11 Epic Things to Do in Calgary (Perfect First Time Visit)


Things to Do in Calgary: The 11 Best Places to Visit (All Highlights)

You want to visit Calgary during your next trip?

Great idea!

Perched between the majestic Canadian Rockies and sprawling prairies, Calgary makes for a fantastic starting point to visit the national parks of Banff and Jasper. So, if you’re planning an itinerary through western Canada, make sure to put Calgary on the map!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared this guide of the 11 best things to do in Calgary, with all points of interest and must-see attractions.

In addition to my list of things to do and activities, I will also give you optimized itineraries to visit Calgary in 1, 2, or 3 days as well as my selection of the best accommodations depending on your budget.

So, what are the best things to do in Calgary? Where to stay?

Visit Calgary: All must-see attractions

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re planning to visit Calgary as part of a Canadian tour spanning several days or weeks, I’ve prepared detailed itineraries that include a city visit.

You’ll find day-by-day steps and my hotel suggestions for each spot. Just click on the orange links below:

They’ll make planning your trip super easy!

And if you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments at the end of the article. I will gladly help you organize your stay.

1. The Calgary Tower

The Calgary Tower is the city’s main attraction. To the locals, it’s more than just a landmark; it’s the very symbol of Calgary.

From the top of the tower, which soars 190 meters into the sky, you can access a 360° panoramic platform and enjoy a stunning view over Calgary, the Rockies and the prairies. The Calgary Tower also features a glass floor—perfect for a little thrill!

As in the observation towers of Vancouver and Toronto, you’ll find a revolving restaurant at the top where you can savor an excellent meal while admiring the view. The SKY 360 completes a full rotation in 60 minutes for dinner or in 45 minutes at lunchtime.

You’ll also find another restaurant, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, on the tower’s second floor. It’s known for serving up some tasty meats. So, meat lovers, take note!

To visit the Calgary Tower, I recommend buying your skip-the-line ticket in advance to avoid waiting in line. Just click on the green button below:

Calgary Tower
Calgary Tower

2. Glenbow Museum

Located downtown, the Glenbow Museum is Calgary’s main museum. This museum is all about delving into the captivating history of the city and the Alberta region.

With its collection of nearly 33,000 works of art dating from the 19th century to the present, it’s the largest art museum in Western Canada! Its collection of artifacts related to the First Nations is truly impressive, making it a great opportunity to learn more about the lifestyle of the plains Indigenous peoples!

The museum is really well organized, with a visit taking between 2 and 3 hours.

In the museum’s library, you’ll also have access to numerous documents, books, and brochures outlining the history of Western Canada.

Plan your visit to the Glenbow Museum by checking out its official website.

Glenbow Museum
Glenbow Museum

3. Kensington Village

For me, Kensington Village is the coolest neighborhood in Calgary. It’s entirely pedestrian, allowing for peaceful and relaxing strolls!

There, you’ll find a slew of unique boutiques for a bit of shopping and a ton of cafés and great restaurants. Now you know where to go for a foodie break in Calgary!

And if you’re in the mood for more shopping in Calgary, check out 17th Avenue, Stephen Avenue, or the CORE Shopping Centre, Calgary’s only shopping mall. The mall even houses an indoor tropical garden with fish-filled ponds, fountains, and tropical plants. Quite a surprise in the heart of Western Canada!

Voyage Tips - Advice

To visit Calgary and gain insights into the various districts and monuments, I recommend booking a guided tour. You can choose from (click the orange links to book):

4. Heritage Park Historical Village

Heritage Park is a major tourist hotspot that’s a must-do when you’re tripping around Calgary.

At this 51-hectare park, you’ll dive headfirst into a typical Western Canadian town from the last century. From a blacksmith’s forge to a bakery, a school, a church, and a bunch of other little shops brought to life by costumed actors, you’ll find it all here. It’s the perfect place to learn a bunch of interesting facts about life back then.

Incredibly, some of these buildings are authentic, and they were brought there to be preserved. So, these aren’t just any old replicas.

At the park, you can also ride on a genuine steam locomotive, or, for that Tom Sawyer vibe, try a paddle steamer. It’s a great family activity to do in Calgary.

You’ll need at least 2 hours to explore as the park is quite expansive.

Start planning your Heritage Park visit now by buying your entrance ticket via the green button below. It covers access to all attractions, exhibitions, rides, and train and boat tours.

Heritage Park
Heritage Park

5. St. Patrick’s Island

St. Patrick’s Island sits right in the heart of downtown Calgary, nestled in the middle of the Bow River.

The island is the oldest city park. It went through a complete makeover in 2015, transforming it into a top tourist spot in Calgary. It’s also quite a hit with the locals. A new bridge even lets you get there directly from the East Village.

On the island, you’ll find bike trails for cycling, walking trails, a playground for kids, a picnic area, and even a beach for a quick dip. The island also includes an amphitheatre and a man-made 9-meter high hill specifically built for admiring the view over Calgary.

