Before we discuss what are the things to do in Downtown Calgary, let us first get to know a little bit about the city. Being a gateway of rocky mountains, Calgary is also best known for the stampede festival and the fascinating Calgary skyline.
It is called one of the most beautiful cities in Canada which is surrounded by foothills, attractive displays of public art, and prairies with two amazing rivers. Calgary has everything to offer that you would love to explore.
There would be no surprise to know that it is one of the most livable, wealthiest, and cleanest cities in not only Canada but also in the World. Downtown Calgary is among the most famous towns in the city. It is beneficial to live here especially for the residents because of the good job market, low-cost living, and low taxes.
Although there is not the high-density style of the city due to the business climate, the place has a good deal of bustle.
How can you get to Calgary Downtown?
You can do many fun things in Downtown Calgary but there are many reasons to make the city worth exploring such as the superb public transportation system. In Downtown Calgary, you will find the train and buses on time but if you are having your car, there can be some hassle as you would rarely find a free parking lot there.
So, choosing public transport is the best option to go there. For most visitors, The city hall station is the starting point for a walking tour because the location of this spot is convenient on the eastern edge of the Downtown Calgary itinerary.
Another reason to explore Calgary, especially Downtown is that the accommodation options are endless in the city from luxurious to mid-range hotels.
Let us know more about the amazing Downtown in detail and if you are planning a great trip, this guide may help you to decide the best things to do in Downtown Calgary.
1. Calgary City Hall
In Downtown Calgary, on the corner of Macleod Trail, a four-story sandstone building is located with the central clock tower. This historic focal point is currently used for the office of the mayor and alderman.
In 1984, the city hall was nominated as a historic site because this is the live surviving regional example of a civic hall built in many prairie cities before 1930. This is the grand visual symbol of community progress because of its splendid architecture such as the rounded arched entrance, high clock tower, red-tile roof, and the decor in Romanesque Revival style.
It would be your first stop for sure after getting off the train but you have to remember that it is on the other side of the station. This is a historic landmark and it has been the seat of government for more than a century for the city council.
This is one of those historic buildings that offer you a bundle of information in one place and has a great significance to the heritage value.
2. Central Library
As the name suggests, it is a library. The place might not be considered useful for some of you but the incredible outside and indoor architecture can insist on you not spare this place to visit. The Central Library also got recognition from Time magazine in 2019 as one of the 100 greatest places.
This is a new spot of attraction these days in Calgary as the amazing architecture of the place has been featured in many publications all over the world. This is a place that is certainly worth visiting.
The Central Library has come into being in 2018 to serve the increasing urban population of the city. The library features over 450,000 books which is a surprising number that makes it the largest library in Calgary.
If we talk about the location, the Calgary Central Library is located in the downtown east village near the city hall. The place is all the rage and once you go there you must add it to your bucket list.
3. Olympic Plaza & Stephen Avenue
Olympic Plaza was originally built for the medal ceremony for the 1988 winter Olympics which is beautifully converted into a fabulous green space. The water fountains, sculptures, and the paved walking path are some of the reasons that you must visit this place if you want to explore Calgary.
This is an urban park that can give you some perfect time to spend with your family and friends. In summers, you can enjoy the water fountains and pools.
Your kids too can have a great time here in Olympic plaza. If you come here in winters, the pools convert into a skating rink. you can have fun skating in the beautiful surroundings of the light displays and high-rise buildings.
If you continue your way to the south of the Olympic plaza, you will have the famous Stephen Avenue walk. This is the “main street” of Calgary downtown where your trip would not be completed without visiting Stephen avenue. The place is so vibrant and lively which is very popular among the visitors and the locals as well.
There are patio restaurants, pubs, and shopping centers lined up on both sides of the street. The food trucks, ice cream trucks, and live music can amaze you anyhow. Public art and flower displays are the things that you can’t ignore too.
Stephen avenue walk is something unique in itself as there is something for everyone. The fun shopping place with historic buildings sites; what else do you want?
