Lions and Tigers and Towers, Oh My! Spending a Weekend in Calgary, Alberta

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

-Tommy Douglas-

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HELLO WORLD, MEET CALGARY…

As a family from the Edmonton area, we enjoy the fun rivalry between our cities; Eskimos vs. Stampeders, Oilers vs. Flames, but when it comes down to it, we absolutely love visiting our neighbor to the south.

Calgary, Alberta has that perfect skyline landscape.  Nestled between the prairies and the gentle rolls of the foothills, this western Canadian city of just over 1 million residents winds its way along the gentle curves of the Bow River.  A panorama of the majestic Rocky Mountains lines the background, gateway to the wander-lust worthy destinations of Banff and Lake Louise, making Calgary the perfect hub for adventure.  Home to the legendary Calgary Stampede, and host to the 1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary is no stranger to the world class stage.  The city embraces a downtown lifestyle, the streets coming alive in the evening as locals flock to the centre to enjoy the plethora of restaurants and nightlife.  The love of art is evident everywhere you go, with unique sculptures adorning the city like jewelry, including the iconic “Wonderland”, a 12 meter high wire head at the base of the Bow Tower.  But impressive architecture, geography and itineraries aside, the greatest part of this vibrant destination is the embodiment of the true Canadian spirit, with genuine warmth and friendly hospitality radiating from everyone you meet.

A STAY AT THE SHERATON SUITES EAU CLAIRE:

The Sheraton Suites Eau Claire is a four diamond hotel set in the heart of downtown, and walking distance to much of the city’s core, including the Bow River, walking trails and the glass and arch masterpiece that is the ‘Peace Bridge’.  We are fans of the Sheraton hotel family, and from the moment we checked in, we received their genuine, high level of service, including a generous upgrade to a deluxe two bedroom suite.  We were able to stretch out in a king sized bedroom with ensuite, a separate bedroom provided each girl with a queen bed and a second ensuite, and they were thrilled with the cookies and fruit that accompanied our welcome letter in the living room.  Add to that a 2nd floor pool with waterslide and hot tub, a fully equipped gym, as well as additional services ($) such as the onsite restaurant and pub, salon, room service and a friendly valet, it is a fantastic choice for families and couples alike.

A VIEW FROM THE CALGARY TOWER and SKY 360:

At 191 meters in the air, the observation deck of the Calgary Tower is the perfect way to view such a strikingly beautiful city.  Daytime provides an awe inspiring 360 degree view of the prairies, foothills and rugged snow capped Rockies.  Arriving in the evening appears as though specifically planned, the lights below twinkling like stars, the dark of the horizon stretching out for miles.  If you are daring, you can even step out on to the glass floor, taking a glimpse in to the world below your feet.  The tower is equally as spectacular from the exterior, featuring daily light shows from 5 am-sunrise and dusk to midnight, as well as being lit to honor holidays.

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Glass Floor and Night View from the Calgary Tower

And just when the view can’t get any better…You Dine.  The floor of Sky 360 slowly revolves, giving patrons a fine dining experience with a spectacular perspective.   Making a full revolution every hour (45 minutes during lunch), food lovers can enjoy international cuisine that maintains a base of fresh and local ingredients, all prepared with French contemporary techniques.  They also have a terrific kids menu, making this the perfect place for any occasion from romance to family.  **Reservations are highly recommended.  There is an additional charge for those not purchasing an entrée.

A FOOD TOUR at the CALGARY FARMER’S MARKET:

Kicking off at J Webb, tour goers are treated to a grand welcome.  Strolling past the incredible wine selections, the morning begins with a meet and greet over coffees, a glass of wine, an introduction to J Webb’s history and a freshly prepared brunch that will have you savouring every delicious morsel.

The group then moves next door to the Calgary Farmers’ Market.  Karen from Calgary Food Tours is not only a fabulous and gracious host, she truly knows her stuff.  Her knowledge is apparent as she fills the group in on the various stops, but it is her relationship with the select vendors that truly stands out.  She obviously has an outstanding repore with each, greeting the welcoming faces as friends, and then providing a well crafted story about their history and practices.  She is passionate about supporting smaller, local growers, about raw, healthy ingredients, about the humane treatment of animals, and she will have you on board from the moment she begins to speak.  This is an incredible way to experience a market, indulge in delectable samples such as organic produce, fruit wines and even bison products, and to learn about where and who our food comes from in Alberta.

