Calgary, Alberta

 Canada

Welcome to one of three of our hometowns, Calgary, Alberta.
Calgary is referred to as “Cowtown” and is one of the cleanest cities in the world. It is also the sunniest city in Canada, with an average of 2600 hours of sun per year.

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Transportation

While you are in downtown, the trains are free to use as long as you stay in downtown. Downtown parking is free from 6PM to 9AM on weekdays + Saturday, and free all day Sunday. Meter parking takes effect between 9AM to 6PM. Be careful to pay attention to parking signs, as some areas do not allow stopping or parking during rush hours. Many vehicles have been towed for parking at the wrong time. Note: There are many one way streets in downtown, so be careful which road you turn onto.

car rentalCar Rentals at the airport is located on departures Level 2, across the road from the terminal. Car Rentals off site (pre-booked online) provides a courtesy shuttle to their rental locations at arrivals Bay 6. Tip: In the summer, hail can occur in certain areas in Calgary, so check to make sure your insurance cover for rental vehicle, or purchase it from the car rental to be safe.

TTC_Orion_VII_NG_HEV_Bus Bus. $8.50 CAD. Located on Arrivals Level 1 at Bus Bay 7 & 8. Bus tickets can be purchase from the Mac’s store located at the airport, at ticket machine at Bay 7, or with exact change on the bus. Route 300 is an express bus from the airport to downtown. Route 100 runs from the airport to McKnight Westwinds C-Train Station with connections to downtown, south or northwest Calgary. Buses run every 20-30 minutes from 5am until midnight. Approximate time to downtown is 30 mins.

shuttleShuttle. $15 CAD one-way. Located at Arrivals Level 1 at Bus Bay 19. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes from 8 am until midnight and connect to most major hotels in downtown. You can buy tickets from the Allied Shuttle counter near Arrivals Gate C by phone or online. Note: Check to see if your hotel offers courtesy shuttle. Bus Bay 16 & 17 is for hotel courtesy shuttles.

taxiTaxiFares are based on meter rates or flat zone rates. Approximate price to get from the airport to downtown is between $40-45 CAD by meter rates. Flat rate zones are 25% higher than meter fares for downtown. However, this is a potential option for other destinations, view rate here.

Accommodation

Acclaim (Airport). Free airport shuttles are available that takes approximately 10 mins from the airport. It is only rated 3-stars because it doesn’t have all the amenities (like a swimming pool, ect.) but the room itself is more like a 4-stars in my opinion.  The decoration is very modernized, the bed is incredibly soft and comfortable and the bathroom has a giant rainfall shower head. Acclaim also offers free coffee/tea in the lobby and free parking. The only negative is having to drive ~20 mins to get to downtown, not a big deal if you have a car.

Westin Hotel (Downtown). This is a 4-stars hotel located in the midst of the busy downtown area within walking distance to most shopping venues, museums, city centres, and other outdoor activities. The room is very clean and quiet, the location is very convenient, but parking is ~$30 CAD per night. Tip: Park your car at an underground parking lot next to the hotel for almost half the price. 

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Calgary University. 

This is a 3.5 stars hotel, but more like a 4 stars in my opinion because of all the amenities. It is one of the rare hotel with free underground parking—perfect if you are travelling in the winter. The room is big, it includes a very comfortable bed, a big screen T.V and desk, a side chair, a refrigerator, a coffee maker in the room. The room does not have a bath tub, but made up for it by having a nice big shower stall, although the shower head is not that great. There is free breakfast in the morning. A C-train station is next to the hotel to take you downtown in less than 10 min.

If you have a vehicle, choose a hotel close to downtown so you don’t have to pay for parking and don’t have to drive far for most of the attractions.

Weather/Appropriate Attires

Winter. Like most places in Alberta, weather in Calgary can dip as low as -30 C from November to February so a winter jacket is a must. But unique to Calgary is the potential for a Chinook. This happens when dry air comes down from the mountains and rapidly warms, and can make a winter day much more pleasant. For example, it can be -20C one day and -1C a few days later.

Spring/fall. Whether can be unpredictable between March to May and September to November so it’s always a good idea to pack a light jacket and warmer clothes.

Summer. The weather runs between 20-30C from June to August. There is an average of 9 hours of sunshine with the sun setting around 11pm.

Food

Calgary has a variety of affordable and different ethnic restaurants and we simply cannot mention them all. Below are a few of our favorite places in Calgary.

Tip: Restaurants in downtown tend to cost more, once you leave the core of downtown, food prices tend to be cheaper or portion sizes tend to be bigger.

