If you are heading to the Canadian Rockies, you might have heard of Calgary. In this post, we will uncover all of the fun things to do in Calgary Canada, that are worth a visit!
Calgary is one of the largest cities located in the province of Alberta. Although Banff National Park pulls thousands of tourists to Alberta, many touchdown Calgary and then head to the mountains. But we hope this post will inspire you to explore Calgary. Learn how to spend one day in Calgary itinerary
We live in Edmonton, and Calgary is just 3 hours away. And sometimes due to work or for pleasure we visit the city a few times a year (and we always stay in a hotel or Airbnb – so we will share our favorite picks too). We LOVE hanging out in Calgary downtown and the airport area. The city centre is just amazing, one of the coolest in the country.
What to do in Calgary: Attractions, tours and travel tips
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Planning your trip to Calgary: Arrival, best time to visit, accommodation & packing
Calgary is located in the western part of Canada, in the province of Alberta. Alberta’s capital is Edmonton and Calgary is the largest city.
Ways to arrive in Calgary Canada
DRIVE: Driving is our favorite way to travel to Calgary.
- Edmonton to Calgary: Edmonton to Calgary is 3 hours away, with Red Deer as the mid-stop. It is a straightforward drive (we have traveled for work, and back many times, and the roads are safe and well-maintained). Don’t forget to stop by the Donut Mill in Red Deer – their donuts are delicious!
- Vancouver to Calgary: If you drive non-stop from Vancouver to Calgary, it will take about 10 hours. You can stop in various small towns and the Rocky Mountains for a break or overnight stay. With that in mind, you can also drive from Seattle (USA) to Calgary on an epic road trip.
- The Sweetgrass / Coutts is the closest US border to Calgary.
- Calgary to Banff National Park: Banff to Calgary is just 1.50 hours away. Canmore (a town located 20 minutes before Banff) is about an hour away.
BUSES: Red Arrow Buses connect various towns and cities in Alberta. (also available at the airport)
FLY: Calgary International Airport (YYC) connects Calgary to overseas and domestic travelers. It is one of the finest airports, and home to Canadian carrier, WestJet. YYC/Calgary Airport is the closest airport to reach Banff.
Best time to visit Calgary Canada
Calgary is delightful at all times of the year. However, some of the outdoor activities (like wandering around, checking out living museums, eating out) are best explored in the warm summer months, which is from June to October.
During this time, you will see Downtown Calgary with pretty food trucks, local stalls, and you can also attend festivals (such as the Stampede, Canada Day celebrations). The weather is also great for biking and walking in various trails in Calgary.
Winters are great to visit Calgary for festive decorations, lights events and to explore indoor museums, libraries, and my favorite Calgary Tower – imagine snow dusted city center views from up above! Keep in mind, winters are cold – like COOLLLLD!!!
What to pack for Calgary for all seasons
Here are the items to carry to Calgary
- 2 – 4 Tops, shirts, blouses
- 1 – 2 pants, cargo
- 1 – 2 dresses, if you like
- 1 light jacket, cardigan (I am always cold so I need something in the evenings and early morning)
- Cosmetics – sunscreen, and moisturizer (skin gets really dry due to the winds)
- 1 Outerwear like this North Face Parka Jacket
- 1 winter boots
- 2 -3 warm socks
- Winter accessories: Warm beanie/torque, wool gloves, scarf
Accommodation in Calgary
We highly recommend staying in downtown or the airport area – we have stayed in various hotels and Airbnbs here and can recommend our top picks.
- Hampton Inn Calgary Airport: Our favorite hotel in Calgary airport. Its rooms are clean and big, and many suites have airport facing windows which we love. Parking, wifi, and breakfast are free. Check out room rates and availability here
- Sheraton Hotel Eau Claire: Located in downtown Calgary, and very close to the Eau Claire market is this 4+ star hotel. Sheraton hotel offers world-class suites (+ downtown views), which are roomy and luxurious. You do pay for parking though. Great location. Book your stay at Sheraton
- Fairmont Palliser Hotel: Vintage 5-star hotel, the Fairmont Palliser is guaranteed to give you a delightful and memorable stay. Dine at their Hawthorn dining room, and get pampered with their spa services. Amazing location (you can walk down to various attractions from here). Book your stay here
- Bright Airbnb: Spacious apartment for accommodation in Calgary, offered by an Airbnb Superhost. This bright and open concept flat is perfect for couples to stay. Check out photos, and availability here
How to get around Calgary?
