Calgary is a city in Canada, and the city often stands as an emblem of Canadian spirit and diversity. It’s no wonder, then, that the city of Calgary was named the cultural capital of Canada, showcasing a rich tapestry of arts, heritage, and vibrant urban experiences.
Whether you’re planning to stay in Calgary for a week or merely passing through, the city boasts many captivating activities and sights that ensure every moment is unforgettable.
This article serves as your ultimate guide to the best things to experience in this dynamic city. From bustling festivals to serene parks, from world-class museums to local markets, dive into our curated list of the top things that should be on every traveler’s Calgary itinerary.
Best Things to do in Calgary, Alberta
1. Calgary Stampede
The world-famous Calgary Stampede is an event that should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list. Known as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Calgary Stampede has become synonymous with Western heritage and cowboy culture. Taking place annually in July, the week-long festival offers a myriad of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages.
Each year, over a million visitors from around the globe flock to this famous event to experience the spirit and excitement of the Wild West. Whether you want to witness breathtaking acrobatics from skilled cowboys and cowgirls in the rodeo arena or indulge in delicious deep-fried treats at the Midway, the Calgary Stampede promises a memorable experience full of adventure and entertainment.
From thrilling rodeo competitions and exhilarating chuckwagon races to live music concerts and mouth-watering food, the Calgary Stampede truly has something for everyone. It is no wonder that the Stampede has gained international recognition and has become one of the top Calgary attractions.
Visitors can also explore the agricultural exhibits and witness the awe-inspiring horse shows. Besides the rodeo, the Stampede offers a vibrant midway with a variety of traditional fair attractions and games. For those seeking a taste of the Wild West, the Western Showcase exhibits Western art, crafts, and culture. In addition to the exciting events and exhibits, the Stampede also hosts nightly fireworks displays that light up the sky and create a magical atmosphere.
2. The Calgary Tower
If you find yourself in Calgary, one attraction that you definitely should not miss is the iconic Calgary Tower. This venue is one of downtown Calgary’s top attractions. Standing at an impressive height of 191 meters and being the tallest building in Calgary, the tower has been a prominent feature in the city’s skyline since it was built in 1968.
Offering stunning panoramic views of Calgary and the surrounding areas, a trip to the top of the tower is an absolute must. As you make your way up, you will have the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the city through informative displays and exhibits.
On the observation deck, you can take in breathtaking vistas of the Rocky Mountains, the Bow River, and the sprawling cityscape below. On a clear day, you might even catch a glimpse of the snowy peaks of Banff National Park in the distance.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even test your nerves by stepping onto the glass floor, which gives you a thrilling view straight down to the ground beneath your feet. The tower also boasts a rotating restaurant, Sky 360, where you can enjoy a delightful meal while taking in the stunning views.
Whether you’re a visitor or a local, a visit to the Calgary Tower promises an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a photography enthusiast, the tower’s beauty and significance make it a must-visit destination.
While in Calgary, be sure not to miss the chance to explore this iconic landmark and create memories that will last a lifetime.
3. Heritage Park Historical Village
If you are interested in immersing yourself in the history of the Canadian West, then you need to visit Calgary Heritage Park Historical Village. This unique attraction offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The park is home to over 180 exhibits, including replica buildings, vintage vehicles, and historic artifacts. You can explore a working steam locomotive, ride on a paddlewheel boat, and even take a trip on a horse-drawn wagon.
The knowledgeable staff and reenactors are always on hand to provide insights into the past and answer any questions you may have. In addition to the fascinating exhibits, the park also hosts various events and activities throughout the year, such as historical reenactments, festivals, and live performances.
Whether you are a history buff or just curious about the past, Calgary Heritage Park Historical Village offers a captivating journey through time.
So be sure to plan a visit to this remarkable destination and discover the rich heritage of the Canadian West.
4. Visit the Calgary Zoo
If you are looking for fun things and educational experiences, look no further than the Calgary Zoo. This world-class zoo is home to over 1,000 animals from around the globe.
