Ask Calgarians what they love most about their city and the first thing they’ll say is “the mountains.”
Of course, the Rocky Mountains aren’t actually in Calgary.
But they provide an incredible backdrop to this prairie town on a clear, blue-sky day. And they do make for one of the most enviable playgrounds in the country.
We’re here to say that Canada’s sunniest metropolis is more than just a gateway to the Rockies.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that this city of winding rivers features a vibrant restaurant scene, great shopping, thriving music venues and world-class hotels.
So if you’re only here for a day – and you’re looking for some options – here’s our hometown take on Calgary in 24 hours.
Where to stay
You can’t go wrong with the old world grandeur of the Fairmont Palliser. This charming hotel oozes history and boasts a central, downtown location. We’re also, we admit, a little infatuated with Hotel Le Germain. Extremely popular with business travellers (and couples looking to cocoon for a night), this refreshing addition to the Calgary hotel scene is much like its sister properties in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. Super stylish but with a relaxed, elegant and sophisticated – even sexy – vibe.
With Le Germain in mind, we should mention that this swanky boutique hotel houses the notable Charcut. Think succulent, slow-roasted heritage chicken. House-butchered prime rib. And duck-fat fried poutine. Also turning heads is the always bustling Model Milk with its fresh shucked oysters, tasty tomato salad and Dwell magazine-worthy, historic venue. Finally, three words. Location. Location. Location. Situated on Prince’s Island where the Bow River runs through downtown, River Cafe offers up a cozy and unique fishing lodge feel and decidedly Canadian cuisine – from Potted rabbit to Haida Gwaii halibut.
Inglewood’s popular Ironwood – warm and informal – dishes live acts nightly. Owner Patrick McIntyre’s passion for curating good music – much of it Canadian – has everything to do with the success of this place. There’s also the Ship & Anchor – which we’ve referenced before in our story about the Calgary Stampede. Everyone hangs at The Ship – from “suits to punks.” Cool and relaxed, this is where you’ll see the latest and greatest indie bands.
When the night’s too young…
The Kensington Pub draws people from all over the city when the night’s too young to call it quits. We suggest you try their “What the Huck” wheat ale from Fernie Brewing Company – if only because it’s fun to say. But we’ve also been hearing rumblings from several extremely reliable sources (including River Cafe’s Sal Howell) that if you’re going to “late night cocktail” – Ox and Angela‘s killer El Mojito is, ahem, to die for.
If you’re looking for breakfast, the Galaxie Diner – famous for “feeding friends, family and hangovers” – is known for its legendary egg burritos and salty hashbrowns. (Yup, we’re regulars.) That said, if you’re up for something more refined, we recommend L’epicerie where, recently, we enjoyed an excellent cappuccino and a thoroughly scrumptious Croque Monsieur. A little Francais with your Cowtown. Pourquoi pas?
Walk and Shop
We’re not huge mall girls. So we want you to take in some of the trendier districts (cool shops, sidewalk cafes, art galleries) like Kensington or 17th Avenue or Inglewood. But if you’re facing arctic temperatures (and you could be), we surrender that when it comes to quality malls, Core‘s the one you want.
Take me to the river
No matter what the season, locals are drawn to our Bow and Elbow rivers. Extensive paths – one of the largest networks in Canada – are always teaming with dog walkers, joggers and cyclists. (We tend to be an active lot.) Rent a bike if you’re in town. And if it’s snowing? Be sure you’ve got winter tires on that baby.
So how about you? What would your ideal day in Cowtown look like? Comment below and best, funniest, most informative answer wins an amazing swag bag (as in, we’d like to win it ourselves) from Toque & Canoe and Tourism Calgary. Contest closes November 23.
Contest update: Congrats to Catherine on winning our “24 Hours in Calgary” contest. Thanks to everyone for making the effort to tell us about their ideal day in Cowtown. Together, we think we have this city covered!
No one loves his hometown more than Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Where would he take visitors with only 24 hours in Calgary? “For dinner, I would take them to Divino. Or River Cafe where, regardless of the time of year, it’s always beautiful. One place I always take my friends is Mirch Masala in Pineridge for Indian food,” Mayor Nenshi told us during a recent interview on the steps of City Hall. “And if it was summer, I would literally take them into the flow of the city – rafting on the Elbow River.” (Now that’s something we’d love to see.)