A Travel Girl’s Guide to Calgary, Alberta

Flying into Calgary at night, you can really see where the independent frontier strength of the city comes from.  Suburbs and skyscrappers stretch out in tiny flickering lights surrounded by complete darkness; the emptiness of the flat, prairie-like farmland before the expanse of the Rocky Mountains. The downtown core has become a foodie hot spot and although a major draw is the nature surrounding the city, spending a few days exploring Calgary itself is a great addition to your trip. Check out my travel girl’s guide to calgary to help plan your trip!

Getting There

Plane: This is probably the easiest way to arrive. Calgary is a long drive from most places outside of Alberta and the international airport is easy to access.  While there is an express bus that runs to the airport, wait times can be long. I would recommend renting a car here as you will need  a car for any activities outside of the city.

What to Do

The Library

Library : Recently unveiled, this impressive building is a wonder to explore. Grab a coffee at the café and wander around, check out a book, an instrument or just admire the architecture.

Bow River Trail: Newly renovated, the promande along the river is a beautiful way to experience the glacier fed river. Grab a coffee and spend your morning strolling with locals.

 Inglewood: One of the most popular neighbourhoods in the city for it’s vintage shopping and trendy places to eat.

 Kensington: A bustling hub of shops, resteraunts and bars. A perfect place to experience some nightlife and good food. Being so close to the University, it has a more hipster feel than other places in the city.

Zoo: One of the nicest Canadian Zoo’s I’ve been to. With a big focus on conservation and animal wellness, this zoo is fun without  as many of the moral qualms of other zoo’s.  It’s small and walkable, but beautifully landscaped.

The Core Shopping Centre : Shopping is big here, and the mall is no different. If you’re all shopped out, head to the top floor for an oasis of tropical gardens, fountains and hidden benches.

Get Adventurous: One of the biggest draws of Calgary is that is the gateway to the mountains. Get out of the city and explore!

Check out my 5 day Alberta Itinerary for more inspiration if you want to explore outside of the city.

What to Eat

Calgary has a huge foodie scene! New trendy eateries for every taste seem to be popping up daily with the growing diversity of the city.  While you’ll want to try some Canadian classics if this is your first visit to the country (Think beaver tails, poutine and maple syrup inspired dishes), the international cuisine is starting to give larger cities like Vancouver and Toronto a run for their money.

Some of my favourite places were:

Pho Houz: the Pho was some of the best I’ve ever had and the Vermicelli was amazing too!

Native Tongues: An upscale twist on Mexican street food dishes. Half the fun was the décor!

Village Ice Cream: Unique, house made flavours that vary by season.

Higher Ground Café: An endless menu of coffee, tea and treats in a bustling, yet cozy atmosphere.

Made by Marcus: ice cream taken to the next level.  Known for their insta-worthy Sundays piled high with things like cotton candy and torch melted marshmallows.  

Where to Stay

Calgary has two speeds: fast and slow. You might want to mix your stay between a few days in Calgary to experience what the city has to offer and then escape into nature.  For a more local feel try staying in Kensington, or for a more glam hotel stay grab a hotel downtown. When you’re ready for a break, escape to Banff or rent a cabin to live out your best mountain man adventure.

Tips and Tricks

  • Weather in Calgary is notoriously fickle. Pack lots of layers and prepare for a range in temperature no matter the season.
  • Be sure to get car insurance if renting a car. Gravel is used in the winter’s to help with slippery conditions and it’s not unusual to see many cracked windshields on the road.
  • Since we’re talking about cars, remember to leave valuables locked out of sight. Car break-ins are also not uncommon.

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