Canada

Dive into all that Canada destinations have to offer families from food, to animal encounters, and snow galore.

Edmonton Alberta

17 Things to do in Edmonton Alberta with 24 hours or Less

Driving down the highway, swaths of yellow came into view. Was it sunflowers? Mustard seed? No, these were the canola oil fields of Edmonton Alberta. 

It’s a lucky day when you are in Edmonton and these massive yellow fields are in bloom, but we are just as happy to see snow across the plains provinces of Canada. You see, Edmonton, won’t let a little weather stop it from enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer. After all, when you live in Canada, you can’t let a little snow get in your way. The same goes when you visit. If you only have 24-hours in the city, you need to make the most of your time.

Welcome to Edmonton Alberta!

Edmonton Alberta

As the second-largest city, and the capital of Alberta, Edmonton isn’t one to hibernate no matter the weather. This festival city, with its warm summers and cold winters, has embraced the arts during the Fringe festival, literature during the Shakespeare festival, and all things winter during Ice on Whyte. It’s an urban oasis filled with funky neighborhoods emerging from its fur trading past, rich foods that will rival most kitchens in New York City, and shopping that will make American’s think everything is on discount thanks to a favorable exchange rate. 

Edmonton Weather

Edmonton Alberta

The local spirit of Edmonton comes out in full force each summer, as windows are open wide in restaurants, shop doors are left open to welcome you in, and everyone stays out late to watch the sunset after 10pm. There is a joy that resonates across the metropolitan landscape when layers are shed and neighbors come out to say hello. When you visit, you should feel free to do the same. 

Want more National Park info? Read our Jasper National Park guide.

Summer temperatures average in the low 70s, but have been known to get into the 80s thanks to global warming. Nights are cooler, in the 50s, requiring travelers to pack a light jacket at the very least. 

Edmonton Canada

Winters are just as welcoming, but quite a bit colder. While doors won’t be propped open, bar stools and tables are ready for you to settle into, have a chat and meet your neighbor as you all stay warm together. Lows in the 20s, with nighttime temperatures dipping into the single digits have been known to happen. Layers and ski gear are encouraged, especially with Jasper National Park and Marmot Basin just a just four hours away. 

Extending your stay after the National Parks

Edmonton Alberta

During a recent visit to Edmonton, I finally got the chance to dive into the city to wander and find out what makes this place tick. I’ve flown in and out on my way to Jasper National Park and Banff National Park plenty of times. One winter, I even stayed overnight, but didn’t have time to linger. This trip, I was going to get out of the hotel and find out why people would want to hang out in the city for a day or more before heading into the parks or home after riding the Rocky Mountaineer.

Riding the Rocky Mountaineer too? Don’t skip town too quickly!

Why go to Edmonton Alberta?

Edmonton Alberta

Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, which makes it worth a visit just to see the seat of government, if that is your thing. However, there are so many things to do in Edmonton that you might not dive into politics at all when during your visit.

West Edmonton Mall is the largest indoor mall in North America, but when we only have one day, we choose to skip the city-sized shopping experience to stay local. 

One Day Itinerary in Edmonton

  • Breakfast at Pip. Do not skip the French toast!
  • Morning shopping and mural huntingin  Old Strathcona
  • Lunch at Situation Brewery with a little beer tasting on the side
  • Take the High Level Bridge Streetcar to Downtown
  • Explore the Edmonton museums
  • Pre-dinner cocktails at Clementine
  • Dinner at Uccellino for robust, yet light, Italian fair
  • Sunset at the Muttart Conservatory, take a stroll along the river or in paddle around Elk Island to end the day

Things to do in Edmonton Canada

Edmonton Alberta

There is no shortage of things to do in Edmonton. In fact, if you get bored, you really never left your hotel room. This northern capital city in Alberta, Canada has plenty of provincial politics, local artists, big-city quality food and festivals that shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether you are visiting in spring, summer, fall or winter, you are sure to find some fun, and even a little warmth in one of our favorite Canadian cities.

Edmonton City Centre and Beyond

Clementine Edmonton Alberta

Neighborhoods are where you will want to spend most of your time. This is where the local scene food, pastries and shops are coming to life. The mural art scene in Old Strathcona and 124th Street is thriving, putting the city of Edmonton on the public art map. 

Urban parklands, including the River Valley, Rundle Park and Victoria Park, make it easy to get out year round, if you are willing to brave the cold. Multiple running and bike paths connect neighborhoods, creating an interconnected way to get around without the need for a car. Just watch those hills. They can be a killer on your thighs. 

Explore the river in Edmonton

Edmonton Alberta

The river divides the city of Edmonton into two halves. Chances are you will criss cross the river several times throughout your stay, but don’t skip actually getting on the river. In the summer months, you can paddle around, hang out at Accidental Beach, and ride along the bike paths. Or you can simply enjoy a leisurely float. You just have to know how and where to do it.

