Between the vast prairies and the Rocky Mountains in Western Canada sits Calgary, a welcoming metropolis that offers visitors tons of summer fun. Home to the “greatest outdoor show on earth”, acres of urban green space, great cultural experiences, and a good dose of thrilling activities, there are so many reasons to visit the undeniable gem of Southern Alberta. Some could say we are a bit biased because Calgary is our hometown. But seriously, please believe us there are so many terrific things to see and do in this great city! Here’s a list of Calgary’s best attractions.
Stand near the top of a giant Olympic torch
The Calgary Tower is the cities most iconic landmark, the signature on its ever-changing skyline. It was once the tallest building in all of Canada! Today it remains home to the world’s highest 360-degree observation deck.
Construction on the uniquely shaped cylindrical structure began on the 19th of February, 1967. An unprecedented feature to the build was the continuous pour of concrete for the base. Using a new slip-forming construction technique, pouring was completed just 24 days after it began. The record pour was 39 feet in just 24 hours!
The biggest change to the Tower over the years was the addition of a massive natural gas burning cauldron at the very top. It was installed to resemble the Olympic torch when Calgary hosted the Winter Games in 1988. The cauldron is still lit today for special events like local celebrations, to pay respect, and national holidays.
The observation deck offers an exquisite panoramic view of the city that is a must see for anyone visiting Calgary. A highlight is standing on the vertigo-inducing glass floor to get a birds eye view of the busy streets below. Make sure you take advantage of the complimentary audio tour to learn about the city, the important landmarks, and the incredible surrounding area as well.
Hang with wild animals and giant prehistoric dinosaurs!
The Calgary Zoo is a top attraction in Calgary and the most visited zoo in all of Canada! It has been giving people the opportunity to see and interact with wildlife for over 80 years. The zoo covers 120 acres spread out along the Bow river extending onto St Georges Island. The location lends its itself to the diverse, and wild feeling atmosphere found there. Home to over 800 animals, the exhibits are mapped out by geographical areas called “Destinations” then divided into large natural habitats.
A destination that is unique to the Calgary Zoo is the Prehistoric Park. Southern Alberta is home to one of the richest dinosaur fossil locations in the world. It seems only fitting to have dinos at the zoo too then, right?
You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time as you explore the six-acre replica of Alberta’s Badlands back when the Dinosaurs roamed. The park lets visitors get close to various life-sized dinos, some even move and roar like they’re real!
Dinosaurs Alive is animatronic dinosaur exhibit in Prehistoric Park. 16 full-size and incredibly life-like animatronic dinos perform regularly throughout the park. Kids of all ages will be stunned by how real they look and feel.
The Calgary Zoo is passionate about conservation and educating visitors. Animal keepers, volunteers, and teachers that work at the zoo interact with the public to raise awareness about animals, nature, and threats to wildlife.
When we visited the zoo we had the chance to experience an up close encounter with Sabari, the resident rhino. A very friendly zookeeper introduced us to the young rhino, sharing lots of information about Sabari, where he was from and the challenges his species faces. An awesome educational experience we won’t soon forget.
Costs can add up quickly when you visit the zoo. The price of admission, paying for parking, and buying food at the zoo can cost families over $100 per visit. Luckily, there are a few different ways to get discounts on different aspects at the zoo. Check out this travel guide to find businesses and websites that offer coupons and discounts to make a family visit more affordable.
Hurtle down the world’s longest luge track
The biggest bang for your tourist dollar is the SkyLine Luge at Canada Olympic Park. It is one of the most thrilling attractions in Calgary and the most fun for the best price by far!
The unique SkyLine Luge track has over 50 exhilarating twists and turns. It zig zags 1800 meters downhill, making it the longest luge track on Earth. In stark contrast, the ride to the top of the track is quite relaxing. You’ll take in epic views of Canada Olympic Park and the city. But then, you’ll get your heart pumping as you hurtle back down the hill on a gravity controlled wheeled sled. The experience is so incredibly fun one ride is never enough. Skyline Luge Calgary thoughtfully includes two thrilling runs down the track with each price of admission.
Luge isn’t the only winter sport you can enjoy at Canada Olympic Park. You can ride a bobsled as well!
