Calgary is the largest city in Alberta, Canada, and like any big city, you may want to get out from time to time. Culture Trip’s local insiders line up the best places to get away from the urban buzz and back to nature.
Inside Stephen Avenue Mall is a 2.5-acre (1ha) indoor garden, comprising a full city block. In a city that can get downright frigid, its tropical plants and more than 550 trees are a welcome sight in deepest winter. The space, which recently reopened after a four-year refurbishment, is maintained by the City of Calgary Parks and includes koi ponds and a living wall. There are rumored plans for a full-service restaurant. Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
Of the 20 acres (8ha) of park here, 39,735sqft (3,692sqm) are carefully cultivated gardens that are largely looked after by volunteers. There are 17 gardens, each with its own theme and character. The Shakespeare Garden, for example, includes herbs and vegetables mentioned in the bard’s texts. The Half Moon Garden, which is shaped how you’d expect, includes bright annual blossoms and wisteria vines that meander through an ornate trellis. It’s a great place to get lost – particularly in the enigmatic twists of its labyrinth, where you can lose track of time among all the wild thyme. Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
The Beaulieu Gardens are the formal, terraced gardens of the historic Lougheed House, built in 1891. Located on the edge of the city, this palatial, sandstone house is now a museum, and its gardens are maintained by the City of Calgary Parks. Taking a stroll through Beaulieu Gardens reveals that it is true to its name, which means beautiful place in French, a nod to Calgary’s roots. Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
This garden is a living tribute to its original nurturer, William Roland Reader, who served as the superintendent for Calgary Parks from 1913 to 1942. An avid horticulturist, Reader collected alpine plants on his travels throughout Canada and planted them together on a barren hillside, turning it into a flourishing collection of more than 4,000 species. Today, this idyllic spot, which includes a cafe, is popular for Sunday brunch. (Be sure to try the molten lava cake – it’ll change your life.) Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
This sporting park includes two cricket pitches and a wading pool. It’s also near Kensington, a neighborhood with plenty of great eateries and quality shopping. If you happen to in during summertime, you’re in luck: the Calgary Concert Band hosts free concerts all season long. Recommended by local insider Patrick Twomey
Towering balsam poplar trees dominate the scenery in this natural beauty spot on the shores of the Bow River. Bird watchers come for geese, vireos, gulls and catbirds. It’s also a favorite among amphibian- and reptile-spotters, as you’ll often hear boreal chorus frogs and wood frogs, and will sometimes spot a garter snake. But the area is most popular among anglers – the “blue ribbon Bow” boasts a great many trout, which attracts as many fishermen as birds. This so-called natural garden, along fertile river banks, also sprouts many wild flowers in the warmer months. Recommended by local insider Yamila
The 26,000sqft (2,415sqm) Winter Garden features thousands of plants, growing from the ground as well as up a living wall. And despite its name, it is open year-round, as it sits comfortably inside the 38-story Jamieson Place office block. The space also showcases elaborate glass sculptures, suspended from the ceiling, by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly. And, as if that weren’t enough ambience, the infinity pool lends the garden a fair bit of zen. Recommended by local insider Yamila