  • Explore Edmonton’s River Valley Parks
  • Rent a bike to ride along the river.
  • Float along the river with Haskin Canoe

Take a sunset paddle

Elk Island National Park

For those looking to see the sunset over the city, you can hop in a Voyageur Canoe with Haskin Canoe to paddle from Laurier Park to Capilano Park. Tours run about two to three hours and start around 6pm depending on the month. As you may know, the sun doesn’t set until about 10pm at the height of summer, so be prepared to stay up late in July if you want to be on the water for sunset.

You can also enjoy the sunset at Elk Island National Park. Experience the quiet lake waters with the full moon overhead and more stars than any city girl could count. Listen for loons and the splash of a beaver. You may hear the grunt of the local bison herds, or even a moose if you are very lucky. Bring your binoculars to scan the shoreline and catch birds in their nests or in inflight.

Accidental Beach

Edmonton has no proper beach. Thanks to construction of the Tawatinâ LRT bridge, an accidental beach appeared along the North Saskatchewan River near the Cloverdale neighborhood in 2017. An existing sandbar emerged as the water levels went down, creating the perfect spot for Edmonton natives to play and soak up the summer sun. 

Every year the beach isn’t guaranteed to reemerge. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see it. Accidental Beach is dependent on the river flow and water levels.

If you are lucky enough to experience Accidental Beach though, be aware that there are a few safety precautions you should take.

  • Check for open hours BEFORE you go to the beach. It may not be open.
  • The beach is only accessible for a short time while the river is low.
  • Swimming is not recommended. The river runs swiftly and can take you away with it.
  • There are no lifeguards on duty.
  • If you picnic, remove all trash that you bring in.
  • The city provides port-a-potties and trash cans. Use them.
  • Fires are not allowed on the beach.
  • Dogs on a leash are allowed on the beach, but please clean up after them.
  • Alcohol is not permitted on the beach or in any city park.

Explore Old Strathcona

Old Strathcona Edmonton

Old Strathcona is by and large our favorite neighborhood to hang out in while staying in Edmonton, Alberta. Not only is it home to Pip, one of the best breakfast spots in Edmonton, as well as the Strathcona Spirits Distillery, but it is where you will find more than a few festivals as well. 

If you are in town in July, make sure you pop in for the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. Kids and adults will love seeing acts along 83rd Ave NW and beyond.

There are plenty of local spots to grab a bite, but we love to do a bit of shopping in Edmonton’s heritage district. From avant guard to boho chic, goth to swing favorites, there is something for everyone at the shops of Old Strathcona. For American shoppers, just remember, the exchange rate is in our favor, so if you see a sale, it’s an even bigger discount for you after the exchange rate kicks in.

If you are staying for more than a day or two, make sure you load up at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8am to 3pm. Products are brought in from all of the area farms, of which there are plenty. Produce, meat, seafood, flowers, coffee, specialty foods, plus arts and crafts are all on sale throughout the year. It might be worth planning your trip around. When you’ve had enough, walk around the corner to the streetcar to head downtown to the museums.

Check out the Edmonton Museum and Attraction scene

Old Strathcona Edmonton

Edmonton museums aren’t a dime a dozen and they don’t come in spades. While there are plenty to keep you busy, if you only have a day to explore, you want to visit the best.

Royal Alberta Museum

For those who love archaeology, indigenous studies, geology, botany, zoology, and the history of Western Canada, the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton is the place for you. More than two million objects make up the museum’s collection to tell the story of Alberta. While not all are on display at one time, rotating and permanent exhibits give you a good idea of how the province has evolved over time. 

Temporary exhibits include the history of the Vikings in Canada, remembering the first World War, live demonstrations, and the story of Black pioneers across Canada. The museum is located in the Downtown/Boyle Street neighborhoods, an easy walk from the Art Gallery if you are trying to see both museums in one day.

Art Gallery of Alberta

One of the most unique buildings in town, the modern exterior of the Art Gallery of Alberta is worth walking by, if not entering. Past exhibits, many of which support Alberta artists, include works by painter Marigold Santos, photographer Manny Hall, and a perspective of work by Indigenous artists and how skateboarding/snowboarding and art intersect. 

Kids as well as strollers are welcome at the gallery. Regular, family-friendly programming is offered, but BMO World of Creativity is always on if you are looking for some hands-on, interactive spaces for the kids to explore.

Alberta Legislative Building

Yes, you can get into Canadian politics, even if you aren’t Canadian. Known as “The Ledge” by locals, the building opened in 1913 for the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Council to meet. Heritage Interpreters welcome visitors 362 days per year to tour the building and learn about the province’s legislative process, as well as the art and architecture of the building. All tours are free and last approximately 45 minutes.

Muttart Conservatory

Anyone who loves a good horticultural greenhouse, will want to visit the Muttart Conservatory. These pyramid-shaped biodomes are home to 700 species of plants in three-climate regulated biomes. Arid, temperate and tropical flora and fauna thrive throughout the year. It’s the perfect spot to warm up even in the winter months when Alberta is in the grip of Mother Nature’s cold and grey blanket.

