Planning Your Trip
Things to Do in Calgary
Visiting Banff National Park
Calgary is a vibrant city with many things to offer, including a robust culinary scene, close proximity to the Rocky Mountains, and vast green spaces. Whether you’re interested in hiking and biking, shopping, museum-hopping, or simply soaking up the energy of the city by exploring Calgary’s unique neighborhoods, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for here. For anyone thinking of planning a trip, read on for tips and information on what to see and do, how to get around, where to stay, and what to eat and drink.
Planning Your Trip
- Best Time to Visit: The best times to visit Calgary are June through August, when the weather is at its best and most of the city's special events and festivals take place, and November through March, when ski season is in full swing.
- Language: English is the predominate language spoken in Calgary.
- Currency: The currency used in Calgary is the Canadian dollar (CAD).
- Getting Around: Calgary Transit makes for an easy and car-free way to get around the city. There are more than 1,100 buses operating throughout the city with over 160 routes. The CTrain, Calgary's light rail transit system, has 44 stations on two lines traversing the city. The transit system’s website offers a planning tool to find out how to get where you're going.
- Travel Tip: While there are many worthwhile attractions in downtown Calgary, make time to check out some of the city’s unique and vibrant neighborhoods like Inglewood and Uptown 17th Avenue.
Things to Do
Outdoor enthusiasts and those who prefer city-based activities will find something to do in Calgary. In terms of outdoor adventure, the city enjoys close proximity to both the majestic Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park. You will also find Fish Creek Provincial Park (Canada’s second largest provincial park) in the south end of Calgary, so there are near-boundless chances for hiking, wildlife viewing, and canoeing. There are also numerous museums and galleries to browse, as well as an excellent range of restaurants to suit any foodies.
- Enjoy Nature in Banff National Park: Canada’s first national park is comprised of stunning Lake Louise and the charming town of Banff. Year-round outdoor activities range include hiking and biking, camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
- Experience the Calgary Stampede: For 10 days in July, the Calgary Stampede takes over the city. Visitors can watch cowboys and cowgirls compete at the Stampede Rodeo, enjoy live music nightly, fuel up with free pancake breakfasts, go on rides and play games at the Calgary Stampede Midway, and much more.
- Take in the Views from Calgary Tower: Calgary Tower offers 360-degree views of the city below as well as the Rocky Mountains from its observation deck. Or, get a bird's-eye view of Calgary beneath your feet from the glass floor.
Where to Eat and Drink
No matter what you happen to be craving while in Calgary, there’s a good chance you’ll find it. From fine dining establishments to street eats, options are varied and wide ranging. In terms of what types of food the city is known for, Alberta beef is near the top of the list. Bison, too, is a protein found on many menus. Alberta’s large Vietnamese population means that banh mi sandwiches are a popular choice in Calgary, as are pierogis, thanks to a Ukrainian influence.
Calgary also boasts a growing craft beer scene. In fact, there are more than 30 breweries in the city as well as two distilleries and a cider house. The tourism board has put together a handy beer map to help direct visitors to the best brews.
Check out our article on the best foods to try in Calgary for an intro on what to have on your culinary radar.
Where to Stay
Calgary's hotels cater to a wide range of budgets, from basic chain hotels to boutique options and more upscale accommodations. If you’re new in town, basing yourself in the downtown area may be your best bet, as the bulk of the city’s main attractions, shopping, and dining can be found here. Downtown hotels tend to be a bit more expensive due to the location, but you will have more options in terms of getting around on foot. Alternatively, 17th Avenue SW is a bustling area with lively nightlife, trendy restaurants, and cafés, while Beltline (just south of downtown) is home to a variety of eateries as well as the city’s Design District.
Getting to Calgary by air is easily done. Calgary International Airport (YYC) is a hub for Air Canada and WestJet, offering direct flights to the US, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Central America. The airport is located in the northeast of Calgary, around 20 minutes from the heart of downtown; rental cars, taxis, limousines, and airport shuttles are available here. If you’re going to be staying in or around downtown, you shouldn’t need to rent a car in order to get around thanks to an efficient public transit system.
Money Saving Tips
- Calgary’s Glenbow Museum offers free admission from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month, making that a great opportunity to discover the collection of Western Canadian art and culture.
- If you’re looking to save money on getting around, keep in mind that the CTrain is free in the downtown area along 7th Ave between 10th St SW and 3rd St SE.
- Get to know the city via Walk the YYC, a free walking tour company offering guided tours throughout the city. Tours can be booked online and reservations are necessary.
- Calgary is home to numerous parks and green spaces that are all free to access. Some great options include St. Patricks’ Island (which features walking trails and a natural play area) and Prince’s Island Park.
- Bird watchers may want to check out Inglewood Bird Sanctuary for a chance to spot more than 270 bird species that call the park home.