When to fly
Summers in Calgary are typically warm, with temperatures up to about 23 degrees Celsius. The majority of the rainfall occurs during this period so make sure you pack clothes suitable for the weather.
If you book your flight for between June and August, you can experience the many festivals which take place, such as the Calgary Folk Music Festival and the Calgary Stampede, both taking place in July. The Calgary Folk Music Festival features over 50 international artists who perform over 100 concerts in the Prince’s Island Park to daily audiences of around 13,000 people. As well as taking in the diverse music and the forested scenery, you can also visit the interactive family area, taste some global culinary delights and sip a cold beer under the tree-shaded beer garden. The cool and relaxed atmosphere, of this 4-day festival, is sure to appeal to all ages. Promoted as the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, the Calgary Stampede is North America’s premier rodeo and western festival. During this event you can expect to see a whole host of events including a rodeo, derby, grandstand show and parade.
The weather during autumn can make it a pleasant time to visit. September is particularly rewarding with warm days and beautiful fall foliage appearing slowly.
The winter months are cold and experience snowfall, with temperatures on average dropping as low as -13 degrees. Due to the climate and location, Calgary is a great place to head to during winter, especially if you’re a snow sports lover, as it is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. After stepping off your flight to Calgary, you can easily get to Banff, Lake Louise and Canmore, the ski resorts, in just a couple of hours by heading west along the Trans-Canada Highway. Lake Louise Ski Area is one of the largest ski areas in North America, with over 4200 skiable acres. This is the perfect ski destination for groups and families as there are a variety of beginner, intermediate and expert runs which go down from the same ski lift.
There’s more to Calgary than oil, cowboys and beef. The southern Alberta city, nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, has grown from pioneer settlement to cosmopolitan city in the space of 120 years. Visitors will find that the city has a thriving music scene – traditional and modern – and Canada's third-largest Chinatown. There are plenty of shopping opportunities in the central area and an added bonus is the absence of a provincial sales tax.
Calgary hasn’t grown too far from its roots however. The world-famous Calgary Stampede celebrates its heritage. Fort Calgary, the 1880s North West Mounted Police post in Inglewood, encompasses a historic park, and even the Pengrowth Saddledome, home of NHL's Calgary Flames, the WHL's Calgary Hitmen and the NLL's Calgary Roughnecks, which is shaped like a saddle.
Calgary’s real story is the great outdoors. Fish Creek Park, in south Calgary, is Canada’s largest urban park, three times bigger than Stanley Park in Vancouver. Within a couple of hours’ drive is Banff National Park and Lake Louise, Canada's first national park, a mecca for winter sports and nature enthusiasts.
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Calgary has a bus system and a light-rail system, the C-Train, running through the city. You can transfer between the two easily, and the C-Train is free anywhere in the centre. If you want to rent a car, you can find any of the car rental companies at the airport or around town. Taxis are also convenient, and reasonably priced. Be careful if you decide to walk. East-west blocks are very long, and it can take you longer than you’d expect. To help pedestrians get around, the city has the “Plus-15” system, which is a series of enclosed walkways connecting buildings above street level. You can access the walkways at streets marked with a “+15.”
Getting from the airport to the city
Flights to Calgary arrive to the main airport Calgary International Airport (YYC), which is approximately 10 miles (17 km) northeast of the city centre. Many hotels offer curtesy shuttles from the airport so check your options at booking. There is also a regular shuttle between the airport and the city centre, several public bus services and coaches. Taxis, limousines and car rental companies are represented at the airport.
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- The Calgary Stampede, which takes place July 6-15, attracts more than one million visitors each year. It’s a chance for buttoned-down Calgarians (and tourists) to don a cowboy hat (pick up a classic white hat in Riley & McCormick) and enjoy the rodeo or Rangeland Derby, watch some cattle penning or take part in the blacksmith competition.
- Old Calgary can be glimpsed along Stephen Avenue, one of Calgary’s oldest streets and a Canadian Historic site since 2002. It features several beautiful old sandstone buildings. Following a fire in 1886, it was decreed by city council that all new large buildings should be made of sandstone. City Hall, the Grain Exchange and the Palliser Hotel are fine examples of this type of building. Another piece of “old” Calgary can be found at Heritage Park, Canada’s largest living historical village, 20 minutes from downtown Calgary. There are more than 150 buildings and about 45,000 exhibits in this pre-1914 town.
- Enjoy some public art: the gangly Family of Man sculptures, ten 6.5-metre tall figures, can be found onthe grounds of the Calgary Board of Education. They were dedicated to the city in 1968. Other public art includes a family of life-sized bronze horses in Municipal Plaza, and the Aurora Borealis, a four-storey tall acrylic and aluminum sculpture in the Glenbow Museum (admission $12).
- Glenbow Museum has more than one million artifacts and about 28,000 works of from Western Canada and around the world.
- The Calgary Tower is the focal point of the city and stands at 191 metres high. Climbing the tower affords panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains.
- The great outdoors: Fish Creek Provincial Park is Calgary’s biggest open space with mixed forest and open prairie. Nose Hill, prairie grassland, covers 2,700 acres, making it one of Canada's largest municipal parks. In the downtown core, Prince’s Island Park offers a green getaway.
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