10 Things You Didn’t Know about Calgary, Alberta: Canada’s Friendliest City
Calgary, Alberta, known across the nation as “Cow Town”, may very well be the friendliest city in Canada. Calgary is a city of approximately one million residents situated in Southern Alberta. While Calgary – and Alberta in general – is generally unfamiliar to the international population, it is very important and well-respected for a number of reasons nationally and internationally. Most notably, Calgary plays an immense role in the production and distribution of oil and gas on an international level; they are located just 45 minutes from the Rocky Mountains, making them a hub for Canadian tourism; many important financial institutions’ financial headquarters are located in Calgary, bringing corporate employees and leaders to Calgary from across the globe; and, of course, they throw the world’s greatest party for 10 days every July, dubbed “The Calgary Stampede” (more on this later).
Now that you’ve been given the massively high level introduction to the city of Calgary, I want to share with you what makes Calgary so unique and loveable. Calgary undoubtedly has a unique culture, unbeknownst to many, unless one has made the venture over to visit the busy city. I hope that by reading this article, you become more familiar with Calgary and what the city has to offer. Calgary is a “must-visit” city, in my well-traveled opinion. Here are some things you may not know about Calgary, Canada’s friendliest city, which makes it so special.
ONE – A Great Food Scene: You know I couldn’t review a city and not address the quality of its food scene. Fortunately, Calgary’s food scene is excellent. You can find anything and everything here in Calgary. Calgary is home to 16 of Canada’s Top 100 restaurants – a high proportion given its population. Although Canada does not acknowledge the “Michelin” star rating system for any of their restaurants, there are many Michelin Star quality restaurants in Calgary. My recommendations? For a casual bite to eat, sample some poke from Po-Ke or devour a delicious bowl of pho at Pho Dau Bo (please note, this is off the beaten path but SO worth the trip). Looking for a great sharing joint? Try Bridgette Bar, 10 Foot Henry, or Pigeon Hole. For dinner, I recommend Blanco for great Mexican food and a laid back vibe. if you’re looking for a unique and upscale dining experience, be sure to check out River Café.
Poke from Po-Ke:
TWO -An Eclectic Population: I don’t know the exact percentage, but a large portion of Calgary’s population is comprised of non-native Calgarians. I’m always shocked when someone tells me they’re from Calgary. Most residents are from other areas of Canada, the United States, or abroad. It’s a marvelous city for meeting people from other areas of the world; this is a part of what makes Calgary so special.
THREE – Calgary is a City of Young Professionals: While visiting Calgary, you’ll notice there is an abundance of young professionals all around the city. Calgary’s core is comprised primarily of corporate institutions. As a result, well-dressed business men and women consistently frequent Calgary’s downtown. Since the majority of these professionals are under the age of 40, there is a particularly lively feel to Calgary’s downtown. Patios and bars are thriving at nearly all hours of the day, and there are always events going on in downtown Calgary.
FOUR – Calgary is the Youngest City in Canada: Another fun fact about Calgary is that the average age in the city is 36 years old. THIRTY SIX YEARS OLD! This makes Calgary the youngest city in Canada, nearly five years below the national average. This culture of young residents also plays a huge role in the culture, beliefs, and overall vibe of the city.
FIVE – Close Proximity to the Mountains: Located just 45 minutes from Canmore and 1 hour and 15 minutes from Banff National Park, Calgary is perfectly located for all things outdoor. Name your outdoor interest, and you can achieve it in and around Calgary. While in Calgary, I recommend rafting down the Bow River, taking a walk around one of Calgary’s many parks (my favorite is Prince’s Island Park), or take leisurely bike ride along Calgary’s many city biking paths. Looking for more adventure? Hop in your car and drive to Canmore or Banff National Park where the great outdoors can be your playground. Hike, bike, shop, raft, kayak, hunt (but not at the national park, of course), camp – whatever floats your boat, it is all within an hour’s reach of Calgary.
SIX – The Beautiful Calgary Summers: Summers may be short, but they are beautiful. Calgary’s summers last from approximately May 15-September 15. The days are long, with the sun rising by 5 AM and setting by 10:30 PM. The temperature typically stays between 20-30 Celcius, with a dry heat that makes the temperature perfect for sitting on a patio, going for a walk, or relaxing in the park.
SEVEN – Festivals and Events: Where do I even start on this one? There is always something going on in Calgary, particularly in the summer. Notable festivals include The Calgary Stampede,Sled Island Indie Music Fest, and the Lilac Festival. Whether you’re interested in the arts, science, music, food, beverage, or the great outdoors, there is sure to be a Calgary festival or event that will meet your needs.
Sled Island Festival:
EIGHT – The Calgary Stampede: Last but not least, I cannot mention Calgary without mentioning the Calgary Stampede. The Calgary Stampede is one of the world’s best, largest, and craziest parties. The 10-Day country festival happens in July each year; although I suggest that the entire city of Calgary is preparing for, participating in, or recovering from the country festival year-round. Basically, the Stampede is a week and a half of country madness with a variety of free and paid events hosted all around the city. Many famous country singers make appearances. The vast majority of restaurants and bars host country-themed events. There’s a massive rodeo event. The list of events goes on and on. For more information, you can check out their website HERE.
NINE – Calgary is a City of Neighborhoods: Much like Chicago, Calgary is a city of neighborhoods, each with their own distinct vibe. Of course, Calgary’s core is comprised of many skyscrapers, corporate buildings, and skywalks. I enjoy people watching downtown. However, I am even more of a fan of some of Calgary’s unique neighborhoods, many of which are comprised of locally run restaurants, breweries, and shops. Some of my favorites include: Kensington, Mission, The Beltline, Bridgeland, and Inglewood.
TEN – Ginger Beef and The Caeser Were Created Here: This may mean more to my Canadian friends than the international population. BUT – fun fact: Ginger Beef (a favorite fast-food Chinese dish) and the quintessential Canadian drink, “The Caeser” were both created in Calgary! For my non-Canadian friends: The Caeser is like a Bloody Mary, but it’s BETTER. Swap the tomato juice for Clamato juice, and voila: The Caeser!
Well, there you have it: all of the reasons I believe Canada’s friendliest city to be truly unique and worthy of a visit. Calgary is a melting pot of people, most of whom are under the age of 40 and all of whom are warm and welcoming. Calgarians love good food, country music, parties, the arts, tourists, work, and the great outdoors. Most of all, they love socializing with others, and their friendly dispositions are sure to add to your amazing visit to Calgary!
Hungry for more information about some of my favorite cities? Check out my “locals only” city guides for Cinque Terre (Italy), London, or Marrakech.