Presenting: Calgary – Canada’s Heart of the New West

During our upcoming ski trip in the Alberta Rockies this March, we’ll be visiting Calgary for the first time. As a matter of fact, it will be our first time in the Canadian Rockies ever. We’ll have a brief one-day layover in Calgary before we move on to skiing in Banff and Lake Louise and will try to get a sneak peak at Alberta’s capital.

To prepare us for our compact discovery of Calgary, I have talked to Paul Newmarch from Tourism Calgary to get a lay of the land so to speak, to give us an overview so we’ll be able to explore Canada’s New West.

1. Please provide us with some general information about Calgary. How large is the city, where is it located, what is the weather like?

According to the civic census, Calgary’s population was 956,078 in April 2005. Calgary is located in the province of Alberta, 145 Km east of Banff, and 250 km from the US border. Calgary’s average summer temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius, and in the winter, average temperature is -8 Celsius. That said, there is a local saying in Calgary that if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary

2. How can one get to Calgary and what is the best way of getting around in Calgary?

Calgary is accessible along the TransCanada highway, or by direct air from a number of cities, including the following:
Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, St. John’s, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Yellownknife.

The following US cities have direct connections to Calgary:
Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Maui, Minneapolis, New York (JFK), Orlando, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

You will find direct flights to Calgary from the following European cities:
Frankfurt, London and Manchester.

The best way to get around would be to use the Calgary Transit System. Train service is free in the downtown core, and a one way adult fare is $2.25. Otherwise, taxi cabs are available to and from all areas of the city.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary

3. Please tell us a bit about Calgary’s history.

Calgary’s history as a city began in 1875 when a detachment of North West Mounted Police (NWMP) arrived. The NWMP established Fort Calgary at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in an area that, at that time, had few permanent inhabitants. Except for local native peoples who used the area for hunting, the only full-time occupants were Sam Livingston, a homesteader, and his family.

Calgary was named by NWMP Colonel James Macleod after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. (Although there has been much discussion on the topic, it is believed Calgary is derived from the Gaelic Cala-ghearridh meaning “bay farm.”)

On Nov. 7, 1884, Calgary was officially incorporated as a town and less than a decade later, on Jan. 1, 1894, the town became a city. Harness-maker George Murdoch was the first mayor of Calgary. The CPR was delivering a continuous supply of settlers to Calgary by 1885. These new immigrants had an impact on the established ranching life surrounding Calgary as they moved on to the range formerly inhabited by large herds of cattle. Although the ranching industry changed significantly after its arrival, the presence of the CPR led directly to the importance of the processing and exporting of meat to Calgary’s economy.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary

4. Please tell us about some of the major attractions, museums and galleries in the Calgary area.

Perhaps the best known Calgary attraction is the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day western extravaganza of rodeo, chuckwagon races, pancake breakfasts, square dancing and more. It always kicks off the first Friday of July, this year it runs July 7-16.

In addition, Calgary is home to Western Canada’s largest museum, the Glenbow Museum. With exhibitions that change twice a year, and a permanent exhibit on the history of some of Alberta’s first nations people, the Blackfoot, it is an attraction not to be missed.

Calgary is also home to the world renowned Calgary Zoo. The Zoo has more than 1,000 animals, and the new Destination Africa and Canadian Wilds Exhibits.

There is also Canada Olympic Park (one of the host sites from the XV Winter Olympic Games), Heritage Park, (Canada’s largest living historical village), Spruce Meadows, a world famous show-jumping facility, Fort Calgary, the birthplace of the city , the Calgary Tower and the Calgary TELUS World of Science, a family attraction offering hands-on exhibits.

In addition, there are numerous art galleries, and live theatre organizations. The best resource for this is

Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary

5. Our readers would like to find out about the festivals and special events in Calgary.

Outside of the Calgary Stampede, there is also the Calgary Dragon Boat Race & Cultural Festival August 25-27, 20006; The Calgary Comedy Festival, FunnyFest April 28 – May 13, 2006; GlobalFest, which is a multi-cultural festival and international fireworks competition August 17 – 20, 2006; and the Calgary Folk Festival, July 27-30, 2006 .

There is a helpful calender of events on the Tourism Calgary website.

6. What about restaurants and entertainment / nightlife areas in Calgary?

There are a number of dining areas in Calgary, including Stephen Avenue walk (8th Avenue), the 17th Avenue District, and Kensington. As far as nightlife, your best bet would be along 17th (web as above) or there are a few clubs along 1st Street SW, or 9th Avenue SW, including Mynt Ultralounge which was recognized as best new nightclub by enRoute Magazine in 2004.

7. Please give us an overview of the performing arts on offer in Calgary.

Everything from puppetry to the philharmonic, Calgary’s art scene is growing and thriving. Here is a listing of various performing arts organizations:

Theatre Calgary
Alberta Theatre Projects
One Yellow Rabbit (cutting edge theatre)
Vertigo Mystery Theatre
Alberta Ballet
Calgary Opera
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
Theatre Junction
Loose Moose Theatre (improv)
Lunchbox Theatre (longest running lunch time theatre company in the world)

Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary

8. What are some of the shopping opportunities in Calgary?

The Uptown 17th District (as above) is also a upscale clothing district. As far as unique products from Calgary and area, there is Alberta Boot, Alberta’s only western boot manufacturer, Crave Cookies & Cupcakes (they’re to die for! ), Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut , Alberta made art at The Croft or Art Central. There are also two large malls – Chinook Centre and Market Mall.

9. What are the outdoor, recreational and sports opportunities in and around Calgary?

Calgary has a 635 Km long system of paved pathways on which you can walk, in-line skate or bike. Many of the pathways are cross-country ski accessible during the winter, but more than 95 km is cleared in winter months.

There is also hiking and biking in Fish Creek Provincial Park, skate boarding at Millennium Park and The Source Skateboard Park which is one of the largest indoor skate parks in North America, skiing at Canada Olympic Park during the winter, and downhill mountain biking in the summer. There are also a number of guest ranches where you are able to horseback ride.

Just outside of Calgary in Kananaskis Country, which is a 45 to 60 minute drive, there are all sorts of activities, including horseback riding in the mountains, hiking, biking, and white water rafting.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary

10. What type of accommodations options are there in Calgary?

There are numerous options, from high-end 5 star hotels to bed and breakfasts to hostels to motels. The best resource is the Tourism Calgary website’s accommodation search function.

11. What are some of the major events and big news stories coming up in 2006 and beyond in Calgary?

There are a number of exciting news relating to Calgary and surrounding areas.

Calgary was rated #2 in the world for business travellers by the Economist Magazine. Calgary’s transporation, infrastructure and perceived safety were all factors in Calgary’s high marks.

Lake Louise has once again been named among the top 50 ski resort in North America by SKI Magazine, along with Vail, Whistler and Jackson Hole.

Lonely Planet’s Blue List – 618 Things to Do & Places to Go in 06-07 has selected the Canadian Rockies as the number 1 Most Spectacular Natural Attraction in the World. They also chose Rocky Mountaineer as number 3 on the Classic Train Trips list and Banff National Park as number 5 on the Most Extreme Environments list.

Here is a brief overview of major events coming up in Calgary

World Figure Skating Championships
Players Championship of the World Curling Tour
CIS Women’s Volleyball Championships
World All-round Speed Skating Championships

World Power Lifting Championships
Alberta Provincial Games – Special Olympics

Canadian Gymnastics Championships

Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary

Thank you, Paul, for this overview. Now we can start planning our personal visit of the Heart of the New West.

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