Don your cowboy hat and saddle up to discover Calgary, the gateway to the Rockies and home to the annual rodeo extravaganza of the Stampede. Learn about life as a pioneer, ride the Olympic bobsleigh, sample the excellent craft beers, visit the Mounties and enjoy the views from Calgary Tower in this young and flourishing city.
Alberta’s largest city, Calgary is a great combination of understated charm and urban cool, with some of the friendliest and most generous people in the country. If you happen to visit during July, do ensure you check out the city’s world-famous Stampede, a 10-day state fair and rodeo, which is one of Canada’s largest parties and known as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. Soak up the West Canadian culture watching rodeo stars and chuck-wagon racing, enjoy the cowboy nightlife, the fairground rides and musical entertainment, while snacking on Squid-on-a-Stick and Prairie Oyster Balls.
But even if you’re not there in July, Calgary has much to offer including the Olympic Park, a legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics. Along with skiing, snowboarding and skating, you can ride North America’s fastest zip-line. Launching from the former ski-jump tower, riders reach speeds of up to 140- kilometres an hour. Even more thrilling is the chance to ride the bobsleigh along the track used to film the story of the Jamaican bobsleigh team, ‘Cool Runnings.’ The sleigh is driven by a professional driver, while you cling on to experience the thrill of travelling at 100-kilometres an hour in summer, rising to 120-kilometres an hour on the winter ice.
Calgary is divided north and south by the Bow River and a trip to the observation deck of Calgary Tower is a great place to get orientated and take in the magnificent views of the Rockies. For those interested in the cultural history of the area, the Heritage Park is a living history museum of homes and businesses from the 1860s to the 1950s. There is also a Ferris wheel, paddle-steamer and steam train rides at the site. For learning more about West Canadian life before those times, head to the Glenbow, a museum and art gallery, where you can learn the story of the Aboriginal people and see an excellent collection of artefacts, clothing and artworks.
Another highlight is a visit to Fort Calgary, the birthplace of the city, built at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in 1875 by the North West Mounted Police, affectionately known as the Mounties. Explore Calgary’s history, see the reconstructed 1888 Barracks, do some ‘jail time’ and discover more about the Mounties and their distinctive red uniforms.
Dinosaur lovers will also want to make the journey 90-minutes northeast of Calgary to the dinosaur capital of the world, Drumheller to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum to discover the largest collection of dinosaur fossils and skeletons in the world. Slightly further away near the town of Patricia, the UNESCO-listed Dinosaur Provincial Park is also worth a visit. The striking scenery and prehistoric wonders of this region has given it the name of the Canadian Badlands and it makes a great road trip. Badlands scenery is characterised by dry terrain, where soft rocks and soil is eroded by wind and water creating steep slopes, canyons, ravines and the distinctive rock formations known as hoodoos, that are found in this area.