The 10-day Calgary Stampede can trace its roots back to the 1880s and is the highlight of Calgary's summer, cementing this Alberta city's reputation as Canada's "Stampede City." This famous rodeo — billed as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" — is held in July and includes all kinds of cowboy- and rodeo-style entertainment and exhibitions. The population and up to a million visitors alike dress accordingly, and blue jeans and brightly colored Stetsons become the order of the day. Events include a big parade, rodeo competitions, thrilling chuck wagon races, an authentic First Nations village, concerts and stage shows, a fun fair, pancake breakfasts, as well as agricultural shows. Getting to Stampede Park, the festival's permanent home, is easy either by public transit or car, with plenty of parking available. And even if you are here in the off-season, a visit and tour — or possibly taking in a concert here — remains one of the top things to do in Calgary. Address: 1410 Olympic Way SE, Calgary
Undoubtedly one of Canada's most picture-perfect settings, Banff National Park and the town of Banff makes for a perfect day trip from Calgary. While there are a variety of ways to get from Calgary to Banff, for those who enjoy taking their time — and having the opportunity to stop and see the sites whenever the urge strikes — taking a car (either your own or a rental) may be the best option. Drivable in under 90 minutes, the route itself is nothing short of spectacular, taking in incredible mountain vistas shortly after leaving the city, and which never let up along the way. After passing Canmore (also a great place to stop for some sightseeing) and entering the park gates, you'll find yourself in the town of Banff, the only community located in magnificent Banff National Park. It's a great place to explore either before or after touring the park, and features plenty of shopping and dining opportunities. One of the highlights of your visit, though, will be seeing Lake Louise. Famous for its dazzling turquoise waters framed by stunning snowcapped mountains, the tallest reaching heights of over 3,000 meters, it's the ultimate (safe) selfie spot — especially with the handsome Fairmont Château Lake Louise in the distance — and a great place to pause and reflect on the splendor and natural beauty of this part of the world. Other fun things to do in Lake Louise include strolling along the lovely lakeshore trail, enjoying a canoe ride, or taking the Lake Louise Gondola for the chance to enjoy some great views of the lake.
Tracing its roots back as far as 1917, Calgary Zoo — one of the city's most popular family attractions, and Canada's largest and most visited zoological park — sits on a 120-acre site on St. George's Island in the Bow River. The zoo is home to over 1,000 animals representing some 272 species, including many examples of rare and endangered species, as well as botanical gardens. Spring is always a fun time to visit due to the arrival of newborn animals (check the zoo's website for news and details). Popular must-see sections include the Land of Lemurs, Destination Africa, and the Canadian Wilds. It's at the latter that you'll enjoy up-close views of fascinating creatures, including grizzly bears and the newest arrivals, a pair of pandas. Other fun things to do include spending time exploring the six-acre prehistoric park attraction with its full-size replica dinosaurs. For those traveling in winter, be sure to visit the nighttime Zoolights Christmas festival held here each year. Address: 210 St. George's Drive NE, Calgary, Alberta
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. Along with exhibits and buildings ranging from an 1860 fur-trading fort to a 1930s town square, a highlight of a visit is riding the old steam engine, which provides transport around the park. There's also a paddlewheel tour boat that offers scenic cruises across the Glenmore Reservoir, and which offers plenty of great sightseeing and photo opps. The reservoir is also a popular spot for outdoor activities such as sailing, canoeing, and rowing. Be sure to allocate a little extra time in your Heritage Village itinerary to visit the Gasoline Alley Museum, popular for its hands-on, interactive experiences with one-of-a-kind vintage vehicles. Address: 1900 Heritage Drive SW, Calgary
At the top of the Calgary Tower, a viewing platform with a glass floor and revolving restaurant enables sightseers to enjoy the thrilling sensation of being 191 meters above the city in one of its landmark buildings. Opened in 1968 and until 1984 the tallest structure in the city, the tower still offers excellent views out over the city and beyond to the mountains. It is particularly beautiful at night, and the tower itself is lit up each evening to stunning effect. In 1988, the tower's giant torch bore witness to the spirit of the Olympics, and is still lit on special occasions. A fun movie, shown regularly in the building, highlights the construction of the tower. Address: 101 9 Ave SW, Calgary
In the foothills of the mountains to the west of the city rise the strange-looking towers of WinSport, home to the 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, zipline, toboggan, snow tube, and mountain bike down the slopes and hills. Indoor ice-skating is also available, including professional competitions and casual sessions and programming for tourists and locals to enjoy. 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 Official site: www.winsport.ca
Prince's Island Park is a large 50-acre green space located to the north of 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 top attractions. Connected to the mainland by three pedestrian bridges, the park offers walking and biking areas, as well as outdoor concerts and plays during the summer months. A well-regarded restaurant is located on the island. Address: 698 Eau Claire Ave SW, Calgary
The award-winning, luxuriously appointed, and privately owned Rocky Mountaineer rail tour runs between Calgary or Jasper and Vancouver (the company's base), 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, a grouping of mountain peaks that make for a stunning backdrop to your journey. 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, and a variety of day trip options are available. It's also possible to break your trip up. A popular option for outdoor enthusiasts is to stop over in Banff for a few days of hiking in Banff National Park. However you choose to tackle this epic rail journey, a word of warning: as one of North America's busiest scenic rail adventures, it's a good idea to plan your excursion well in advance, especially if you have a hankering to ride the first-class GoldLeaf dome car.
Established in 1966, the Glenbow Museum features 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 fascinating art and history museum also hosts temporary exhibitions from around the world. Guided tours and educational programming are also available. Another good museum to visit is Telus Spark. Perfect for families to explore together, this first-rate science museum features a variety of fascinating interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations, as well as lectures and educational workshops. Address: 130 9 Ave SE, Calgary
Situated in Calgary's East Village area, Studio Bell, Home of the National Music Centre, opened in its new state-of-the-art facility in 2016. Able to trace its roots back as far as 1987, the huge structure houses a number of music-related attractions, including the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Collection. Together, these museums boast an impressive collection of 2,000 music-related artifacts, including numerous old and rare instruments. Among the larger exhibits are a mobile recording studio that once belonged to the Rolling Stones and a piano once owned by Elton John. The building itself is simply stunning, especially its interior, which features more than 226,000 attractive terra-cotta tiles. In addition to its many exhibits-many of them hands-on and interactive-Studio Bell offers a diverse program of educational events and workshops, daily performances, as well as concerts. Guided tours are available, along with a fun backstage pass tour that includes time playing some of the instruments you'll see. Address: 850 4 Street SE, Calgary, Alberta