Calgary is currently experiencing a major boom and one of the most dynamic and fastest growing cities in Canada. It is truly the gateway to Canada’s West. During a our trip this spring to Banff and Lake Louise we had a chance to get to get a sneak peek at Alberta’s capital and one of the areas I explored is called Kensington, a lively neighbourhood featuring a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries and speciality retailers that has received awards for its shopping opportunities over the last few years.
I had a brief stroll through this neighbourhood and a chance to meet one of the local restaurant entrepreneurs, Kevin Nguyen from Indochine Bistro, who shared his interesting personal story and entrepreneurial background with me. Here is Annie MacInnis from Visit Kensington to tell us more about this historic neighbourhood in Calgary:
1. Please give us a general overview of Calgary’s Kensington area, its location and its history. Please tell us about the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community that surrounds Kensington.
Kensington, and the neighbourhood of Hillhurst-Sunnyside is one of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods, datig from the early 1900s. It has retained much of the small town flavour of those early days and still goes by the moniker of “Village in the City.” Just across the Louise Bridge from downtown is the intersection of Kensington Road and 10th Street NW, the two main roads that comprise the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ).
Kensington is one of the most walker friendly neighbourhoods in the city. Numerous bus routes, an LRT station, and bicycle pathways all pass through Kensington. With reputably the most coffee shops of any such area in the city, Kensington is a great spot to meet friends and/or people watch on your coffee break.
Kensington is also easily reachable by car. In fact, from Toronto, get on the Trans Canada Highway and head west. When you reach the outskirts of Calgary watch for a sign reading 10th Street NW. Hang a left. Kensington begins about five blocks south!
2 . Please tell us about the variety of culinary experiences that are available in the Kensington Area.
Kensington boasts more than 50 coffee shops and tea houses, homemade chocolates stores, a store that sells only cupcakes, delicatessens, health food stores, bakeries, pubs and all manner of restaurants.
3. What types of services are available in the Kensington Area?
You can get spa services, new glasses, dental work, get your bike or your shoes repaired, furnish your house, buy your groceries, get something special for the one you love, enjoy a hot drink or something a little stronger, have a great meal, buy books, see a movie, work out at one of several fitness clubs, buy trendy new clothes, consign your old clothes, go to a hardware store, buy art supplies, get a tattoo or an exotic piercing, get a custom made t shirt or pillow, book a vacation and then relax over a delicious meal, all in Kensington, all in walking distance of where you parked your car or the nearest public transit stop.
4. What type of retail and shopping opportunities can be found in the area?
Kensington has been voted the Calgary Herald’s Reader’s Choice Gold Award for Calgary favorite shopping district for the past five years. Kensington offers an eclectic mix of shops ranging from coffee and tea houses, a wide variety of restaurants, day spas, unique bookstores and gift shops, a shop that sells only cupcakes, a shop that sells old fashioned children’s toys, high end lingerie stores with custom fittings, Bernard Callebaut chocolates, menswear, trendy consignments stores, a hardware store that’s been in the neighbourhood for generations, an old fashioned movie theatre with velvet seats and much, much more.
5. There are also a number of nightlife opportunities in the Kensington Area. Please tell us about those.
Kensington has a wonderful, diverse selection of restaurants ranging from high end elegant dining through numerous ethnic choices to excellent small casual dining. Kensington also boasts many good bars and regular midnight film showings at the Plaza theatre.
6. Please tell us about the Sun & Salsa event.
Sun and Salsa is Kensington’s biggest annual event. On a Sunday every July, Kensington plays host to at least 60,000 people who wander the district sampling salsas made by local businesses.. While indulging their taste buds, festival goers are entertained by live Latin music at three sound stages placed throughout the district. The streets are closed to traffic and filled with vendors, beer gardens, salsa samples, families and dogs. There is a Miss Sun and Salsa contest and prizes for most popular salsas. This annual event held by the business community of Kensington is also a charity fundraiser with the proceeds from the sale of salsa dipping chips donated to a local charity.
7. What is “Christmas in Kensington”?
On every Saturday in December, Kensington transforms into a reasonable facsimile of a snowglobe. With twinkling lights in trees and on storefronts, strolling Edwardian carolers, elves handing out Christmas wishes, candy canes and topping up parking meters, only Scrooge would resist feeling Christmasy.
8. What is the “Kensington Bizarre Bikes & Bazaar”?
Bizarre Bikes and Bazaar is one our annual special events. Anyone can decorate their bike and join in the Bicycle Parade. There is also a display of Calgary’s most unusual bikes, a Bicycle Trivia contest, slide shows, and a sidewalk sale.
9. What other special events are held throughout the year in Kensington?
On the Saturday before Easter, local teenagers dressed as Easter Bunnies walk the streets of Kensington handing out chocolate Easter eggs and paying for shopper’s parking. On a Sunday in September, Kensington has an annual event called Poet’s Stroll. Throughout the day, poet’s, bards and storytellers strut their stuff in bookstores, coffee shops, and tea houses. This free event culminates in a grand finale performance in the carpenter’s union hall that evening.
Thank you, Annie, for your overview of the Kensington area and all the best for your many special events!