We’ve written a lot about Alberta’s beautiful Banff and Jasper National Parks on this site—like here and here—but not as much about its two major cities: Calgary, a place of friendly, outdoors-loving people, and Edmonton, the capital that’s always celebrating something. I’m due for visits to both, and in the spirit I’m putting together 24-hour guides to each.
First, here’s a quick guide to Calgary, a city I’ve explored before while attending the Calgary Stampede:
Start your day the Alberta way by getting outdoors. Take a stroll down the historic Stephen Avenue Walk, where you can grab a coffee and bite to eat at any of the many cafes and eateries. If you like, you can do some shopping while you’re at it.
Keep it moving
There’s plenty of sun in Calgary, and the temperature is perfect for walking from the late spring to the fall. So is the city. Calgary is home North America’s most extensive urban pathway system, which includes the Peace Bridge across the Bow River. Along the Bow River Pathway, you can spend some time exploring Kensington Village, “Calgary’s most pedestrian and bike friendly community.” More than 250 shops—like a much-loved smoothie and juice bar—will welcome you inside.
The art and science of the west
The Glenbow museum’s mission is “for more people to experience art and culture more often.” For $16 Canadian (about $12 US), you can explore what makes Alberta and the west tick through landscape art, Kaleidoscopic Animalia (though September 2016), and more. Lonely Planet calls it “the province’s best museum—hand’s down.”
If you prefer science over art, or want to double up on the brain stimulation, the TELUS Spark Science Centre ($19.95 Canadian or about $15 US) offers interactive brain games and live planetarium shows.
Taste a top-rated lunch, for less
On Centre Street in downtown Calgary, refuel at Charcut, one of Avenue’s best downtown restaurants. The “Lunch all at once” special combines greens, “daily rotisserie spit-roasted and smoked,” parmesan fries, warm cookies, and a cup of coffee for $25 Canadian (about $19 US). Better yet, you’re guaranteed to be in and out in 45 minutes.
The world’s highest 360º observation deck
More than 500 feet above the streets of Calgary is the rotating 360º observation deck of the Calgary Tower ($18 Canadian or about $14 US). Tours are free, as are the LED light displays, and the views are exceptional.
Meet the animals
More than 1,000 animals call the Calgary Zoo home, and you can see them all for $24.95 Canadian (about $19 US). See the new gorilla baby, but don’t miss the Canadian Wilds exhibit, which gets up close and personal with the bears, wolves, caribou, and the rest that make the Alberta environment so special.
Explore St. Patrick’s Island
Beside the up-and-coming East Village neighborhood and wedged into the Bow River is St. Patrick’s Island, one of Calgary’s oldest parks. A recent revamp completed in 2015 has left 31 acres of rolling, picturesque walks open—maybe for a sunset—to all who wander over.
Dinner and live music in Inglewood
Main Street in Inglewood is Calgary’s original downtown area. Today, it is an area bustling at night with people arriving to taste the next top restaurants. There are international favorites like Rouge and local favorites like Without Papers Pizza. Take your pick.
After dinner, explore the neighborhood’s riches of pubs, lounges and live music, a Calgary tradition. Head for one of the six big stages at Arts Commons, or search deeper for the next great sound along Inglewood’s Music Mile (9th Avenue SE from The Blues Can to Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre set to open this summer). Enjoy!
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