A lot more expensive than the SkyLine Luge, the Summer Bobsleigh experience is worth every penny! A professional pilot drives the unique summer sled down a specially made track. Your adrenaline will surge as you tear down the hill, zipping through ten dramatic turns. The bobsled can reach speeds up to 80 Kilometers an hour! You can almost guarantee it will be a ride you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
WinSport at Canada Olympic Park offers visitors a whole variety of fun summer activities to try. You can mountain bike, zip line, or mini golf. There are different costs associated with each activity. If you want to do more than one exciting activity check out the Adrenaline Combo. With the Summer Bobsleigh, you can add a SkyLine Luge and/or a zip line ride for a discounted price.
Drink some Holy Gr”ale” goodness at the Village Brewery
What’s better than a cold craft beer on a hot summer day? Nothing I can think of! The Village Brewery supports and celebrates community in Calgary. They brew delicious beers with locally sourced ingredients, sharing a portion of their profits with community artists. The malted barley, wheat, and hops they use in their beers all come from Alberta growers. Some even come from community gardens right inside the city!
Village Brewery’s company focus is to get better, not bigger and you can taste the difference that kind of commitment makes. Their tour and tasting is a steal of a deal, at only $15 CAD. You get a full pint of your choice (you get to keep the custom pint glass too), generous size samples of each of their current brews, and a fun and informative tour of the brewery. Make sure you pick up a few bottles of your favorites in the gift shop to fill your custom pint glass at home!
Eat some world-renowned Alberta beef
No visit to Alberta would be complete without tasting some amazing Alberta beef! Born and bred in Alberta, we have eaten our share of melt in your mouth local beef. Traveling as much as we have we all agree, nowhere we have visited even comes close for taste and quality to cuts of beef in Alberta. I wrote this article, Where to Eat Steak in Cow Town highlighting some of the best places to enjoy Alberta beef in Calgary.
Eating excellent beef should be a priority when visiting Calgary, but there are so many places to enjoy other kinds of delicious food as well. This post, 62 Things to eat and drink in Calgary before you die by the Daily Hive highlights a huge variety of local favorites, some we’ve tried and the rest, are on our list to try next time we’re back home!
Immerse yourself in incredible cultural experiences
Calgary is famous for The Calgary Stampede. Heralded as “The greatest outdoor show on Earth” , we have to say we absolutely agree. Don’t get me wrong, Calgary is loaded with cultural events throughout the entire year, but the Stampede encompasses everything that we think makes Calgary so special. An elaborate tribute to Alberta’s heritage, the Calgary Stampede and Exhibition is attended by hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe. The city-wide party always begins the first Friday in July and rocks steady for ten action packed days.
Some see the Stampede as merely a place to drink and party wildly but the truth is, it’s so much more than that. It is a celebration of the rich western culture that was, is, and always will be life in Alberta.
Tons of other awesome cultural events happen throughout the summer in Calgary. Here are lists of some of the best ones in July and August. Visiting local markets is our favorite way to experience culture in places we visit. Calgary has lots of great farmers markets. Some run year round and others only run in the summer months.
We’re not the only ones that think Calgary is a great place to visit. Conde Nast Traveler just ranked our hometown number 9 in their top 10 places to visit this summer. These are only some of Calgary’s best attractions. The city is loaded with tons of fun activities, everything you need to create an unforgettable family vacation. It is also close to both the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Alberta’s Dinosaur Trail in the Canadian Badlands. That means access to incredible experiences in the city and beyond.
We always look for ways to save on attractions so we can see and experience more. Who doesn’t love discounts on travel? Here’s a list of coupons for most of the attractions mentioned here and even more fun things to do in Calgary. Calgary Co-Op, a local grocery chain often has lots of promotions and special offers that can save visitors money as well.
We’d like to thank Visit Calgary for helping us play tourists in our hometown while we visited Calgary. They helped us discover great new businesses and experience some of the best attractions in our city. Check our their site before you visit Calgary. It’s loaded with lots of great inspiration and helpful information to make your trip planning a breeze.
Featured image provided by Calgary’s tourism board, Visit Calgary.