ROCKING OUT AT STUDIO BELL NATIONAL MUSIC CENTRE:

With a Mission to “Give Canada a place that amplifies the love, sharing and understanding of music“, the Studio Bell National Music Centre is a brand new structure that is equally impressive inside as out.  With 5 floors dedicated to Canadian Halls of Fame, a 300 seat Performance Hall, interactive learning experiences including instrument play and vocal booths, and even the impressive Kimball Theatre Organ demonstration, music lovers will find their passion stirred and their soul inspired.  With an impressive, one of a kind collection of over 2000 artifacts that span 450 years of music, the generations will be introduced to everyone from Wilf Carter and Randy Bauchman to Drake and Dead Mau5, making this an experience for all ages.

GETTING WILD AT THE CALGARY ZOO:

If there is one experience every visit should include, it is the Calgary Zoo.  This incredible facility is always a highlight for our family, and is so much more than just a place that houses animals.  It is a research centre that dedicates itself to wildlife conservation through continual study, development and implementation, making it not only a healthy environment for its many residents, but a source of pride for the entire city.  Highlights include the Penguin Plunge, giraffes, hippos, red pandas, Amur tigers, African lions, gorillas and the butterflies of the tropical Enmax Conservatory.  Those visiting Alberta for the first time can get an up close view of our own ‘Canadian Wild’ family, including mountain goats, bighorn sheep, wolves, cougars and even the mighty male grizzly, Skoki, one of six rescue bears that have found refuge at the zoo. To round out the excitement, the zoo is currently undergoing construction to prepare for the highly anticipated arrival of the Giant Pandas in spring of 2018!

World, meet Kimani:

This sweet little face belongs to an 8 month old Western Lowland Gorilla, the first gorilla pregnancy at the zoo since 2008!  As she played with her mother, Kioja, exploring her feet, a toddler stumbling into the hay, the innocence and curiosity in each moment was mesmerizing and seeing her was a moment of pure magic that completely touched my soul.  Seeing these fascinating creatures in their natural surroundings in Africa is a dream of mine, and it is heartbreaking at what is happening to their population.  The zoo’s cell phone Recycling Program is one way you can help preserve the habitat of these amazing primates.

RETAIL BLISS AT CROSSIRON MILLS:

If you are primed for shopping, CrossIron Mills is the place where you can seriously indulge.  Just 20 minutes north of downtown, this fully enclosed shopping haven encompasses over 200 specialty and premium outlet stores, and 17 large format anchor stores in 1.4 million square feet. Not only is it the largest single floor shopping centre in Alberta, it too embraces the city’s passion for art, and simply strolling through the halls connecting the six different themes is a visual pleasure.

Thanks to the Holiday Shopping Package we received from our stay at the Sheraton Eau Claire, we had gift cards to enhance our retail experience.  ‘Miss Teenage B’ was shining bright in new sweaters from Underground, and ‘Little B’ had a fabulous time creating a new friend at the ever popular Build-A-Bear.  This shopping Mom found herself a brand new bag at Coach and Dad invested in a new pair of jeans from Levi’s.  The Shop and Stay packages are the perfect combination!

AND THE EXPERIENCES IN BETWEEN:

When it comes to trying new experiences, we are always game for discovery, especially delicious ones!  A family favorite was the plate of scrumptious-ness that was put before us by the incredibly friendly staff at Buttermilk Fine Waffles.  We ate our way thru massive hotdogs piled with ingredients that included chili, potato chips, PB&J and Capt Crunch (not a typo) as the kids discovered the retro world of arcade games at Tubby Dog.  We had fun connecting with staff and eachother over pub food and games of 10 pin at National on 10th, quite possibly the coolest bowling alley I’ve been to.  And as we headed out of the city, we experienced siphon coffee at Cafe-Blanca, a process straight out of a science lab with beakers, bubbles and scales, and the preparation was as impressive as the taste.

A FOND FAREWELL…….

Even after the many trips we have made to this city for sporting events, family visits or simply passing thru, it was a lesson to us that we had never actually explored the heart of Calgary.  What an incredible experience to discover so many new places, to view the city from impressive angles and unique perspectives, and to learn so much about local businesses, the sources of what makes this city tick.

Calgary, you did not disappoint.  Oh, and extra points for the abnormally beautiful fall weather, you nailed it.