Headed to Calgary too? Read our Calgary Canada guide

There is a nice loop trail just under a kilometer that goes around the pyramids featuring local wildflowers. Dogs are welcome and it is great for kids to run around if they have energy to spare before you enter the greenhouses. If you need a bite, you can pop into Cullina’s in the lobby of Muttart.

Ride the High Level Bridge Streetcar

Edmonton Canada

Great views? Check! Cheap date that dives into the history of Edmonton? Check! Highest river crossing streetcar in the world? Check, check! 

It’s not everyday that you can say you did something that is the biggest, tallest, highest, greatest, and the High Level Bridge Streetcar in Edmonton is probably the easiest to do, especially if you are in Edmonton with kids. Little ones will think they are taking the train. Parents will know they are getting from Downtown Edmonton to Old Strathcona, all while sneaking in a little learning. 

Each streetcar comes from a different part of the world. The volunteers running the trolleys are more than happy to tell you the history of the car you are riding, as well as facts about the journey across this 100-year-old High Level Bridge. Just be prepared to wait. The cars only hold so many people, so you may have to wait for one or two cars if the line is long during festivals. 

Tour Edmonton Street Art

Edmonton Canada

Edmonton is a mecca of murals and street art. In fact, one local has made it her mission to document them all, including just beautifully colored walls, on her site Linda-Hoang.com. There are almost 50 murals around Whyte Avenue, downtown and along 124th street right now thanks to Rust Magic International Street Mural Festival, which was launched in 2016. At least twenty more are expected to go up by the end of the year.

While the idea behind Rust Magic is to mentor young artists and get them a space to put up their work, it is also putting Edmonton on the mural art map. Many pieces are in alleyways and parking lots, which can be frustrating for visitors at times. Many want to get their picture with the mural, but the most important thing to remember is that these are works of art and self expression. Edmonton’s public art is filling up empty walls with new beauty by local and international artists, like its Canadian counterparts in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. 

Can you find them all? Not sure where to start? Go find Curious George in Old Strathcona. 

Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park

Have you ever wanted to see a bison up close? Just 45 minutes outside of Edmonton you can see two of the last pure plains and wood bison herds left in the world. What does “pure” means?  Within these herds there hasn’t been any cross breeding. The bison are free from disease and closely monitored to maintain their health and population. 

Spring and summer are when you are most likely to see calves wandering with their mamas. This also means the mothers will be much more territorial, so keep your distance. You should always stay 100 feet from wild animals, but giving mom a little extra space never hurts.

Other animals you might see in the park include moose, mule deer, elk, wolves, coyotes, white-tailed deer, black beer, beavers and over 250 species of birds. While this may seem like a lot of animals, you are most likely to see bison and birds. The rest of the animals like to hide out. This is a very large park for them to roam. 

Ask the Elk Island National Park park rangers at the visitor center where they have seen animals wondering lately if you want to make sure you see creatures during your visit. They will always have the intel.

Get more information on the park here.

Get a Taste of Edmonton Restaurants

Edmonton Canada

Edmonton’s food scene continues to grow with every passing year. While Pip is our favorite breakfast spot (book a reservation in this tiny Old Strathcona restaurant), there are several other places you should make sure you enjoy while in town. Beer lovers will need to take a sip at Situation Brewery, but cocktail connoisseurs should head to Clementine for libations. 

For a truly heavenly meal, you go to Uccellino for fresh pasta and Italian food. They call it simple; we call it perfectly balanced flavors hitting our palette. A glass of prosecco is the perfect start to every meal here, and make sure you listen to (and order) the specials. 

If you are in the mood for more Asian flavors, hop over to Baijiu by the stadium. Bring a few friends to share plates, sip cocktails and groove to the old-school hip-hop beats bursting out of the speakers. We didn’t have it confirmed, but we are pretty sure only models work here too. They hire the sweetest staff, and all are stunning.

Eat all of the Edmonton Pastries

Edmonton Alberta Canada

We aren’t ones to say no to pastries, and neither should you. Here are just a few of the top shops in Edmonton you won’t want to skimp on when it comes to calories. 

  • Duchess Bakeshop: We can’t say no to macarons, and why would we? Get a half dozen to sample with your best friends, along with a cup of coffee as you sip and savor every morsel.
  • La Boule Patisserie & Bakery Inc.: This is where eclairs, tiny cheesecakes and the cutest cakes hope they are born. Never have we seen anything that looks this beautiful AND tastes just as good. Enjoy with a cappuccino, but make sure you sit and stay for a while. You deserve to pretend you are in Paris for at least five minutes.
  • Hazeldean Bakery: Grab the apple fritters and sticky buns in the morning before they sell out. And they will!
  • Sugared & Spiced Baked Goods: Hidden in an alleyway off of Whyte Ave, this locally run shop is whipping up decadently high cakes, meringues (our fav!), dense chocolate brownies, and cinnamon buns with a bourbon glaze. Good thing you will be doing a lot of shopping (AKA walking) after this trip to the pastry shop. It means you can eat more calories!  

