselves each summer."

    For visitors, Spruce Meadows is more than your average riding arena. You can get up close and personal with the horses while touring the stables, explore the exquisitely manicured gardens, or let the kiddos run wild at the Canadian Superstore Playground. The facility also hosts numerous events, like the Christmas Market.

  • #5
    Calgary Zoo
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    #5 in Calgary
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The massive Calgary Zoo houses more than 1,400 animals—from tigers to gorillas—in enclosures that are representative of their natural habitats. Stop by Creatures of the Night/Australia to visit your favorite down-under creatures like kangaroos and emus, or check out Canada's furry friends like moose and bears in the Canadian Wilds section. But the animals aren't the only reason to visit: The complex is also home to a sprawling botanical garden, featuring flora from across the world; and the Prehistoric Park, which showcases the region's history as a stomping ground for dinosaurs.

    Many recent visitors agree this zoo is a must-do for young families. As one TripAdvisor user writes: "You could easily spend a day here! […] The scenery and gardens alone are worth a walk." However, some previous visitors have expressed complaints about the facility's atmosphere, saying that it could use some more signage and a thorough cleaning.

  • #6
    Canada Olympic Park
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    #6 in Calgary
    Recreation, Sports
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sports
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    A tribute to the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, this massive sports complex is still used throughout the year as training grounds for young athletes. If you're in town for a taste of fresh powder, consider stopping here first for a quick how-to on riding the slopes; downhill and cross-country ski lessons are available for both kids and adults. You can also try your hand at other sporty pastimes like bobsleigh and the luge. If you're looking for a more relaxed outing, stop by the Olympic Hall of Fame and Museum, which is home to the world's largest collection of artifacts from the competition's history, including costumes, photographs and the torch used to carry the flame from Greece.

    Recent visitors agree the park is well worth a visit. According to one TripAdvisor user: "I have always wanted to go to the Olympics and this is the closest I have ever gotten. […] We took the tour of the Olympic museum. There was a really nice man there that did an excellent job explaining a lot of the great aspects of the museum."

  • #7
    Stephen Avenue Walk
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    #7 in Calgary
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Occupying three blocks of downtown's 8th Avenue, the Stephen Avenue Walk is one of the city's most popular shopping venues. This pedestrian-only shopping area—also dubbed a National Historic District—is lined with trendy stores, delectable restaurants and even several nightclubs. This downtown stretch is also the place to go for avid culture-hounds; street performers, local artists, and even festivals are often found here.

    However, recent visitors warn that, despite the overhaul made to the Stephen Avenue Walk's appearance, it's still necessary to keep your wits about you. This formerly derelict stretch still sees the occasional panhandler and pickpocket.

  • #8
    Calgary Tower
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    #8 in Calgary
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Standing a whopping 626 feet high, this landmark was once the tallest building in the city. It was originally constructed in 1967 to celebrate Canada's Centennial and in 1988, the Calgary Tower also sheltered the Olympic flame. Today, the tower now acts as the city's centerpiece, offering tourists spectacular views of Calgary and the Rocky Mountains. While you will pay to climb the 762 steps to the top (or to ride the elevator), one TripAdvisor user writes that it's the "best view in Alberta east of the mountains […] The view is panoramic and worth every penny." 

    Located in the heart of downtown Calgary, the tower is open to visitors every day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the summer and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the winter. Admission is around $15 CAD for adults and $11 or $7 CAD for kids, depending on their ages (prices are roughly equivalent in American dollars). For more information, check out Calgary Tower's website.

  • #9
    Calgary Stampede & Stampede Park
    View all Photos
    #9 in Calgary
    Festivals, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Festivals, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located just south of downtown Calgary, Stampede Park captures the Canada's attention every July during the world-famous Calgary Stampede. This massive festival features rodeos and all things Wild-West. Don your hats, polish your boots and prepare for several days of horse races, concerts and even a parade. When the festival has passed, Stampede Park continues to entertain visitors with a hankering for cowboy culture. Throughout the year, the park hosts trade and horse shows, while the Grain Academy—located within Stampede Park—explains the importance of agriculture in the Canadian Rockies.  

    Calgary's most notable event gets mixed reviews. Some rave about the excitement, while others complain about the crowds and a lack of authenticity. But as one Yelp.com user writes: "[T]he Stampede is meant to be an exhibition for farming and western culture, and while that doesn't exist legitimately within the city boundaries it is alive and kicking within Alberta."

  • #10
    Scotiabank Saddledome
    View all Photos
    #10 in Calgary
    Sports
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    For a taste of true Canadian sportsmanship, make your way to Scotiabank Saddledome, home of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames. Having moved from Atlanta in 1980, the Flames won Calgary over in 1989 when they claimed the Stanley Cup. Since then, this beloved sports team has been a symbol of pride for Calgarians; they celebrate the Flames' wins on 17th Avenue SW or "The Red Mile."

    The Saddledome even plays an active role in city life during the off-season, hosting special events like concerts, rodeos and even visits from such notable world figures as Queen Elizabeth II and the Dalai Lama. One Yelp.com user writes: "The dome is a special place for me. It's a nice structure shaped like a saddle and the interior isn't too shabby either. Easy to navigate and the people here for hockey games are just awesome."

  • #11
    Fort Calgary Historic Park
    View all Photos
    #11 in Calgary
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    To see where it all began, head to Fort Calgary Historic Park, circa late 19th century. This 40-acre space encloses the remains of the original mounted police stronghold, which until the 1970s, were buried under the expanding city. Today, you can explore the fort's remains and, with the help of recently uncovered artifacts, learn what life was like for these western Mounties.

    While some visitors say they very much enjoyed their time here, others write this attraction off as a tourist trap. According to one TripAdvisor user: "The static displays are boring, confined and hard to get around. The outdoor grounds are bare, all you can see is a burned Fort that they didn't bother to fix. There are no personnel to explain to you anything. Bottom line this is a lame attraction and don't spend your money on it."

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