Canada’s third largest city, Calgary, was founded as a military outpost and was also one of the most important oil capitals and financial centers of North America. Nevertheless, it is still known today by its historical nickname, Cowtown, a clear indication of the long history of cattle breeding, a nickname that its residents have always appreciated, proud of their belonging. Every July, Calgary Stamped takes place, one of the events that cannot be missed, which recalls the city’s past, a rodeo, and a festival recommended for families.
Against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, Calgary manages to charm just by looking at them. The contrast between the concrete and steel skyline is perfectly matched between mountains, cowboys, cattle, and oil, the keywords that have always identified the largest city in Alberta. Nevertheless, it is the Rocky Mountains that become the main characters of the city’s nature, an ideal place to explore in winter thanks to the ski slopes and summer with national parks. It’s especially fun at night to stroll through the huge city park of Prince Island and cross the famous Peace Bridge, before or after visiting a great restaurant in the city center.
We just need to start discovering what can be seen in Calgary, Alberta.
The city of Calgary was founded as an outpost of the Mounted Police, and its first name was Fort Brisebois, which later eventually transformed into Fort Calgary. Its location was strategically important, right at the intersection of the Bow and Elbow rivers. It became a city in 1884, almost a small village, but soon began to receive new residents thanks to the Canadian Pacific Railway, which connected Calgary with the rest of Canada. Just 18 years later, the Calgary Stampede was organized, the aforementioned event dedicated to the historical beginning of the city, complemented by rodeos and festivals.
Its transformation into an oil city made it one of the most desirable places for many in search of luck and a certain and guaranteed job, which made it one of the Canadian destinations with the fastest development in the 1950s. The founding of the University of Calgary in 1966 gave a new impetus, and in 1988 it was chosen as the venue for the Winter Olympic Games. Today, Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and is located at an altitude of 1,048 meters less than 50 miles east of the Rocky Mountains.
What to see in Calgary
Let’s start figuring out what to see in Calgary from Downtown, the historic center of the city. The city is almost surrounded by the Onion and Elbow Rivers with its trails, which attract cyclists seeking to cross the banks on bike paths, and many pedestrians ready to admire every detail of the city.
Downtown Calgary attracts with its many attractions, including the National Music Center and the Glenbow Museum. Historic buildings, such as the Old Town Hall or the Calgary Tower, instead resemble history.
When to visit Calgary
Calgary, like the entire province of Alberta, is characterized by a continental-type climate, with harsh winters and mild summers. In winter, the temperature in Calgary can reach -10 degrees at night, the climate is suitable only for those who want to discover the ski slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The result is a particularly cold winter, and in the period from January to April it also rains often, on average one day out of four is rainy or snowy. Therefore, the recommended period for visiting Calgary is from May to September. May is ideal, as rains are almost completely absent, and the temperature is kept, as a maximum, around 26C. June, on the other hand, is the wettest month of the year, averaging about half of the days with rain. July and August are the hottest months and correspond to the high season. The climate remains quite dry, without much precipitation.
It is also better to avoid the off-season, the most unstable from a meteorological point of view. October is considered the second wettest month of the year after June, and November is often cold. February and March are characterized by a small number of sunny days and days with frequent heavy rains.
One of the symbols of the city is the Calgary Tower, built in 1968 in the city center as a joint venture between Husky Oil and Marathon Realty Company Limited. It was originally called the Husky Tower and with a height of more than 190 meters is the highest viewpoint in the city and one of the first attractions of Calgary.
If dizziness does not bother you, from the top of the tower you can enjoy the most beautiful view of the city and experience the thrill of walking in the void, walking on the glass floor. Today, height has become almost irrelevant, given the presence of numerous skyscrapers, but this is one of the elements that gave rise to the Calgary skyline.
Having returned to the ground with our feet, we are waiting for another building in the center of Calgary, the Glenbow Museum. We are located opposite the main Art Museum of Canada, where you can learn about the history of the province of Alberta and see temporary sculpture exhibitions. Inside we find more than 20 galleries, which store more than 1 million exhibits.
One of the most interesting halls of the museum is the Nitsitapiinni Gallery, where you can learn about the history of the native Indians of the Blackfeet, through 96 feathers of their headdress and a large wigwam. You will find it on the third floor dedicated to various personalities. On the second floor, the visit continues with the art of Canada since 1800, among other things, with more than 80 sculptures that recall Asian artistic traditions. The top floor, the fourth, is dedicated to mineralogy, with important collections of phosphorescent minerals and precious stones.