For more Calgary restaurant review, check our food blog here.

Bun-Bo-Hue-2008Bun Bo Hue Deli. This place serves the best Bun Bo Hue in Alberta! Bun Bo Hue is a popular Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup. Each bowl contains thick round rice noodles, thin slices of marinated beef, oxtail and other ingredients seasoned with fermented shrimp sauce and spicy chili oil and other garnishes. You can eat inside the restaurant for under $10 CAD a bowl or opt for take out by bringing your own pot to fill with your choice of $20 or $30 soup portion. The portion is huge, a $20 take out could feed at least 6 people. They will give you a bucket and charge $5 more if you do not bring your own pot. Note: if you opt for takeout, you will need to boil the soup before eating.

Ramen_by_avlxyz_at_Ajisen_Ramen,_MelbourneMuku, Menyatai, Shiki Menya are three of the city best ramen places! Ramen is noodles made from wheat flour, water, salt and either eggs or alkaline mineral water prepared in a soup base (chicken, pork, miso or fish stock) and decorated with various ingredients. All three restaurants serve delicious noodles and broth. The price for a bowl of ramen is ~$15 CAD.

15638576727_6c61025113_oForbidden City Restaurant. This is the only place I go to eat dimsum because the food is always hot and fresh and the price is very affordable ($3 to $6 CAD per dish). This restaurant serves my favorite Egg York Buns, as you bite into the soft bun… flowing lava custard spills out into your mouth…YUM! Sunday is a busy time for dimsum, if you come late, expect a long wait time. Note: One of my sisters insisted that I mention she is not a fan of the Egg York Buns.

pancake-280112_960_720Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus. Delicious crêpe-style pancake breakfast, Dutch style. I have been there twice and both times it was a 10-30 minutes wait time. Longer wait times are usually during Sunday brunch hours which is around noon.


Tired of eating the same types of burgers and hotdogs? The two places below get creative with their toppings. It’s very delicious, although pricey ($11 CAD for a burger or hotdog) when compared to fast food prices.

I apologize if the pictures do not make the food look good.

boogie burgers Boogie Burgers.

tubby dog Tubby Dogs. 


Top activities to do in Calgary

Calgary1

1. Zipline (Canada Olympic Park)For the adrenaline rush seekers. Price is ~$60 CAD for all three ZipLines.

Trainer Zipline – This is where they train you on how to ride the zipline.
Plaza Zipline – Zipline speeds of up to 80km/hr.
Monster Zipline – This is North America’s fastest Zipline at 120km/hr. It is 500 metres long with a vertical drop of more than 100 metres.

calgary zoo2. Calgary Zoo. This is the second largest zoo in Canada (behind Toronto). The zoo grounds are divided into 7 regions: Canadian Wilds, Conservatory and Gardens, Africa, Eurasia, Penguin Plunge, and Prehistoric Park. You get to see tropical rainforest, gorillas, snakes, crocodiles, penguins, and tons of other live animals. Admission fee is $23 CAD and daily parking is $8 CAD. Prepare to spend at least 3 hours here. Tip: Best to go in the summer as lots of things are closed in the winter and it is really cold walking outdoors.

When we went, there was a boy bouncing a basketball. The tiger seemed intrigued and began to follow him around the fence. That was how I was able to take the above image, because the tiger’s eyes were mesmerized on the ball…or kid.

3. Downtown.

downtown1– Stephen Avenue Walk was declared a National Historical District in 2002. Stroll this historic street to see the architectural styles from the late 1800s to the 1930s. It’s also home to pubs, cafes, restaurants, boutiques and high-end retailers. In the summer, street performers and sidewalk cafes make the street feel Europe-like.

– Take in the 360 degree view from the top of the Calgary Tower.

– Appreciate the architectural structures of the Chinese Cultural Centre, 70 foot high ceiling decorated with 561 dragons and 40 phoenixes. The structure is supported by 4 gold columns representing each season, and the entire wooden dome built in Beijing, dissembled and shipped to Calgary.

calgary– Interesting fact: The Peace Bridge ($24.5 million), a pedestrian and cyclist bridge found in downtown Calgary, is amongst the most expensive bridge in the world in cost per metre length.

– Visit Prince’s Island Park which hosts Canada Day celebration and Calgary Folk festival. It’s a nice place to go for a walk.

Summer activities:

Bull-Riding-calgary1. Stampede. An annual 10 days festival that usually occurs in July. This is the largest outdoor show in Alberta, attracting over one million visitors each year. Hotels are more expensive at this time and you will need to book way in advance.

