14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Calgary
Particularly on days when a chinook, a warm winter wind, blows over Calgary, the Rocky Mountains on the western horizon appear like an insurmountable barrier rising up from the plain. The proximity of these mountains, with their well-known national parks, makes Calgary an excellent choice for a skiing, hiking, or sightseeing vacation. But for those who are looking for fun and entertainment right in the city, there is plenty to do and see. From the world famous Calgary Stampede held in July to the spectacular view from the Calgary Tower, the city does not disappoint.
See also: Where to Stay in Calgary
1 Calgary Stampede
The ten-day Calgary Stampede is the highlight of Calgary's summer, cementing the Alberta city's reputation as a "cowboy town". This famous rodeo, held in July, includes all kinds of cowboy-style entertainment and pancake breakfasts. The population dresses accordingly, and blue jeans and brightly colored Stetsons become the order of the day. Events include rodeo competitions, neck-breaking chuck wagon races, an authentic First Nations village, as well as agricultural shows.
Address: 1410 Olympic Way SE, Calgary
2 Rocky Mountaineer Rail Journey
The luxuriously appointed, privately owned "Rocky Mountaineer" runs between Calgary (or Jasper) and Vancouver, cutting westward on the historic Canadian Pacific line through the soaring mountain wall of the Rockies. At Canmore, providing the weather is good, there is a fine view of the snow-capped "Three Sisters." Soon afterwards, the popular winter resort of Banff is reached. Other highlights on this mountainous section (where peaks top 3,600 meters) include Lake Louise, Kicking Horse Pass, and Rogers Pass.
3 Calgary Zoo and Prehistoric Park
Founded in 1912, the Calgary Zoo sits on St. George's Island in the Bow River. The zoo is home to many examples of rare and threatened species of animals, as well as botanical gardens. Spring is always a fun time at the zoo with the arrival of newborn animals.
Address: 1300 Zoo Road NE, Calgary
4 Heritage Park
Heritage Park in Calgary is a typical village from the pioneering period, with dozens of reconstructed historical buildings and lively costumed interpreters from four different time periods - ranging from an 1860 fur-trading fort to a 1930s town square. An old steam engine provides transport at the park, and the Gasoline Alley museum offers a hands-on, interactive experience with one-of-a-kind vintage vehicles. The village is located near Glenmore Reservoir, which is popular with sailing, canoeing, and rowing enthusiasts.
Address: 1900 Heritage Drive SW, Calgary
5 Canada Olympic Park
In the foothills of the mountains to the west of the city, rise the strange-looking towers of Calgary Olympic Park. In 1988, this was the primary site for the XV Olympic Winter Games. Today, the hill is still open to skiing and snowboarding, and there are opportunities to bob sled, zip-line, toboggan, and mountain bike. Guided Ski Jump Tower Tours give a panoramic view of the Calgary skyline from the top of the ski-jump slope. Canada's Sports Hall of Fame is located in the park as well.
Address: 88 Canada Olympic Road SW, Calgary
6 Editor's Pick Prince's Island Park
Prince's Island Park is a large green space in downtown Calgary, set on an island in the Bow River. The park is adjacent to Eau Claire Market, and many tourists make a joint visit to these two attractions. The park offers walking and biking areas, as well as outdoor concerts and plays during the summer months.
Address: 698 Eau Claire Ave SW, Calgary
7 Calgary Tower
At the top of the Calgary Tower, a viewing platform and revolving restaurant put sightseers 191 meters high in one of the city's landmark buildings. Until 1984, the tower was the tallest in the city. Though it no longer holds that title, there are still excellent views out over the city and beyond to the mountains. It is particularly beautiful at sunset or dusk. In 1988, the tower's giant torch bore witness to the spirit of the Olympics.
Address: 101 9 Ave SW, Calgary
8 Fish Creek Provincial Park
Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary's far south is a huge green space where walking trails lead through forest areas and along the creek. Fish Creek Park is a natural area, and perfect for people looking for a taste of nature. There are also a number of heritage buildings within the park.
