CALGARY, CANADA. The thing, the number one thing, about the Calgary is that there are so many great things, including the cowboys and cowgirls competing in the annual Calgary Stampede Stampede (July 5 – July 14, 2019), that make this the perfect city to visit. During the Stampede or any other time.
The city is 50 miles east of Canadian Rockies, making it perfect for hikers and campers.
The land of Banff National park is beyond gorgeous.
It is located in an area nestled among North American prairies and along the Bow River. The fifth largest municipality in Canada, Calgary has a comfortable 1.2 million residents.
Calgary is Young at Heart
Surprising is the overall youthful age of Calgary residents.
In the 2011 census, the median age is 36.4 year. The largest age group is 25 to 29 years. This means for millennial travelers, the largest growing travel segment today, Calgary is a place to have plenty of unique fun, unique dining experience, expressive art scene, and music. Walking down the street, the sounds of a fiddle at King Eddy draw one in for lunch during an afternoon thunderstorm
The 2011 census also says that 50.09% of the population is female and 49.91% was male in the city, making the odds of finding a stampede pardner that much easier.
Calgary Incredible dining
Calgary dining means paying homage to Indigenous foods and preparations and no one does it better than Chef Matthias Fong at River Cafe, Bill Alexander at the Grey Eagle and Modern Steak, which can only be described as bougie. Delicious but bougie. Meaning it’s new, fresh and different.
Helming gastronomy that is fresh, unique and innovative, Chef Matthias Fong is young. And talented well beyond his
years. The River Cafe’s stunning location along the __ river flowing by Prince Island creates a cabin meets fine dining atmosphere that is relaxed, but important. The windows wide open in the late spring allow the scents of the trees and flowing plants to waft in, melding with the aromas coming from Fong’s kitchen.
River Cafe owner Sal Howell’s is a leader in the local and sustainable food movement. She has built relationships with area farmers and producers. She brings in seafood under the Ocean Wise program to ensure the seafood coming into the kitchen is not depleting world stocks.
Working with Fong, the River Walk cafe promotes a simple philosophy: eat seasonally, eat locally, eat sustainably. Fong works with natural products that come from local farms, gardens, even the massive forests surrounding Calgary. Proteins from neighboring ranches and rivers are remarkably fresh – from bison to steak to freshly caught river fish.
Chef Fong is a master at creating Canadian cuisine that is surprising. You may not find olive oil in the kitchen, because quite simply it is not native to the area. But you will find frozen wine droplets suspended in gelee surrounding by edible flowers that are grown on the restaurant property.
However, what is exceptional is how Chef Fong translates his culinary visions to the plate.
In 2007, the indigenous tribe the Tsuu T’ina opened the Grey Eagle Casino. The land the Resort and Casino are on was once located within the city, however, the land was ceded back to the nation in the 1990s. Chef Bill Alexander brings his native heritage to the kitchen, creating imaginative foods not only for the property but also for special events.
“Land to food – emphasizing the original farm to table” – Executive Chef Bill Alexander
The Little Chief’s restaurant features foods that pay homage to Calgary’s long history. Smoked Venison Carpaccio is served with pickled Saskatoon berries, a local treat, charred shallot aioli and preserved lemon. Or the Smoke Bison Meat Poutine, a modern Canadian treat created with an ages-old protein choice. Indian Fry Bread Tacos are made with, again bison. Here you can also find a hearty Albert Top Sirloin with smoked pemmican butter.
An invited guest to the Spotted Elk Camp, located nearby the Grey Eagle, Chef Alexander creates a feast of bison, bannock bread, and fish.
Joining us at the table is Elder Bruce Starlight, his wife Deanna, and Chief Lee Crowchild. They share stories of the Tsuut’ina people in Calgary and how they are being leaders for the other First Nation’s people.
Calgary is called Cow Town due to its many generations of cattle ranchers, raising their beef, grass-fed on the land. The ranchers are known for employing the most up-to-date methods to produce proteins served at Modern Steak. Unique to Modern Steak, it is the first restaurant in Canada to go into partnership with a local ranch. The steak house owns its own bull, in partnership with Benchmark Angus, a local rancher. Thus guaranteeing access to the finest beef available.