It’s truly the perfect spot to take a stroll in Calgary when you’re craving a break from the urban hustle and bustle.

St. Patrick’s Island hosts a load of events and festivals throughout the seasons. They even arrange outdoor film screenings!

Voyage Tips - Advice

You’re going to Calgary?

You probably know it: the hardest part of planning your trip is to find an hotel offering a good value for money!

And that’s even worse in big touristic cities like Calgary 😅.

The closer you get to your travel dates, the harder it will be to get a good deal. Lots of people will be visiting Calgary on the same dates as you, so you can be sure that the best deals are booked extremely quickly!

Hopefully, there is a pretty simple solution to this problem: do like me and book your hotel as early as possible!

So, my best advice is to take 5 minutes (now) to have a look at the list of travelers’ favorite hotels in Calgary.

And if you see a good offer, book it!

Most hotels offer free cancellation, so it’s quick, easy, and you will avoid the the inconvenience of finding nothing but mediocre rooms at exorbitant prices.

To check the current best deals for your hotel in Calgary, simply click on the green button below 😎:

Once you’ve booked your hotel, it will be time to continue reading this guide and find out more about the best things to do in Calgary!

Ile St Patrick
St Patrick island

6. The Calgary Zoo

The Calgary Zoo is a must-see, especially if you’ve chosen to visit Calgary with family.

It’s home to about 1,000 animals from around the world, including hippos, giraffes, lemurs, grizzlies, and gorillas. Of course, a part of the zoo is dedicated to Canadian animals like bears, wolves, and cougars.

You’ll also discover a botanical garden and a dinosaur-themed prehistoric park, which is quite a sight to behold.

With its vast collection of animals and well-structured layout, the zoo makes for a fantastic afternoon out with your kids.

And guess what? The zoo also houses 4 giant pandas!

If you’re keen on visiting the Calgary Zoo, you can find all the information on the official website.

Zoo Calgary
Calgary Zoo

7. Canada Olympic Park

The Canada Olympic Park is located to the west of the city. This is where the 1988 Winter Olympics took place.

Today, the park still serves as a training ground for future Olympic champions, and you can tour the facilities. Even better, you can try out a few of them!

On the agenda, you can experience a bobsleigh ride on the same track where the famous Jamaican team crashed – a story that inspired the movie Cool Runnings.

Or how about a thrilling zipline descent from a ski jump? It’s the fastest and longest in North America!

In winter, the park transforms into a ski resort, complete with toboggan runs, snow rafting, and ice hockey.

The Canada Olympic Park also houses a Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, a place that celebrates Canadian athletes and their achievements through interactive exhibits.

Find the list of all the activities you can do on the official website.

Parc olympique Canada Calgary
Canada olympic park – Calgary

8. The Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede is one of the largest festivals held in Canada each year. Drawing over a million visitors annually, it’s become a major tourist attraction in Calgary.

During this 10-day festival held every July, you’ll mainly get to watch rodeos, but there are also parades, barrel racing, performances, and country music concerts. Every morning, you can also enjoy a free pancake breakfast served at various stands throughout the city.

Don’t miss a spin at the Midway fair, where you can try the rides and the Ferris wheel.

And that’s not all! By the banks of the Bow River, you can explore the fascinating history of the First Nations through a meticulously recreated village, complete with traditional tipis.

Time to put on your cowboy hat and explore the West!

Voyage Tips - Advice

The Stampede park, where the festival takes place, is open all year round.

Guided tours are arranged to explore the permanent facilities.

The tour lasts 2 hours, and you can book it online by clicking here!

Stampede Festival
Stampede Festival

Best things to do around Calgary

Once you’ve explored the city, it’s time to extend your Canadian adventure by visiting the surroundings of Calgary.

To ensure you don’t miss a thing, I’ve compiled my list of places to see around Calgary.

9. Dinosaur Provincial Park and The Royal Tyrrell Museum

Though it’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Calgary, I’d urge you to take some time out to visit Dinosaur Provincial Park.

The park is nestled in the Badlands, a rugged and barren landscape located southeast of Calgary. The Badlands are famous as the world’s largest dinosaur fossil graveyard and have rightfully earned their UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Over 500 specimens from 35 different species, dating back to 75 million years, have been discovered here.

Inside the park, you’ll find dinosaur exhibits and can even check out the fossils unearthed on site. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the region’s geology and the unique conditions that have preserved these precious relics from ancient times.

The park’s sprawling expanse is serviced by minibus tours to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

You can also hike to take in the stunning landscapes.

To top off your visit, swing by the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a museum dedicated to paleontology. You’ll find it in Drumheller, about a 90-minute drive from Calgary. Around forty complete dinosaur skeletons are on display. The museum is truly fantastic and very well put together!

All the information for your visit can be found on the park’s official website and the museum’s website.

parc provincial dinosaur calgary
Dinosaur Provincial Park near Calgary

10. Banff and Jasper National Parks

As I mentioned before, Calgary is often just a pit stop on a Canadian journey before going to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks.

