The largest city in Alberta is jam packed with fun and interesting things to see and do for all ages. Whether you’re captivated by history and culture or love the great outdoors, there’s something in or around the city to satisfy nearly every interest. So whether you’re new to the city or you’re a return visitor looking for some fresh travel inspiration, here are the top 15 things to do in Calgary.
Experience the Calgary Stampede
For 10 days in July, the Calgary Stampede takes over the city and attracts over a million visitors from around the world. The Calgary Stampede Parade kicks things off with some serious fanfare and then its nonstop action. 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.
Stroll Stephen Avenue Walk
Occupying three blocks of downtown's 8th Avenue, the Stephen Avenue Walk is a pedestrian-only shopping area and a National Historic District offering nine major shopping centres, boutiques, galleries, performing arts spaces, restaurants, pubs and cafés making it an ideal place to shop, dine and experience Calgary’s vibrant downtown area.
Explore Heritage Park Historical Village
Go back in time with a visit to Heritage Park Historical Village, which brings Western Canadian history from the 1860s to 1950s to life. Canada’s largest living history museum is home to numerous things to see and do over its 127 acres. Visitors can ride an authentic steam train, browse the antique midway, enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride, make old-fashioned ice cream, sail on Calgary’s only paddle wheeler and learn about the story of the Canadian West through authentically costumed interpreters.
Shop the Calgary Farmers’ Market
If its fresh, local and seasonal goods you’re looking for, make your way to the Calgary Farmers’ Market, which also happens to be open year-round. Browse close to 80 vendors selling everything from sustainable seafood and fresh produce, to baked goods, homemade sausages, bath and body products, locally-made jewellery and more. Make sure to stop by the Calgary Farmers’ Market Food Hall, home to 20 local restaurants.
Take the Kids to Granary Road
If you’re in Calgary with kids in tow, you might want to put Granary Road on your itinerary. The Granary Road Active Learning Park offers 36 acres of activities, 3.5 kilometers of trails, a petting zoo and almost a dozen themed exhibits covering animals, insects and agriculture. Located just southwest of Calgary, Granary Road is also home to a public market where you can shop everything from artisan cheeses and authentic deli pickles, to produce and European meats.
Spend a Day at Spruce Meadows
See the best show jumpers in the world up close and personal at Spring Meadows where elite equestrian athletes and their horses show off some serious skills. In addition to all the equestrian action, Spring Meadows Marketplace is home to 45 local craft vendors to shop, live entertainment to enjoy and there are plenty of activities for kids, from wagon rides to face painting.
Visit Glenbow Museum
Glenbow Museum is one of the largest museums in western Canada and well worth a visit the next time you find yourself in Calgary. Located right in the city’s downtown area, the museum is home to over 1.3 million artifacts and around 30,000 works of art that showcase the history and beauty of Canada. Bonus: the museum offers free admission the first Thursday of every month if you’re looking for a few budget-friendly things to do in Calgary.
Have Some Fun at Calaway Park
Get in some thrills while you’re in Calgary with a visit to Calaway Park, western Canada’s largest outdoor family amusement park. Located just 10 kilometers west of Calgary in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the award-winning park is home to 32 rides for all ages, 24 food locations, 23 games, live entertainment and a 3D theatre. If you want to stay longer, there are over 100 campgrounds available.
Take in the Views from Calgary Tower
Built to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967 and located 191-metres above the city, Calgary Tower offers 360-degree views of the city below as well as the Rocky Mountains from its observation deck. Or, get a birds-eye view of Calgary beneath your feet from the glass floor. The tower’s restaurant, Sky 360, is located at 155 metres and does a full rotation ever 45 minutes.
Visit St. Patrick’s Island
Make your way across the George C. King Bridge and spend a relaxing afternoon (or full day) on St. Patrick’s Island. Here you’ll find a laid-back vibe along with pathways perfect for walking and jogging, a kids’ playground, picnic areas, a fishing cove, seasonal beach, naturalized wetlands, wooded area and a grassy hill offering some of the best views of the city.
Head Over to the Zoo
The city’s expansive zoo (the second largest zoo in Canada) is home to nearly 1000 creatures from around the world divided into various habitats, including Africa, Eurasia and the Canadian wilds. In addition, check out the life-sized dinosaur models at the zoo’s Prehistoric Park or learn more about the animals you’re seeing with regular daily activities led by experts. If you’re visiting between January and March, don’t miss the daily Penguin Walk, wherein the zoo’s king penguins waddle through the grounds.
Enjoy Nature in Banff National Park
Situated 128 km (80 miles) west of Calgary, Banff National Park is a must for anyone who enjoys spending time in nature. Canada’s first and oldest national park is comprised of stunning Lake Louise and the charming town of Banff where year-round outdoor activities range from hiking and biking, to camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, canoeing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Ride the Bow River
If you’re visiting Calgary during the warmer months, why not get out on the water? Canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available to rent for a scenic way to see the city and spend some time outdoors. Or if you prefer, various tour companies offer rafting trips on the Bow River. There are many access and exit points make it easy to plan the perfect trip length – from an hour to a whole day – to suit your needs.
Get Active at Fish Creek Provincial Park
Calgary is home to plenty of green space and one of the best is Fish Creek Provincial Park, the second-largest urban park in Canada and one of the largest urban parks in North America. Walkers, runners hikers and bikers can enjoy over 80 kilometers of pathways and with over 200 bird species observed here, the park is also a popular birdwatching spot.
Get Sporty at WinSport Canada Olympic Park
Whether you’re in the mood for skiing and snowboarding or ziplining and mini golf - WinSport Canada Olympic Park has it all. What was once a venue for several events at the 1988 Winter Olympics is now a world-class sports institute and a great place for some outdoor fun. When you’re not snow tubing or ziplining on North America's fastest zipline, visit Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame featuring more than 1,000 artefacts relating to sports of all kinds.