Nexus of the New West

More than just the Stam­pede, Calgary is a city with its own brand of en­ergy

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Yorke

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.

Right Neigh­borly

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.

Culi­nary Calgary

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

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