Our last couple of hours before our departure had arrived. We had left Banff at about 9:30 am and got into Calgary just shortly before 11, parked our car just east of downtown and set off on foot on our final walk to explore a bit more of downtown Calgary.
Calgary City Hall
The first place we passed by was Calgary City Hall, a classic sandstone building, located right opposite the Olympic Plaza. Originally constructed for the medal ceremonies for the 1988 Olympics, Olympic Plaza has become a centre of activities in downtown Calgary and many festivals are held here. During the Calgary Stampede every year pancake breakfasts are served at Olympic Plaza. During the winter it serves as a skating rink.
The Telus Convention Centre is adjacent to the Olympic Plaza, and the Art Gallery of Calgary as well as the Glenbow Museum are right around the corner. The south-west corner of the Olympic Plaza holds the “Famous Five” sculptures commemorating 5 famous women activists who changed Canada, celebrating that women had become persons. A copy of this sculpture is located on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
2 of the “Famous Five”: “Women are Persons”
From there we continued on to the Stephen Avenue Walk. Named after the first Canadian Pacific Railway president, Lord George Mount Stephen, it was officially declared a Canadian Historic site in 2002.Calgary experienced a huge boom in the early 1900s and as a result wealthy merchants built a variety of prestigious sandstone buildings that housed shops, saloons and restaurants. Today the entire street is a pedestrian area and surrounded by six major shopping centres, a variety of boutiques and galleries. In the summer it is the location of live performances, festivals, musical and artistic events.
A peak at the Calgary Tower
One of Calgary’s unique features is its system of interconnected elevated walkways that connect shopping areas in numerous high-rise office towers downtown. They are called “+15s”, referring to the fact that originally these walkways had to be at least 15 feet above the streets that they were traversing.
Two more members of the “Famous Five”
The most visually stunning elevated walkway is the Royal Canadian Pacific Pavillion that is suspended above the street below. This particular facility is not accessible to the general public. Calgary’s +15s are the world largest enclosed elevated walkway system, they span 18 km and consist of 58 bridges that connect over 100 offices, retail and other buildings in downtown Calgary.
The Royal Canadian Pacific Pavillion
We decided to check out this walkway system that connects all the main buildings flanking the Stephen Avenue Walk including buildings such as the Calgary Eaton Centre, TD Square, Bankers Hall, The Bay and the Scotia Centre.
The Stephen Avenue Walk, a National Historic District
Right in the TD Square you can find a tropical refuge from city life called “Devonian Gardens”. This is one of the world’s largest indoor parks and includes waterfalls, tropical plants and flowers, a secluded woodland setting, water fountains, humongous goldfish, water turtles and many other delights. It is a wonderful place to relax, it’s open from 9 am to 9 pm every day and admission is free. On this cold winter day we enjoyed this tropical sanctuary and Calgarians and tourist alike appreciated the enclosed indoor spaces that Calgary has to offer.
The tropical refuge of Devonian Gardens