What to do in Calgary

Calgary is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies, located in Alberta, and called “the Heart of the New West” in Canada.  Before you head north to the Rockies, spend at least 24 hours in Calgary and explore the city streets, river walks, islands, restaurants – see our recommendations of what to do in Calgary below.

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Where to Sleep!

  • Westin Calgary: – best “heavenly” beds and centrally located downtown.
  • Hotel Arts: heard this boutique hotel is stylish and very chic.

Where to Eat!

  • River Café: a lovely restaurant in Calgary located on Prince’s Island Park – just a few minutes stroll from downtown. We dined outdoors on the terrace and enjoyed the summer evening and delicious seafood & game. I savored the seared pacific sablefish with snow peas, fava beans and nasturtium puree, mixed with Saskatchewan chanterelles and cilantro salsa verde – divine!  I managed to barter a few bites of my friend’s seared hog wild boar jowl too. The huckleberry wild rice pudding for dessert was the exclamation point to this meal – fabulous! This restaurant is open year-round and many locals celebrate special occasions here.  We heard this café is a wonderland during the winter months and worth the brisk walk over the island bridge, to get to the restaurant’s warm fireplace, and cozy interior, not to mention the meal!  www.River-Cafe.com

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  • Blink: located on the popular pedestrian walkway “Stephen Ave. Walk” – elegantly prepared dishes with fresh produce are presented.  I had some of the freshest buffalo mozzarella dressed with lemon zest.  On our next trip, I hope to have dinner here!  Manager Nick Hewton opens Blink’s doors with a warm welcome. www.BlinkCalgary.com

what to do in calgary

  • Model Milk: The “House Lord” Joe Dort is the mastermind behind this old 1930’s dairy facility makeover, that is now one of Calgary’s most popular restaurants located on 17th Ave. SW. I sampled fresh albacore tuna crudo with BC heirloom tomatoes tossed with basil, and topped with a wafer thin black squid cracker.   Another restaurant we hope to return to for the full dining experience.  www.ModelMilk.ca

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  • Ox and Angela: Heard this restaurant is fabulous – great Spanish tapas! www.oxandangela.com
  • Best Coffee:  It’s a tie between Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar, on 10th St. SE in the trendy Inglewood neighborhood, and Analog Coffee  on 17th Ave. SW.

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How to get around Calgary? Walk!

One of the best ways to get to know a city is to walk it!  If you want to follow in our footsteps, here’s our walking route for Calgary.  From the Westin Hotel on 4th Ave. SW, head north to…

  • Prince Island Park. Cars aren’t able to access the island park, and many locals visit the island since it’s close to the city and very accessible.
  • RiverWalk: then go east on the Riverfront walkway and stop in Chinatown (1 block south) to visit the Chinese Cultural Center.  Step into the center and gaze up at the beautiful ceiling interior!  Then, head towards the Inglewood neighborhood.  Along the riverwalk, you’ll see some amazing bridge graffiti with imagery of Calgary’s history and community spirit.  As you pass the East Village area, you’ll notice the new development in the city, and find the pedestrian bridges across the Bow River easy to access. New seedlings are being planted along the Riverwalk where the Bow River meets the Elbow River to enhance the beauty of this area.

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  • Inglewood Neighborhood: you’ll find shops, cafes, restaurants like Rouge, pizza joints like Without Paper, and an excellent coffee shop & wine bar – Gravity. Stop by our favorite grocery store “Bite” if you need a bottle of water, picnic lunch.

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  • Fort Calgary, Canadian Pacific Railway & Calgary Stampede: Head west on 9th Ave. SE, and you’ll pass Fort Calgary on your right side, and Calgary Stampede is further south if you want to visit the saddledome & park/corral.
  • Downtown Calgary – Stephen’s Ave. Pedestrian Walkway: From 9th Ave. SE, head a block north and you’ll pass City Hall, and enter into Olympic Plaza. Follow Stephen’s Ave, stop at the Glenbow Museum if you have time, or visit the Calgary Tower at Centre St. and 9th Ave. SE.

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  • Stephen’s Ave – Pedestrian Walkway: you’ll find several shops, cafes and pedestrians here. Stop in for a lunch at Blink if you have an hour to spare. Visit the Devonian Tower Gardens on the top floor of the Holt Renfrew shopping mall!

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  • Peace Bridge – a MUST!  Built in 2012, the futuristic Peace Bridge crosses over the Bow River leading to Calgary downtown.  Architect Calatrava is behind this red steel double helix award winning design.  Quite a site day or night!

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On this walk, we discovered streets, buildings, parks, stores, historic monuments, cafes, and found Calgary to be a vibrant city.

If you’re planning to visit Banff National Park, click here to read about our highlights & recommendations!

Written by:  Patricia Stone, a travel writer & consultant A

Travel Acknowledgements:

We would like to thank the River Café for hosting us for our delicious dinner!

Travel Resources:

Calgary Tourism Site:  http://www.visitcalgary.com/ Calgary has 1 million residents and its primary industry is oil and gas.

DK Eyewitness Travel – Guide Book:  Canada We also would like to thank DK Eyewitness Travel for helping us to plan our trip with the Canada book – 920 photographs, 114 detailed maps & 45 illustrations!

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