Great attractions aplenty in Calgary
LAST week I started my column with a comparison of Winnipeg’s frigid winter temperatures with what I was experiencing in Vancouver, the largest city in our most western province.
A week later I am in Calgary. The temperature has warmed up in Winnipeg to a few degrees above zero during the daylight.
At the same time a strong Chinook has blown through southern Alberta, and I find myself basking in 16C during those same hours.
I love Winnipeg, but there are times during the winter months I am extremely grateful for the opportunity given me to travel to a sunspot destination for a week or two, or even east or west as I have just done, to take advantage of some of the less frigid weather at our own Canadian locales.
Calgary, not always seen as a major tourist city beyond the days around the Calgary Stampede, is an interesting place to visit, summer or winter.
The nearby mountain ranges are almost always in sight. With the shifting rays of the sun and shadows, they paint a revolving portrait, creating unique visual photo opportunities throughout the day.
While skiing or snowboarding the nearby trails of Banff and Lake Louise are major side trips for visitors and residents alike, the legacy of Canada Olympic Park from the Calgary 1988 Olympics gives these same enthusiasts the opportunity to practise their skills just 15 minutes from downtown.
Don’t know how to ski yet? The park hosts the second-largest ski school in Canada, where you can learn the sport and join the more than 300,000 skiers and snowboarders who take to these slopes every year.
The Calgary Zoo is opened all year round with plenty of animals showing off their best stuff during the winter months.
It is the second-largest zoo in Canada, and according to Wikipedia was the nation’s most visited zoo in 2012. Last year, TripAdvisor named it Canada’s top zoo. In 2013, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums said wrote “the Calgary Zoo sets itself apart as one of the top zoos in the world.”
Some of the more unique exhibits feature the Komodo dragons, the largest lizard in the world, hippos and rhinos, along with at least three species of penguins, including the most beautiful of them all, the king penguin.
If you are in Calgary with family, a visit to the Telus Spark Science Centre is an absolute priority.
With regular hours on most days only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., plan to get there early. Spending a day at the centre with children is easy. The place is loaded with interactive learning centres that can keep young ones at some of the attractions for hours.
Separated by age and interest, various exploration areas challenge and teach as they are experienced in an entertaining way.
In the energy and innovation section, participants learn how to transform energy, after first extracting it from the sun, wood, water and oil.
The Being Human section entertains while explaining why some people are right-handed, while others are lefthanded. It even explains the chemistry of the brain as people fall in love, or feel other emotions that may be unique to them at the time.
In spring, the newest attraction, an outdoor park called the Brainasium, will be opened to the public.
It is a 0.4-hectare space that will become an exploratory area of sound, physics and machinery. Visitors will also be able to climb up an 11-metre tower, and then hop on a slide for the 21-metre downward ride.
THE downtown Calgary Tower may not be the tallest, but at 1,228 metres above sea level, its 360-degree observation deck is still the highest of its kind in the world.
It offers an excellent view of the city and the Bow River that winds its way through parts of it.
The downtown core of Calgary is a highrise city unto itself, built in no small part by the oil industry. While these may be challenging days, the companies that transformed the city over the past decades are likely here to stay, and are ready to tough it out through this turbulent period of oil prices.
There is no shortage of quality dining and shopping in the downtown core, or in the many premium residential areas that surround the main business district.
This has always been a city on the move where people from all over Canada, and even the United States, have come for jobs and positions that drive the Canadian economy.
Finding a former Manitoban working in Calgary, from the days when Manitoba’s economy was not so favourable, is not difficult.
While both WestJet Airlines and Air Canada offer non-stop flights from Winnipeg daily, the automobile driving distance is only about 1,300 kilometres.
If fuel prices stay as low as they are, that may well be the most popular transportation mode for the 15-hour trip through western Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Those seriously considering the journey may want to consider the Yellowhead route. It may be longer, but will take you through more scenic views and through other interesting western Canadian river cities such as Saskatoon.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at journeystravelgear.com or read Ron’s travel blog
The Telus Spark Science Centre will keep children fascinated for hours.