15 Things to do in Calgary

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Downtown Calgary
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Located in Alberta, Canada, Calgary is a bustling western city that is also the gateway to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It’s a popular park for hiking, wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding and more. But there are also many things to do in Calgary.

To get to Calgary, you’ll fly through the Calgary International Airport (YYC). From there, you can rent a car or catch a shuttle to Canmore and Banff. But do consider spending time in Calgary. It’s the largest city in Alberta, although not the capital city, which is Edmonton.

Here are 15 fun things to see and do in Calgary.

things to do in calgary - stampede
Calgary Stampede. Photo credit: Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

1. Calgary Stampede – The City’s Premiere Event

The city of Calgary is best known for the Calgary Stampede. The Calgary Stampede is heralded as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” Held annually in July, this world-class event celebrates Calgary’s Western heritage and culture with a rodeo extravaganza that includes thrilling competitions, live music, a carnival, and an array of fair food.

Things to do in Calgary - visit the lions at the Calgary Zoo.
Lion at the Calgary Zoo. Photo credit: AvinaCeleste from Pixabay

2. Meet Animals at the Calgary Zoo

The Calgary Zoo is home to over 1,000 animals from around the world, including tigers, penguins, lemurs, and more. This family-friendly activity is a Calgary favorite during the summer months and one of the city’s top attractions.

Things to do in Calgary - Calgary Tower
Calgary Tower. Photo credit: RickToxik from Pixabay

3. See Calgary From Above: Visit the Calgary Tower

The Calgary Tower is a freestanding observation tower in the heart of the city center and a distinct part of the city’s skyline. A trip to the top will treat visitors to 360-degree views of the city and the Canadian Rockies. If you’re feeling daring, step out onto the glass floor on the north side of the observation deck.

There’s also a rotating restaurant, Sky360. The tower is lit at night. The colors rotate and usually mean something. A schedule online will tell you what the colors mean or signify.

4. Visit Calgary’s Central Library

While a library might not usually be on your list of places to visit when you are sightseeing in a  new city, Calgary’s Central Library is really special and a must-see. From the standout external architecture and outdoor sculpture to the unique Bookscalator book return system to their onsite coffee and plant store, this library is one of Calgary’s jewels.

5. Explore Calgary’s Trendy Inglewood Neighborhood

Spend the day exploring the specialty shops that line 9th Avenue and discovering unique spots to stop and have coffee or tea. Inglewood favorites include The Apothecary, which features sustainable personal care products, baby products, home and garden supplies, and the Silk Road Spice Merchant.

An Inglewood must-try is Canela Vegan Bakery. Even if you’re not a vegan, this is a seriously delicious bakery famous for its iced cinnamon rolls.

6. Check Out Street Art and More in the East Village

Calgary’s East Village neighborhood is in the heart of downtown and has easily walkable streets with lots of public art. East Village has a mix of permanent and temporary art installations to discover.

Plan a self-guided walking tour, and if you work up a thirst or appetite, grab a coffee and delicious sourdough bread at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery or sushi at NUPO.

7. Visit Glenbow Museum

The collections in this museum encompass art, culture, and history, including indigenous artifacts and contemporary art.

8. Heritage Park Historical Village 

This living museum showcases the history of Calgary and Western Canada in North America with over 180 interactive exhibits and reconstructed buildings, including a working steam train and an 1860s fur trading fort.

Enjoy exploring the golden age of automobiles in the Gasoline Alley Museum, located within Heritage Park.

9. Fort Calgary National Historic Site

Learn about the history of Canada’s North West Mounted Police at the historic fort located at the junction of the Elbow River and the Bow River.

10. Prince’s Island Park

Located in downtown Calgary, this park is an urban oasis if you want to escape the bustling city. Stroll along the pathways and enjoy the views of the Bow River. You can also walk or bike across the river using the Peace Bridge.

11. Studio Bell: National Music Centre

Explore this museum dedicated to Canadian music and even catch a live musical performance. For a deeper dive, book a behind-the-glass tour.

12. Gasoline Alley Museum

Located in Heritage Plaza, check out the Gasoline Alley Museum and explore the golden age of automobiles and transportation. The museum features Canada’s largest collection of restored gas pumps and one of the largest collections of restored trucks on display in the lower showroom.

13. Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

A stop at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is a must for sports enthusiasts. There’s a dedicated exhibit on indigenous and first nations athletes that’s a fantastic educational experience for anyone.

14. Canada’s Olympic Park 

Continuing with fun things to do for sports enthusiasts, a visit to the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics is a fun look at winter sports in Calgary. There are fun things to do year-round, such as zip line and mountain biking in the summer, but winter is when Canada’s Olympic Park really comes alive and becomes a snowy wonderland. Visitors can ice skate, go snow tubing and experience many more fun things during Calgary’s cold winter season.

Canada’s Olympic Park is currently operated by WinSport.

Things to do in calgary - see a Calgary Flames ice hockey game
Calgary Flames hockey game. Photo credit: Jenny from Pixabay

15. Watch a Hockey Game

Calgary is home to the Calgary Flames hockey team. If you visit during hockey season, plan your visit around a home game at the Scotiabank Saddledome and cheer alongside the Calgarians.

Front Sign Fairmont Palliser Calgary
The Fairmont Palliser Calgary is a historic luxury hotel in the heart of downtown Calgary. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Where to Stay in Calgary

If you want luxury in the heart of the city, the Fairmont Palliser is the place to be. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option or just more options, in general, Hotels.com maintains a robust list of Calgary hotels.

Other Places To Visit In Canada

Whether you are planning a day trip from Calgary or a multi-city stay, here are nearby Canadian cities also worth exploring.

  • Canmore (104 km)
  • Banff National Park and Lake Louise (129 km)
  • Drumheller (130 km)
  • Jasper National Park (413 km)
  • Toronto (3,238 km)
  • Vancouver (1,057 km)
Jill Robbins is a freelance writer covering lifestyle, travel, health, and commerce. Her writing has appeared in SheKnows, HuffPost, Tripsavvy, Insider, AARP, and other publications. Jill lives in San Antonio with her husband and two youngest kids, although she’s usually somewhere else. You can find out what Jill is up to by reading her blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.
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