Calgary – Adventure Tourism Gateway to Southern Alberta

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CalgaryCalgary Skyline From the Stampede Grounds
Photo: Travel Alberta

Author: Bob Kenyon

From the top of the Calgary Tower, you can get a clear view of the Rocky Mountains and why the “Stampede City”, is southern Alberta’s tourism gateway city. Looking in other directions you can see exactly where Calgary is situated.

To the north are the high plateaus of the Bow River; to the east and south, the plains of Alberta. Situated at the juncture of the Trans Canada #1 and Alberta’s Queen Elizabeth II Highway, which goes north to the provincial capital of Edmonton, Calgary has long been a major commercial centre in the province. Originally Calgary was an RCMP post, then the centre of the ranching industry. In the mid 20th Century, Calgary became the Canadian corporate centre for the petroleum industry.

The home of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, the Canada Olympic Park, provides a wealth of winter sport activities. Calgary also provides easy and short access to Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country and Canmore.

To get the Banff, Canmore and the Kananaskis; travelers coming from the East, on the Trans-Canada #1 Highway, or south on the the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, can use Stoney Trail. The Trail will take you around the east, north and west of Calgary to the Trans-Canada #1 west towards the mountains.

Calgary also provides excellent access to the former land of the dinosaurs, the Alberta Badlands and the Royal Tyrrel Museum, at Drumheller, which is one of the world’s best centres of palaeontology. Several hours east on the Trans Canada #1, will take you Alberta’s beautiful small, southern city, Medicine Hat (better known as “The Hat”) and the fabulous Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

Alternately those seeking a view of western lifestyle, can travel from Calgary into the cowboy country southwest of the city. Places like Black Diamond, Longview and Turner Valley will give you a taste of the west. Go south of Longview, to see the National Historic Site Bar U Ranch.

For those seeking aboriginal history and culture, in Calgary you want to go to the Glenbow Museum. Also west of Calgary, on the Trans-Canada #1 Highway you will pass through the land of the Stoney Nakoda Nation and to the southwest of Calgary is the Tsuu Tina Aboriginal Reserve. Much further south of Calgary you can visit the World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, near the entrance to the southern Alberta route to British Columbia, the Crowsnest Pass.

Calgary also has several urban parks and natural areas. Princess Island Park, in the middle of the Bow River, near to downtown, is a great place for a relaxing stroll and each late July is home to the Calgary Folk Music Festival. Calgary is also home to Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area, Fish Creek Provincial Park and its Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Of course, Calgary gets its “Stampede City” designation for hosting each summer’s Calgary Stampede, which is one of the biggest rodeos in the world and famous for the Chuck-Wagon races. The “Stampede” is a must for an early July visit, but make sure to make reservations for tickets, accommodations and wear your stetson (cowboy hat) and boots!

If you go to Calgary, for the Stampede, don’t limit yourself to the the Stampede and grounds. Calgarians really like to kick it up for Stampede and there’s lots of nightlife, pancake breakfasts, chili cookoffs and some very non-traditional cuisine!

For shopping, restaurants, nightlife and the arts Calgary has several niche areas with Calgary’s oldest community Inglewood, Kensington, 17th Avenue and the Steven Avenue Mall in Downtown Calgary.

Many of the early 20th century historical buildings in the downtown of Calgary, are very unique for the city, as they are built with sandstone, from the local Paskapoo Sandstone quarries. This unique feature which led to Calgary being known as “Sandstone City” is very evident in building the Palliser Hotel, the old City Hall (A National Historic Site, built in 1911), and several of the historic homes such as Lougheed House, side-by-side apartments (Moxam and Congress) and the Memorial Park Library of the Connaught Belt-Line area south of downtown.

Calgary is also a sports fan’s delight with the Canadian Football League, Calgary Stampeders, who every Labour Day play host to their Alberta rivals the Edmonton Eskimos.The other sports component of the “Battle of Alberta” is the regular meetings of the NHL Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers.

spruce meadows

Equestrian fans, will really enjoy a trip to Spruce Meadows, where there are six major outdoor tournaments and eight indoor tournaments at Spruce Meadows annually. The facility has hosted many international quality events.

Other places of interest, in Calgary are:

Fort Calgary, Heritage Park, Calgary Zoo (on St. Georges Island in the Bow River), Glenbow Museum and the National Music Centre

If you enjoyed this article about Calgary, Alberta on Ya’Gotta, you may also like to view more of the tourism “gateway” cities of western Canada:

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