I got to the West of Canada and spent some days with the family of Mr. Explorer’s brother, which has lived in Calgary for 5 years now. At the beginning of our visit, a city tour was inevitable.
Hereinafter, I would like to introduce you to my personal highlights in Calgary. The special feature about them is that they are all located in the city center, which means within walking distance and, what’s more, the visits are free (in line with the motto “explorer on a budget”).
What I liked about visiting Calgary, is that there is a high chance of sunshine ☀️ – who doesn’t like sunshine on vacation?!
“Calgary is the only major city in Canada to average nearly 2400 hours of sun a year. […] Calgary also heads the list of Canadian cities for total days in a year [333 days!!].”
(Source: Current Results – weather and science facts, confirmed by the aforementioned family)
Let’s go on a (un)guided city tour then!
Since I’m not a big fan of guides à la “What you can do in XX for 24 hours”, I would like to point out that the following highlights are based on the selection of locations the family showed me. Though keep in mind that they have been living in the city for some time now and designed the tour based on their experiences. I do not wish to masquerade as a connoisseur of Calgary.
As I wrote in my last article about Calgary, the city appears very green and inviting with its many parks. Right in the city center, on an island in the Bow River, lies the Prince’s Island Park. Tourists and residents stroll around here. The latter especially enjoy a walk during lunch break. The sound of the babbling river and the plums of water help you relax.
On the southern side of the island, you can gaze at the skyscrapers of downtown, while on the northern side, the setting appears rather flat and rural. On the western tip of the park, the Peace Bridge connects both of the sides.
The Bow River underneath it has a bluish color. The cold water is the drainage of the Bow Glacier and comes fresh from the Banff National Park.
⭐ If you spent a few days longer in the city…
… and you long for a green, quiet place for rest, then check out Nose Hill Park in the heart of the city (one of the favorite parks of Calgarians) or the extensive Fish Creek Provincial Park in the South.
Top 3: Calgary Public Library
If you like architecture, you will enjoy this masterpiece of a building: the Calgary Public Library. Especially the inside is astonishing. IMO it is not usual for a city library to have this many workspaces, reading armchairs and also bustle… (Meaning not everyone comes here to read books only.)
Top 2: Devonian Gardens – a botanical garden amidst shopping center
Maybe it only was the surprise effect, in any case, this one-hectare big green oasis in the CORE Shopping Center blew my mind! Over 500 trees and umpteen fish ponds, you can admire on the top floor.
The Devonian Garden is a botanical garden and lounge at the same time. You can meet up with friends here to chat between the plants or you can chill on the tables after your mileage of today.
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Top 1: Calgary’s Skyline – a free view of the downtown
As I mentioned in my last post, the city is relatively flat. For you, this means that you don’t need to “fly high” to catch some beautiful views of the city. Since the skyscrapers look impressive in the distance, the visit to one of the viewing platforms is a must. Those who would like to save the 18 CAD for the Calgary tower (the TV tower rather gets lost in the cityscape given its size), can fall back on the surrounding parks that rise behind the Prince’s Island Park.
At the northern end of the park, there is a metal suspension bridge, from which you will see wooden stairs in the distance, which will lead you to the Crescent Heights Lookout Point. However, I haven’t visited this one yet! Instead, we went to a viewpoint a few blocks west on the Crescent Rd NW (you can reach it on foot from the Peace Bridge), which didn’t make it onto Google Maps yet and therefore only had three other visitors when we were there in the late afternoon.
Coordinates of the viewpoint*: 51°03’33.9″N 114°04’55.1″W
* The one who adds these coordinates as a location to Google Maps is responsible for tourist masses gathering here very soon. 😉
PS: The viewpoint is included in the offline maps from MAPS.me** though (one of my favorite apps when walking on foot!) – **free app; self-downloaded
⭐ Bonus tip: vegan all-you-can-eat buffet @ Ambrosia Veggie House
If hunger haunts you, I’ll give you this exclusive insider tip: Try the lunch buffet at Ambrosia Veggie House. It offers a big selection of Chinese and pan-Asian food. The restaurant is located on the bottom floor of the Buddhist Avatamsaka Monastery and follows Buddhist principles. Apart from vegetarian/vegan food, no strong-smelling plants like garlic and onion are used. The dishes are mainly vegan.
The buffet is offered during the week only (Monday to Friday). More info and opening hours: www.ambrosiaveggie.com. On your walk through the city, you can integrate the restaurant in your tour between the Peace Bridge/Prince’s Island Park and the viewpoint.
Note: It is unfortunate that we were unable to try this restaurant ourselves during our stay in Calgary. This bonus tip is based on the recommendations of the family we visited as well as other local residents.
In addition to the city tour, there are lots of other attractions available around Calgary, as the excavation site of dinosaurs in Drumheller. We also spent some time in the Rockies. Calgary isn’t called the “gateway to the Rocky Mountains” for nothing. In good weather, you can already spot the mountains in the distance. You reach the Banff National Park in just over an hour drive. But this is a completely different story… 😊
PS: We walked over 10 km on the day of our city tour. So wear comfortable shoes – thank me later…
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Have you been to Calgary already? What are your highlights and insider tips in Calgary? Feel free to share them with our community. 🙏