What to do & see in Calgary?
April 24, 2007 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Calgaryfilter: We're going up for a wedding in a couple of weeks, and would like to get a little flavor of the city in the 2.5 days of free time that we will have.

Our free time includes all day Friday, Sunday morning (afternoon/evening dedicated to the bride & groom), and Monday (Victoria Day). Not looking for the standard tourist venues. Instead, your recommendations for local favorites, and also dancing/nightlife, please.
posted by vignettist to Travel & Transportation around Calgary, AB (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It’s worth heading downtown to Stephen Avenue on a Friday morning. Soak up the bustle, which evaporates come weekend. Get up into the +15 system, a weird connecting maze that oozes Calgary flavour. For lunch, Caesar’s (512 4th Ave. SW) is the iconic steak house. River Café on Prince’s Island is the iconic “Rocky Mountain cuisine” place. The city’s loaded with ridiculous-value Vietnamese and Ethiopian joints, which are maybe more representative of the people who actually live here.

Bar Named Sue (4th street) and The Ship (a couple blocks SW on 17th ave) are as Calgary as it gets in terms of nightlife. 17th avenue (the infamous “red mile”) is worth a stroll on the weekend. Try The Coup for lunch, Beano for coffee. Check if anyone interesting is playing at the Ironwood in Inglewood (where all the antique stores are) or Broken City (where most of the galleries seem to be). You can get a quick sense of what’s happening that weekend at www.ffwdweekly.com/Listings/list.html. Or gander through Swerve magazine, which comes out in the Friday Herald. You can do the honky tonk thing at Ranchmans on Macleod Trail if you’re inclined. (It’s an interesting thing to do.) And you’d be missing an essential Calgary experience if you didn't explore the system of paths along the river -- preferably by bike on a Saturday morning.

If you’ve got access to a car, consider popping out to Drumheller -- most visitors forget the Badlands in their rush to Banff. The Crowsnest Pass makes an equally evocative day trip; take the inside road (22x/22) to the 3, which is possibly the country’s most stunning early morning drive, you come out at the wind fields near Pincher Creek, then go through the Frank Slide. So eerie.
posted by bookley at 11:07 AM on April 24, 2007

I'd recommend against Ranchman's or anything Honky Tonk for that matter.

I have no idea how old you are, but if you're feeling young
then try drinks at the Vicious Circle followed by dancing at the HiFi.

I second The Ship & Anchor on 17th Ave, and I also agree that you should take some time to actually see the surrounding countryside.
posted by ageispolis at 11:22 AM on April 24, 2007

I always have a helluva time recommending things to do in Calgary.

I would second a lunch or dinner at River Cafe. If the weather is reasonable, walking along the river can be quite nice, though it won't give you a great sense of the city.

I also like the Palomino Social Club, and the nearby Art Central.

Getting out of town is a good idea - don't dismiss a quick trip out to the mountains, or nearby Bragg Creek. There's a lot of great scenery, and it is quite relaxing.

The best source for local events is FFWD magazine, which publishes on Thursdays - so you should be able to get a fresh copy when you hit town.

Oh, and for the record: I hate the Ship and Anchor.
posted by hamfisted at 11:40 AM on April 24, 2007

Put me down as another "Ship and Anchor" non-lover - it's just a noisy and crowded pub, of which every city has too many.

Of course, 17th Avenue itself is a nice walk during the day, and has many independent shops to check out.

If that's your thing, 17th Ave, 4th St., Inglewood, Stephen Ave (8th) and Kensington are all decent spots to check.

I also recommend a copy of FFWD (events here), and a peek here.
posted by Crosius at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2007

Oh, and for the record: I hate the Ship and Anchor.

I find that people either love it or hate it. I personally can't stand Melrose.

BEAT NiQ is a good place for an evening of jazz.

Seconding the Drumheller idea. It's kinda far but it's a different world out there.

You could always go to the Zoo.

You could go for a short hike at elbow falls.

Canmore or Banff or canoeing at Lake Louise.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2007

The Calgary Zoo is a pretty good zoo, and not too far from downtown. I don't know if it's a Calgary "must-see," but it's definitely really nice. You could probably do it in half a day.

I'd third the Drumheller suggestion if you can swing it; it is a day trip, but it is pretty amazing.

The aforementioned Beano is great if you like coffee. If you like tea, Oolong in Kensington is lovely. They give you a French press with any of a wide wide selection of delicious teas, which you can smell before you order.

Steak is a must, assuming you're an eater of steaks: Caesar's is good, Hy's is good too. If you want to go more upscale, Saltlik served me one of my favourite meals ever.
posted by SoftRain at 1:00 PM on April 24, 2007

Most of what I'd recommend has been so on a somewhat different note I'd suggest a trip to the Talisman Center. Built for the '81 Canada Games and pretty much continuously upgraded since then the place features multiple pools (will host our national swimming championships this summer), multiple gyms, extensive weight room and an indoor track (even in late May the weather may be fantastic, or snowing, or bits of both).

It might not be Long Beach but, all the same, it's an interesting facility of immense scale to get those travel kinks worked out. Also of note is Canada Olympic Park.

On the day-trip side of things I can recommend Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump or give a strong second for Drumheller. Even if you don't get all the way to Dinosaur park the trip is worth it for the surreal terrain alone.
posted by mce at 2:13 PM on April 24, 2007

There's always me. Seriously, though, there are a few of us in or around Calgary. We could set up a meetup... maybe go to the zoo or go out for some drinks, MeFi roadtrip to Drumheller?
posted by arcticwoman at 2:24 PM on April 24, 2007

We enjoyed the Calgary Farmers Market when we were there. Be sure to go there when hungry.
posted by Joleta at 2:57 PM on April 24, 2007

Going for a walk along the river is a nice way to spend your Sunday morning. Don't go too far east because east downtown isn't pretty. I second checking out the 17th Avenue and 4th Street areas. Kensington is nice too, but doesn't have the nightlife 17th does. Stephen Avenue has some OK restaurants but is fairly pricey in places and very crowded during lunch during the week.

Caesar's and Hy's are good suggestions for steak. Calgary does steak well, and that's about it, so I hope you are carnivores.

If you do a day-trip out of the city, definitely see Lake Louise. The rockies are not to be missed.
posted by threetoed at 5:02 PM on April 24, 2007

If you're into fly-fishing or trout fishing the Bow River is supposedly one of the best in Canada. I've never fished it, and don't know any particular outfitters or guides there, and thus can't make any remcommendations but a quick Googling of fly fishing Calgary turns up some nice leads in that department.

A week ago, I might have suggested a Flames playoff game, but my Red Wings have put the kibosh on that one. (Sorry guys, I had to. Go Wings!)
posted by fantastic at 5:04 PM on April 24, 2007

I'd have to disagree and not recommend Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. Most boring tourist attraction ever.
posted by ageispolis at 3:06 AM on May 4, 2007

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