Cheers,

Amy

**This fantastic weekend was sponsored by the folks at Tourism Calgary.  While we were spoiled with such an incredible itinerary, all opinions are my own.

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108 thoughts on “Lions and Tigers and Towers, Oh My! Spending a Weekend in Calgary, Alberta

    1. Each city is so vastly different (and we love them both!!) Calgary has an international airport and is such an easy and short driving distance to Banff. If you are hoping for a winter ski experience, I’d suggest it simply for this factor. In a perfect situation, I’d suggest flying into one and out the other, then you can experience the very best of both and everything in between!

  1. I’ve only been able to explore Halifax and Toronto on my own, but Calgary looks like it has stuff for everyone! Love Canada…I have always had a good time when i go there 🙂

  2. Never had the pleasure of visiting Calgary (and only had a handful of hours in Edmonton) so thanks for the city tour.

    With so many Canadian friends, I can’t wait to get back to the country, whenever that ma be!

      1. As do we. We’d love to do more of the west, as well as French Canada. We just passed through on our way from Toronto to Whitehorse. Now that was an adventure! 😉

  3. I never realized that Calgary is such a huge city. You always think of the stampede with thoughts of it being a small town. Looks like there is much for to Calgary than cowboys and horses!

  4. What a fantastic piece, loved it. Thanks for the detailed guide. Those penguins look HUGE and kimani is soooo adorable. As a wildlife enthusiast the “Tiger” bit in the title def caught my eye 😉

  5. I have been to Calgary many times, but the only places I had been to were the zoo and the mall. I am definitely going to be checking out some of the places you visited. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. This post is making me want to visit Canada and Calgary in particular even more! Seriously considering applying for a working holiday visa now!

  7. We haven’t been to Canada since visiting Niagra Falls a couple years ago. Calgary looks like a good place to visit. The Calgary tower has some very nice views of the skyline. And Sky 360 sounds like a perfect for dinner.

  8. Wow you certainly packed a lot in! I’m a sucker for zoos too and that view from the top of the tower is immense! I could spend ages wandering around farmers markets – looks like we have the same interests! 😀

  9. I lived in Canada for 18 months and unfortunately Calgary is one of the cities I didn’t manage to visit. I always heard good things about the city, then I liked all the surrounding nature and national parks. I’ll try to stop by the next time I’ll go to Canada, I’ll keep your advice in mind!

  10. I’d be honest, Canada has never been one of the top destinations for me to visit. But recently I’ve been coming across more and more guides and pictures, concerning how in act fascinating this country is! Your article is the first one where I saw such a prominent place taken by good, and I think that now Canada has totally won my heart ))) I had no idea that Canadian cities have an interesting food culture!

  11. I appreciate the great introduction to Calgary. My husband and I would like to go to Canada next summer, but we realize it’s a large place with far too many options for us to see in one trip. We’ve been trying to narrow it down. Blog posts like yours are sure helpful! Loved your easy-to-read descriptions and photos, too!

    1. Thank you so much! It is a great gateway to so much, especially with a fantastic airport. I’d suggest an east or west coast trip to start. Fly into Calgary or Edmonton and out of Vancouver. I’ll be posting on the perfect road trip shortly!

  12. With so much to offer Calgary can never disappoint.
    I need to organise my itinerary well so that I don’t miss out on any thing… that is I ever get a chance to visit. 🙂

  13. Such a fulfilling weekend! Envying the luxurious looking stay at the hotel..it looks like you guys managed to fit so many activities over the weekend, thanks for sharing it!

  14. The view from the Calgary Tower looks amazing and it must be a great experience dining at Sky 360 amidst the incredible vistas of the illuminated city.

  15. Ahhh, Calgary… I have fond memories of the city. I was there once about 20 years ago and had the BEST time! We partied late into the night on Electric Avenue – is that the right name? Anyway, I’d love to return to see how much the city has changed and to use it as a starting point for Banff (total dream of mine).

  16. Love the zoo pics, I was just at one in Minnesota, the animals look like they have much more space than the one I was at. I love a good farmers market the one in Calgary looks amazing and would love to spend a day tooling around there.

  17. There’s definitely so much to do here. We are trying to get to western Canada around May next year – Rockies, Banff, Vancouver, all the usual suspects so thinking we might be able to include Calgary also. Thanks for all the great info.