Whether you are an animal lover or just looking for a way to spend a day with the family, the Calgary Zoo has something for everyone. One of the highlights of the zoo is the Canadian Wilds exhibit, where you can see native wildlife such as bears, wolves, and moose up close.
The zoo also has a large variety of exotic animals, including gorillas, penguins, and tigers. In addition to the animal exhibits, the Calgary Zoo offers educational programs and interactive experiences for visitors of all ages.
You can attend daily zookeeper talks, where you can learn more about the animals and their habitats, or participate in the animal encounters program, where you can get up close and personal with some of the zoo’s resident creatures. The zoo also hosts special events throughout the year, such as the popular Zoolights, a magical winter light display that transforms the zoo into a winter wonderland.
Overall, a visit to the Calgary Zoo is a must for animal lovers and families looking for a fun day out.
5. Stephen Avenue Walk
This vibrant pedestrian street is a hub of activity and a great place to explore, shop, and dine. Stretching for eight blocks, Stephen Avenue Walk is lined with historical buildings, unique boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, offering something for everyone.
As you stroll along the avenue, you’ll be captivated by the stunning architecture and the charming atmosphere. The area is buzzing with energy as locals and tourists alike fill the sidewalks, creating a lively and welcoming ambiance.
Whether you’re looking for trendy fashion finds, artisanal goods, or delicious cuisine, Stephen Avenue Walk has it all. There are numerous retail shops showcasing local designers and artisans, offering one-of-a-kind items that you won’t find anywhere else.
After shopping, you can stop by one of the many cafes or patios to grab a bite to eat and watch the world go by. With its vibrant atmosphere and diverse offerings, Stephen Avenue Walk is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Calgary.
Whether you’re a shopaholic, a foodie, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the lively city vibe, you’re sure to find something to love on Stephen Avenue Walk.
6. TELUS Spark in Calgary
The TELUS Spark is located in the heart of Calgary city. The science center offers a wide range of exhibits and activities.
Whether you’re interested in biology, chemistry, physics, or technology, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this fantastic attraction. One of the highlights of TELUS Spark is its Dome Theatre, which features immersive and visually stunning shows that explore topics such as space, nature, and the environment.
The center also offers hands-on workshops and demonstrations, where visitors can learn about various scientific concepts and participate in interactive experiments. For those who are curious about the world around them, TELUS Spark is the perfect place to explore and discover new things.
With its engaging exhibits, knowledgeable staff, and a variety of programs and events, there is always something exciting happening at TELUS Spark.
So, whether you’re a local looking for a family-friendly outing or a visitor wanting to experience some of Calgary’s best attractions, make sure to add a visit to TELUS Spark to your itinerary. It’s a place where science comes alive, and the possibilities are endless.
7. Banff National Park
If you are looking for a breathtaking escape from the city, a visit to Banff National Park is a must. Located in the Canadian Rockies, Banff is just a short drive away from Calgary, making it an ideal day trip or weekend getaway.
Calgary itself offers many attractions, including the famous Calgary Stampede, but the real gem lies in the natural beauty of Banff. There are many things to do in Banff. Even the drive from Calgary to Banff is an experience in itself, with stunning mountain scenery along the way.
Once you arrive in Banff, there are endless things to see and do. The town of Banff is quaint and offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries to explore. You can also take a dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, which provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
For those seeking adventure, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore, including the iconic Johnston Canyon. Wildlife enthusiasts will also enjoy the opportunity to spot animals such as elk, deer, mountain goats, and even grizzly bears.
If you prefer a more personalized experience, you can book a private tour from Calgary to Banff, where a knowledgeable guide will take you to all the best spots and share interesting facts about the area. No matter how you choose to visit Banff National Park, you are guaranteed to be amazed by its beauty and natural wonders.
8. Calaway Park
A visit to Calaway Park is a must if you are looking for a fun-filled day with family and friends. Located just a 30-minute trip from Calgary, this amusement park offers plenty of things to do and see. It is one of the best places to visit near Calgary.
Calaway Park has something for you whether you are a thrill seeker or prefer a more laid-back experience. With over 30 rides and attractions, including roller coasters, water slides, and live shows, you will never run out of things to do.