Experience one of Edmonton’s many festivals

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival

Edmonton is a city of festivals. They don’t stop with just one, but host several throughout the year. The city is best known for the International Fringe Festival, but that doesn’t mean the other events aren’t worth checking out. 

The International Street Performers Festival will make you appreciate the art that goes into getting in front of an unknown crowd every day, just to put your hat out to earn a little cash. These talented men and women come from across the world to perform and get noticed. Some are better than others, but those who stand out will certainly draw a huge crowd.

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival

More festivals we would fly up to experience: 

  • Edmonton International Street Performers Festival (July)
  • Edmonton International Fringe Festival (August)
  • Edmonton International Film Festival (September and October)
  • Boardwalk Ice on Whyte (January and February)

Explore 124th Street

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival

Duchess Bakery put 124th Street on the map, but the growing art and boutique shopping scene is what has kept this neighborhood alive. It continues to thrive as galleries move in, showing off local and international artists you have yet to discover. Grab a macaron and a cup of tea at Duchess Bakery before taking a stroll along 124th street, popping into the shops and galleries, and stumbling upon murals that might not be on any map. 

TIP: Don’t miss Canada’s oldest Gallery Walk happening twice a year, which is free and open to the public. 

Tastings at Strathcona Spirits Distillery

Strathcona Spirits

Love gin, vodka and fine, small-batch liquors? Well then you need to pop into Strathcona Spirits Distillery, the oldest distillery in Edmonton. At just over two years old, it may seem like a baby, but thanks to liquor laws, this truly is a historic spot for more than one reason.

Started in an old radiator parts repair shop, the distillery was once an underground club. The owner started playing shows with friends, which soon turned into a cult following of sorts. The city got wind of this activity and shut them down. Soon after, Alberta changed the liquor producing laws so that small batch distilleries could begin producing and distributing liquor. No longer were spirits considered “moonshine” in these parts. Craft brewers had some competition as gin, vodka and whiskey connoisseurs entered the fray.

Strathcona Spirits regularly produces barrel-aged gin, Badlands Berry Gin (our favorite!), as well as a single grain vodka. Their first whiskey will be coming out of the cask in June 2020 and we can’t wait. 

Not sure what to do with these fine liquors? The Midnight Cocktail Club of Edmonton regularly challenges bartenders to get creative with what the local distilleries are putting out. Recipes of what has been created are up on the Strathcona Spirits website.

Farm to Table dinner at the Old Red Barn by Kitchen by Brad

Old Red Barn dinners with Kitchen by Brad

Edmonton is farm country, despite it looking like a city. Go 10 minutes outside of the city and you are in the fields of Alberta. What better way to celebrate this cultivated culture than with a true farm to table dinner? While we city folks understand the concept of getting our food from a farm, actually sitting on a farm where most of the food was produced, or brought in from neighboring farms, takes on a whole new meaning.

Melissa and Matt Schur from the Old Red Barn teamed up with Chef Brad from KITCHEN to put on summer family dinners. City folk and area residents all come out to experience this unique meal with a few equine friends hanging out in the distance (or sometimes right next to you). Chef Brad puts his own spin on this simple, yet impactful menu that combines local ingredients to show off the best Alberta, and specifically Edmonton, has to offer. As always with Chef Brad,  there is a little Ukranian flair to the dishes, which resonates throughout his kitchen and cuisine.

Local wine is brought in to complement each course. After all, British Columbia, right next to Alberta, is making some of the finest wines in North America (or so we like to think).

Want to attend a dinner? Check for the next date here!

Take the gloves off at an Edmonton Oilers Game

Hockey fans, and yes, even people like us who have no idea what is going on in the game, will enjoy an Edmonton Oilers game as if they are locals. Rogers Place, the massive arena where the Oilers play, can seat 18,500 and you will feel the force of the Oiler fans at every game. 

And don’t get these Edmonton hockey fans started on Wayne Gretsky. The city took home the Stanley Cup three times while “The Great One” played with the Oilers from 1979-1988. You can even get your photo taken with a statue of the man outside the arena. 

View the Outdoor Neon Museum

Edmonton Neon Museum

The 4th Street Promenade is where those in the know go to see the neon signs of old that have been salvaged and restored. The volunteers from the City of Edmonton Heritage Planning have at least 20 signs on display, with the goal of 30 being part of the collection. 

These signs tell the story of old Edmonton, each with a plaque explaining the story of the business it represented. As neon goes out of fashion thanks to the expense and lack of artists working with the material, this type of museum is all the more important. 

The Outdoor Neon Museum is right around the corner from Rogers Place where the Edmonton Oilers play. It adds a bit of nighttime flair to the neighborhood, even on a blustery night in January. Best of all, the museum is completely outdoors, and free year round. 

Catch the Northern Lights … if you are lucky!

Once upon a time, we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning in Jasper trying to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the Aurora Borealis skipped us to put on a show over Edmonton instead. Never have I wanted to be in a city more than that moment.

