Calgary is a great base from which to explore Southern and Western Alberta or plunge into the Rocky Mountains. Banff and Jasper National Parks are two of North America’s most beautiful natural areas, and the Icefields Parkway connecting them is one of the continent’s most scenic drives. They’re great ski areas but also have plenty to experience year-round. Kananaskis and Canmore are also good mountain destinations.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is an immense graveyard of bison bones left by Plains Indians over 10,000 years. They discovered an ingenious way to hunt the bison by driving them over a cliff to their deaths. The interpretive center is fantastic.
Dinosaur Provincial Park is the site of one of the best dinosaur fossil beds in the world. The Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller houses many of the specimens that have been found in Alberta.
Volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization to preserve and promote western heritage and values. World-renowned 10-day Stampede; Stampede Park facilities for year-round events including Cirque du Soleil shows & hockey games to antique shows; also western events, youth and agriculture programs.
The Calgary Tower isn’t the prettiest telecommunications tower you’ll ever see. But it’s still the tallest building in the city and its most readily identifiable landmark. The view from the observation deck is fantastic – on a clear day, you can see straight to the Rocky Mountains. The glass floor experience is also quite disorienting – visitors feel like they’re suspended 160 meters/525 feet above ground and an optical illusion makes the Tower appear as if it’s bending away. During the 1988 Winter Olympics, the Tower hosted the Olympic Flame, making it the tallest Olympic Torch ever.
The first settlement in the area was the Northwest Mounted Police’s Fort Calgary, built in 1875. Fort Calgary Historic Park, at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, maintains many buildings from the era, including the barracks and the jail. Visitors can learn more at the Interpretive Center and try on an authentic RCMP uniform.
The Military Museums have the largest collection of military artifacts in Canada outside of the War Museum in Ottawa. The museum focuses on four local army regiments and their service in Canada’s major international conflicts (Boer War, World Wars, Korean War, the Balkan Wars, Afghanistan, and peacekeeping operations). There’s also a naval museum and an outdoor vehicle gallery.
Calgary also honored its soldiers from the First World War with an interpretive hiking trail overlooking a former Sarcee Camp. The whitewashed stones left near the trail spell out the numbers of Calgary’s local battalions.
Before Vancouver and Whistler stole all the attention, Calgary’s 1988 Winter Olympics was revered for its fantastic Olympic Park. During the winter, you can try out four of the Olympic ski runs and half-pipes and visit the ski jump hill for amazing views. On some days, you can try a run on the bobsled/luge track (it’s recommended to book ahead).
Inside the city, you can visit Olympic Plaza, where the medal presentations took place. The Plaza now hosts a series of interesting art installations that make it a pleasant place to sit and watch the crowds pass.
The largest museum in Western Canada, the Glenbow collects more than a million objects with an emphasis on regional history, art, and culture. It’s rounded out with temporary exhibitions that show off the latest trends in art from the rest of Canada and around the world. There’s probably no better introduction to the unique cultures of Western Canada.