Nexus of the New West
More than just the Stampede, Calgary is a city with its own brand of energy
Sometimes referred to as“Dallas of the North,”Calgary is a city with its own brand of energy
Sometimes referred to as“Cowtown”or“Dallas of the North”due to its dominance in Canada’s cattle and oil and gas industries, Calgary is a vibrant and prosperous city of 1.3 million with the highest income per capita in the country. Its economy has diversified over the years as a result of the product and service needs of the energy sector, to include financial services, communications, transportation, manufacturing, agri-business, film and creative industries, tourism, and alternative energies and environmental technologies.
It’s also an entrepreneurial hotbed with the largest concentration of small businesses and young entrepreneurs among Canadian cities. New trendy neighborhoods are popping up, along with a burgeoning cultural scene filled museums, galleries and music festivals.
The biggest event in town is undoubtedly the world-famous Calgary Stampede (calgarystampede.com) – an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July. Billed as “The Greatest Show on Earth,”this 10-day extravaganza attracts over a million locals and visitors every year (including Prince William and Kate on their first international tour in 2011), and features North America’s biggest rodeo with chuckwagon-racing and bull-riding,
the world’s second largest parade (after the Rose Bowl), concerts, stage shows and exhibitions of the First Nations, North America’s indigenous peoples.
The Stampede is so ingrained in Calgary’s pride and national identity that the local Canadian Football League team is called the“Stampeders,”and the city’s primary indoor arena, and home of the Calgary Flames hockey team, is the distinctive Saddledome with a roof in the shape of, you guessed it, a saddle. The whole city gets into the cowboy spirit during the Stampede donning western wear and taking part in cross-town events such as barbecues and complimentary pancake breakfasts served out of the backs of chuckwagons.
If you’re here during the festivities, get a pair of old-fashioned denims (no designer jeans here), and cowboy shirts from the numerous western gear shops along Stephen Ave Mall downtown, and top off the whole look with a Canadian Smithbilt cowboy hat (smithbilthats. com). Since the 1950s, every celebrity and dignitary visiting the city has been honored in a White Hat Ceremony – a symbol of Western hospitality, and Calgary’s unique version of the key to the city.You can have yours made in any color and custom fitted starting from $90 for a wool hat to $950 for a beaver felt version.
For insight into the historic and cultural life of Western Canada, the Glenbow Museum (glenbow.org) downtown features unique exhibits such as“Mavericks,”a look into the early pioneers of Alberta, and “Native Cultures,”an interactive cultural history of the indigenous peoples. There is also an extensive collection of art from the North American West.
Aside from the Stampede, Calgary has a rich sporting history. The city hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988, and Canada Olympic Park (WinSportCanada. ca), just a 15 minute drive from downtown Calgary, was the premier venue for the ski jumping, luge and bobsled competitions. The park continues its Olympic legacy with world-class training facilities for athletes and year-round recreation for the general
The whole city gets into the cowboy spirit during the Stampede
public. In the winter, there are crosscountry ski trails, snowboarding, freestyle aerials and moguls courses.
If you’re visiting during the summer, get your adrenaline rush by barreling down the Olympic track in a professionallydriven bobsled on wheels instead of blades (just sit tight and keep your head down), or experience North America’s fastest zip line at speeds of up to 85 miles per hour from the top of the park’s 200foot Ski Jump Tower.
Also at Olympic Park is Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (sportshall.ca), a new 40,000-square-foot building honoring 520 inducted Canadian sports heroes, and showcasing Canada’s greatest moments in sports. There are over 50 interactive exhibits, and more than 1,000 artifacts from 60 sports including Terry Fox’s shoe from the Marathon of Hope, Jacque Villeneuve’s F1 race car and memorabilia of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky of the Calgary Flames.
Calgarians are the
retail spending champions of Canada
A rarity among modern urban centers, rather than being a downtown ringed by independent suburbs, Calgary’s neighborhoods are for the most part incorporated into the city proper. In the shadow of the landmark 626-foot-tall Calgary Tower, the central city consists of five neighborhoods: Eau Claire (including the Festival District), the Downtown West End, the Downtown Commercial Core, Chinatown, and the Downtown East Village (also part of the Rivers District).
A 15-minute walk from downtown is Uptown 17 (on 17th Ave SW), Calgary’s lively and pedestrian-friendly district burgeoning with over 400 restaurants, outdoor cafes, popular watering holes and clothing shops.
Across the Elbow River from the city center is Inglewood, a once dilapidated neighborhood that has enjoyed recent gentrification, and is now home to many eclectic home décor and antique stores. Dade Art and Design Lab carries a range of original art and sculptures by local artists, while Circa specializes in mid-20th century vintage art glass and collectibles. Several of the area’s historic buildings have been restored and transformed into live music performance venues, and fine dining establishments.
Bohemian Kensington is filled with fashion boutiques, book and gift shops, edgy furniture stores, and coffee houses popular with the indie-alternative crowd and students from two nearby colleges.
Calgarians are the retail spending champions of Canada, with the highest per-capita expenditure in the country. Many brands and local designers open stores and launch exclusive lines in Calgary first. For those short on time, retail therapy is made even easier thanks to a first-of-its-kind Web site tool created by Tourism Calgary. The site enables visitors to search over 400 stores and three shopping centers to create a personalized shopping itinerary, as well as suggestions on nearby dining and entertainment options.