  18. I love everything about this post! Food, zoo, skyscrapers, skyline, Starwood hotel, etc! The skyline is very beautiful. We love finding high places to see the city from above and the tower looks like it has the best views! Their zoo looks amazing – the baby gorilla is so cute! All around great info, and a fun post!

  19. Wow Tubby Dog and the National Music Centre are two places we’ve got to check out. I’ve been to Calgary before but it was quite awhile ago and after reading your post I think I’ve got to do a bit more exploring of the city. We’ve been to Sheraton hotels before and we liked them as well.

  20. Wow! This city looks just amazing! Thank you so much for interesting relation 🙂 I would love to see baby gorilla too 🙂

  21. We took an 80 day road trip this summer and went as far north as Jasper National Park. We were so close to Calgary, but since we were doing more of a hiking and camping trip we decided not to visit. Now I’m wishing we didn’t make that decision!! It looks wonderful. We will have to make a point to get out there. Flights into the city are pretty easy from the states so we will make it happen. Thanks for sharing!

  22. It is so heartwarming to see you travel with your family. I have not seen many blogs doing that. I totally agree that happiness lies in small things. Your blog reaffirms my faith.

  23. I would love to have dinner at the Sky 360 and enjoy the entire panorama of the city while the tower spins. The farmers market sounds like a foodie’s paradise, a perfect destination for me. It seems that Calgary has a great cuisine choice too, those massive hot dogs look delicious!

    1. While they are for sure Flames fans, and Alberta is hockey territory, there is so much to do in Calgary! Thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully you get the chance to visit a game. ..I mean the city… sometime!

  24. Thanks for introducing me to ths beautiful city. Not that I hadn’t heard the name before, but this is teh first time I am seeing it. Whle I am not a fan of the zoos, it is good to see the kind of effort they have made to recreate natural habitats.

  25. When scanning through cheap flights a few days ago I saw one for Calgary and I just swept my finger passed it but maybe that was a mistake! You packed a lot in a short time which always stands out to me as a place with good/ affordable public transport. Did you find this to be the case?

  26. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve never been here before and it’s pleasant to read places I’ve never traveled before. The tower with the glass reminded me of the Sky Deck in Chicago.

  27. Calgary comes across as a charming city. There seems to be so much to see and do that one needs to ensure proper planning so that one can really have an immersive experience in the city.

  28. wow, Calgary looks amazing. I had really wanted to go this past September to explore the city and Banff while doing the Spartan Race between Edmonton & Calgary! However plans got messed up.
    I bookmarked this because those waffles at Buttermilk Fine Waffles look amazing and the those Gigantic Onion Rings at Tubby’s would be on my food bucket list for sure!

  29. This trip sounds exactly like something I would love to do! Food tour and all wrapped up in a fabulous waffle with chocolate sauce and strawberries. Sounds like a such a lovely trip! How long were you there? Also, do
    I’d the restaurant and food tour offer vegetarian dining options?

  30. This sounds incredible! I would love to visit Calgary – have wanted to go there for a good 10 years! The view from the tower looks absolutely stunning. I’d be happy to do everything that you’ve listed on this post! The Sheraton looks nice too.

  31. On our way home from Costa Rica a couple of weeks ago our flight was delayed and we had to stay a night in Canada. That made us actually happy because we got to see Toronto, if only for a few hours. I loved how friendly everyone was, and I really look forward to see more of this huge country, and Calgary looks interesting. And while we’re there we will definitely visit the Calgary Tower. Looks awesome!

  32. I confess, as a North American, my image of Calgary is not very urban. I always thought of it as a smallish city in the middle of nowhere, but the photos and description above are utterly different. Need more posts on Calgary.

  33. I’ve always wanted to see more of Canada, I’ve only been to the Toronto area and now I think I need to add Calgary to my list! Also, I’d just like to say that I am completely jealous of how fashionable your youngest is. I’m almost 32 and I want to be her when I grow up!

  34. I’ve been enjoying your Calgary info and look forward to adding it to my itinerary when I get to Canada – hopefully next year.

  35. Wow! The view from Calgary Tower is incredible! This post is packed with a ton of information on Alberta. It’s an area I’ve been mostly wanted to visit because of Banff, but now I’m psyched to see there’s a ton to do in the area. The national music museum sounds like a really unique spot!

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