Calgary has long been one of my favorite cities in North America. I used to go to Calgary once a month or so for work back in the early 2000’s but I hadn’t been since 2002. So I was very excited to visit again recently with my friend, Morroni, even after the recent floods. There are a million reasons to go to Calgary but here are 5 reasons to go to Calgary NOW!
1. The People
As I mentioned, the recent flooding in Calgary and Southern Alberta was devastating to the city and local economy. Many people lost homes, businesses and certainly billions of dollars were lost and the recovery is ongoing. However, the people of Calgary certainly showed me their resolve.
The city looked amazing. Even the areas that were completely devastated by the flooding had been cleaned up and the rebuilding and recovery was certainly happening.
I was so impressed by the attitudes of the people and the way they simply did what had to be done. Calgarians reminded me a lot of New Yorkers in that they are tough people. People that deal with things as they come and nobody was complaining, they just did what had to be done and helped each other out. It was heart warming to see it in person and to talk to the people who went through the terrible ordeal.
For those that do not know, the Calgary Stampede is one of the most famous events in Canada and from my experiences back in 2001 and 2002, one of the most fun! However, after the floods, there was doubt that the impending Stampede would even take place. However, Stampede brings in billions of dollars to the local economy each year and not having it would have been even more detrimental than having it.
So Stampede went on as scheduled. The only things that were cancelled were some big concerts planned for the Saddledome (where the Calgary Flames NHL team plays) because of damage. However, the show pretty much went on as scheduled and it was fantastic.
Stampede is essentially a 10 day State Fair and rodeo. It has rides and games and deep fried everything like you’d find at a State Fair but what makes Stampede in Calgary so special is the world-class rodeos and rodeo related events that go on during the Stampede.
Additionally, the nightlife at Stampede is pretty legendary. Between the tents set up on the fairgrounds for the infamous Cowboys and Nashville North bars to the ultimate cowboy bar called Ranchmans out of the main city-where my other buddy Jeff was able to come with us and enjoy the massive adult beverages. All are a great time and true must-see experiences in Calgary during Stampede and anytime really! Also, learning to two-step is helpful…I really suck at it!
I was very fortunate to get some VIP passes to check out the rodeos and chuck wagon races up close. I was actually behind the chutes at the bareback rodeos and right on the track for the chuck wagon races.
I won’t pretend that I know all the rules about the rodeos but I do know on the bareback bucking broncos you want to stay up for 8 seconds and you also don’t want to get your ass kicked by the crazy horse or bull!
Additionally, the cowboys and riders can make some serious money. There is a lot of prize money handed out at Stampede so you get the best riders, racer and rodeo dudes from all over Canada and even the US. The only previous rodeo experience I had ever had was in Fort Worth, Texas last fall.
I must say I really enjoy it even though I don’t really understand it! It’s always fun to watch the people who are really passionate about something, no matter what it is, get into a sport and try to express what it means to them.
I was fortunate to meet one of the top chuck wagon racers, Rick Fraser and he really impressed me with his knowledge and more importantly his passion and love for the animals. I will admit that before meeting him, I had thought rodeo and associated events were pretty cruel to the animals but now I have a different opinion. They are treated very well and even better than humans in many cases!
Yes bobsled, or as they say in Canada, bobsleigh. You may or may not remember that the 1988 Winter Olympics were actually held in Calgary and the surrounding areas. Those were the first Olympics I ever watched and I remember them vividly. Likely the most famous thing that came out of those Olympics was the Jamaican Bobsled Team.
So Morroni and I were able to actually race down the same track that the infamous Jamaican Bobsled Team went down at some 80mph or 130kph. It was so much fun I cannot even properly explain how cool it was.
I am an Olympic geek, admittedly. I have been to every single Olympics city and can tell you pretty much everything about each one, Winter or Summer. That said, being on a bobsled track is a real treat. There are only a handful of tracks in the whole world.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Only former Winter Olympic sites have them. They are too expensive to maintain so there are actually 4 in North America: Calgary, Whistler, Lake Placid and Park City. The rest are in Europe and Asia. So I felt very lucky to have done it and would highly recommend it if you end up in Calgary or any of those towns!
Calgary is not just Cowtown Canada as it was described to me 12 years ago when I first went there. They have it all. Calgary is a city of over a million people and it has some great restaurants to help make Calgary a true world-class city.
Of course they do have their share of BBQ and western style restaurants, which I happen to love. My favorite of these was without a doubt Buzzard’s that served bulls balls. Yes testicles of a bull. We actually ate there as part of the 20th Annual Testicle Festival. I can’t make that up. I will also say that with some hot sauce added to them, they tasted pretty damn good!
Another great restaurant was Charcut, right in the center of town. Charcut was a pretty epic place that is famous for amazing charcuterie plates. They didn’t disappoint at all. The plates were massive and filling. However, we didn’t stop there and were beyond full the whole night. However, it was well worth it.
Another really cool thing about Charcut is that their chef set some type of record for slicing a sheep’s head in the shortest amount of time, like 47 seconds or so. I’m not exactly sure what that means or why I think it’s so cool but it kind of is!
We stayed at the Hotel Arts on 12th and it was a short walk to the Stampede grounds. Aside from being a great boutique luxury hotel with nice rooms, it also had a killer pool in the middle of the hotel.
The pool is quite popular with Calgarians and is a cool place to hang out, especially in the summer heat. The pool is small but definitely serves its purpose and there is always some nice scenery!
Hotel Arts also has a cool restaurant and bar called Yellow Door Bistro. The drinks and appetizers here are fabulous as well as the flat breads. But I think the décor was my favorite part, especially the massive horse lamp! I really have to get one of those for my apartment!
I was really happy with where we stayed for Stampede. I have also stayed at the Fairmont and the Sheraton Suites in Calgary but those were back in 2001-2002 so I am a bit outdated on those-although I am sure they are still quite nice.
So as you can see by the way I went on and on about Calgary, I really love the city and the people. I hope I have given you at least 5 reasons to go to Calgary and I cannot wait to go back again. I can guarantee you it won’t be another 12 years until I return!