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Calgary - Alberta, Canada

Calgary is a city of 700,000, with a modern high-rise downtown. It was not much more than an overgrown cow town in the 1960s; then the Canadian oil and gas industry made the city its headquarters and Calgary became the prosperous corporate city it is today.
Highlights of the city include:
It's a large, modern city next to the Rockies;
Museums of History and Science offer the history of the region;
Only an hour from Banff National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park in the Rockies;
Exercize yourself at The Olympic Games Sports complex;
Enjoy skiing, & summer recreation in Kananaskis Country and the nearby Rocky Mountains.

Calgary

The city's history goes back to 1875 when the Northwest Mounted Police arrived to establish law and order in an area where buffalo hunters, whiskey traders, and Indians had clashed. Typical of the rest of Canada, there was never any great conflict, but the NWMP (the predecessor of the RCMP) brought an added measure of security and Calgary became a center for neighboring ranchers and a stopping place for travelers on their way to Banff National Park.

Best known around the world for hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary is the gateway to an incredible range of recreation opportunities in the Rocky Mountains which lie just west of the city. Not only is Banff National Park less than two hours' drive from town, but the newly-developed Kananaskis Country on the eastern slopes of the Rockies offers skiing, summer hiking, and other pleasures even closer than Banff.

Calgary is at the edge of the great Canadian prairie, with the foothills of the Rockies almost touching the city. Because of the climactic effect of the mountains, Calgary often has mild winter temperatures, caused by the chinook winds that blow over this area of southwestern Alberta.

The city's tourist information centre is downtown, at 237 8th Avenue SE. It's easy to find, at the base of the Calgary Tower. The centre is open year-round. Other info centres are located along the main highways into the city. These outlying kiosks are all seasonal operations. For advance information, call the Calgary Convention & Visitor's Bureau at 800-661-8685.

What to See & Do

Calgary is a social and cultural center which boasts the finest museum in Western Canada (some say in all of Canada), the Glenbow Museum. Located at 130 9th Avenue SE, across the street from the Calgary Tower (another popular attraction), the Glenbow houses displays documenting the history of Western Canada, including Native history and cultures, the great European explorers who mapped the west and the Rockies, the North West Mounted Police, and western settlers. The museum also features displays on the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway which tied Canada together shortly after the nation was founded.

The Calgary Science Centre offers interactive displays and traveling exhibits directed at children and adults. It's located at the corner of 11th Street and 7th Ave. SW.

Calgary's annual celebration is the Calgary Stampede, a rodeo and exhibition held during ten days in early July. The site of the rodeo, Stampede Park, is used year-round. The Olympic Saddledome is home to the city's hockey team, the Flames, while The Grandstand has thoroughbred and harness racing. Stampede Park is at 17th Avenue & 2nd Street SE.

Those interested in natural history should drive south of Calgary to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, situated in the Alberta Badlands near the town of Drumheller. The Dinosaur Trail is found 6 km (3.7 miles) north of Drumheller. 160 km (100 miles) south of Calgary via Highways 2 and 785 is Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, a world heritage site and the best preserved buffalo jump in North America. An interpretive center contains displays on prairie life and wildlife. The Buffalo Jump and badlands can be explored in a one-day trip from Calgary.

Bow Valley Ranch also offers exhibits that cover the past 8,000 years of history in the area. Located in Fish Creek Park, south of town on Bow Bottom Trail, the ranch house was built by William Roper Hull in 1902. There are guided tours available from the visitor centre.

Heritage Park is another historical exhibit, comprised of more than 100 buildings and exhibits that re-create a village from early Canada, prior to 1915. There's a steam train ride, a paddle wheeler that plies the Glenmore Reservoir, and antique fair rides, which make this a terrific place to bring kids for a half-day or more of looking at the past through having fun. The park is located at 1900 Heritage Drive SW. It's open weekdays until 10 p.m.