The Stampede is filled with concerts, stage shows, chuckwagon racing, rodeo, rides, games, beer gardens, and delicious carnival food. Expect to spend between $100-200 CAD for this event. Money Saving Tip: Buy concerts/acts package in advance from the official website. Ride tickets/bands can also be bought a few days before the event at Safeway. If you don’t mind a crowd, save money and go on the first Sunday when the admissions and pancake breakfasts are free before 9AM. As an added bonus, parking is also free in downtown on Sunday, so park your car in downtown and take the train to get to the stampede. Check out free music performers at the Coca-Cola Stage.

2. Heritage Park Historical Village.

calgary Heritage_parkThis is Canada`s largest living history museum. Admission includes entrance to the Heritage Town Square, Gasoline Alley Museum, and Historical Village. The Park is a fascinating way to go back in time to see what Calgary was like in the 1860,1880,1910 and 1930-50. You get to ride trains and paddle boats, check out classic cars, see staff in period costumes, and learn about native culture. With shops and restaurants available on site, the Park is big enough to spend at least half a day here. Admission fee is $26 CAD. Note: Historical Village is closed from Oct-May so you only need to pay admission for Gasoline Alley Museum, $11 CAD. Heritage Town Square is an admission free zone.

Calaway_Park23. Calaway Park. Usually runs between May to October. Click here for updated park hours. This is Western Canada’s largest Amusement Park just outside Calgary, filled with rides, attractions, live shows, and street performers. Parking is free and admission fee with unlimited rides is less than $40 CAD. Although the park offers many rides, adults rides are quite limited. Approximate travel time is 30 mins drive from Calgary. Tip: You can bring your own food and water to save money. Wear comfortable shoes and as a precaution bring extra clothing in your car or wear clothes that won’t take too long to dry if you plan to go on the water rides.

20140727_1846534. Float the Bow. Float down the Bow River and enjoy the wonderful views of the city. This is a very slow and relaxing activity, and a great way to tan. You will need life jackets, paddles, raft, and 2 vehicles. One vehicle waiting at your exit point, and another to drive you to your starting point of your choosing.

There are a few places in Calgary that you can rent the equipments from, here is one place.

Note: The river is policed and monitored so make sure your life jacket is on. It is also very important to get off before passing the downtown portion if you’re starting from the North, as there are deadly rapids after.

calgary expo5. The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. Annual event in April or May, usually only for a few days. Located at Stampede Park, entrance fee varies depending on the day, but it is ~$50 CAD per day. Celebrities, writers, and comic book artists can be found attending the convention. Many people wear costumes from characters in comics or movies. You can also buy some pretty posters from the original artists.

I went in 2014 and saw Tom Felton (Malfoy from Harry Potter) and Sean Astin (Samwise “Sam” Gamgee, hobbit from the Lord of the Rings).

Festivals.

6. Taste of Calgary. Occurs annually for a few days in August. Get a chance to sample food and beverages from a variety of local ethnic restaurants and Canadian favorites. A booth usually costs around 2-5 tickets, with 1 ticket being $1 CAD. Click here for a sample of past menu.

7. Marda Gras. On the second Sunday in August, the streets of Marda Loop get transformed into the New Orleans-themed Marda Gras. This one-day event includes free music and entertainment, street performers, variety of vendors and food trucks.

Winter activities:

Skier-carving-a-turn1. Skiing & Snowboarding. This is a winter must-do for many Albertans, and for you if you have never skied before. The location depends on how much time you have.

    • WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park. A ski hill for first time skiers without having to leave the city. I always recommend beginner skiers/snowboarders to go here as it is much cheaper than going to other ski hills located near Banff. You save money on gas and lift tickets are cheaper. Because you are learning, you will likely stay on the bunny hill and/or green hill so there is no point paying the big bucks to ski in the mountains.
    • Nakiska. Mountain skiing, yet still within distance to the city to make it a half day event. Approximate travel time is 45 minutes drive from Calgary.

Soon to come will be a post highlighting the bigger Ski Hills in the Rocky Mountains!

2140130291_75ef65fc5d_z2. Zoolights (6-9pm, end of Nov to beginning of January). The Calgary Zoo grounds get transformed into a winter wonderland with the help of 1.5 million lights. There are musical performers, fire pits, free ice skating with your own skates, see Candy Cane Lane lit up with Christmas lights or take a romantic stroll down Lover’s Lane. There are lots to see and do. Admission is $14 CAD, parking is $5 CAD.

Tip: Check out Attractions for coupons on activities.

We hope you will have a great time in our city. If you have more time, take a 2 hours drive to visit the Ski hills near Banff.

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