Calgary beyond the Stampede
Just mention Calgary and one word seems to come to mind: The Stampede. Certainly the annual rodeo is an event not to be missed, but don’t let that overshadow this city’s many attractions. Here are some you won’t want to pass by.
Situated on 66 picturesque acres, the Heritage Park Historic Village invites you to step back and experience Western Canada 1864-1914 — a period you won’t want to miss, since it gives the flavour of the spirit of settlement that makes Alberta so unique. It’s not just buildings and placards, either — the “character interpreters” that work in the park do their best to bring a sense of the people themselves. A steam train, blacksmith, paddlewheeler, and events such as a fall fair are sure to entertain.
For a different look at the Canadian pioneer spirit, stop by the Aero Space Museum. Founded in 1975 by former WWII pilots and aviation enthusiasts, the Aero Space Museum preserves and promotes the stories of people who contributed to the aviation and space industry in Western Canada. It’s also not far from the airport, so if you’re looking for something to do before a flight, drop by.
The Calgary Zoo is of course a must — a world-class zoo and botanical gardens, this attraction holds its own against most North American parks of its kind. The Calgary Zoo is also unique in that it offers a prehistoric park, celebrating the rich fossil heritage of the area and around the world.
Fish Creek Provincial Park is one of the largest, if not the largest, parks within an urban centre in Canada. It contains many ecosystems for the visitor to explore, including white spruce forest, aspen parkland, aquatic areas and grasslands. Archaeological data proves the Fish Creek Valley has been used extensively by humans for over 8000 years — so be one of the next people to enjoy it and stop by.
And if you have a naturalist leaning, be sure to visit the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, a 32-hectare wildlife reserve offering more than two kilometres of level walking trails throughout the riverine forest, by the flowing river and alongside a peaceful lagoon. More than 250 species of birds have been observed in the area.
Of course if you’re in the mood for a bit more excitement and a little less parkland, try Calaway Park — the largest family amusement park in Western Canada. The park spans 160 acres and has 30 rides, as well as shows and of course, plenty of cotton candy.
Another source for rides, as well as a celebration of sports in Canada, is Canada Olympic Park. The most visible legacy of the 1988 Games to visitors and Calgarians alike, it is situated 15 minutes from downtown Calgary, at the gateway to the magnificent Rocky Mountains. The best part — it continues to function as a multi-purpose competition, training and recreation area designed for year-round use by both athletes and the general public. In the summer bike trails are especially popular.
If you have shopping in mind, there’s a premiere destination in this booming town — the “Uptown 17th” — a street full of chic boutiques and world-class restaurants. Don’t forget your credit card!