The city is just an hour’s drive from the entrance to Banff National Park, making it the perfect base camp.

Banff National Park is famed for its gorgeous natural landscapes and super photogenic, stunningly colored lakes! It’s the perfect opportunity for some breathtaking nature hikes.

Next, you can take the Glacier Highway to get to Jasper Park, which is every bit as stunning as Banff.

Banff National Park

11. Waterton Lakes National Park

This national park is located a 2.5-hour drive south of Calgary in Alberta. It is home to mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and canyons.

Among the sites to see and activities you’ll find:

  • The Prince of Wales Hotel, built in 1926. It is nowadays a national historic site
  • A cruise on Upper Waterton Lake.
  • Cameron Falls
  • Red Rock Canyon, known for its vivid red and green minerals.
  • Panoramic routes – Red Rock Parkway and Akamina Parkway are the most famous.
  • Numerous hikes suitable for all levels. 

Departing from Calgary, you can book a full-day excursion with transportation included to the national park, featuring a guided tour.

How Many Days to Visit Calgary?

Two days are enough to take in the main sights of Calgary.

On the third day, you can hit the road to reach the most famous national parks in Western Canada.

One day in Calgary

To visit Calgary in a day, try the following itinerary:

2 days in Calgary

To visit Calgary in two days, I’d recommend following the one-day itinerary and adding:

  • A visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park.
  • Discover the Royal Tyrrell Museum on your way back
  • If you have a little time to spare, take a stroll on St. Patrick’s Island in the late afternoon.

3 days in Calgary

As you may have noticed, you can easily cover the must-sees of Calgary in just 2 days. For your third day, why not embark on a journey to explore the beautiful surroundings of Calgary and its region by taking the path to Banff National Park?

If you have time, on the route between Calgary and the park, I recommend you stop at the Olympic Park to try out the bobsleigh run!

Where to stay in Calgary

  • Wicked Hostels: This youth hostel is located opposite the Calgary Stampede. Bunk in a dorm from €25, breakfast included. Strong points: the central location, the full breakfast, the warm atmosphere, and free laundry. This is a fantastic budget-friendly accommodation choice in Calgary!
  • Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel & Suites by APA: Located right in the city center, 900m from Calgary Tower. Cozy and comfortable studio with kitchen from €130 per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the central location, the full breakfast, the cleanliness. It’s my favorite for its value for money in Calgary!
  • Grey Eagle Resort: Located a 10-minute drive from the city center. Modern and comfortable double room starting at €160 per night. Strong points: the indoor swimming pool, the room size, the hospitality.
  • Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Downtown/Beltline District: Located 800m from the tower. Modern, spacious, and fully decorated studio with kitchen, from €210, breakfast included. Strong points: the abundant breakfast, the view from the rooms, the location.
  • Hôtel Le Germain: The hotel is located right opposite the Calgary Tower, ideal for exploring the city on foot. Modern and spacious double room from €250 per night, breakfast included. Strong points: exceptional hotel with attentive staff, delicious breakfast, comfortable rooms, the size of the bathrooms. The best hotel in Calgary for a luxury stay!
Calgary Canada
Calgary by night, with the illuminated Peace Bridge

Where to eat in Calgary

  • River Café: Restaurant located on Prince Island Park. It was voted among the top 100 restaurants in Canada in 2017! The dishes are delicious and really well presented. During the summer, you’ll have the delightful option of dining on the terrace overlooking the water, surrounded by a charming ambiance. Reservation recommended.
  • Cactus Club Café: Located slightly away from the city center, on 39th Avenue. If you love burgers, this is the ideal place, they are simply delicious.
  • Ten Foot Henry: Located 200 meters from the Glenbow Museum. The dishes are not only delicious but also of outstanding quality. The warm and inviting atmosphere, along with the charming decor, makes for a delightful dining experience. Besides, the prices are very reasonable for Canada. Be sure to book and secure your seats in advance to ensure availability.

How to get to Calgary

Calgary has an international airport, so you can choose to land there directly.

If you are already in Canada, you can also opt to take a domestic flight from Vancouver (1h35 flight) or Montreal (4h30 flight) for instance.

By car, it takes at least a 3-hour drive to reach Calgary from Edmonton, a 10-hour drive from Vancouver, and a 37-hour drive from Montreal!

Since flight prices to Calgary can vary enormously, it’s a good idea to compare them as early as possible. For this, you can use our flight comparison tool, in partnership with Skyscanner. This ensures you get the best price. Once on the results page, don’t hesitate to compare several websites to make sure no fees are added to the final prices.

Tourist map of Calgary

To give you a better idea of the city’s layout, I’ve created a tourist map of Calgary, with all the best things to do and must-see attractions.

You can display the map’s legend by clicking the button with a small arrow located in the top left corner.

And now I’m curious, what exciting plans do you have in store for exploring Calgary? Share your thoughts in the comments! Safe travels and happy adventures!

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visit Calgary
visit Calgary

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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