Now a substantial city (the largest to be found away from Canada’s more populated coasts), Calgary has grown from little more than a rural village at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and still has a noticeable small town vibe to it. As the ideal launching spot for those heading skiing or hiking on higher ground, many tourists simply use the city as a hub, though there’s plenty more to uncover should you choose to stay around longer.
Having hosted many events at the 1988 Winter Olympics, the games are still a great draw in the city, with the huge ski jumps visible as you drive into the city, and an impressive museum featuring a Hall Of Fame, telling the story of the icy games in more detail. If you feel like stepping back in time, Fort Calgary represents the city much as it was when the main draw was still the local jail (take the chance to be locked up while you’re here – in winter, it’s seriously spine chilling), while the impressive Glenbow Museum gives a more academic (though equally inspiring) glance back through local history.
Despite the allure of the nearby Rockies, Calgary has its own set of natural attractions, too. Fish Creek Park, for example, is a wild wilderness almost within the city borders, inviting hikers and cyclists to explore the rustic trails, while the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary has a more sedate take on local nature, welcoming twitchers and wildlife lovers alike to stare out at the impressive array of inhabitants.
If you’re looking at a longer stay, Calgary is also the ideal spot for jobs and has an attractive volunteer culture, giving ample opportunities to hang around longer without doing too much damage to your bank balance. The city’s China Town – as well as being a cultural gem that adds a different dimension to the city –is the perfect spot to get by on a budget.
Of course, there will always be the temptation of those huge mountains just over the horizon – and they probably shouldn’t be missed – but Calgary is a great, varied city in its own right.
Calgary is also home to the controversial Calgary Stampede where rides, rodeo's, and drinking are the main attractions. Unfortunately although many animals are killed yearly in the event, it still has a world wide draw to the festivities.