While you may think the Edmonton Aurora Borealis would be weak, there is a dark sky preserve just 40 minutes outside of the city in Elk Island National Park. Keep an eye on your Aurora Borealis tracker app. Head into the park, making your way towards the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve in the park. The Bison Loop is a great spot to see the North Lights and not as populated as the Astotin Lake Recreation Area where most visitors will go to park their cars and wait.

Other spots to view the Edmonton Aurora Borealis and night sky include the RASC Observatory at TELUS World of Science. The observatory is free, making it the perfect spot for families to explore, especially during the winter nights when the sun sets earlier. It is hard to push bedtime when you have little ones who also love to star gaze. 

The University of Alberta also opens up its observatory to the public on Thursday evenings. While we can’t promise the Northern Lights will be dancing, it never hurts to swing by, talk to the astronomers and learn more about the night sky.

Looking for a Hotel in Edmonton? Check out the following!

Fairmont MacDonald Edmonton Alberta

This post is part of a paid partnership with Edmonton Tourism. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know. This post contains affiliate links.

Calgary Canada

13 Surprising Things to do in Calgary Canada

Calgary Canada is so much more than what I see coming into the airport! I thought to myself. Probably not the first thing that comes to mind when most locals think of their city. For those who only fly in and out of Calgary International in Alberta to get to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, this is a very true statement though.

I’d seen the inside of the airport, the rental car lot, and the highway that took me away from the city. I never saw the skyline, the Bow and Elbow Rivers, the public modern art, or cute neighborhoods with boozy mani/pedi shops. Why, oh why, had I been driving away from all of this so many times? No more! It was time to dive in.

Calgary Canada

Where is Calgary Alberta?

Calgary is about an hour and a half outside of Banff National Park and Lake Louise, and home of the 1988 Winter Olympics. Being so close to the mountains, it is already at 3,428 feet above sea level. Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, is just two hours north. Calgary is also the largest city in the province of Alberta with just over a million and a half people, including about 30,000 students attending the University of Calgary. No, it is not part of the U.S., but it is close to the border of Montana, even closer is British Columbia.

17th Ave Calgary
17th Avenue mural

Getting to Calgary Canada

There are several nonstop flights from the US to Calgary every day, main departures from Seattle, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Air Canada does offer several nonstop flights from across Canada as well. Most US travelers headed to Calgary will have to take a connecting flight though.

And yes, you will need a passport to go in and out of Canada, as well as Canadian dollars. You can exchange money at the airport or get money out of the ATM once you arrive. No need to panic.

Heading to Edmonton too? Read our Edmonton Alberta guide.

Calgary Canada

Calgary Weather

Well, the good news is that it is Canada, so you are guaranteed less humidity and cooler days when you are roasting in the summer down in the lower 48. Summers are gorgeous, with highs in the 80s. Nights can cool off into the high 40s and 50s. Every restaurant patio is packed until sunset after 10pm, and you will find people playing in Princess Island Park every weekend.

The flip side is that it also gets chilly in the winter, but not as cold as you may think. Calgary winters see temperatures dipping into the 20s during the day and into single digits at night. It’s a drier cold though, so not as brutal as those wet winters elsewhere. You are also an easy drive to the SkiBig3 mountains to enjoy a few winter sports. Grab a snowboard or pair of skis to build up a sweat on day trips to Lake Louise and the Banff rocky mountain slopes if you get too cold. Winter also brings a profusion of festivals to the city, including the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest we can’t wait to check out.

No matter the weather, there are always things to do in Calgary. Whether you like to shop, eat, hike, bike or stalk mural art, you are sure to have fun in this Alberta city in western Canada.

Calgary Canada
Wonderland

Calgary Neighborhoods

Calgary has at least 12 distinct neighborhoods, all unique and worth visiting. There is no way you will have time to see them all during your visit unless you plan a marathon, so we will break down a few of our favorites. If you do have extra time, make sure you head to Kensington, 4th Street and Beltline though.

Kensington

A small, but jam-packed neighborhood just across the Bow River. While we love all of the coffee shops and restaurants, it’s how this neighborhood powers their cell phones that has us giddy. Dale the Origami Horse at the corner of 10th Street NW and Memorial Drive is ready for you to connect and recharge. Simply hop on and start peddling. Don’t believe us? Go find him, and then search out all of the cool murals in this part of town.

4th Street

Once Calgary’s French speaking neighborhood, it is now filled with boutique shops and restaurants. Pop in during June for the Lilac Festival, a great spot for families to welcome spring (yes, June is still considered spring in this Canadian city). It is also the best spot to discover new and emerging musicians on the six stages set up for the public to enjoy.

Beltline

Head to the more contemporary section of Calgary to taste the best cocktails, cruise art galleries and dig into a few tasty dishes. We loved learning how to smoke cocktails at Shelter. Definitely visit the Chinook Arc, an interactive piece of artwork you can control with your Smartphone.

