There’s more to Calgary than just the Stampede (that said, if you’re there in July, it’s all about the Stampede). From its humble “Cowtown” beginnings, Calgary has evolved to become a modern, cosmopolitan city with a diverse population and a vibrancy all its own – though it still embraces and proudly celebrates its Western traditions and roots. And while there’s a wide variety of things visitors can do there any time of year, here are three great ways to experience Calgary this winter.
1. Immerse yourself in a world of music
If you think “Cowtown” is just about country music – think again. On the city’s Music Mile, you’ll find an amazing array of venues hosting music of all genres. Music Mile runs on 9th Avenue SE from the Blues Can in the city’s historic Inglewood neighbourhood to Studio Bell (home of the new National Music Centre) in East Village. In between, the variety of music stages encompasses the likes of Ironwood Stage & Grill, 500 Cucina, The Nash, Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar, the Lantern Church, Charbar, Bite Groceteria, and Festival Hall, home of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
If you’ll be in Calgary from February 10–12, the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s younger and “hotter” sibling, Block Heater 2.0, returns for its second season. Heating up four venues in Inglewood – Festival Hall, the Ironwood, the Lantern Community Church and the Alexandra Dance Centre – more than two dozen international, national and local music artists from virtually every genre will perform in as well as in Not to be missed.
Opened on Canada Day in 2016, the National Music Centre is a must-see for any music fan. At this amazing new facility, you’ll get to see more than 2,000 rare and significant music artifacts, such as the guitar Randy Bachman used to record the Guess Who “American Woman,” as well as the Rolling Stones’ famous Mobile Studio and one of Elton John’s pianos. There are fun and educational interactive installations where you can try your hand at playing drums or electric guitar, experiment with recording and even create your own instruments. The NMC’s programming also includes artist incubation and daily performances.
2. Go for gold!
Want to experience what it feels like to be an Olympian? In Calgary, you can!
Each year, one million people visit Canada Olympic Park, the year-round sports complex maintained by WinSport Canada where the 1988 Olympic Winter Games were held. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, you can get that Winter Olympic experience firsthand on the four-person bobsleigh course. Your experienced pilot will make sure you stay on the track as you reach speeds of up to 100 km/hr, zooming through 10 turns over the course of a thrilling 60 seconds. For a solo speed rush, try the luge track.
Or try a few laps at the Olympic Oval, North America’s first covered speed skating venue, and still one of the world’s fastest skating surfaces. Just imagine, next time you watch the Olympic Winter Games on TV, you can turn to your friends and say, “I’ve done that!”
For something more family-friendly, try WinSport’s new Acura Tube Park. With nine snow tubing lanes, many nearly 200 metres long, it’s the largest park of its kind in Western Canada – fun for the entire family or group outings. Go here for details.
These are all very popular activities, so make sure you book ahead at WinSport Canada before you go.
3. Revel in the Rockies
Anywhere you go in Calgary, the Rocky Mountains are a majestic presence on the western skyline. Being so close, it would be a shame not to experience the natural wonders of these amazing mountains.
The 90-minute drive to Banff National Park is well worth it. In the cozy resort town of Banff, you’ll find any number of ways to launch your outdoor adventures or maybe pursue more relaxing activities, traipsing through Banff Avenue’s many shops or enjoying its wonderful restaurants. Take a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain and bathe in the soothing Upper Hot Springs, one of Banff’s nine naturally occurring hot springs.
For more mountain adventure, head down the road 15 minutes to Sunshine Village. Sunshine can receive up to 30 feet of snow during a season, and thanks to its altitude of 7,200 feet, the snow stays year-round and remains dry – perfect for skiing. In fact, the resort claims it has Canada’s best snow. Sunshine also boasts more than 3,300 acres of ski country, from gentle, newbie-friendly slopes to the most challenging mountain runs. And with three rambling mountains in the area, you’ll have no shortage of breathtaking sights and vistas.
To take things to a higher level – literally– how about an aerial tour of the Rockies? Helicopter tours may be a little on the pricey side, but there’s nothing more breathtaking or unforgettable.
BONUS: Our tip for getting around
Calgary’s street grid is incredibly sensible and easy to navigate. The city is divided into four geographic quadrants: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. Every address is appended with the quadrant it’s in (e.g., 123 4th Avenue SW), so you immediately know which area of the city you’re dealing with. The street that divides the east and west quadrants is called, appropriately, Centre Street; the Bow River divides the north and south quadrants. How easy is that?Got any other suggestions for winter fun in the Calgary area? Share your ideas in the comments below!