In addition to the recommender tool, visitcalgary.com is also a source for information on the city’s fashion events, and special deals on shopping packages. Twitter:@Calgary#shoppingyyc.
For downtown accommodations that are sleek and green, the Hotel Le Germain (germaincalgary.com) – a 143-room boutique property directly opposite the Calgary Tower – is built with energy-conservation in mind. The entrance features a 25-ft glass wall which fills the lobby and lounge with natural light. Guestrooms are spacious with large workstations and ergonomic chairs, as well as complimentary high speed and wireless internet. There’s even a fresh air supply humidified at 30 percent so no more stuffy hotel rooms. The naturally-lit bathrooms feature rainfall showers, Frette cotton towels and Molton Brown toiletries.
The boardrooms and meeting rooms feature contemporary design and state-ofthe-art lighting and audio-visual systems. In case you forgot yours, there are laptops reserved especially for guests. The 24-hour fitness center offers panoramic views of the Calgary skyline, and don’t miss the superb Sante Spa, located on the top floor of the hotel to help alleviate the effects jet lag, cramped flights and hectic schedules.
Long a town known in the culinary landscape for its steakhouses, the Calgary gastronomy scene has grown increasingly innovative, sophisticated and diverse.
Here are some of the best eateries the city has to offer: Charcut (charcut.com) at the Hotel Le Germain, serves local, chef-driven, rustic cuisine, and the restaurant sports a hand-crafted charcuterie eating bar. Co-owner Connie DeSousa, a finalist in the highly-rated reality series Top Chef Canada, incorporates ingredients sourced from small, local artisan farmers and ranchers. Rouge (rougecalgary.com) has two locations – the one in Inglewood is housed in a historic home that’s been designated as a Heritage Site. Winner of the Pellegrino World’s Best
Restaurants 2010 Award, Rouge is fine dining without the pretense, and their philosophy of partnering with local food growers and utilizing homegrown produce from their onsite garden results in internationally-inspired dishes with exquisite flavors. NOtaBLE (notabletherestaurant. ca) has an open kitchen with a large, wood-fired rotisserie. Standouts in their gourmet comfort food menu include their monthly burger inspirations, all their rotisserie meats and their signature Stilton cheesecake. River Café (river-cafe.com) at Prince’s
Island Park is like dining in a cozy log cabin with a roaring fire by the riverbank. They even have a bar shelf framed by a canoe, and an outdoor patio for the warmer months. Chefs prepare seasonal Canadian cuisine, and employ artisanal techniques in bread making and curing meats. Centini (centini.com) located at the TELUS Convention Center serves fine Italian and continental European cuisine. Their Business Express lunch is popular with busy executives in the downtown area. Bring your expense account.
Head to the Mountains
Although Calgary has much to offer, there’s more to appreciate beyond its immediate environs. This town is known as the gateway to the Canadian Rockies. Just 86 miles northwest of the city is Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Offering year-round outdoor pursuits in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the area boasts award-winning golf courses, superlative hiking, and, naturally, worldclass skiing and every winter activity imaginable. The picturesque town of Banff itself is dotted with specialty clothing stores (there’s a fantastic selection of skiwear and gear), artisan candy shops, art galleries and natural mineral hot springs.
The historic Fairmont Banff Springs (fairmont.com), which opened in 1888, is one of Canada’s Grand Railways hotels, and is modeled after a Scottish castle. For the most striking views, check out the Rimrock Resort (rimrockresort.com), a AAA Four Diamond award-winning property. Carved into the side of Sulphur Mountain, the hotel is perched 750 feet above the town of Banff.
Head over to the Banff Grizzly House restaurant (banffgrizzlyhouse.com) for fabulous fondues and sizzling hot rock entrees where you can cook your own Alberta beef, seafood and wild game. For those with an adventurous palate, there are exotic meats such as alligator, kangaroo and ostrich. The restaurant’s fun and rustic décor features totem poles, a wood carved bear and bearskin rugs. For more elegant surroundings, the superb Bison restaurant with a mountain-viewed terrace (thebison. ca) specializes in regional and seasonal fare such as AAA Alberta beef tenderloin and Rocky Mountain venison.
Only 45 minutes past Banff is Lake Louise, renowned as the birthplace of Canadian mountaineering, and one of
Calgary is known as the gateway to the Canadian Rockies
the largest ski areas in North America. The luxurious Chateau Lake Louise (fairmont.com/lake-louise), is superbly situated on the eastern shores of the lake and framed by snow-capped mountains. The hotel can arrange seemingly limitless activities such as the cross-country ski tours, dog-sledding on an Inuit sled, snow-shoeing with a mountain heritage guide, or simply skating through the ice castle on Lake Louise. For those who like pushing the boundaries, try heli-hiking with exclusive airborne access to pristine trails inaccessible by road.You can also ride on the Rocky Mountaineer train from April to October for unforgettable views of the Canadian Rockies.
All that activity and crisp mountain air is sure to give you an appetite. Satisfy your hunger at Chateau Lake Louise’s Walliser Stube restaurant which features Swiss-influenced dishes including cheese, meat and chocolate fondues. The menu is in honor of the Swiss mountain guides in the beginning of the 20th century who led hotel guests and visitors on climbing excursions. BT
Opposite page: Peace Bridge and Calgary Skyline, Calgaray Stampede Above: Canada Olympic Park
Opposite page: Stephen Avenue downtown Calgary, Smithbilt hats Below: Banff National Park