Inglewood Calgary

Historic Inglewood

When you want to really get to know Calgary, you go to the historic village neighborhood of Inglewood. This is where the city really began. Inglewood is Calgary’s oldest neighborhood, established in 1875, and originally known as East Calgary. Today, it’s filled with shops, restaurants, coffee shops where you can rub elbows with the locals, bike paths, nature preserves and one heck of a set of rapids for kayakers to tackle.

Inglewood Calgary

Smithbilt Hats calls Inglewood home, and have graced the heads of Queen Elizabeth II and the Dalai Lama. We loved loading up on spices and bitters at the at Silk Road Spice Market when we cruised through town. More than one knitting friend has told us to pop into Stash Needle Art Lounge too. For plants, well, you can’t go wrong with PLANT. For all our modern cowboy wear, we head to Cody and Sioux, as well as The Livery Shop, before Calgary Stampede.

Note: many shops are closed on Mondays, so try to hit this historic neighborhood on the weekend or other times throughout the week.

Inglewood Calgary Alberta
Historic Inglewood

Explore 17th Ave

One of our favorite places to hang out in Calgary is 17th Avenue. Not only is Ollia Macarons and Tea located here (try to eat just one of these sweet confections!), but so is Analog Coffee.

If you love a well-balanced cappuccino, especially a nice decaf in the late afternoon, this is the coffee shop for you. The beans aren’t bitter at all. Alternately, if you want to work and hang with the hipster crowd, you can mellow out at Philosafy just down the street. Both shops are great; we just prefer Analog.

East Village Calgary

Arguing over Pizza and Ice Cream

UNA Pizza is arguably the best pizza spot in town, and yes, the locals will argue about this with you. Naturally, you can’t have pizza without ice cream, so pop over to Made By Marcus for a unicorn inspired sundae or one of their seasonal specialty flavors. We had the Lemon Curd Wild Blueberry in a waffle cone and were tempted to get back in that long line for seconds. Yes, the line at Made By Marcus can be long after dinner, but it moves quickly and is worth it.

WARNING: Made by Marcus is also know for bright confections that can and will initiate a sugar high. Instagram-worthy concoctions come with cotton candy and cones will make you think you are eating a unicorn. And no, not just children are ordering these sweet treats. We won’t judge if you do too. 

17th Ave Calgary

Shopping 17th Ave

Just like any cute neighborhood, the shops set the mood. Steeling Home is our go- to spot for kitschy gifts, the perfect welcome mat, and all things Alberta and Calgary inspired. Need to say “Sorry” as only a Canadian can? There’s a mug for that, don’t you know.

Purr has gorgeous seasonal wear priced on the higher end, but always great sales, so keep your eyes out for those signs ladies. You never know when you will score the perfect maxi dress for half price. For those who love to thrift and consign, check out Thrift Culture, Used House of Vintage and Velour Clothing Exchange.

East Village Calgary

Art-filled East Village

Every morning should start at the Simmons Building with a latte from local roaster, Phil & Sebastian. With coffee in hand, saddle on over to Sidewalk Citizen to load up on the best strawberry cardamom scones we’ve ever tasted, as well as great egg dishes to fuel up your morning with protein.

Now you are ready to hit the streets for an art walk.

Simmons Building Calgary

Thanks to the Calgary Public Art Policy, the streets and walls of the city are bursting with color and unexpected surprises in the parks, public restrooms and along the river. The river pathways were given a refresh in Fall 2016 with nine mixed media murals by Curtis Van Charles Sorensen, incorporating his well-known joyfully jumping animals.

Where to find art installations in East Village

In the square at Riverfront Ave Se and Confluence Way SE, you will find a little church turned on its head. Make your way towards the Calgary Central Library from there, to find a pop-up park with ping pong, hopscotch, basketball, chess and a mural ready to set the mood.

East Village Calgary

Even the East Village Dog Park has artistic elements built into the agility equipment. Instead of boring old logs, these colorful timbers will catch your eye and make you want to hang out with you pup a little longer. Crossroads Urban Park brings together public art, a community garden and playground, creating a public space that families won’t want to miss when in the neighborhood.

If you really want to be impressed, head into downtown to the Bow Building to see Wonderland, a wire head designed by Barcelona-based artist Jaume Plensa. Visitors can walk into the head and around it, but please don’t climb on it. Plensa is well known for his previous work the Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and you better believe we are stalking his work elsewhere.

Calgary Alberta

Surprising Things to do in Calgary

As a major city, there are endless activities for families and visitors looking to dive into downtown Calgary and beyond. Calgary Stampede, the greatest outdoor show on earth, happens every July, bringing thousands of visitors to this rodeo/fair/food fest.

The Calgary Zoo is a conservation park parents can feel OK bringing their kids too. Pandas were recently introduced at the park and are part of the international breeding program to promote the health and numbers of pandas across the planet. Similar to the pandas at the National Zoo in Washington DC, these pandas will quickly become the most loved animals Calgary has ever known.