The park also offers a variety of dining options, from quick-service restaurants to sit-down meals, ensuring that you will never go hungry during your visit. Children will love the carousel and mini-golf, while adults can enjoy the scenic views and beautiful gardens.
9. Calgary Flames game
If you’re a fan of ice hockey and looking for an exciting game to watch, try to watch the Calgary Flames game during your time in Calgary. The Calgary Flames are a professional ice hockey team based in downtown Calgary and members of the Pacific Division in the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL).
The team was founded in 1972 and has since become a beloved sports franchise in Calgary. Watching a Flames game is a thrilling experience, as the team showcases their skill, determination, and passion on the ice. From the moment the puck drops to the final whistle, the players give it their all, making every second of the game intense and action-packed.
The atmosphere in the arena is electric, with passionate fans cheering on their team and creating a lively and vibrant environment. The Flames have a dedicated and loyal fan base that adds to the excitement of the game. Whether you’re a die-hard Flames fan or simply looking for a fun and entertaining sporting event to attend, watching a Calgary Flames game is an experience you won’t want to miss.
10. Glenbow Museum Calgary
The Glenbow Museum in Calgary is one of the largest museums in Western Canada, offering a diverse and fascinating collection of art and artifacts. The museum provides visitors with the opportunity to explore and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of Canada’s western region. The exhibits span across various disciplines, including history, art, and indigenous cultures, providing a holistic and immersive experience for visitors of all ages.
One of the standout features of the Glenbow Museum is its extensive collection of contemporary and historical art, featuring renowned artists from Canada and around the world. From classical masterpieces to cutting-edge contemporary installations, there is something to captivate every art enthusiast.
Additionally, the museum boasts an impressive collection of indigenous art and artifacts, shedding light on the vibrant and diverse cultures that have shaped the Western Canadian landscape. Apart from its vast collection, the Glenbow Museum also hosts a range of temporary exhibitions and programs throughout the year, providing a dynamic and ever-changing experience for visitors.
11. Studio Bell: Home of the National Music Centre
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Calgary, a visit to Studio Bell’s National Music Centre is something you will enjoy. This unique attraction is a hub for music enthusiasts of all ages and offers a wide range of activities to immerse yourself in the world of music.
From interactive exhibitions to live performances, you will have some fun here. Studio Bell is not just a museum but also a living, breathing music space that showcases the rich musical heritage of Canada. As you explore the different floors, you’ll come across artifacts, memorabilia, and instruments that have shaped the Canadian music scene. You can even try your hand at playing some of these instruments and unleash your inner rock star.
Additionally, Studio Bell hosts various workshops, concerts, and events throughout the year, so you may even have the opportunity to catch a live show during your visit. Studio Bell is the place to be whether you’re a music lover, a history buff, or simply looking for a fun and educational experience. So grab your friends or family and head down to Studio Bell to discover the fascinating world of music in Calgary.
12. Canada Olympic Park
Are you looking for things to do in Calgary in winter? You need to visit the Canada Olympic Park. This park holds a significant place in sporting history, as it was the main venue when Calgary hosted the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.
Today, visitors can experience the thrill of those games by participating in various winter activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, and bobsleighing. With its impressive facilities and state-of-the-art equipment, The park offers an exhilarating experience for people of all ages and skill levels.
Even if you’re not into winter sports, the park’s stunning mountain views and peaceful atmosphere make it worth a visit. Imagine gliding down the slopes, surrounded by snow-covered peaks and crisp winter air.
13. Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
If you are a music lover visiting Calgary, a visit to the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra should be on your itinerary. The orchestra is recognized as one of the leading music ensembles in Canada and has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1955.
They offer a wide range of performances, from classical to contemporary, and feature some of the finest musicians in the country. The orchestra performs in the Jack Singer Concert Hall, a beautiful venue known for its excellent acoustics and comfortable seating. Attending a performance at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra is a truly immersive experience, as the musicians transport you through a journey of emotions with their exceptional talent and passion.