Calgary has a well-connected and reliable public transportation network, including buses and light rail trains. There are free zones in the Calgary downtown area where you can ride the LRT to access the various landmarks.
- Fare for adults, starting at $3.50 CAD for one trip.
- Multi-day and monthly passes available for long term stay.
You can also easily rent a car, or use the airport shuttle to reach the city’s downtown core from the airport.
32+ Fun Things to do in Calgary Canada
Explore Stephen Avenue Walk in Downtown Calgary
One of the free things to do in Calgary is to visit the Stephen Avenue Walk. It is best explored in the summer months. You will love the liveliness here, with many boutique shops and cafes to hang out in.
During summers, there are free events, and local businesses showcase their produce. Take time to read various titbits of Western Canada’s history, and take stunning photos of this touristy boulevard.
Eat from a food truck in Calgary
A delightful thing to do in Calgary in the summer time is to pig out (or try out) delicacies from local food trucks. We have tried this in the downtown area (of course it’s our favorite), and LOVE it. Our favorites include – Alberta Steak bites, crab cakes, pita bites, lemonades, and berry pies (Alberta’s culinary scene is mindblowing!)
Find Instagrammable art for photos in Downtown Calgary
As you wander away from the Stephen Avenue Walk, you will find tons of cute-sy art on the wall, or streets. Capture them, and post them on Instagram!
See they are super FUN!
Visit Glenbow Museum
The Glenbow Museum is located in downtown and is home to history, art, and archives of Calgary’s past. This museum is all of 93,000 square feet, and it can easily take you 2 to 3 hours to completely explore the exhibits.
Take your time to check out the various art work, sculptures and other items from various parts of the world, including life in Western Canada. Entry fee is $10 CAD for adults.
Calgary Central Library: Free things to do in Calgary
Completely free, and stunningly beautiful is the Central Library in Calgary. The building was recently renovated, and is larger than its predecessor. The Library is an architectural gem, and is worthy of stopping by to explore.
You can sign up for a Calgary Library Card (for free), if you wish to read books and/or are staying long term in the city. The building is easily accessible by car or LRT transit.
Check out the Wonderland Sculpture
Wonderland Sculpture was designed by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, and it is one of the most popular Instagrammable spots in the city. You can easily locate it right in front of the Bow Building.
It is free to explore. The metal sculpture is that of a young girl’s head, and you can enter the head. Please do not climb on the structure.
Soak in views from Calgary Tower
Calgary Tower is one of the iconic landmarks of the city. It is located in the heart of the downtown area. All of 190.8-meter high, this freestanding observation tower will welcome you to amazing views of the city.
For an entry fee of $18 CAD, you can head to the observation tower, which has a glass floor and capture the beauty of Calgary. You will be able to check out the following from up there – Calgary Saddledome, South Saskatchewan River, and various downtown skyscrapers.
Don’t forget to stop by the souvenir store located on the ground floor of the Calgary tower.
Celebrate in style at the Sky 360
Sky 360 is a restaurant located inside the Calgary tower. The ride to the restaurant/observation tower is included with your reservation. The coolest part of the Sky360 restaurant is that it provides you with a full view of the city and it revolves once every 45 minutes during lunchtime and once per hour during dinner service. Head there for dinner to take into illuminating lights!
Explore Fort Calgary Heritage Site
Fort Calgary Park is a historic site, located very close to the downtown core. This site was built by the North West Mounted Police in 1875. Today when you visit the site, you will find a wooden fort, and there are various exhibits that speak volume of the events and occurrences of that period.
The admission fee to the site is $12 CAD for adults, and you can take a self-guided tour of the fort. Set aside 2-3 hours to learn about Calgary’s history and to explore rooms that display heritage items from the bygone days.
Walk Across the Peace Bridge
The beautiful red and white (trap like) bridge in Calgary is a delightful spot to enjoy a walk or a bike ride across the Bow River. The Peace Bridge is built over the Bow River, and was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
This bridge is a recent addition to the downtown Calgary core, it officially opened in 2012. Use the Peace Bridge to connect to the downtown core, and make your way to the Eau Claire Park and market from here.
Go on a Segway or Bike tour of the River Valley
The RiverWalk is a stretch of route that follows along the Bow River in downtown Calgary. The Calgary Pathway system is about 4 kilometres in length, and is perfect for a walk or cycling in the summer.
When tired with all the walking, stop by one of these landmarks St Patrick’s Island, Eau Claire Market, Prince’s Island Park, National Music Centre, ChinaTown, to name a few.
