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A few local experiences to have in Calgary in the summer to show you why it’s still one of the most underrated cities in Canada.
The Atlas Heart is a place to find the best local experiences in cool cities around the world, and to throw out misconceptions we might have about other cultures. With this in mind, I sometimes seek out other perspectives on this blog to help with a more layered view of the world.
Today, Cat Lin, a Calgary-based food and travel writer from For Two, Please, is sharing her love for “Cowtown” through her favorite local experiences to enjoy around the city.
I’ve been moving from city to city my entire life – from Taipei to Penang, Vancouver, and NYC. So relocating to a new city is nothing new to me. In 2013, when my then-boyfriend-now-husband Kev proposed to start a new life together in Calgary, I said ‘yes’ in the blink of an eye – without having even been to the city before.
You might call me crazy for making such a big life-changing decision at the drop of a hat. But I saw it as an opportunity to explore the unknown and expand our horizon.
It has been 5 years now since we moved to Calgary. We have grown to like the city more and more. Unlike other big cities buzzing with activities at all time, Calgary is slower paced and more manageable. It’s warm, welcoming community will make you want to stick around. On top of that, there’s the beautiful Banff National Park, just a stone’s throw away (Calgary to Banff is only an hour and a half drive).
If you’re planning to Visit Calgary in the Summer, here are some fun local experiences to get you started.
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Explore Calgary’s Past at Heritage Park
Heritage Park Historical Village is one of our favourite attractions in Calgary. It is a museum unlike any other, and one you should definitely make a point to visit while you’re in the city.
It brings history to life and takes you back in time so that you can experience what life was once like in the 1850s to 1950s.
You’ll be surrounded by historical buildings, working antiques, and interactive exhibitions. There are even costumed interpreters to tell the stories of the early settlers. It is an amazing place to immerse yourself in Alberta’s history!
Join the Cowboys and Celebrate Calgary Stampede
Do you know that Calgary holds the world’s largest outdoor rodeo? Nicknamed “Cowtown,” the city has a long and proud history of cowboy culture.
Every July, over one million visitors around the world would come to the city to celebrate the cowboy heritage through the Calgary Stampede.
During the ten-day festival, the city is taken over by concerts, chuckwagon races, evening shows, park rides, crazy Midway food, and cultural exhibitions. Wherever you go, there’s a buzzing party atmosphere: everyone dresses up like a cowboy and pancake breakfasts are held across the city.
Tourists love this annual event, but so do the locals!
Unleash Your Inner Geek at Beakerhead
Speaking of festivals, Beakerhead is another of our favourites. This 5-day city-wide art and engineering festival is lesser known, but guarantees seriously good times.
Every year in September, Beakerhead hits the streets of Calgary with fascinating installations and artworks that combine science, art, and engineering. In addition, there are also hands-on workshops, interactive exhibitions, talks, and street parties you can take part in!
To make it even more interesting, many bars and restaurants across the city participate to surprise guests with themed creations.
Visit the City’s Best Steakhouse
When in Calgary, you gotta try Alberta Beef. It is world famous for good reason. The juicy, savoury character and tender texture are what earned it a strong reputation.
There are many great steakhouses in Calgary. For the finest quality steaks, we recommend Modern Steak.
They pride themselves in using only ranch specific Alberta Beef that are hormone and antibiotic free. That commitment to quality truly reflects in the taste. That’s why it is the top pick for steak lovers.
Immerse Yourself in Canada’s Music History at Studio Bell
Studio Bell is the new landmark in Calgary. This music center is many things: a performance hall, a museum, a recording facility, a broadcast studio, and a live music venue.
A visit to the Studio Bell will take you through Canada’s rich musical history. As you explore the five levels, you will find many interesting exhibitions, collections, and interactive stages that will flood your senses. Don’t be shy. Pick up a guitar, take a lesson, and improve your own musical skills!
Free guided tours are offered Wednesdays to Sundays at 11 am and 2 pm. Live demonstration of Kimball Theatre Organ happens every day at 3 pm.
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Find Your Happiness at Local Creameries
Summer wouldn’t be summer without ice cream. Calgary has a few creameries that produce incredibly tasty artisanal ice cream.
Fiasco Gelato is known for handcrafting all their gelato and sorbetto offerings – all natural, no aritificial flavours or colors. Besides serving popular flavours like caramel sea salt and raspberry lime, they constantly invent unique seasonal creations.
Don’t be surprised if you see Campfire S’mores or Matcha & Honey on the menu!
Village Ice Cream is a favourite amongst locals. Handcrafted with plenty of egg yolks, cream and sugar, it serves the freshest and creamiest ice cream you’ll ever taste. On the menu, there are 10 “always” flavours (earl grey is our go-to) and a few seasonal options rotating regularly.
Made by Marcus is a rising star, known for its crazy fun creations. Want to try whisky hazelnut praline ice cream? Wondering what caramelized pineapple and spiced rum tastes like? Then this is the place to go! They also have cotton-candy sundaes that will blow your mind.
Canadian-based food & travel writer, Cat Lin, loves adventure travel and enjoys sampling the local cuisine while visiting foreign countries.
Practical Info for Calgary
Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $20 off your first booking).
Buy your Canadian Rockies Guide here.
Where to Stay in Calgary
Budget (under $100)
A funky, fun, and clean hostel located across from the Calgary Stampede, right in the city. Free WiFi and breakfast, shared and private rooms available.
Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Calgary
An affordable options in the middle of downtown, offering a fitness center, pool, friendly front-desk staff, and cozy private rooms with comfy beds.
Elevate Rooms Calgary Westways Guest House
If you’re looking for a welcoming and local accommodation experience, this bed & breakfast is the best choice. Within walking distance to downtown and the Calgary Stampede. Work desks & sitting area included in rooms.
Le Germain Calgary
For those who are willing to splurge on a bit of luxury, Le Germain is located across from Calgary Tower and offers a 24-fitness center, in-room massages, and free continental breakfast. Charcut Roast House restaurant and Lounge Central 899 cocktail bar are on-site.
Recommended Tours in Alberta
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