Stephen Avenue Walk
The beating heart of Calgary is Stephen Avenue, a fully pedestrian street in the heart of Downtown, open to authorized vehicle traffic only in the evening. A good part of this street is occupied by an open-air shopping center, where you will find the best restaurants, cafes, pubs, and bars. Stephen Avenue also has a large convention center and the Telus Convention Center, where many events take place.
We are leaving the center of Calgary, which still has something to show us, for a break in the city parks. The whole of Canada has a generous and beloved nature, which is worthily revered in every corner of the country. In particular, there are several landscaped green areas in Calgary, so everyone can use them in different ways.
Heritage Park is a historical park that should undoubtedly be included among the attractions of Calgary. This is a reconstruction of the village of the early nineteenth century, built on the shore of an artificial reservoir. The park includes 150 buildings and is dotted with steam locomotives, horse-drawn carts, and actors in vintage costumes.
A very attractive attraction, especially for the youngest, is the Calgary Zoo on the island of San Giorgio. We are located in one of the best-equipped zoos in the world, where more than 7000 animals are housed in various places corresponding to their natural habitat.
East of downtown is Fort Calgary, a 16-acre park that is a reconstruction of a fort built by the Mounted Police in 1876. At Forte, you live in contact with nature, as well as with history through exhibitions and excursions.
There are many museums worth visiting in Calgary, and a few days is certainly not enough to enjoy the cultural spaces. That’s why we chose two of the most interesting museums to visit, to which we added an interesting Music Museum. In this space, outside of which you will be able to appreciate modern and extravagant architecture, we find more than 450 years of history with more than 2,000 artifacts. If you know how to play any instrument inside, you have the opportunity to try more than 200 historical instruments, fully functional. An indispensable thing for fans of the genre.
Royal Tyrrell Museum
Even though it is far from Calgary, it is worth taking a tour to visit the Royal Tyrell Museum, a museum, and an important paleontological research center. The museum is dedicated to geologist J. B. Tyrrell, the protagonist of the discovery of the original remains of Albertosaurus in 1884. Its opening took place in 1985, and five years later it was recognized as the Royal Museum.
Don’t miss the Dinosaur Hall, where there are 40 dinosaur skeletons, including plesiosaurus, triceratops, ankylosaurus, and mosasaurs, a large 15-meter lizard. It is interesting to see a Triassic giant, a giant of the Triassic period, a 21-meter fossil representing shastasaurus, the largest known marine reptile. The museum has an area of 11,000 square meters, almost a third of which is devoted to the exposition of the history of life on Earth. It is located near Drumheller, about 135 km northeast of Calgary, from where a direct connection is planned.
Another cultural highlight is the Military Museums located in the Harrison Woods area, about 15 minutes by car from the center. As soon as you cross the threshold of the entrance, you will be blinded by the Fresco of Honor from a height of 3.6 meters. In front of us is a huge mosaic depicting different scenes of historical and recent conflicts. In general, this is a great work, which tells about the purpose of the museum — to pay tribute to the Navy, army, and air force.
At the Alberta Army Museum, we find memorabilia and uniforms that tell a story from 1885 to the present day. In the gallery dedicated to the Naval Museum, you can admire the rare Banshee naval jet fighter and board a ship from the Second World War. In the Museum of Aeronautics, we will find the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force, from the dawn of the first flight to the present day. Part of the aircraft of the Red Baron and several squadrons of Canadian bombers are on display.
Olympic Park of Canada
The national sport here is ice hockey, and the city has the Scotiabank Saddledome, a place where a local team plays, with an impressive and mesmerizing charm. Among the things worth seeing in Calgary is the Canadian Olympic Park, located near the city.
If you find yourself here in winter, when the streets are completely white, it’s time to go skiing, snowboarding, bobsleigh, hockey, and ice skating. Here, in addition to entertainment, you can admire the training of national athletes. If, on the other hand, your skills are poor, you can also use one of the many lessons, some of which are free, to learn one of the classes. The park offers many pieces of training and activities for children. You can climb the cliff in complete safety, go ice skating or just learn how to play hockey. In summer, the park remains open with other attractions, some of which are closed, such as the inevitable hockey.