Calgary Travel Guide
Yes, Calgary might be located in a more conservative part of Canada, but that doesn’t mean the city isn’t welcoming to all. Just like many other parts of the world where conservative views dominate, typically the larger cities that keep the areas afloat don’t necessarily share or have the same ideals as the outskirts – look at Dallas, Cincinnati, or Tel Aviv, for example. Calgary has always been a destination for anyone who loves mountains and winter sports, as it’s situated near the Canadian Rockies and nearby some of the most beautiful national parks in North America. The city itself has seen an exponential growth in the downtown area, and the restaurants, bars and boutique businesses can attest to this. You won’t find a gay district per say, but what you will find is that most places are filled with all walks of life, and in Calgary, co-existing and sharing space makes much more sense then living separately and having designated spaces for certain groups – people are nice and like to spend time together, they are Canadian after all. Wondering what to do in Calgary? Mr Hudson has got you covered.
The best hotels in Calgary
With an emerging travel market that is now focusing more on leisure verse business travellers, the hotels in Calgary have stepped up their game and are reaching out more to a different type of visitor that the city didn’t typically have before. Of course, for those who still want the grand, classic property, with updated accommodations, the Fairmont Palliser is located in downtown near the city’s business and financial district and is walking distance to the city’s shopping and entertainment venues. The historical landmark hotel is distinctive and elegant and provides those who seek it, the expected 5-star service always found at any Fairmont property. The Kensington Riverside Inn, a Relais & Châteaux designated property, is one of only fourteen properties in Canada, within the collection that was established over 60 years ago in France. Located on the Bow River overlooking downtown Calgary, the intimate boutique features stylish finishes and an interesting collection of unique artwork. Another boutique hotel located just off the stylish 17th Avenue Retails and Entertainment District is Hotel Elan, and with this new boutique, no detail was overlooked. Guests staying here can enjoy custom designed bathroom fixtures to stylish furniture imported directly from Italy.
Directly across the street from the Fairmont Palliser, in the business district is yet another 5-star property, Hotel Le Germain, a new landmark in the heart of the city. The hotel lobby isn’t grand or spacious, but the modern design is an attractive and welcomed look for a hotel property of that calibre. The rooms are designed to be extra-spacious, and the bathrooms are incredibly generous when it comes to space. The hotel also has an award-winning restaurant and even offers in-room yoga, which is broadcasted on the televisions – mats provided for in-room use. The hotel is walking distance to the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts, the Glenbow Museum, the Calgary Tower and Olympic Plaza. Mr Hudson’s pick though is Hotel Arts, a hotel property that blends modern luxury and intuitive service. Calgary’s designer boutique hotel can be a bit of a visual overload as the provocative artwork featured throughout the public spaces and two award-winning restaurants battle for your attention from the creatively designed spaces filled with furniture that could also be considered to be art. The infamous parties held at their pool feature DJ’s and live music, and if celebrity sightings are your thing, this would be the place to question who is who.
Neighbourhoods in Calgary
Taking some time to get to know your surroundings is a great way to discover the best Calgary points of interest, and since experiential travel is all about finding the best districts in each city, we’ve found four areas worth exploring. Inglewood, also known as Music Mile is the city’s oldest neighbourhood, having been established adjacent to Fort Calgary in 1875. Today, Inglewood is an eclectic and vibrant arts and culture-filled district with over a hundred boutiques, shops, and places to grab some food – it was also named Canada’s Best Neighbourhood in 2015. Northwest of downtown and across the Bow River is Kensington. This inner-city residential area is home to a bohemian enclave of pubs, restaurants, and shops. But the hood wouldn’t be complete without its abundant array of, you guessed it, coffee houses.
The stretch of Fourth Street SW running from Central Memorial Park south to Elbow River is known as Mission. The neighbourhood is best known for its strip of restaurants featuring casual to upscale and ethnic eateries. It’s also home to a collection of hip bars, boutiques, art galleries and yes, more coffee houses. The 17th Avenue Retail and Entertainment District, mentioned above, is the city’s signature shopping strip, known for its clothing shops; this busy promenade features many boutiques as well as large brand-name stores. The east end is full of a major entertainment cluster that includes Elbow River Casino and Stampede Park, home of the Calgary Stampede as well as Cowboy’s nightclub. Between Second Street SW and 14th Street SW, the area features 400-plus shops, bars, restaurants and clubs. At night, the avenue takes on an entirely new crowd as club goers venue hop between bars and nightclubs.