Glenbow Museum, Calgary’s art musuem, and the National Music Centre, pull in the artists of Calgary, across Alberta, and beyond. Regular rotating exhibits highlight different aspects of the art and music scene. While the Music Centre is reminiscent of the MoPOP in Seattle, with hands on instruments, musical guests and Canadian music hall of fame, it dives deeper into the the behind the scenes of Studio Bell. You can even see the Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio. I know more than one rock and roll fan who won’t want to miss that (ahem, my dad). True music lovers, and those interested in the arts will want to visit both though.

Calgary Central Library

Calgary Central Public Library

Opened on November 1, 2018, the Calgary Central Library is one of the most futuristic libraries we have ever seen. If this is where reading spaces are headed, we are all in. Light-filled, airy spaces that bring the community together in a variety of ways is one thing we will always support.

Calgary Central Library

Class rooms, reading rooms, computer stations, café and performance hall only compliment the 450,000 books on the shelves. A dedicated teen space that only teens are allowed to enter, which includes a recording studio, video game systems and editing suites, will have your kids running to the library with their friends. Moms and dads will flock to the huge children’s library with books, LEGOs and sensory tables, even when they are vacation.

The real beauty (outside of all those delicious smelling books) is the Snøhetta DIALOG design though. The design team entwined timber slats with a crystalline exterior to create a natural cloud formation found in the region thanks to the dry winds blowing down the Rockies, called a Chinook. The new library connects downtown to East Village, marrying the business center with this art-centric urban hub.

Peace Bridge Calgary Canada

Peace Bridge photo opp

Once a controversial piece of architecture in the city, the Peace Bridge is now a symbolic part of Calgary, Canada. Why was it controversial? Well, it was designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Locals wondered why Calgary artists weren’t hired to design the bridge. Good question.

In the end, when the bridge was delivered, it was too short to span the bridge, so Calgary designers and engineers were brought in to develop the white pieces at the end to connect the bridge to shores of the Bow River. Now locals and visitors float under the bridge, skip across it and stroll down hand and hand, especially when it is lit up at night. It has become a piece of the Calgary landscape and one many celebrate, despite a bit of angst in the beginning.

Bow River Pathway Calgary Canada

Bike along Bow River Pathway

Everyone should take a bike ride through Calgary, Alberta at least once during their visit. While you could just grab a city bike, we prefer to rent through Rath Bicycle, just to the right of the Simmons Building in East Village. They provide great cruiser style bikes and bike maps that can get you all over the city. The staff is also happy to suggest spots to stop along the way. If you have kids, they can help you plot out the safest routes, and have all the safety gear you need.

Throughout the year, you will see plenty of people using the pathway and bikeway system around the city. In fact, Calgary has the longest urban pathway system in North America. Runners, people walking their dogs, and bikers all take advantage of these car-free zones.

Naturally, the path along the Bow River is our favorite though. Why? It connects so many of our favorite neighborhoods together. A prime example: the ride from East Village to Inglewood. It is much easier and faster to do by bike than fighting traffic in your car.

Bow River Pathway Calgary Canada

Bike to Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre

Ride your bike from East Village along the Bow River Pathway to Inglewood to get a true sense of this neighborhood. Cut in to head down 9th Ave, or less trafficked 8th Ave. to wander the main street, or continue down the Pathway towards Harvie Passage to see if the kayakers are out.

You can’t miss the River Passage art installation by Lorna Jordan right next to Harvie Passage in Pearce Estate Park. It’s pretty much a marker that tells you that you have arrived. Park your bike and take in the view with a picnic or a little snack before you continue on.

Head towards the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre, a sanctuary for migrating birds for more than 80 years. You will need to park your bike before you enter the sanctuary and explore on foot though. Several paths are open to the public so you can get a peek at the 270 species of birds, 21 species of mammals and 347 species of plants that have been recorded across the sanctuary. Not a bad way to spend your morning, eh?

Shelter Cocktails Calgary

Shelter Cocktail Class

Drinking cocktails is great (oh, how we love a well-balanced sip), but learning how to properly make your own makes you appreciate your bartender all the more. Step inside this chic fall-out shelter, where gas masks take on an elegant, blinged-out vibe, and pre-prohibition cocktails are brought to new heights.

Similar to a speakeasy, but without the code word, Shelter welcomes you into the fold. A rotating cocktail menu highlights small batch booze and sought after distilleries, like the elusive Victoria Gin that not only tastes great, but changes colors as you add ingredients.

Shelter Cocktails Calgary

Public and private cocktail classes are offered at least once a month. On a recent trip, I got to sit in on a private class to learn how to make the perfect sour (using egg white), smoke lavender, properly muddle mint for my mojitos, and why a martini should always be stirred, not shaken.

What’s included in a typical class?

  • Three cocktails
  • Complimentary bar snacks (on request)
  • Cocktail and spirit theory and history
  • Muddling, stirring, shaking, and smoking techniques
  • Glassware knowledge and education
  • A cocktail contest with prizes
  • Question and answer time

And you can’t have a cocktail class without a few cocktails, right? We started off with the classic French 75, before moving into a smoked Old Fashion. We got fancy when we broke out the Victoria Gin to make a Northern Lights, which included sage and smoked lavender.