Modern Steak can be surprising in its offerings, including robust seafood choices. While the menu focuses on Alberta steak, the environment is not your grand-daddies steak house.
In keeping with Calgary’s young, and modern thinking, residents, Modern Steak is hip – like Rat Pack circa 2019 hip with a bit of Kanye thrown in.
Which means the Whiskey, Scotch and Bourbon menus are extensive. With the occasional surprise. This time it was Jack Daniels Sinatra Select. The whiskey is aged in barrels whose staves are carved to expose the aging spirits to more of the White Oak barrels. This process imparting a smooth smokiness, oak and a damn pleasant lingering finish of vanilla
Steaks are thick and meaty, as one would expect. The menu features the typical, Alberta sourced NY Strip, Ribeye and T-Bone steaks. Lighter eaters might prefer the filet. Big eaters may want to share the 45 Day Dry Aged Tomahawk for two.
Finding Family Fun – Heritage Park Calgary
One of the largest living museums in the world, Heritage Park takes visitors from the early 1860s fur trade to the petroleum and automobile-dominated 1950s.
The park’s mission is to connect people with the Settlement of Western Canada, a story that includes the First Nation’s people and the people of Scotch and Welsch descent that first settled this area. Tour the park in a horse-drawn wagon, let the kids play at the authentic Amusement Park, then visit an early settler and learn how to make bannock bread.
While at the park, spend time with a member of the First Nations Blackfoot tribe. Taking a seat in an authentic teepee with ceremonial markings our guide explains how the white settlers affected the First Nation’s people, a story that is not favorable to the invaders. It is, however, now being told in hopes of creating reconciliation between the First Nations and the descendants of settlers.
While at the park, plan for lunch at The Selkirk Grille. A delightful surprise, the Grille offers field to fork fresh food serving meat and dairy item grown in Southern Alberta. Heritage Park has plenty of gardens supplying the restaurant with fresh vegetables and herbs.
Gasoline Alley at Heritage Park
Either before or after you dine, take the time to tour an amazing surprise, Gasoline Alley. Featuring a collection of automobiles, gas pumps and memorabilia, for the car fan, plan a good hour to tour this multi-millon dollar collection featuring vehicles from the 1900s – 1950s.
Heritage Park Historical Village first opened its gates on July 1, 1964. Since opening its doors, the Park has grown into one of Calgary’s premier tourist attractions and one of North America’s largest and most successful living history museums. Throughout the year, guests have the opportunity to interact with nearly 100 years of history. Heritage Park’s exhibits span the early 1860s fur trade to the petroleum and automobile-dominated 1950s.
It is the Park’s mission to preserve the history of the early West and to educate and entertain guests.
Enjoy the zoo in the quiet hours, before the crowds, but attending the Giant Panda Breakfast. This special event highlights the Calgary Zoo’s dedication to animal care and conservation. Nearly 1,000 creatures from 119 species live at the zoo. The Calgary Zoological Society, a not-for-profit society founded the group 1929. Today Calgary Zoo is one of just five zoos in Canada accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and a leader for Canada’s wildlife conservation.
Visitors that attend the Giant Panda Breakfast will enjoy learning about the zoo’s Giant Pandas and the efforts to protect them by resident Panda Experts. All while you enjoy a truly delicious breakfast buffet. A touch table that allows young, and older, to touch Panda fur and teeth and learn first hand about the residents they will soon meet.
In addition to the educational portion, small groups are allowed into the Panda House where they leisurely look at, and take pictures of the Giant Pandas before taking a pre-opening walk through the zoo’s many exhibits.
A family-owned native gallery and gift shop in Calgary, Moonstone Creation is a run by mother-daughter team Yvonne Jobin and Amy Willier. Amy is Cree First Nations learning traditional art forms, including remarkable beadwork, from her mother. She also creates intricate and delicate fish scale art, an art form that originated in northern Canada.
Workshop participants learn the art of dying dried fish scales, as they done by the First Nations people, to create decorative items.
They sell these authentic native crafts in the gift shop and offer hands-on workshops throughout the month.
