With the eastern face of the Rockies as its backdrop, the crisp concrete-and-steel skyline of Calgary, Alberta, seems to rise from the plains as if by sheer force of will. Indeed, all the elements in the great saga of the Canadian West—Mounties, local people, railroads, cowboys, cattle, oil—have converged to create a city with a modern face and a surprisingly traditional soul.
The city supports professional football and hockey teams, and in July the rodeo events of the Calgary Stampede attract visitors from around the world. Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, and the downhill slopes and miles of cross-country ski trails are at Kananaskis, less than 90 minutes west of town. The city is also the perfect starting point for one of the preeminent dinosaur-exploration sites in the world, a world-class dinosaur-exploration tour at Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks and the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller. The Glenbow Museum is one of the top museums in Canada, and the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts showcases theater and musical performances.
The soul of Calgary is the bustling, cosmopolitan Stephen Avenue Walk, which was declared a National Historic District in 2002. Shops and restaurants in restored, turn-of-the-20th-century sandstone buildings line the promenade, while shoppers, businesspeople, and street performers pack the street. In warm weather, outdoor patios spill onto the sidewalks and are perfect for people-watching. The residential Eau Claire district, with its high-rise apartments and condominium developments, begins north of 8th Avenue and stretches toward the Bow River, bordering walking, cycling, and running paths. The large and vibrant Chinatown covers several square blocks adjacent to the city core; look for the bright blue cone on top of the spectacular Chinese Cultural Centre, which has its own restaurant. The Kensington district, just north of the city center, has boutique stores and cafés in restored, Victorian-style houses. Beyond the downtown core but still in the heart of the city are 4th Street and Uptown 17th, scenic southwest neighborhoods with thriving shopping and nightlife scenes. The 4th Street district extends from the Bow River to 17th Avenue; Uptown 17th runs along 17th Avenue from Macleod Trail to 14th Street Southwest.
Calgary’s history as a city began in 1875 when a detachment of North West Mounted police arrived and established Fort Calgary. It wasn’t until the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in 1883 that the population began to climb, and with the establishment of a station in what is now the downtown core, businesses began to gravitate to the area. The city is divided into four quadrants: northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast. In the Calgary grid pattern, numbered streets run north-south in both directions from Centre Street and numbered avenues run east-west in both directions from Centre Avenue.
As the railway grew in importance in Calgary, it also established subdivisions aimed at specific income groups. Calgary’s emerging elite built palatial homes on large lots in the Mount Royal district while the Ogden subdivision was developed for railway workers. To the east of downtown is Inglewood, the heart of Calgary’s first business district. Many of Calgary’s first citizens lived here before the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived, forcing business to move to the downtown core. Ninth Avenue Southeast is now lined with antiques stores and home furnishings stores, eateries, and cappuccino bars. As the city grew during the 1950s to the 1970s, suburban neighborhoods were established across sprawling ranch lands following the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest quadrants as they flow out from the downtown core. Most commuters use major arteries such as Crowchild Trail, Deerfoot Trail, Glenmore Trail, and Memorial Drive to enter and exit the downtown core for their workday, so expect traffic on these major routes during morning (7-8:30 AM) and afternoon (4:30-6 PM) rush hours.
Calgary Restaurant Reviews
Restaurants reflect the region’s ethnic makeup and offer a wide variety of cuisines—Ukrainian, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Scandinavian, French, Japanese—to fit every price range. Places specializing in generous helpings of Canadian beef still dominate the scene despite a case of mad cow disease in 2003. Dress in the prairie cities tends toward formality in expensive restaurants but is casual in moderately priced and inexpensive restaurants.
Calgary Hotel Reviews
If you visit Calgary during the annual Petroleum Convention in early June or during the Calgary Stampede in early July, you should book your accommodations well in advance and expect to pay premium rates.