Calgary, the largest city in Alberta, Canada, is a diverse and vibrant city known for its stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and delicious culinary scene. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie, Calgary has something for everyone.
I visited Calgary with some pals over a weekend, and here are the 5 things we did during our trip:
1. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is a pristine glacial lake situated in Banff National Park, just a short drive from Calgary. It's known for its striking turquoise waters, surrounded by towering mountain peaks and the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Whether you're an avid hiker or just looking for a serene place to relax, Lake Louise offers many opportunities for outdoor activities, including hiking, canoeing, and taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Things to know before visiting Lake Louise, Banff
During our visit, we already decided to canoe on Lake Louise. To avoid any surprises, I discovered from my prior research that it cost $155 to rent a canoe here! this is because the Fairmont Chateau Hotel was the only provider allowed to operate in the area. A bit monopolistic, but hey, what can you do? In the spirit of budget-conscious adventuring, we opted to share a canoe among the three of us, maximizing the allowable capacity. Since this had been on our bucket list for a while, it was a o-brainer, plus the Instagram-worthy scenic view made it all worth it!
How early should you arrive at Lake Louise?
From my research, the best time to arrive is very early in the morning from 7am to 9am. However, that was too early for a group driving in from Calgary, so we managed to get there before 10am. Keep in mind, our visit coincided with the busiest period of the year, early August, resulting in a queue already stretching to approximately 1.5 hours. A pro-tip to make the most of the wait – take turns with your group for queue duty, capturing picturesque moments in the area.
Can you canoe or kayak on Lake Louise for free?
Yes you can! We observed savvy adventurers in the area who brought their kayaks, avoiding the lengthy rental line altogether.
2. Banff Town
One key distinction to note is that Lake Louise and Banff are two different locations. They're about 45mins apart, so plan accordingly.
The picturesque town of Banff is nestled in the heart of Banff National Park. This charming mountain town is a gateway to a wide range of outdoor adventures. You can explore the quaint streets, shop for souvenirs, and enjoy the local restaurants and cafes. Don't forget to take a dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a natural, geothermal wonder that's open year-round.
When deciding how to plan your itinerary, I'd recommend visiting Lake Louise first and then Banff afterwards, since that's just a national park that doesn't require you to wait in line for an in demand activity like canoeing.
Also, if you're a newcomer to Canada i.e. a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can visit and explore a number of parks in Banff for free with a Canoo Pass. This is valid for a year within the first 5 years of your time in the Canada, for either immigration status.
3. Savor the Culinary Delights of Calgary and beyond
Calgary boasts a diverse and burgeoning culinary scene, with something to satisfy every palate. Whether you're looking for Alberta beef, international cuisine, or locally-sourced dishes, you'll find it in Calgary.
We visited the restaurant Ten Foot Henry during our visit, and the food was amazing! A few things that we ordered include: gigli pasta, tuna crudo and the roasted thai chicken.
4. Discover Wildlife at the Calgary Zoo
For an adventure closer to the heart of the city, the Calgary Zoo is an excellent choice.
Home to over 1,000 animals from around the world, the zoo offers a unique opportunity to see a wide variety of species up close. From pandas to penguins, you can explore diverse ecosystems and even participate in educational programs. The zoo is an engaging experience for visitors of all ages and makes for a perfect family outing.
5. Calgary Public Library
I'm not gonna lie, I visited the Calgary Public library, primarily for its architecture.
Prior to the library’s completion, the design was listed as one of Architectural Digest’s 12 most anticipated buildings of 2018. The design won a 2020 Architecture Award, as well as Azure Magazine’s Best Canadian Architecture of the Decade.
More than just a place for books (and Instagram-worthy shots), this modern library is a hub of community engagement and lifelong learning. The library often hosts special events, lectures, and exhibitions, making it a great spot for cultural enrichment.