Shortly after my parents got married they made the move from their native Ontario to start a new life in Edmonton Alberta. My father had just finished medical school and would spend the next four years working as a medical officer on the air force base located just a short drive from the provincial capital. His west coast tenure lasted just four years so a few months after I was born they moved our now fresh family of four back to the suburbs of Toronto.
Growing up as a kid I heard plenty of romanticized stories about my parents move out west which included: discussions about the freezing cold winters, gazing at the awe inspiring Northern Lights and their newlywed adventures discovering a new province via ski trips to Banff where my father as an adult first learned to ski. I had my first opportunity to explore Alberta in the summer of Grade 10 when my parents took the family on a road trip from Edmonton to Victoria. I’ll never forget the drive from Alberta to British Colombia. Jaw dropping scenery, a lush wilderness, a new perspective on Canada.
Recently when the opportunity to travel back to Alberta presented itself I made certain that a visit to Calgary was in the cards. I had never been and was eager to explore a city which over recent years has experienced an economic boom via the oil and gas industry. The city has celebrated a culinary echo as locals eagerly cash in on top quality sips and nibbles.
I arrived in Calgary after spending three days training to be a cowboy at Sierra West Ranch located in Southwestern Alberta, the heart of Canada’s Cattle Country. I first checked in at the Hyatt Regency which would be my home base over the weekend as I explored the cities cafes, restaurants, bars, museums, public art displays and bustling shopping streets. The Hyatt is one of Calgary’s premiere hotels located right in the heart of downtown. The place feels a bit like an art gallery with a collection of over 500 original paintings and sculptures on display representing over 116 Canadian artists. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take a tour of the Royal Suite where Prince William and Kate stayed during their Calgary Stampede visit.
I was originally scheduled to visit Calgary for their world famous Stampede Festival in July but due to the devastating floods had my trip rescheduled for the middle of August. I do hope to return some day to experience “The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.” During my visit I found myself regularly inspired by locals who talked about the local community pitching in during the crisis. Alberta’s response to the flood in Calgary is a perfect example of how Canadians band together to support each other. We are known across the globe for being a friendly nation and the stories I heard of Calgarians working around the clock to help get the city back up and running made me proud to call Canada home.
From spa treatments to cocktail sipping, the following are a collection of my favourite moments from Alberta’s whimsical Stampede City:
Culinary Adventures: The majority of my time in Calgary would best be summed up as a constant bloated waddle from one restaurant to the next. Highlights included seafood centric lunch at Catch, the hustle and bustle at Briggs Kitchen and Bar, lazy lunch at Bar C on 17th, epic meal time at Modern Milk, lager lovers dream at The National Beer Hall, Sunday Jew-food-centric Brunch at Gruman’s Deli and a celebrity spotting at Charcut Roast House.
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Calgary’s Public Art: I set out one morning + early aft to walk myself silly to better acquaint myself with the city. Highlights included an early morning Bow River stroll, bustling China Town and the shopping thoroughfare of Stephen Ave. The municipality has created a fantastic Public Art Walking Tour which showcases the various creative inspirations on display in Calgary’s downtown nooks and crannies. My favourite was the recently acquired Wonderland by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, a 12 metre tall wire sculpture of a female head which features two entrances allowing visitors to walk within, relishing in a new perspective from the inside out.
Taking in the View at Calgary Tower: One can’t visit Calgary without a quick visit to the cities iconic monument. Calgary Tower is located smack dab in the centre of the city and offers 360 degree views at 1228 metres above sea level. Guests have an opportunity to stand over glass floors with shudder inducing views below (you’ll be sure to hear a squeal or two).
Victoria Park Art Market by Park: On my walk from Calgary Tower to 17th Ave-hipsterville I stumbled upon PARKSALE, a fantastic art market hosted by PARK- Promoting Artists Redefining Culture. This annual outdoor market features artists and vendors who sell and showcase their work, in which all expenses are paid for by the PARK organization. This was its fifth year celebration and took place in quirky Victoria Park. Vendors sold everything from leather bags, gowns, jewellery, vintage clothing and paintings. I felt ever so fortunate to mix and mingle with Calgary’s vibrant art and design community.
Wandering Through The Glenbow Museum: Calgary’s most celebrated museum features a few fantastic permanent exhibits which explore how early settlers found their way to Alberta. A visit to the Glenbow Museum offers visitors a glimpse into Native Canadians way of life, the building of the CN railway, the history of the provinces oil and gas industry as well as a petite collection of classic Alberta painterly landscapes. I was fortunate enough to be in town for celebrated Native Canadian and Queer artist Kent Monkman’s exhibit The Big Four. His interactive exhibit featured video, elaborate automobile-centric scenes and reflections of the artist as mannequin.
Sante Spa at Hotel Le Germain: There really is nothing more rewarding than indulging at a spa after running your feet sore in the city. I spent my final afternoon in Calgary relaxing at Sante Spa, an urban oasis located in the Hotel Le Germain. I blissfully surrendered (READ: fell asleep mid-day) while experiencing their signature Grounding Thai Foot Massage which features Ginseng, Ginko and stimulating Bamboo.
My visit to Calgary was a press trip coordinated by Travel Alberta. Hotel accommodation, restaurant visits and activities featured in this destination guide were complimentary.