Located some 50 miles south of the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is Alberta’s largest city and encompasses a mash-up of sleek skyscrapers, bike-friendly trails and old Western vibes. The city’s also famous for its big open skies, alpine lakes and all-friendly Canadian hospitality. So, there’s a lot of terrain to cover. How can you pack the very best of it all into one weekend? We’ve asked our local insiders.
Calgary Climbing Centre
Founded by professional climbers who wanted to bring the fun of outdoors into town, Calgary Climbing Centre’s flagship sits on the West Valley road, just south of the Bow River. This spot packs the thrill of real mountain climbing, sans risk. It’s also a family-friendly spot, with a gym, dedicated children’s play area and an outdoor lead wall. So if you’re not up for the real deal (just yet), these simulations are a great way to test out your bouldering skills. Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
This one’s a bit of a hike – literally – but if you have a few hours to kill it’s well worth the trek. After all, it’s not every day you’ll catch a glimpse of the real Wild West. The Canadian Badlands are roughly an hour and a half’s drive from Calgary – but the road is peppered with open valleys, rustic ranches and mystical hoodoos (misshapen towers of rock). Stop off at the Royal Tyrrell Museum to catch a glimpse of Alberta’s many (many) dino skeletons, plus the largest uncovered remains of a sea reptile. Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
Most visitors breeze through downtown Calgary during the week, as it’s the city’s commercial core and gets pretty packed. But all you need is an hour or two to check out Stephen Avenue’s Walk for the Devonian Gardens (great plants), the Olympic Plaza (great fountains), Calgary Tower (great views), Prince Island Park (great events) and the Glenbow Museum (great art). All that walking is bound to work up an appetite, so stop off in Chinatown for bold, spicy noodles (and hands down the best salt and pepper squid in the region). Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
Taking a trip here is like stepping onto the set of Westworld. This fully immersive, living museum spans 127 acres of a Wild West-inspired village, with costumed interpreters, real saloons, and a vintage steam train. Located on the Glenmore Reservoir, the park depicts life throughout different periods of time, notably from the 1860s through to the 1930s. As the locals will tell you, it’s a hoot and a half. Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
Don’t worry if you’ve got limited time on your hands – you can still curb the urge to spend at Chinook Centre. It’s Calgary’s largest mall, replete with high-end boutiques, high-street favourites and a massive food court (Joey Restaurant can whip up a mean steak and lobster ravioli). It’s a popular winter destination for locals shirking the frozen tundra outside, and the modern multiplex cinema hosts viewings on the regular. Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
Every July, Calgarians and visitors alike flock to the Calgary Stampede for a national fill of rodeos, derbys, parades and mountains of Timbits – hot sugary donuts that’ll make your teeth ache after one bite. Canadians call it the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. They’re not wrong either – these shows have been around since 1886. Recommended by local insider Yamila