This yearly event is absolutely the most fun you can have with your boots on. The annual Calgary Stampede, also known as the greatest outdoor show on Earth, is all about cowboys, cowgirls, horses, bulls, carnival rides and food.
Calgary has more volunteers per capita than any other city in the world. And those volunteers come out in force to create then annual 10-day competition style rodeo. The Calgary Stampede attracts the finest horses, bulls, and steers. And competitors.
Every afternoon cowboys and cowgirls gather on the parade grounds to display not only their athletism but also their connection to their four-legged partners. The riders compete in furious displays of skill and grit, with every win building towards Showdown Sunday—the World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo. And over $2million in prizes.
Calgary Stampede Rodeo Daily at 1:30 pm in the Grandstand Infield
Whether this is your first rodeo, or you are an old hand, The Calgary Stampede is non stop action and excitement. Whether bull riders, calf ropers, barrel racers, or bareback riders the caliber of this rodeo comes down to two things: the skill of the competitors and the quality of the animal. The animals are beautiful. Speaking to cowboys behind the scenes we learn that many of the horses are rescues from slaughter after years of racing.
The Stampede Rodeo features the world’s best competitors and animals. Every afternoon at 1:30 PM, cowboys and cowgirls face off in a furious display of skill and grit, with every win building towards Showdown Sunday—the World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo.
While at the Calgary Stampede do not miss Nashville North for live country music. This years lineup includes Keifer Sutherland, Chad Brownlee, The Reklaws and more. Every fair means fair food and the Calgary Stampede works hard to bring the best of fair food to your visit – (Calgary Stampede Midway: Cowboys, rodeo flair and fair food you need to try), like the smoking soft serve ice cream.
This coconutty soft-serve ice cream, made from coconut husks, infused with black, activated charcoal, is delicious and refreshing. In the heat of the day, the ice cream is not overly sweet, with a mild coconut flavor. The charcoal serves not as a flavor but, enjoy this last, it does act as a digestif.
Served in either a cup or a cone, but the cup, some creatively applied dry ice, creates a smoking effect that is just too much fun.
Dates for the Calgary Stampede 2019 are July 5-14, 2019. Fly into Calgary YYC. The trip from the airport to most downtown hotels is under twenty-minutes and should cost around $35, depending on where you stay. From the Hilton Garden Inn or Mariott Properties, the fairgrounds are about a twenty-minute, easy walk.
Tips to Stampede like a pro
Locals call it Cowboy Halloween as fair and rodeo-goers dress up in their finest Western wear. Your cowboy boots should be well broken in. If you are buying new, makes sure to buy quality. They will last a lifetime. Spend a few dollars and buy well-cushioned insoles for your boots. And good socks that are moisture wicking (though if you are a real cowboy, you might go sockless).
Regardless, the ground is hard. The boots are hard. Your feet begin to ache.
Do take a good cowboy hat, and leave the ball cap at home. It serves a couple of purposes, the most important protecting your face from wind, sun and blowing sands. Of course, you can “cowboy up” at any of the many Lammle’s retail western wear stores found around the fairgrounds. Though you are going to be paying “fair” prices and most of their shirts are made in China. Buy before you go – try PFI Western Wear – made in America
The Calgary Stampede is a family-friendly event. Dress appropriately – leave the short shorts and sleeveless T’s at home. Even if you are wearing cowboy boots and a brim.
If you need a break, take the whole family to the Big Four Roadhouse. A cavernous space that offers food, beer, games including Canada’s national pastime curling, and live music. It’s dark and cool with plenty of spaces to crash or for little ones to take a nap while mom and day enjoy a cool beer.
Where to stay:
Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel
110 9th Avenue SE
Calgary, AB T2G 5A6 Canada
Grey Eagle Resort and Casino
3777 Grey Eagle Dr,
Calgary, AB T3E 3X8, Canada
The Grey Eagle Resort is offering TsuuT’ina Elder Storytelling. The children gather in authentic tepees to listen to local elders tell stories passed on from generation to generation and answer questions about being a First Nations people.
Story telling happens every Friday from 11 A.M. until 12 P.M. To book, contact Colleen Waskewitch: [email protected] or call 403.719.8777. Fee: $20.00 per person.