Sunrises in Calgary are spectacular, when the gleaming skyscrapers are silhouetted against the white peaks of the Rockies. This city of big business and small-town prairie life feeds our fascination with the Canadian Wild West, while keeping us entranced with all the draws of a burgeoning city. We love imagining what life was like pre-1914 at the Heritage Park Historical Village. The park’s restored buildings, characters in heritage costume and working steam locomotive are the perfect environments for practicing our cowboy swagger.
Billed as 'the greatest outdoor show on Earth', the Calgary Stampede 10-day festival is the highlight of the year in Alberta. Thousands of hedonistic revellers looking for a taste of the cowboy life descend on the city for a succession of rowdy rodeo shows, marching bands, live country music and chuckwagon races — the action doesn’t stop for a second at Stampede. Each day wraps up with the Grandstand Show, an incredible show of music, pyrotechnics, death-defying stunts and performing horses. When you’re not at a jaw-dropping show, follow your taste buds around the venue. With dishes like bacon-wrapped pork belly on a stick, deep-fried donut bacon cheeseburgers and chocolate-dipped cookie dough, Stampede food embraces a reckless attitude towards the waistline. The diet can wait until you get home.
As you approach the gate of Fort Calgary’s reconstructed wooden fence you’re met by a red-coated Canadian Mountie, just like back in 1875. The establishment of this outpost marked the beginning of Calgary and now acts as a living history museum keeping the city connected to its past. Take the tour of the Fort to step into the Canadian Wild West of yesteryear. Actors in authentic late-19th century costume take you around the park while telling you of the defining moments in the city’s history. After, suiting up in a full Mountie uniform for a photo, you’ll have the chance to take a virtual scenic streetcar tour or get behind the wheel of a 1928 Ford. Leisurely afternoons are well spent wandering around the park where the Bow and Elbow Rivers meet.
Taking you 191 metres above the city, Calgary Tower boasts the best view in town. Take a tentative walk across the glass floor to feast your eyes on 360-degree panoramas across the city, prairie and Rocky Mountains beyond. The complimentary tour that points out all the city’s landmarks is a great way to start your city break; while the Tourism Calgary’s Visitor Information Centre, located at the base of the tower, stocks everything you need to start your day of exploring. If you can’t get enough of the view, you can enjoy a delicious meal paired with award-winning wine at the revolving Sky 360 restaurant. Over 155 metres up, the restaurant revolves once every 45 minutes to an hour, allowing you time to appreciate the views without ever leaving your seat.
Calgary loves its sports. Whether you want to partake or just watch the athletes in play, it’s easy to find a bit of sports action in Calgary. The Calgary Flames Hockey Club lives up to its name at the Scotiabank Saddledome; when each time the home side scores actual flames fire above the players’ heads. You can catch the Calgary Stampeders Canadian football team at the McMahon Stadium or visit the Canada Olympic Park, prime venue in the 1988 Winter Games, to try skiing, snowboarding, luge and bobsleigh rides, or whizz down North America's fastest zip line from the 90-metre-high ski jump tower. Canada's Sports Hall of Fame tells the tale of Canadian sporting history, with over 1,000 sporting artefacts and 50 interactive exhibits, including simulated shadow boxing with Lennox Lewis.