Last month I had the pleasure of visiting my friend for 5 days in Calgary, Alberta. Not only did I want to spend time with her but I also really wanted to check out the famous Calgary Stampede, “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. I had never been before, and since she offered her place to stay, I thought it was a perfect opportunity (Thanks, Darlene!!!!). This is a great tip for people who want to travel and save on accommodations – visit a tourist destination where you know someone.
I purposely flew in the same morning the Stampede started, departing around 8 am from Vancouver, BC. I would recommend an early morning flight to avoid the mid-day and evening rush. I always like flying to my destination early in the morning and leaving late on my departure date to maximize the length of my travel. I would also recommend flying vs. driving from Vancouver. The flights are not that expensive (mine was $300) and it’s a 2-hour flight vs. an 11-hour drive.
I stayed 5 days in Calgary and would recommend this length of stay to anyone. I had only ever visited Calgary once in the winter and due to the weather conditions, I did not sightsee. Honestly, it was too cold to even go outside lol so with that said, I would definitely recommend visiting in the summer. In the 5 days, I was there, I went to the Calgary Stampede where I attended the Rodeo, drove to Banff where I visited Lake Moraine and Lake Louise, shopped on 7th avenue and drank and ate my way around 17th avenue.
Below you’ll find my Calgary travel guide – recommendations and tips for your next visit to “Cowtown”.
Where to Eat/Drink
5 Avenue Place
Brunch: I would highly recommend Oeb breakfast co. It has a large menu with lots of different options to choose from. It took me about a half hour to decide what I finally wanted. I ordered the Upstream (see below) and it was delicious. Service was great and ambiance was lovely. It definitely isn’t a budget-friendly option but if you want to skip lunch, it’s definitely worth it. It’s chef-driven, locally owned and won Best Brunch by Where Magazine and Best of Calgary 2017 & 2018.
Upstream – Organic Spinach. Dill & Vermouth Cured Lox w/Avacado on a butter croissant, brown butter hollandaise, crisp potatoes and market fresh fruit.
1136 Kensington Road NW
Lunch: First off, I fell in love with the Kensington area. I would definitely recommend this area for food/ patio drinking. I ate at Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey and ordered the Brisket Sandwich with a Caravel – Hazy Hefeweizen. I don’t normally eat brisket but this sandwich was a 10/10 and the hef. was super refreshing – a perfect summer patio drink. We also had great service here. I feel like you have to eat BQQ when your in “Cowtown” and this place doesn’t disappoint.
Craft Beer: Caravel – Hazy Hefeweizen
Location: 17th Avenue
219 17th Avenue SW
Drinks: Mill St. BrewPub is the first pub stop on 17th avenue and it’s definitely not to be missed especially if you’re a fan of Mill Street brews. I thoroughly enjoyed a flight of delicious in-house craft beers on the patio (see below). The staff is friendly, great service received and a lovely ambiance.
728 17th Avenue SW
Lunch: Trolley 5
718 17th Avenue SW
Inside the adorable Market Restaurant
Where to Shop
Be sure to hit up 7th avenue where you’ll run into a pristine Holt Renfrew, a massive beautiful Simons and a lovely mall called the Core. When you’re in the Core, be sure to check out The Devonian Gardens. Unfortunately, when I went they were partially closed but a great place for a photo op and a lovely place to stay cool if it’s hot outside. Tip: Skip the downtown Hudson’s Bay and Nordstrom Rack which, are not worth your time.
If you’re staying outside the city, I would recommend visiting the Chinook Centre, which is the largest shopping mall in Calgary and has everything you need including a movie theatre.
Where to Visit
I’m so happy I can now check Calgary Stampede off my bucket list! I have to say it’s quite similar to the PNE in Vancouver or CNE in Toronto except with a lot of cowboys and cowgirls with horses and bulls. Tip: When planning your trip to the stampede, attend on a value day where admission is free during a period of time. Yes, the entrance lines are long but trust me they go fast.
Dress: Old Navy
Fanny Pack: Plum Clothing
I would definitely recommend purchasing tickets to the Stampede Rodeo. It’s an amazing show where all the action takes place. You’ll see barrel racing, novice bareback riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, junior steer riding, novice saddle bronc, saddle bronc, bull riding and bareback. I have to admit the tie-down roping and steer wrestling are hard to watch if your an animal advocate but the bull riding is fascinating. Tip: Grab seats that are on the shady side so you’re protected from the sun’s rays. It’s about a 3-hour show and it can get very hot! Good to know: if you purchase your ticket in advance, it includes admission to the Stampede Park on the day the ticket is valid for.
Banff (Lake Moraine and Lake Louise)
My friend and I drove from Calgary into Banff and I have to say it’s one of the most beautiful drives. The rocky mountains are breathtaking (see below). Living in Vancouver, I’m certainly used to being around mountains every day but these mountains look and feel different.
Our first stop was Lake Moraine and I was blown away by how beautiful and pristine the water and grounds are. After visiting Lake Louise, I would recommend spending more time at Lake Moraine. For one, it’s less busy, two, the water is nicer and three, you can be closer to the water while you walk/hike around the lake.
Top: J. Crew
Tip: Bring a sweater. It gets cooler as you’re closer to the mountains. This is something that I forgot and wished I hadn’t. Tip: If you can pack a lunch/picnic/cooler and bring it with you, I would definitely recommend doing that vs. spending astronomical food prices at either of the lakes. Tip: Try to avoid going on a weekend. We went on a Sunday and it was madness.
Good to know: There is a $9.80 per adult fee for entering Parks Canada when entering Banff National Park so factor this cost into your travel budget.
Overall, I was quite surprised by just how much I fell in love with this city. I’m a city girl but not a big city girl so Calgary was the perfect size for me (just like Vancouver is ;). I would 100% return to Calgary next summer to explore more of their restaurant and bar scene. Until next time Calgary!
If you’ve ever visited Calgary, let me know some of your trip highlights below.
Amy Johnston, xx