Devonian Gardens is a 2.5-acre indoor park in downtown Calgary, displaying 200,000 plants, including local and tropical varieties, reflecting pools, waterfalls, fountains. What is interesting about this garden is that it's on the 4th floor of the Toronto Dominion Square, at 8th Avenue & 3 Street SW. Also interesting is the admission price: zero.

Day Trips and Outdoor Adventures

Kananaskis Country is the name given to a year-round recreation area which is 90 km (56 miles) west of Calgary (and 60 km, 37 miles, from Banff). On the eastern slope of the Rockies, this area combines a ski hill built for the Calgary Olympics, cross-country skiing, camping, staying at resort lodges, and mountain hiking. There is also good fishing in the area, which is less populated by tourists than Banff National Park and has scenery almost as exciting

The Kananaskis region includes Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (named for a former Alberta premier). This is the province's largest park, in a setting of high peaks, a beautiful valley, and a number of high lakes, including Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. Park campgrounds are available, with hiking trails (ski trails in the winter), picnic areas, a store, and cafeteria. All of this is reached by taking the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) west from Calgary and turning south onto Highway 40. Farther along Highway 40 is Highwood Pass, the highest driveable pass in Canada, with an elevation of 7,306 feet (2,227 meters). The road to the pass is open from about June 15th to Nov. 30 and there are interpretive trails at the pass. You can continue as a loop trip via High River to Calgary.

A morning's drive of 264 km (164 miles) south of Calgary, is Waterton Lakes National Park, which joins Glacier National Park at the U.S. border as an International Peace Park. Waterton shares with Glacier the wondrously rugged beauty of the Rockies. There is a resort hotel with an 18-hole golf course inside the park, plus camping, alpine riding, good fishing, tennis, and mountain trails. To reach Waterton Lakes, take Highway 2 south from Calgary and turn west onto Highway 6 at Cardston. To continue on to Glacier National Park, stay on Highway 2, crossing the border with Montana at Carway. There's a shorter route from Waterton Park via Highway 6 to the border at Chief Mountain.

Where to Eat

You can get a good meal, including fine dining, in almost any mainline hotel in the city. Calgary also boasts many smaller and less auspicious cafes and bistro-style restaurants, many with an international focus. Here are a few of the best, plus an outstanding fast food drive-in.

Coyote Grill, at 1411 &emdash; 17th Avenue, is a great barbecue house, also specializing in such Southwestern dishes as smoked chicken quesadillas, and smoked chicken salad sandwiches. The restaurant has its own smoke oven. Before it's smoked, the meat is rubbed with a combination of spices. The piquant, smoky barbecue sauce served with the meat is rich with tomato and has a deep, spicy flavor. Don't expect fancy surroundings, this place used to be a fish and chips restaurant, and has retained the counter and stools, with a few tables filling the other spaces.
The Elephant and Castle (8th Avenue and 4th Street SW) is one of about 20 similar restaurant operations located in Canada and the U.S. This one, like the rest, is a large English pub-style place, divided into smaller rooms. They manage to make it look like a cozy little pub. Food includes traditional English fare such as bangers and mash, but they add to the menu with steak sandwiches and other North American pub dishes. Beer is a strong suit, with a good selections of draft brews, in mugs or jugs.
Trong Khanh, located at 1115 Centre Street North, is a fine little Vietnamese noodle restaurant, not much to look at with vinyl clad dinette furniture, but the food more than makes up for the basic ambience. This place has no pretensions, and serves food just as good as, but at a cheaper price than, the ritzier East Asian restaurants in Calgary. Look for the lemon grass chicken, and wonderful soups.
Boogies Burgers, at 908 Edmonton Trail NE, is an original burger stand, revered locally, with tasty grilled burgers, crisp, fresh french fries, with espresso and cappuccino to add a little sophistication. Be prepared for loquacious restaurant staff, fine old-fashioned milk shakes, and memories of better fast food days.

 

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