Calgary Offers Trendy, Vibrant Travel Destination North of Border
The Fairmont Banff Springs, just 90 minutes West of Calgary, offers supreme luxury in the form of 750 guest suites.
If variety is the spice of life, Calgary is an extremely spicy city north of the border.
The jewel of Alberta, Calgary is oftentimes mentioned only as an afterthought behind Canadian cities like Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, but it carries just as much cache as its sister cities. A trip there any time of year has the potential to be a delight, as the array of activities and attractions it offers is seemingly endless.
Just a short two-hour flight from Denver, Calgary is a vibrant and eclectic city full of vigor and energy that can be contagious. Not only is there plenty to do and see within its friendly confines, but also the unmarked beauty of the Canadian Rockies in Banff and surrounding Lake Louise is just a 90-minute jaunt to the West.
Alberta’s largest city with more than 1.2 million people, Calgary was incorporated in 1875 in an area of foothills and prairie situated at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. The expansion of the Canadian Pacific Railway provided a population boom near the beginning of the 20th Century, and an oil boom in the 1970s and 1980s brought another influx of residents.
Nowadays, the city is a veritable cornucopia for the senses, with fine dining, drink, cafes and bistros with character and an expansive cultural bouquet sure to enthrall visitors of all types.
Its downtown will remind Coloradoans of Denver, especially its Stephen Avenue Walk, which is closed off to through traffic and jam-packed with unique restaurants and shops. Visitors can also enjoy a tranquil dinner at the Sky 360 Restaurant atop the 626-foot Calgary Tower, where they can take in a one-of-a-kind view of the city from the 360-degree observation deck at more than 4,000 feet above sea level.
Visitors can find virtually every type of fare in Calgary, from top-of-the-line steaks at nearly a dozen steak houses like Trib Steakhouse, to Italian, French, Japanese and seafood. The city also offers a dazzling array of bistros, cafes and coffee houses for scrumptious breakfasts and midday snacks, a number of pubs tapped with Canadian microbrews and a lineup of restaurants with diverse and comprehensive wine lists.
Calgary is also home to a number of first-class hotels and resorts, including the Four-Diamond Fairmont Palliser on 9th Ave., a landmark property first opened in 1914. It is the city’s oldest and most luxurious hotel and, at 15 stories high, was the city’s tallest building until 1958.
Visitors who decide to make the trek to Banff or Lake Louise can stay in luxury when they do, thanks to the Fairmont Palliser’s sister mountainside resorts. In Banff, the place to stay is The Fairmont Banff Springs – with its more than 750 guest suites and charming Scottish Baronial architecture style – while the Fairmont’s Chateau Lake Louise provides first-class accommodations and a breathtaking view for visitors and guests.
Hotel Arts is a boutique-style hotel nestled in Calgary’s arts district that offers in-room spa services and fine dining in its bistro, bar and restaurant. Poolside dining is also an option at the eclectic hotel, and its 9,500-square-foot ballroom is perfect for large gatherings.
Calgary features a variety of spas for those looking to be pampered, including Barbor Beauty Spa, Sante Spa at Hotel Le Germain and Stillwater Spa at Hyatt Regency Calgary. They offer everything from massages, facials, nail treatments and steam rooms to reflexology, advanced skincare and laser treatments.
With an effective Light Rail Transit system and car and limousine services, getting around Calgary is a breeze. Its simple and effective layout also makes walking a viable and pleasant option on cool days and breezy summer nights.
If outdoor activities are what tickles a traveler’s fancy, the trout fishing in the city’s rivers, as they snake their way through its surrounding countryside, is elite and bountiful. Hiking, biking, skiing, rafting and even a ride on a zip line can all be found in Calgary, and Heritage Pointe Golf Club and McKenzie Meadows Golf Club are scenic and challenging tracks for golf enthusiasts.
In addition, the city that hosted the 1988 Olympic Winter Games is also home to the NHL’s Calgary Flames, Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders, a trio of national curling tournaments and the PGA Champions Tour’s Shaw Charity Classic, which provide a variety of spectator-friendly sporting events throughout the year. The Calgary Stampede, held every July, is the richest professional rodeo in Canada and provides a spectacular array of events and demonstrations that will keep attendees buzzing for days.
The famed rodeo and its surrounding events are just part of what makes Calgary such an appealing city to visit, and it’s not unheard of for visitors to decide they want to make it their full-time residence.
“I might be a little biased because I’m from Calgary, but if you want to raise a family, I don’t think there’s a better place in the world to raise one than Calgary,” says Keith Marrington, the Calgary Stampede’s director of Rodeo and Chuckwagons. “It’s a very Western progressive city, and there are many things to do for many types of people. Whatever your interests are, you can get it here.
“You can drive an hour from here and be in some of the most beautiful country in the world, and it’s tremendous.”
There are plenty of family friendly activities in Calgary, from a visit to the Calgary Zoo and the Calgary Corn Maze and Fun Farm to The New Science Centre and WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park. Throw in visits to the city’s numerous year-round festivals and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, the Aero Space Museum of Calgary or Calaway Park, and everyone in the family can find something tailored to their interests.
Fans of the theater – or theatre, as it’s spelled North of the border – the arts and opera can find events and shows at Theatre Calgary, the Alberta Ballet and Calgary Opera, just to name a few. Visits to the EPCOR Center for the Performing Arts, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Glenbow Museum or the Devonian Gardens can also satisfy one’s cultural cravings.
The city’s tourism board is quick to offer advice to anyone thinking about visiting Calgary.
“It’s a great time to visit Calgary and explore a unique cosmopolitan city set in the midst of breathtaking landscapes in every direction,” says Cindy Ady, Tourism Calgary Interim CEO. “Join us and revel in our festivals, dine in our renowned restaurants, cheer on the world’s best athletes, feel the thunder of the Stampede chuckwagons or be entranced by rhinos and Komodo dragons. It’s these moments and Calgary’s energy that will capture your imagination and leave lasting memories.”
She’s not wrong.
Charming and full of personality and diversity, the city is a hidden jewel in the Canadian plains that is well worth the trip. Friendly people dedicated to helping travelers enjoy a stay to remember is priority No. 1 for Calgary’s service industry, and one will leave there feeling tranquil and with a prime desire to return soon.
Simply put, Calgary is the total package when it comes to city life and culture. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in this Western Canadian city, you’re just not looking hard enough.