In addition to its regular concert season, the orchestra also offers educational programs, community outreach initiatives, and collaborations with other artistic groups in the city.
14. Calgary Ghost Tours
Calgary Ghost Tours is a must-try activity on your next trip to Calgary, especially if you’re looking for a spine-tingling experience. This guided tour takes you through the dark and eerie corners of the city, revealing its haunted history and paranormal tales. Led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides, you’ll visit haunted sites and learn about the chilling stories associated with them.
From haunted hotels to ghostly legends, this tour offers a unique and immersive experience for thrill-seekers and history buffs alike. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the atmospheric locations and captivating stories are guaranteed to send shivers down your spine. The tours are held in the evening, adding an extra layer of ambiance and setting the perfect mood for a ghostly adventure.
Along the way, you’ll hear about Calgary’s notorious past and how it has shaped the city’s haunted reputation. This is an excellent opportunity to dive into the darker side of Calgary’s history and explore its paranormal mysteries. So, gather your friends or family and embark on this chilling tour to uncover the supernatural secrets of Calgary.
15. Spruce Meadows
Spruce Meadows is a must-visit destination if you’re a fan of equestrian sports. Located in Calgary, Canada, Spruce Meadows is one of the world’s premier showjumping facilities. This world-class venue spans over 500 acres and features nine competition rings, seven warm-up rings, and stables for over 1,000 horses.
Spruce Meadows hosts numerous prestigious events throughout the year, including the Spruce Meadows Masters and the Spruce Meadows National. These events attract top riders and horses from around the globe, making for an unforgettable experience for spectators. Aside from the competitions, Spruce Meadows offers a range of activities for visitors. You can explore the beautiful grounds on walking tours or take a horse-drawn carriage ride for a leisurely experience.
The venue also features an interactive museum that showcases the history and evolution of the sport. For those interested in shopping, the Spruce Meadows Tack Shop offers a wide selection of equestrian apparel and equipment. And if you’re feeling hungry, there are several dining options available onsite. So, whether you’re a horse enthusiast or simply looking for a unique day out, a visit to Spruce Meadows is sure to be an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Bonus: Best free things to do around Calgary
Calgary Central Public Library
The Calgary Central Library is considered one of the best free things to do in Calgary. As the main branch of the Calgary Public Library, it is a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike.
With its stunning architecture, innovative design, and impressive collection of books and multimedia resources, the library provides a unique and enriching experience for all types of visitors. Upon entering the library, visitors are immediately greeted by its grand and welcoming atmosphere.
The building boasts modern and spacious interiors, promoting a sense of tranquility and creativity. There are cozy reading nooks, comfortable seating areas, and even a roof garden, perfect for relaxing and enjoying a good book. The library is well-known for its extensive collection of books, with a wide range of genres and topics to choose from.
Additionally, it offers various programs and events throughout the year, catering to the diverse interests and needs of the community. Whether you are a book lover, a history enthusiast, or simply searching for a peaceful and inspiring place, the Calgary Central Library is a must-see attraction that will leave you impressed and longing for another visit.
Shop at the Eau Claire Market
Located in downtown Calgary, Eau Claire Market is a vibrant shopping destination that offers a unique experience for locals and tourists alike. The market is home to a variety of shops, ranging from fashion boutiques to specialty stores, making it an ideal spot for those looking for one-of-a-kind items. With its open-air concept, the market provides a refreshing and relaxed shopping atmosphere.
Visitors can stroll through the stalls, taking in the sights and sounds while browsing through an array of products. Additionally, Eau Claire Market hosts a wide range of events throughout the year, including live performances, art exhibitions, and farmers’ markets. These events add to the market’s vibrant atmosphere and allow visitors to engage with the local community.
Moreover, the market is conveniently located near the beautiful Prince’s Island Park, allowing shoppers to take a break and enjoy the picturesque surroundings. Its convenient location, diverse range of shops, and lively atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a memorable shopping experience in Calgary.
Biking along the Bow River
Biking along the Bow River in Calgary offers a picturesque experience for both locals and tourists. The river runs through downtown Calgary, making it easily accessible for anyone looking to enjoy its beauty. With many activities in Calgary, biking along the Bow River is a popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts.