Shelter Cocktails Calgary

The class ended with a borderline sweet Blood in the Water, a pink concoction reminiscent of pink lemonade with a few dabs of olive oil on top. It sounds weird, but it was heaven, yet dangerous in a glass. A few of those and we would be sleeping on the deep purple velvet couches littering the floor under the 1000+ lightbulbs on the ceiling. 

Other great Calgary cocktail bars to check out:

  • Proof
  • The Tea House
  • Milk Toger
  • Yard Arm
  • Betty’s Little Library (legit speakeasy)

Treat Yourself to a Boozy Mani/Pedi

Sometimes you just have to take a break from city life. Calgary, Alberta is bursting with speciality nail salons that combine wine with mani/pedis, especially along 17th Avenue. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are strongly recommended.  You know you need your piggies to get pampered right about now.

If it is summer, you have been wearing sandals and your polish needs an update. In winter, your feet are dry and could use a rub. These three spots are worth checking out when in town for some extra hand and feet love.

  • MetroPolish17 Nail Salon
  • Esme Beauty Bar
  • Elate Lounge Beauty Bar and Café
Made by Marcus
Made by Marcus: Lemon Curd Wild Blueberry

Get cool in Calgary this Summer

Just like Edmonton, the locals come out to play in force when it heats up in Calgary Canada. Restaurants fling open the windows, and residents hit the pavement and river to find some fun. There are endless festivals, but nothing like the Calgary Stampede that takes over the city for two weeks each July. While we are sure you could find loads to do this summer in Calgary, here are a few of our favorites.

Bow River Pathway Calgary Canada
Harvie Passage Calgary

Ride the rapids at Harvie Passage Calgary

Be warned: these rapids look small, but they are not for the faint of heart. More than one experienced kayaker has died at Harvie Passage. The city shut down the rapids for a number of years after a flood in 2013. It was rebuilt with more safety in mind for rapid lovers, but with all rivers, there is still risk involved.

Pop down to Pearce Park to watch kayakers and rafters hit the class 3 rapids on the left and class 2 rapids on the right of the river passage. Even when no one is passing through, this part of the river is still a beautiful spot to explore. If you are interested in tackling it on your own, call Paddle Station to rent kayaks or rafts, but check in with the guides first to make sure you are up for the challenge.

Paddle Station Calgary

Float Down the River with Paddle Station

While you may want rapids, we prefer more of a float. When it is hot outside, the glacier fed waters of the Bow River are just cool enough to make your toes curl. Hop in a raft with the knowledgeable guides from Paddle Station. Get to know the river, maybe see a beaver, the river surfers at 10th Street Bridge, and enjoy the city as it comes into view. You will float under Peace Bridge and by Princess Island Park, taking about an hour and a half to make your way from the launch point. Because of the flow of water, you won’t even have to paddle.

If you do want a challenge, you can book a raft on your own, and even a kayak. We know some people like a workout on the river. Just remember- tandem kayaks are divorce boats. No matter how much you love your partner, get your own kayak for the sake of your relationship. Just sayin’.

Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede

Eat all of the Fried Food at Calgary Stampede

Just when you didn’t think you could eat any more fried food, another morsel is presented to you. This is what the food stalls at Calgary Stampede do to you. Every year they add knew confections and creations, and we just can’t say no. Pickle dogs, pickle ice cream, pickle cotton candy (they have a thing for pickles up here), fried Twizzlers, Smokin’ Butterbeer Ice cream, baby octopus on a stick, bacon-wrapped onion rings- the list is literally three pages long.

So, pull on your stretchy pants and leave the belt at home. It’s time to start eating. The post-Calgary Stampede diet can start in August. You will walk a ton at this rodeo anyway. It’s huge!

Shakespeare by the Bow

Prince’s Island Park

When you really want to veg out on a summer afternoon, you go to Prince’s Island Park. Enjoy a leisurely brunch or lunch at River Café. Mimosas are encouraged, as is the cheese board and season fruit platter. In true Alberta tradition, Canola oil crackers will be served with your cheese, so make sure you take a bite.

As you wander through the park, you may catch theatre:Calgary’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream or another Shakespeare production performed at the annual Shakespeare by the Bow. Pull up a patch of grass to enjoy free performances late June to mid-August, six days a week. Ticket prices are Pay By Donations, meaning you can pay what you can afford, or not at all. Proceeds go back into Shakespeare by the Bow to mentor and support emerging theater artists. Concessions are available at the top of the hill, along with restrooms.

If the kids are with you, pop over to the wading area for a little swim on a hot day. A small tributary of the Bow River curves around Princes’s Island creating a perfect little calm spot for kids to play. You will also find families biking, running and tossing a frisbee around pretty much every weekend when the weather is nice. 

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This post is part of a paid partnership with Tourism Calgary and Travel Alberta. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know. This post may contain affiliate links . This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

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