It seems everything in Calgary is big. It has a big tower, big beef steaks and big cowboys with big hats. The 36 hours we spent in this ultra modern city of a little over one million people gave us just a taste, but our short stay was certainly worth it. Here are a few things we did and some things we’ll add to our list for next time.
Glenbow Museum is one not to miss, located in downtown Calgary across from the Calgary Tower. There is a splendid mix to see in both the permanent and temporary exhibitions.
A major focus of the museum is the early days of settlement around Calgary, Indigenous history and culture and the early history of the state of Alberta. Although museums don’t usually feature high on our agenda, this one is a winner.
Walk through town to Prince Island Park
We walked from where we stayed at the Marriott Hotel Downtown to Prince Island Park. It was easy and a fantastic way to see the huge number of modern buildings in the city. When we arrived at Prince Island Park we were pleasantly surprised to find the Taste of Calgary 2016 was in full swing. This fun outdoor food festival, held in early August each year, gives everyone a chance to sample food from different restaurants in the city, in a summertime atmosphere. You buy your coupons as you enter the park and go about sampling as many of the irresistible dishes you can fit in.
The biggest treat of all was the cute men wandering around the venues and just a few hot cowboys. Prince Island Park is an oasis surrounded by water with lots of green space, pathways and hiking trails and eating places like the River Cafe. The park is a wonderful place to visit and on most weekends there is a festival or a market happening.
Eating On Stephen Avenue
Take a stroll down Stephen Avenue Walk, Calgary’s only pedestrian mall. The place is lined with smart restaurants and bars and a hangout for the trendiest people in town. Many of the restaurants feature beef steak. We tried newly opened The Guild Restaurant. The steak was cooked on an Argentinian parilla-style grill and was superb. However, only order one between two. The serving sizes are enormous in this part of cowboy country. Eating either on the terrace or indoors in the sunken split floor restaurant and bar you will find it a special experience. Don’t miss finding the basement of The Guild, it is home to Sub Rosa nightclub. This elegant and exclusive, speak-easy style club is the coolest place to be seen in town.
For a cheaper meal option, but still smart and trendy, try Goro & Gun Noodle Bar in the Scotia Centre. We had the Miso and Kim Chi Ramen ($15) with pork belly, red ginger, green onions, boiled bean sprouts, wakame, fried onions, pork broth, and just super delicious. Wash it down with a Yuzu soda made from blood orange and lime or maybe a green tea lemonade. This unique and appetising lunch spot will make you want to come back for more.
Calgary has a small number of gay bars. The Backlot in 8th Street not far from Calgary Tower is a small bar with separated drinking areas as well as a small upstairs bar. The crowd is quiet, friendly and mixed. The place was busy from 11pm on a Friday when we were there. A great place for an after dinner drink.
Backwards Restaurant and Night Club on Stephen Avenue Walk is the newest gay bar/ nightclub in Calgary. We only had a short stay but the show was lively, the food looked great and the place was full. From all reports this is one of the newest places in town which wants to be a bit different and aims to entertain.
A huge outdoor sculpture of a human head called ‘Wonderland’ by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa sits outside the ultra modern Bow building.
Plensa’s work intrigues the viewer with its white mesh form, subtle curves that sit in juxtaposition to the straight lines of the über-contemporary buildings surrounding it. You can’t walk past this sculpture without being super impressed and since it was built for crowd interaction you can walk right inside.
Things For Next Time
Almost everyone would have heard of the famous Calgary Stamped, the signature event on the calendar for this area of Canada and held yearly for 10 days each July.
However, in June each year the world’s largest gay rodeo is held in Calgary. The event has the usual rodeo events like bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing and did we mention ‘camp drafting’. Don’t forget to pack a bit of drag as there are plenty of wild parties with fun opportunities to dress up.
Texas Lounge and Goliath Sauna
The Texas Lounge is a very popular gay bar at 308B, 17th Ave SW. Busy on Saturdays with Karaoke on Tuesday’s. Next door is Goliath’s bathhouse opened 24 hours/day, seven days a week.