The river pathways provide a scenic route for cyclists, showcasing the stunning views of the surrounding nature. You can enjoy the flowing water’s tranquility, the riverbanks’ charm, and the natural landscape’s serenity as you bike along the river. Along the way, you may come across various parks and green spaces, perfect for a quick break or a picnic with friends and family.
The pathway also offers numerous opportunities for wildlife spotting, as the river is home to a diverse range of birds, fish, and other animals. Whether you are an avid cyclist or just starting out, biking along the Bow River is a delightful way to explore Calgary while staying active and enjoying the natural beauty of the city.
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is a vast and beautiful area that spans 36 hectares. It is specially designed and preserved as a safe place for birds. Over time, this sanctuary has become a favorite spot for those who enjoy bird-watching.
This is largely due to the impressive variety of birds found here – in fact, more than 270 different species of birds have been observed and recorded at the sanctuary throughout its history. This diverse collection of avian residents and visitors makes it an essential destination for bird enthusiasts and researchers who are eager to witness and study a wide range of bird species in one location.
Attend a Festival
The city of Calgary is a vibrant hub of cultural activities and celebrations, with a calendar packed full of festivals that cater to a wide range of interests and tastes. Throughout the year, residents and visitors alike can enjoy various free festivals that showcase the city’s rich traditions and its contemporary artistic flair.
Among these is the Canada Day festival, a joyous celebration of the nation’s heritage, marked with parades, fireworks, and live performances. Similarly, the Lilac Festival is another highlight dedicated to celebrating the beauty of spring. Streets come alive with stalls, music, and the intoxicating aroma of blooming lilacs.
These festivals, among many others, including the Calgary Folk Festival and the Sled Island Festival, offer attendees a chance to immerse themselves in local culture, enjoy art and music, and partake in communal festivities without any admission fees.
Visiting Fort Calgary is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in the rich history and vibrant culture of Calgary. Located at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers, Fort Calgary stands as a testament to the city’s early beginnings as a pioneering outpost.
Stepping inside the reconstructed fort allows visitors to travel back in time and experience what life was like for the early settlers and the Northwest Mounted Police, who once called it home. The fort also serves as a museum, showcasing a diverse collection of artifacts and exhibits that depict the significant events and stories that have shaped Calgary into the thriving city it is today.
From interactive displays to guided tours, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the city’s Indigenous history, the fur trade era, and more recent developments. A visit to Fort Calgary offers a fascinating glimpse into the past and a chance to deepen one’s understanding of the dynamic city it represents.
What are the best things to do in Calgary with kids?
There are plenty of fun activities for kids in Calgary. Some of the best things to do include visiting the Calgary Zoo, exploring the Telus Spark Science Center, playing at the Calaway Park amusement park, and enjoying the Heritage Park Historical Village.
Are there any hotels in Calgary that are family-friendly?
Yes, there are several family-friendly hotels in Calgary. Some popular options include Alt Hotel Calgary, Best Western Premier Freeport Inn & Suites, and Holiday Inn Calgary Macleod Trail South.
How can I get to Calgary?
There are several ways to get to Calgary. If you are coming from another city, you can travel by plane and arrive at the Calgary International Airport. If you prefer driving, there are highways that connect Calgary to other major cities in Alberta and Canada.
Is Calgary a good city to visit in the winter?
Yes, Calgary is a great city to visit in the winter. There are outdoor ice skating rinks, winter festivals, and even ski resorts nearby. The city also hosts the Calgary Winter Festival, which offers a variety of winter activities.
What are some famous landmarks in Calgary?
Calgary is home to several famous landmarks, including the Calgary Tower, the Calgary Stampede Park, and the Saddledome. These landmarks are iconic symbols of the city and are worth a visit.
Are there any breweries in Calgary?
Yes, there are many breweries in Calgary. Some popular breweries include Village Brewery, Big Rock Brewery, and Wild Rose Brewery. These breweries offer tours and tastings for beer enthusiasts.