Visit Prince Island Park
Prince’s Island Park is a sprawling urban park located in Downtown Calgary. Many of the seasonal festivals take place here, including Canada Day celebrations. The area was developed as an island on the Bow River, and there are tons of walking trails, places to sit, and beautiful greenery to enjoy and cool off on a hot summer day.
It is completely free to enter the Park.
Hang out at Calgary ChinaTown
Calgary Chinatown is not super huge like the one in Vancouver but is worth strolling by or stopping at a restaurant for meals. But the Chinese Cultural Centre is an amazing landmark to visit. It is known to be the largest facility in North America for its traditional decor.
Chinatown is located northeast area of Downtown Calgary immediately west of the Downtown East Village.
Shop at the CORE Shopping Mall + Devonian Gardens
CORE is an indoor shopping mall in the downtown area. There are other malls in the city, if you are looking for retail therapy. My favorite is the Chinook Mall, and a little outside of Calgary is the Cross Iron Outlet Mall.
Why CORE is worthy of your time, if not shopping, is their beautiful (indoor) Devonian Gardens. The gardens are located in the same building as the shopping mall, and is a nice oasis with water fountains, and many varieties of plants.
They have designated areas for kids to play, and dining areas.
Catch a game or concert at the Calgary Saddledome
Scotiabank Saddledome is an indoor stadium and multi-use arena (for events and concerts). It was originally built to replace the Stampede Corral (home of Calgary Flames – hockey league). And later also hosted the ice hockey and figure skating events during the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Head there to catch a game or concert (tickets available at Ticketmaster.ca). You can explore the Saddledome without attending an event too, they have smaller museums, and exhibits in the complex that you can access with a nominal fee. We totally geeked out at their Grain Museum, it was super cool!
Dine or enjoy afternoon tea at the Fairmont Palliser
Enjoy a fancy high tea at the Fairmont Palliser in the afternoon, located in Downtown Calgary.
Heritage Park Historical Village Calgary
Calgary’s Heritage Village Park is a living museum, where you can spend an entire summer day with family. The Heritage Park portrays the lives and times during fur trade years to the early 20th century.
There are many attractions located inside the park to suit every traveler style. You can enjoy a steam train, antique midway rides, eat your heart out or just sit back and relax at the lovely vintage village.
Here you can photograph the beautifully preserved heritage buildings. Being a living museum, you can meet and greet with people from the 17th-18th centuries (employees and volunteers dressed up in period costumes)!
If you are heading there for a brief period, don’t forget to stop by the Gasoline Alley Museum. It is a popular attraction, with a cool display of pre-1950s cars, automobile related exhibits, old-timey gas pumps & vintage signage. It is open all year round.
Admission tickets are $26.95 CAD for adult entry for a day. You can save by purchasing an annual pass. Family passes are also available.
Head to World Bier Haus Restaurant for drinks
If you love beer, you must visit World Bier Haus Restaurant. They have a variety of beer on their menu. This is perfect for summer trips, as you can hang out at outdoor cafes and patio dining restaurants.
More dining options: Downtown, Eastside Village and Inglewood also have breweries and cocktail bars to choose from!
Hit Studio Bell
Studio Bell is home to the National Music Centre. If you are a music enthusiast, you will find this tourist attraction super interesting. Studio Bell has many exhibits on Canadian musical history, with many hands-on instrument areas.
Entry fee is $12 CAD for adults. Learn about their admission hours, and concerts here.
Visit Calgary Zoo
Calgary Zoo is one of the premier zoos in Canada. The zoo allows animals to move about freely, as they would in a natural setting as its complex is very spread out. Learn more about the ethical caring of animals at the Calgary Zoo.
If you are traveling with kids, you must visit here. From gorillas, lemurs, penguins and leopard tortoise – you can easily spend an entire day here. The delight of the zoo is their dino section, which showcases the evaluation and history of the dinosaurs.
Entry fee for adults is $24 CAD, you can also purchase a group pass or an annual pass to save money. The Zoo is easily accessible by Calgary Transit Center, plus tons of parking space is available for visitors.
Visit Spruce Meadows
Spruce Meadows, a multi-purpose sports facility is home to equestrian shows. Family owned, and a sprawling 505 acres complex is mind blowing. The facility is also the home venue of Cavalry FC.
Learn about the 1988 Olympics Event in Calgary
Calgary was home to the 1988 Winter Olympics. The facility is open all year round. During summers, take a self guided tour of the complex, and learn about this historic sporting event.