Deane House | Photo: Chris Amat
Where to eat in Calgary
When it comes to where to eat and drink, Calgary isn’t shy of options, which makes picking a place a bit difficult, so we’ve put together a solid list of options ranging from breweries to formal yet casual restaurants. The recently opened Deane House, located in a newly refurbished heritage home offers a menu that focuses on locally, seasonally sourced ingredients, which are worked into contemporary Canadian dishes. Pigeonhole, as the name suggests, has rolled several elements into one unique concept. The bite size portions are great for sharing and no matter if you go for a quick bite before a night out or an extended stay, taking advantage of their craft cocktails and alternative wine list, make sure to leave room for dessert – the macaroons are everything. Foreign Concept will transport diners from the everyday mundane with their Pan-Asian timeless yet modern cuisine. The subtle flavours used honour colonial Vietnamese cooking with surprising elements from across the continent. The Nash takes focus on having an inventive menu, which has a dash of urban grit to it, while also providing excellent service and great food. Trolley 5 is a craft brewery experience that doesn’t just have amazing beers, but also really tasty food.
The 92-seat Whitehall is all about approachable food using high-end techniques. The menu has a focus on English flavours and serves traditional British pub snacks like pork pies and pickled eggs. Native Tongues will help those needing some super authentic Mexican street food indulge at this taqueria. The experience here will make it feel like you are in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in some small town of Mexico – meaning it’s incredible. And lastly, Charbar, a trendy place that takes inspiration from Argentina’s wood-fired grilling tradition, features small plates, pizza made with sourdough bread from Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and seafood dishes. On top of the building is the Rooftop Bar at the Simmons, which offers gorgeous views of downtown Calgary and the Bow River. Charbar shares the Simmons Building with Phil & Sebastian’s Coffee Roasters and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, making the building a destination for foodies. Once appetites have been satisfied, it’s time for some libations. The 1,600 square foot Proof cocktail bar is a great place to start. Their aim is to instil an appreciation of classic cocktail culture. Ricardo’s Hideaway is the rum bar inspired by Hemmingway, and if tropical drinks are your thing, it’s your best bet. And Añejo is the city’s tequila bar that boasts the best margaritas in town – you’ll have to judge for yourself.
Things to do in Calgary
Depending on how you define “play,” the city has some really great options. Exploring Calgary by bike is a wonderful way to get to know the neighbourhoods and even just get lost while hunting for some fabulous spots. Many of the hotels offer bike loans throughout the city, or just pick one up at Nomad Gear Rentals. Calgary is home to the largest urban pathway in North America. It’s also possible to rent a raft through Lazy Day Rentals and experience floating down the river, something typically done during the summer. Calgary also offers options for foodies and beer lovers. Brewery Tour- Calgary Brewery Tour and Calgary Food Tours are the go-to options for those looking to be led to the best places to eat and try beer.
For those who appreciate music, Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, truly reflects the emergence of a new Calgary. The design of the building is ambitious and most definitely stands out in the best way possible. Designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, he was inspired by instrument design as well as the echoes of the Canadian landscape. This award-winning project is considered one of the most exciting architectural projects occurring in the world right now and taking a half day to interact and explore the museum within the walls is a great way to get cultured while visiting the city. To get a little bit more interactive, Winsport provides visitors with the opportunity to experience bobsledding on the Olympic track with the first openly gay Olympic bobsled athlete, Simon Dunn, affectionately known around these parts as Bobsled Simon. A day with this stud requires advanced notice and reservations. And of course, if visiting in early July, and looking for a different kind of stud, the Calgary Stampede is an absolute must as it’s the “greatest outdoor show on earth”…
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The Nash | Photo: John Gaucher
Deane House | Chris Amat
Deane House | Chris Amat
The Nash | Photo: John Gaucher
The Nash | Photo: John Gaucher
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