Here is your essential guide to backpacking Calgary, including all the top things to do in Calgary and the best places to stay.
How to travel to Calgary, Alberta
With direct flights to Calgary from London, Paris and Dublin launched in 2019, tourism in city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada is set to increase.
As well as being famous for the annual Calgary stampede rodeo, the best things to do in Calgary include Calgary Zoo, the Glenbow Museum of arts and history, the Heritage Park Historical Village and the Calgary Tower. The city is also a gateway to the stunning nearby national scenery of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.
Discover the city’s secrets and stories with a local guide on a customised private tour of Calgary.
These are the best places to stay in Calgary
Hotels in Calgary, Alberta located near the tower include the 5-star Hotel Le Germain Calgary. This boutique hotel has a 24-hour fitness centre, an on-site restaurant and even offers massages in your room after a long day of sightseeing. It is conveniently situated just across the street from Calgary Tower. Another top hotel just 100 metres from the tower is the luxurious Fairmont Palliser Hotel Calgary, which is noted for its large indoor pool, fitness centre with steam room and an upscale spa and health club.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for cheap hotels in Calgary, the friendly Alt Hotel Calgary East Village is just a 15 minute walk to the tower.
An excellent hostel option is the top-rated Wicked Hostels – Calgary, half a mile from Calgary Tower, which provides a plentiful free breakfast every morning to satisfy even the largest appetites.
Browse and book the latest Calgary hotel deals near the Calgary Tower here.
What is it like to visit the Calgary Tower?
On entering the Calgary Tower, you are handed an audio guide handset produced by Antenna International, makers of the audio guides at world class attractions such as San Francisco’s Alcatraz prison. However, this one is a cut above any I’ve encountered before. As well as the usual buttons where you press numbers to hear the presenter and interviewees speaking, this one has a full visual interactive touchscreen.
When you are looking through the windows out at the city, you can select your view from the handset’s graphical 3D map and press on highlighted buildings and areas to hear their stories.
Local points of interest include the saloon owned by the Sundance Kid before he famously joined forces with Butch Cassidy. There’s a hotel whose owners were ostracised after surviving the sinking Titanic – the husband was accused of disguising himself as a woman in order to board a lifeboat.
In more recent events, the thousands of volunteers and the City Mayor are noted for their courage and inspiration during 2013’s catastrophic Alberta floods. Not to mention the history of the world famous Calgary stampede and a flurry of fun facts about the tower.
On dull days, sometimes it’s hard to make out much of the city from the top of a tower, but Calgary Tower’s impressive interactive guide with its captivating stories brought the city to life and left me wanting more.
The Calgary Tower glass floor section is compact but offers a clear and impressive view of the streets below. Definitely a good place to pose.
The Calgary Tower hours of opening are September to May from 9am to 9pm and in June to August from 9am until 10pm. Calgary Tower tickets can only be bought from the building’s reception, unless you’re planning to visit with a group of 15 or more. In this case, you can request and reserve tickets in advance at a discounted price via its website.
More of the top Calgary tourist attractions
After you’ve visited the tower, there are plenty more things to do in Calgary, Alberta. One of the main Calgary downtown attractions are the contemporary sculptures dotted around the city.
In terms of what to see in Calgary, I especially liked the Wonderland Sculpture outside the Bow Tower. This 12-metre tall model of a girl’s head is made from bent wire and you can walk right inside it, making it one of the most fun places in Calgary’s downtown area for photos.
The best known places to go in Calgary is the Calgary Stampede, famous for its annual rodeo, which dates back to 1886. Every July, it hosts the biggest of the Calgary tourist attractions, a 10-day festival touted as ‘the greatest outdoor show on earth’.
This event attracts over a million people from around the world. As well as being one of Canada’s largest music festivals, it features classic Western rodeo events including bull-riding, bucking broncos and barrel-racing. Every evening, there’s the GMC Rangeland Derby, where 36 thundering teams of horses and drivers race to the finish line before a glittering fireworks display finale.
General Calgary Stampede admission for over 13s and adults costs CA$18. Calgary stampede tickets for the rodeo are priced from CA$39 and evening show tickets are from CA$49. The are other events held at the Calgary Stampede park throughout the year, so it’s worth checking their website.
Other stuff to do in Calgary includes Telus Spark, Calgary’s science centre. This venue is a world of science with a host of interactive and multimedia exhibitions. Other Calgary tourist attractions include an aerospace museum called the Hangar Flight Museum, where you can see 24 aircraft on display and learn about Canada’s space program. If you are looking for fun activities in Calgary, the best places to visit include the Calgary Corn Maze & Fun Farm, which is great for kids, as well as the Calaway Park, Calgary’s top amusement park.
Where are the best places to eat in Calgary?
Why not have brunch, lunch or dinner at the top of the Calgary Tower in its unique revolving Sky 360 restaurant. Serving modern Canadian dishes, this 200-seat venue gives you 360 degree city views while you dine. Dinner prices include access to the tower’s observation deck.
Restaurants near Calgary Tower include Charcut, a hip and lively steakhouse, and ONE18 EMPIRE, a chic restaurant which serves contemporary twists on well-loved American dishes and fabulous cocktails.
Ten minutes’ drive from the tower is the Calgary’s Stage West Restaurant Theatre, where you can enjoy a top quality musical or theatre production while you dine.
Thank you to Calgary Tower who hosted my trip. My opinions, as always, are my own.
Next up, discover the ultimate backpackers’ guide to crossing Canada on a budget here.