Want to do some outdoorsy stuff? Winsport Calgary Olympics is open for downhill karting, summer bobsleigh, mini golf, ziplining and more. Private lessons are available for mountain biking too.
Things to do in Calgary in Winter
Winter Sports at Olympic Park
WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park is an amazing winter stop. From public skating rinks, to skiing, and snowboarding, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. If you are a beginner level skier, you can enrol yourself in courses at the Winsport Institute.
Ice Caves at Fish Creek Provincial Park
Fish Creek Provincial Park is an all year nature park destination, located close to the city of Calgary. During summers, you can spend a day hiking, enjoying a picnic, birdwatching or strolling at their many walking paths. The park is free to enter and explore (except for the Sikome Lake beach area).
This provincial park is amazing in the winters, due to the ice caves and falls. You can also go snowshoeing and embark on winter hikes. The Winter Carnival festival takes place here!
Festivals: Calgary Attractions
Calgary is home to many festivals. Here are some of our top picks for your trip. Note these events are held annually (period selected is from May to September). For more seasonal events, click here
Calgary International Beerfest
Canada’s largest beer festival is the Calgary International Beerfest that brings forward over 700 beers, with seminars, and live entertainment. This event takes place in May (first weekend).
Canada Day Celebrations
Canada Day is celebrated on July 1, every year. From the Prince’s Island Park to the Fireworks at the Centre Street Bridge, enjoy your day in the city celebrating the spirit of Canada!
Calgary Stampede is what pulls a lot of tourists to the city. Home to the world’s largest and richest rodeo show, with many thrilling chuckwagon races, midway rides and games, Calgary Stampede is a 10 day long event that happens right after Canada Day.
You can learn about the First Nations culture, including many agriculture showcases, and live music festivals. It is called, ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, for a reason!
Calgary Folk Music Festival
Calgary Folk Music Festival is a popular music festival that takes place on Prince’s Island Park. It truly brings music and festivity in the air, as you camp outside and listen to artists! This event takes place in the last weekend of July.
Chasing Summer is an outdoor (electronic) music festival, where DJs play beats for 2 days in the city. Event takes place on the August Long Weekend.
Taste of Calgary
Food festivals are always fun. And at the Taste of Calgary, you can explore the rich culinary scene of the city. Event takes place on the second weekend in August.
Circle Carnival is a travelling food, beer, and music carnival that takes place in mid-September every year, in a new venue.
Calgary International Film Festival
The Calgary International Film Festival is held every year at the end of September. This event showcases over 200 films on the big screen including movie screenings, and red carpet premieres.
What next after Calgary? Day trips from Calgary
Here are many places you can visit on a day trip from Calgary to extend your stay in the city.
- Canmore: Located only an hour away from Calgary is Canmore. Perfect for a relaxing day trip, close to the city.
- Kanaskasis: You can add a day trip to chill at the Nordic Spa in Kananaskis.
- Banff National Park & Lake Louise: Banff is located just 1.50 hours away from Calgary. You can explore the Banff town, and maybe add the Sulphur Gondola, Bow Falls, and the Cascade Gardens to your day trip itinerary.
- Lake Louise is located 2 hours away from Calgary and can be explored as a day trip if you are just including sightsee at the lake and the heritage hotel (no day-long hikes).
- Drumheller: Drumheller to Calgary is about 1.50 hours away. Visit to check out the “World’s Largest Dinosaur” and the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Or hike at the Midland Provincial Park. Located in the town are the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site and the Hoodoos!
- Abraham Lake: Abraham Lake is an artificial/man-made lake, located about 3.50 hours away from Calgary. This is a winter trip inspiration, as you can view the famous ice bubbles from deep underwater here.
Should you visit Calgary Alberta?
So that’s a wrap. Calgary is a wonderful city in the Prairies in western Canada. You will be delighted with the culinary scene, heritage sites, and quick access to the mountains from the city. We highly recommend putting Calgary on your next Canada trip.
We hope you enjoyed this list of tourist attractions to check out in Calgary!
More posts on Alberta
- Towns in Alberta: Prettiest small towns in Alberta
- Lake Louise: Visiting Lake Louise in winter
- Banff: Christmas in Banff
- Banff Hikes: Epic hikes in Banff National Park
- Banff Airbnbs: Best Airbnbs in Banff
- Bragg Creek: Things to do in Bragg Creek
- Canadian Rockies: Canadian Rockies Road Trip Guide