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