Traveler: Danielle Gervalis
When: September 2017
Calgary is an excellent jump-off to the majestic National Parks less than a two-hour drive from the city. That being said, Calgary has some great things to offer travelers in its own right, but it doesn’t take more than 48 hours to see all there is to see. We packed in the sites during an overnight stay on our way home from Banff National Park.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in the Downtown/East Village area of Calgary. Walkable to all the main tourist hot spots, as well as, one block from the famed Studio Bell, this location enabled us to get to and from the airport within 20 minutes and be in the heart of a great neighborhood.
Things to Do:
The famous bright red helix bridge connects the Sunnyside neighborhood and the Eau Claire Park across the Bow River. The ecological design stemmed from Spanish architect Santiago Calatrave and opened in March 2012. Since then 6,000 people walk across it everyday. I highly recommend checking out the bridge and the peaceful views of the park and river.
This deceptively enormous museum has multiple floors of intriguing artwork and programs. The Glenbow was established by Eric Harvey after he struck it rich when oil was found on land he owned and began collecting artifacts from all over the world. In true Canadian fashion, he donated his entire collection to the people of Alberta in 1966 which became the basis of the museum. Their permanent collection features extensive artwork, textiles and historical artifacts about North America and Western Canada; mineral exhibitions; and my favorite, an exhibit dedicated to Warriors across the globe and five centuries. The museum costs $16 for adults and is closed on Mondays, so plan your trip accordingly.
Stephen Avenue is the pedestrian mall in downtown lined with shops, restaurants, bars and performers! Between 2nd and 3rd street, you’ll find the iconic Galleria Tree sculptures which were installed in the year 2000 to reduce wind gusts on the popular walkway. Recently, the trees have been equipped with both LED lights and music and now partner with local acts for arts programs.
Wonderland Exhibit at the Bow Building
This outdoor sculpture created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is at the entrance of the tall skyscraper known as the Bow Building. The Wonderland is a large painted stainless steel mesh of a young girl’s head. You can walk in and around it for some fun photo ops.
Nose Hill Natural Environment Park
Just a 20 minute drive northwest of the city lies almost 3,000 acres of natural environment park. If you have time and a car, there are several hiking trails through the native grasslands which has beautiful views of downtown Calgary and the Rocky Mountains.
Next to City Hall, Olympic Plaza was built in 1988 for the Winter Olympics for medal presentation ceremonies and now hosts special events throughout the year.
You’ll also find bronze sculptures of “The Famous Five“, who were a group of female suffragists who petitioned the Supreme Court to define “qualified persons”, as its existing interpretation implied women were not considered persons and thus could not serve in the Canadian Senate. The Supreme Court unanimously declared women were not considered to be “persons”. Undaunted, these brave women appealed the decision and a year later, the court decision was overturned and women were finally able to be active in all facets of public life.
The sculptures feature all five women in different poses and quotes attributed to them:
“What, after all, is the purpose of a woman’s life? The purpose of a woman’s life is just the same as the purpose of a man’s life: that she may make the best possible contribution to the generation in which she is living.” – Louise McKinney
The National Music Centre’s Studio Bell opened in July 2016. It’s a music-related museum, performance centre, broadcasting facility, and organizes a variety of events designed to develop and promote music in Canada. Additionally, it contains the historic King Edward Hotel, which was one of the oldest bars in the city and now serves as a live music venue. The building is beautifully designed and worth checking out for a show or just to peruse their musical museum collections.
Places to Eat and Drink:
Alforno Bakery Cafe
This quaint café is park adjacent and has a nice menu of coffees, sweets, sandwiches and wines. It was a perfect stop to share an appetizer and a glass of wine after enjoying a stroll through the park.
This family owned and operated restaurant has been in operation in Calgary since 1966 and serves authentic Cantonese and Szechuan dishes. Coincidentally, the also have a location in Banff. We tried to the Shanghai style noodles with pork and the Chicken Chowmain and licked our plates clean. This place is a great deal for tasty Chinese food at a reasonable price!
Last Best Brewing
A beer connoisseur’s dream, this brewpub is located on Stephen Avenue. If you are looking to learn about and sample some incredible brews, while chatting with beer experts, then you will want to spend some time here. If you aren’t into beer, they also have a full cocktail and food menu.
A large and popular spot in downtown, this bar has a rotating selection of local and seasonal beers. Their menu has nice variety of typical bar food and a few surprises like the Curry Chicken Rice Bowl. Stop here and try some Canadian Brews!