There’s no doubt that Calgary is a cowboy town, but it also has layers of sophistication hidden under the ten-gallon-hat stereotypes that abound there. Here’s what to do in Calgary in order to experience as much of this fun destination as you can in to two days:
9AM RAFTER SIX RANCH
81130 RANCH RD. E EXSHAW, AB T0L 2C0
Head off to the absolutely beautiful Rafter Six Ranch for a trail-ride along the Red Deer River, with the Rocky Mountains always visible in the distance. The ranch has a huge lodge, and cabins, and has been used in many movies over the years – including the River of No Return, Marilyn Monroe’s first movie. In fact, so many Disney movies were filmed there in the 40s that a cabin was specially built for Walt. The ranch is home to a very rare white buffalo, apparently one of only two in the world. You can grab lunch there.
1PM KANANASKIS HELITOURS
Take a helicopter tour over the Rockies with Kananaskis Helitours. There is surely no better way to see the area than like that, swooping into the valleys and climbing up over the mountain tops. The views are breathtaking in every direction, and the ride quite thrilling as you dip down the sides of the mountains, popping up again close to the rock face.
3PM GLENBOW MUSEUM
Get a quick culture fix at the Glenbow Museum, a thoughtfully curated collection of art and artifacts. The permanent exhibition of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic artifacts is absolutely beautiful, and the Mavericks exhibit tells the story of the dreamers, entrepreneurs, cowboys and oilmen that helped shape Southern Alberta.
5PM CALGARY TOWER
Ride to the top of the Calgary Tower to get amazing views over the city, and a serious case of vertigo when you step out on the glass floor 620ft above the street below.
Dine at Divino which bills itself as a wine and cheese bistro (there are more than 30 cheeses available), but has a great menu including big meaty dishes such as Bison noisettes with morels on gnocchi (Calgary is a carnivorous city, you feel obliged to eat a lot of red meat when there because Alberta beef is notoriously good). Divino also has a great wine list and whisky menu.
10AM STEPHEN’S WALK
Explore Calgary’s fashion district for high-end shopping (with the lowest taxes you’ll pay in Canada), and stroll along Stephen’s Walk to check out beautiful hand-tooled leather cowboy boots and western wear.
12PM BOXWOOD CAFÉ
Take lunch at the award winning Boxwood Café, overlooking Central Memorial Park and the downtown core. The food there is delicious, locally sourced where possible, and very healthy tasting (a virtuous lunch to counter overdoing it at Divino).
2PM RAPID RENT
Rent a bike from Rapid Rent at Eau Claire Market, just a few blocks from the downtown core but next to some beautiful parkland on the Bow River, and take one of the 355 on-street signed bike paths in Calgary.
5PM HOME TASTING ROOM
Take an early dinner at Home Tasting Room which specializes in small tasting plates to share, and serves up exquisite dishes such as bison tartar with truffle aioli and baguette, and seared scallops with home cured bacon. The towering Italian Cream Cake is an absolute must for dessert (the recipe came from the owner’s grandmother).
9615 MACLEOD TRAIL SW CALGARY, AB T2J
Go two-steppin’ and whisky drinking at Ranchman’s, the ultimate cowboy bar, where the bar scenes for the movie Broke Back Mountain were filmed. Ranchman’s is just fantastic and completely authentic, with photographs of rodeo champions and queens lining the walls and western memorabilia hung everywhere. There’s a country band every night, and the dance floor gets packed out by 10pm (you can sign up for a dance lesson prior to that if you need one).
WHERE TO STAY: HYATT REGENCY
700 CENTER ST. SE CALGARY, AB
The Hyatt Regency Calgary is gorgeously appointed, offers very personal service and is located just across the street is the main tourist drag, 8th Avenue, which is full of restaurants, bars and stores. It also has a great bar which is perfect for nightcaps and late night dessert needs.