Calgary lies in the Bow River Valley between the bold landscape of the Rocky Mountains and the flat prairie lands of the province of Alberta in western Canada. Calgary is a city of skyscrapers, of energy, agriculture, manufacturing, research and development, and of advanced technology. It is a modern, sophisticated city; a center of commerce and of culture; of youth and vitality.
Calgary is divided into four quadrants instersecting at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, which meet at right angles in the city center. Center Street runs north to south, and Center Avenue east to west, with all streets laid out in a grid expanding outwards from the center.
The Southwest extends from the boreal forests of Kananaskis Country to the office towers of downtown, and is a mix of residential and business districts. It includes the natural beauty of North Glenmore Reservoir and the fashionable 17th Avenue shopping district. The Southwest is also home to the Fourth Street Restaurant district and the Elbow River, which winds its way from Glenmore Reservoir down through the city center until its rendezvous with the Bow River near Inglewood. The Eau Claire Market and riverfront trails around Prince's Island Park provide a clean and refreshing break from downtown, and are popular lunch spots with downtown office workers.
The Southeast is home to vast oil refineries, fabrication plants and heavy industry, as well as trendy new housing developments and the world famous Spruce Meadows equestrian facilities. Its western boundary is defined by the Macleod Trail Strip, 10 miles of flashing neon, huge nightclubs, malls, hotels and luxury car dealerships. In the north end is the Saddledome and Stampede Grounds, as well as the historic district of Inglewood and the old town-site of Fort Calgary.
Calgary's biggest event of the year is the Stampede, held in early July. For 10 memorable days, the city is populated by cowboys. Some of these are professional rodeo athletes; others are hopeful townspeople in costume.
The rest of the year, Calgary's calendar is a busy mix of festivals (the Chinese Cultural Centre has a popular New Year's celebration), sporting events (hockey and football games are popular) and performing arts events (opera, theater, dance, music).
The fastest way to become oriented is to take a trip to the top of the Calgary Tower, where the entire city is spread out far below. The restaurant and lounge in the observation deck rotate slowly, giving you a 360-degree view every few minutes, so you never know what you will see next when you look out the window.
Tour bus packages are the easiest way to see the countryside around Calgary in a short time. Several companies provide motorcoach trips from major Calgary hotels to Banff, the Columbia Icefield, and Waterton Lakes National Park. There are also luxury train tours through the Rocky Mountains and southern British Columbia.
To get off the beaten path and see parts of the mountains invisible from the tour buses, guided horseback rides are offered at several ranches in Kananaskis Country.
Heritage Park Historical Village and Fort Calgary Historic Park are two sites that present the pioneer way of life with turn of the century buildings, artifacts, and guides dressed in period costume. The Glenbow Museum details the history of Western Canada and cultures the world over.
The Calgary Zoo and Prehistoric Park is a favorite with children. It contains exhibits of creatures and habitats found in Alberta 60 million years ago, complete with life-sized dinosaurs. The Royal Tyrell Museum in nearby Drumheller, (a small town two hours north of Calgary) is the site of hundreds of dinosaur fossil discoveries.
A relaxing activity is to float down the Bow River, which runs from Banff to Calgary, in a canoe, raft or drift boat with the assistance of a guide. Guides point out the best places to fish for the Bow River brook trout.
Canada Olympic Park, site of the 1988 Winter Olympics, is open for tours year round. Its most impressive features include the 90-meter ski jump and the bobsled track.. The Bobsled Bullet is a modified bobsled on which you can ride at speeds of over 90 km an hour down the same track featured in the Disney movie Cool Runnings.
Calgary is prepared for all weather, no matter how severe with its remarkable Plus 15 system, an extensive network of indoor walkways 15 feet above the ground. The climate controlled walkways make it possible to see most of the downtown highlights with no contact with the outdoor wind and chill.
Be sure to include Devonian Gardens in any sightseeing tour. This is an indoor tropical paradise with thousands of plants, and an abundance of waterfalls and fountains. In addition to its many other attributes, it is also a college town. Mount Royal College, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, and the University of Calgary are based in the city.
Calgary is indeed an amazing place. Calgary Winter Festival takes place for eleven days in February. The festival utilizes the 1988 Winter Olympics site for dog sledding, snowboarding, and the Winter Village. The third Wednesday in May marks the beginning of the 5 day annual Calgary International Children’s Festival which celebrates music, dance, and storytelling with top performers from around the world. There is always something happening in Calgary that is just what you wanted to see or to do. Best of all, you will receive a warm welcome in Calgary at any time of the year.