My Favorite 22 Things to do Calgary, Canada – Understand
Calgary is where the money made in Canada's oil industry is being spent. Alberta produces well over one million barrels a day - that's a revenue of $100 million PER DAY. Many in the industry live in Calgary and get free transport and lodging up north on an already 150,000+ salary. Calgary is still in a 'recession' as the oil price has slumped but at $65 per barrel, the city is doing well.
Calgary is no party town; it is one of the most modern and well-run cities in North America
. It's suburban but the downtown area is getting better and better and there are countless running and biking trails. Walking the city, I found precious few things that could be improved in its city planning. It's amazingly practical but also really boring.
Calgary is just east of the Rocky Mountains (with easy access to the ski resorts) but can be dramatically colder than Vancouver
. Don't be surprised to go to sleep at 40+ degrees Fahrenheit and wake up in the morning at -25 Fahrenheit (as it happened to me). Calgary weather oscillates hugely in winter.
Accommodation is rather cheap here and decent chain hotels can be had for around US$130. Good food is rather expensive, though drinks (especially in the many breweries) are rather cheap.
Locals struck me as rather happy and content folks who can't stop smiling about how much money they make. There isn't a lot of diversity beyond the many Indian restaurants (it's incredibly in vogue right now).
My Favorite 22 Things to do Calgary, Canada – Get Around
Calgary has a two-line LRT system that looks a little ridiculous downtown but zips you into the suburbs at 70mph. Rides inside the downtown zone are free. There are plenty of bus lines as well (the airport bus is CAD $10).
is in town and most rides are under CAD $15. Given the Arctic temperatures, you will Uber more than you think.
My Favorite 22 Things to do Calgary, Canada – Safety
Calgary struck me as a safe city and private businesses usually have a good degree of security. In winter, however, it is no joy for anyone to be outside, though the worst thing that likely happens is that you slip on one of the treacherous roads or sidewalks.
My Favorite 22 Things to do Calgary, Canada – Connectivity
This must be the city with the fastest Internet I have ever seen. Every single place has lightning-fast Internet and Cisco routers installed. I had never before been to a brewery that had a 150MBit WiFi connection free of charge. If you need a super-fast connection, get a flight to Calgary and download a few terabytes in a few minutes.
T-Mobile's Simple Choice Plan
includes Canada at the same rate as in the US (no roaming data throttling).
My Favorite 22 Things to do Calgary, Canada – Sights
You guessed it - Calgary isn't exactly a tourist destination...
There are a number of city parks around City Hall, including the Olympic Plaza
, the James Short Park
and Devonian Gardens
(the latter of which is actually indoors).
Plus there are plenty more public parks further out, like Prince's Island Park
, Sunnyside Bank Park
and St. Patrick's Island Park
Calgary's fort explains the city's history.
Studio Bell is a new music hall built on top of an existing building and it crosses the street - quite an architectural challenge!
I would have loved to see one of the big oil sands excavation sites up north but you need to have more time to do that.
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Picture courtesy of DeSmog Canada
Just two hours to the west is Banff and the gorgeous Lake Louise
Banff offers plenty of ski resorts if you are into winter sports.
My Favorite 22 Things to do Calgary, Canada – Eat & Drink
Locals love the idea of eating out and there is a small but high-quality food scene. Several of the places mentioned below share the same owner and have a similar vibe (though they have very different kitchens).
Calgary has an amazing number of top-notch breweries that serve their own beers, including many good IPAs, porters and stouts.
As usual, every single spot comes with free, lightning-fast WiFi.
Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters
Phil and Sebastian is the local market leader in third-gen coffee and they do their job well.
I like the 'Simmons' location
the most, for its rustic design in a historic building. The coffee is artisan, the pastries are yummy and the WiFi is, of course, lightning-fast.
Philosafy attracts a young crowd that needs a few hours of quiet work. I liked the vibe and the views. Great place to work.
Vendome is a French-style bakery and coffee shop in town. The desserts were indeed yummy but I'd skip ordering coffee next time.
Native Tongues is on the first floor of the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. Not a sign of excellent cuisine - but that's just the building. Native Tongues spins out uber-delicious tacos that much reminded me of the world's best taco spot (that I have been to anyway!) in Mexico City
The staff are friendly and there was a 30-minute waiting list on a Monday!
Una Pizza + Wine
Una Pizza cooks delicious pizzas with lots of sauce (on the sour side, as it should be) and thin dough. It's not cheap but the great atmosphere and the great menu make up for it.
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Picture courtesy of Una Pizza + Wine
Calcutta Cricket Club
Calcutta Cricket Club is the place for modern Indian food in town. I just had a kathi roll but it was fantastic. It's close to Una Pizza and Native Tongues if you're not sure.
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Picture courtesy of Dan Clapson
Mill Street Brew Pub
The first in the big line-up of breweries that are dotted all around Calgary is Mill Street. The flights are very cheap (and huge) before 6PM and you may have trouble finishing all that beer.
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Picture courtesy of Steve M
Craft Beer Market
Craft Beer Market does not brew its own beer but has THE most beers on tap in all of Canada. The flights are just $6 (on Mondays, that is). The atmosphere is more of a sports bar than a brewery but it's still a great place to cross off your list.
Last Best Brewing & Distilling
Another top-notch brewery with great local beers, lightning-fast WiFi and friendly staff. It is a little more expensive than all the others, though.
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Picture courtesy of A B
One more brewery that has it all - low prices, great beers and friendly staff. Clearly, the brewery industry is VERY competitive in Calgary.
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Picture courtesy of Sasha S
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Picture courtesy of TripAdvisor
My Favorite 22 Things to do Calgary, Canada – Where to Stay
Calgary has all the major brands that you'd expect and many with new properties built during the boom years.
Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Calgary
I tried the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown, which is brand new. It's a quality hotel above US standards but the heater was annoyingly loud.
Radisson Hotel Calgary Airport
I also tried the Radisson at the airport, which is also brand new and has fantastic rooms, a good gym, indoor pool and sauna and super-fast WiFi. There isn't anything close by, though.
There is also a Hyatt Regency
has Delta hotels all over town.