Whether you grew up in Calgary, or moved here more recently, chances are you have friends and family in other parts of Canada (or beyond!) who are eager to visit. Naturally, they want to spend time reconnecting with you, but I bet they’re also excited to explore this fantastic city. Do you need a little help with what to do and where to go to keep your out of towners entertained? Here are a few of our favourite Calgary Attractions to take visitors.
The Calgary Zoo and TELUS Spark are located adjacent to one another, just north of the Bow River, so if you’re feeling ambitious, you could combine them into a single day trip. However… these attractions can easily keep you busy for hours, so unless you’re short on time, treat yourself to a full day at each site. The zoo is home to a myriad of fascinating animals in naturalistic habitats, beautiful gardens, a fantastic playground, and the Centre for Conservation and Research. Don’t be fooled into thinking of the zoo as a summer-only attraction; there’s plenty to do inside in the winter. TELUS Spark is one of a new breed of science centre, with its hands-on exhibits on science and technology designed to elicit and hone the imagination, curiosity, and problem-solving skills of its visitors. There’s something for everyone here, from the very young child who just wants to play to the inquisitive adult (who just wants to play).
Heritage Park is ‘required visiting material’ for anyone coming to our fair city in May through October, or on the weekends leading up to Christmas. Its city, lake and mountain views create a lovely backdrop for the park’s heritage buildings, farm, amusement park, steam train, paddlewheeler and more. On bad-weather days, or if the outdoor portions of the park are closed for the winter, head instead into the Gasoline Alley Museum. You really don’t need to be a car buff to appreciate this impressive collection of memorabilia celebrating the history of the automobile.
Although Banff and Lake Louise are not strictly within the Calgary area, we Calgarians proudly think of them as being in ‘our backyard’. Visitors from around the world flock to our Rocky Mountains for outdoor recreation, stunning scenery and charming towns. Summer or winter, don’t forget to take a breather from all that sightseeing and enjoy a relaxing soak in the Banff Hot Springs. In winter, take your guests skating on the lake in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and then into the Chateau’s Walliser Stube restaurant for a cheese fondue. Guaranteed, they won’t soon forget that day!
Calgary is a sprawling city, but our downtown core is pretty compact and contains lots of great attractions. If you’re like me, and live in the ‘burbs, downtown is well worth revisiting, whether you’re playing tour guide or not. Start with a birds-eye view of the city at the Calgary Tower. OK, so it’s no longer the tallest building in town, but at 1,228 metres above sea level, is still has the distinction of being the highest 360° degree observation deck in the world and it’s got a great view of the city. Once you’ve got the lay of the land from way up there, it’s only a 1-block walk to the Glenbow Museum, which boasts the largest art collection in Western Canada, hosts engaging permanent collections and travelling exhibitions and do a fantastic job of telling the story of Southern Alberta and Canada’s West. Whether you and your guests hail from near or far, you’re sure to learn something new.
Calgary offers many things, but a tropical climate is certainly not one of them. Luckily, the CORE Shopping Centre, located in the heart of downtown, is home to a fantastic (and recently renovated) indoor tropical oasis, complete with tropical trees and plants, ponds with fish, and a children’s playground (!!!). The Devonian Gardens are fun to visit at any time, but are especially uplifting during those really cold winter days. And with free admission, it’s a lot cheaper than a trip to Hawaii. After you’ve soaked in the tropical vibe, exit the mall onto 8th Avenue SW; you’re now on Stephen Avenue Walk, Canada’s only pedestrian mall, complete with historic buildings, public artwork, and a wide variety of shops and restaurants. If you’re hungry, you’re in the right place – restaurants abound.
A few blocks south of Stephen Avenue, Lougheed House is a National and Provincial Historic Site and Museum. This grand sandstone prairie mansion was built in 1891 (when Calgary had a population of only 4,000!) and was the home of Senator James Alexander Lougheed and his family. The building has had an interesting history with varied uses. It now houses interesting exhibits on the history of the home and the city. The house stands on its original 2.8 acres and the gardens are a beautiful spot to wander in the summer months.
On the northern edge of the downtown core and standing within the majestic Bow River, Prince’s Island Park is a vibrant urban park in a beautiful natural setting. Pedestrian bridges connect the park with the city on both sides of the river and the park offers a mix of landscaped park, wetland, and playground areas. Many of Calgary’s outdoor summer events are held here, but it’s a lovely place for a winter walk too.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be left for last, but I’m guessing that anyone who’s heard of Calgary also knows about our world-famous Calgary Stampede. After all, over 1 million visitors attend “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” each year. If you are hosting out of towners during early July, it’s a must-do. They’ll also enjoy seeing the rest of the city swept up in ‘Stampede Fever’, with pancake breakfasts, BBQs, cowboy-themed everything and questionable fashion choices. Hee-haw!!
For more ideas on how to best show off this beautiful city we call home, be sure to visit us at Family Fun Calgary. Click on our Calendar for an easy way to find out what’s happening while your guests are here. Enjoy reconnecting with your city!