Address: 15979 Bow Bottom Trail SE, Calgary
9 Aero Space Museum of Calgary
The Aero Space Museum focuses on the history of Canadian aviation and Western Canada in particular. Canadian pilots who fought in WWII started the museum, which has grown to exhibit a variety of aircraft, simulators, aviation art prints, radio equipment, and information on aviation history. The museum is located in a large building near the Calgary Airport.
Address: 4629 McCall Way NE, Calgary
10 Fort Calgary
The first outpost of the North West Mounted Police, Fort Calgary was set up in 1875 at the confluence of the Elbow and Bow Rivers. The foundations of the original fort can still be seen, and the Calgary Fort Museum helps interpret the founding of the city. On the other side of the bridge stands Deane House, built in 1906 for the fort commandant. Also on site is a gift shop, which sells souvenirs and RCMP collectibles.
Address: 750 9th Ave SE, Calgary
11 The Military Museums
This collection of Canadian Forces museums explores the history of Canada's navy, army, and air force. Exhibits emphasize interactive experiences, whether it's walking through WWI trenches or steering from a wheelhouse. A variety of military vehicles are on-site, including several tanks.
Address: 4520 Crowchild Trail SW, Calgary
12 Spruce Meadows
A world-renowned equestrian facility, Spruce Meadows welcomes visitors throughout the year to tour the stables, watch show jumping champions in training, and stroll the pleasant grounds. Outdoor tournaments take place in the spring, with indoor competitions in other seasons.
Address: 18011 Spruce Meadows Way SW, Calgary
13 Devonian Gardens
On the 4th level of the Core Shopping Centre, visitors will come somewhat unexpectedly upon the floral paradise of Devonian Gardens. Covering about one hectare, the indoor gardens feature lovely tropical palms, sculptures, fish ponds, fountains, and a living wall. About 10,000 plants make up the displays, and despite Calgary's cold winters they thrive under a glass ceiling. The Devonian Gardens are free and open for the public to wander.
Address: 400 - 317 7 Ave SW, Calgary
14 Glenbow Museum
In Glenbow Museum, visitors can see some rare exhibits illustrating the historical development of western Canada. The museum travels back in time, exploring the lives of early fur-traders and the North West Mounted Police, Métis uprisings under Louis Riel, and the development of the oil industry. This Calgary Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions from around the world.
Address: 130 9 Ave SE, Calgary
Where to Stay in Calgary for Sightseeing
The best place to stay in Calgary is the vibrant downtown area, which is central to many of the major attractions. Staying near the Bow River, which runs through the city center, will put you near walking trails and lovely parks. Another popular area of downtown is 17th Avenue, with trendy restaurants and shops. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:
- Luxury Hotels: In the heart of the action near 17th Avenue is the Hotel Elan, featuring modern rooms with balconies, heated floors, and a complimentary breakfast. The elegant Hotel Le Germain Calgary, in the central business district, is within walking distance of the Calgary Tower and EPCOR Center for the Performing arts. The new and conveniently located Hyatt Regency features rooms with city views, a rooftop sundeck, and an indoor pool. It's connected to the Telus Convention Center.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Right downtown, just a short walk from Prince's Island Park in the Bow River and offering large suites at an affordable price is the upscale International Hotel. The award-winning, boutique Hotel Arts, an easy stroll from the Calgary Tower, has custom contemporary décor in all the rooms. South of downtown, but very close to Fish Creek Provincial Park, is the Wingate by Wyndham Calgary. With an indoor pool and waterslide, this hotel is a good choice for families.
- Budget Hotels: A good downtown budget option is the BEST WESTERN PLUS Suites Downtown, with extra-large rooms that include either a full kitchen or kitchenette. The new Fairfield Inn & Suites offers large suites with city views and a complimentary breakfast. Just south of downtown, near the Stampede grounds, is the BEST WESTERN PLUS Calgary Centre Inn with very reasonable rates.