Great at­trac­tions aplenty in Cal­gary

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - RON PRADINUK

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 askjour­neys@jour­neystravel.com. 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

at that­trav­el­guy.ca.

RON PRADINUK / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

The Telus Spark Science Cen­tre will keep chil­dren fas­ci­nated for hours.

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