4. Peace Bridge
This is an eye-catching site that you can’t miss if you are in the area of Prince’s island park which is about 2 km away to head to the Bow River Pathway.
It is a vibrant red bridge with the contrast of clear river water. This amazing bridge was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The Peace Bridge passes over the Bow River between Memorial Drive and Eau Claire Park.
The fascinating structure was completed in 2012 and became one of the main attractions of the city in less time. The Peace bridge allows you to walk across, sit across or just enjoy the lovely natural site but you must not forget to take your camera with you because of the photogenic and natural scenery.
For the people who commute to the downtown area, The Peace Bridge allows accommodating the increasing pedestrian and bikers. Although the Peace bridge is stunning all-time it becomes more beautiful at night when it is fully lit.
It is the perfect stop to get some fresh air and capture some iconic scenery. The interesting fact about the bridge is that there are no beams or cables used but the steel structure which is designed to support its weight. The peace bridge has a tube-like shape with a crisscrossing pattern that resembles finger trap puzzles or the Canadian flag.
5. Heritage Park Historical Village
Let me introduce you to Canada’s largest living history museum where you will be amazed to have the choices of everything. The Hundreds of exhibits, shops, restaurants, and many more fun things that you can do here.
This is one of the must things to do in the Downtown Calgary itinerary but you must not forget to explore Vintage Cars also which is one of the top attractions of Calgary.
The Heritage park historical village is located only 10-15 minutes away from Calgary Downtown which is next to the Glenmore Reservoir which is a historical village with shops, food stops, and old fashioned amusement park. This is one of the best Calgary museums which is a fun spot to spend a whole day with exciting ease.
The park is open all the time so whenever you want to explore it is your call but during the summers from mid-May to early October, it is best to spend your day.
Through interactive and authentic exhibits and self-guided tours, you can learn about the history of Western Canada. A fully operating steam train, different daily activities and a paddle-wheeler take visitors to Glenmore Reservoir.
The history lesson that you can’t find in any book, you will get to learn here. Whenever you visit Heritage Park’s historical village, you are going to have a different experience all the time. So, this is among the most appealing things to do that you can’t ignore.
6. Prince’s Island Park
On the north end of Calgary Downtown, the Prince’s island park is located along with the Bow River. This is a perfect place in the middle of the city that has stunning green space, a water fountain, a children’s playground, or a flower garden to take a stroll, relax, or hang out with your family and friends.
Now, the question is how did it get its name; Prince’s island park? It is named after the name of a businessman i.e Peter Anthony Prince. Prince’s island park and the Eau claire park are located nearby.
Prince’s island park is a cultural park and a hub for cultural activities contributed by the place such as Theatre Calgary and the Calgary folk festival which is a “four-day family-friendly cultural and musical extravaganza”, especially in the summers. Enjoying a picnic or dining at River Cafe can make your day. This is the next stop after spending your great time at the Bow River pathway to have a great time.
Eau Claire market is also nearby so if you want to do some local shopping, you must go ahead. This is one of those things that has something here for everyone. Visiting Prince’s island park is a fun thing for those who love spending time with their family.
The park is a beautiful oasis and a great place to admire the Calgary skyline. Calgary Folk Island music festival and Calgary Heritage Festival is also hosted by Prince’s island park. The park holds the legacy of the city, you are going to fall in love with this Downtown area once you explore this place.
7. Calgary Tower
Watch this beautiful city from the top of the Calgary Tower. It is the iconic spot of the city instead of not being the tallest of all.
On a clear day, the place offers you a beautiful view of the Downtown buildings with the Canadian Rockies. The Glass floor allows you to face and test your fears with the amazing and stunning 360-degree view and it is 191 meters below.
The Calgary tower restaurants like SKY360 with some awesome meals will make your day. It is simple but delicious food at the same time. On the observation deck, you can see the panoramic view which is just outstanding. Calgary tower is one of the major attractions of Calgary’s Downtown. It is somehow similar to the CN Tower in Toronto.
In both the summer and winter seasons, you will have two different views from Calgary Tower. In winters, the city is covered with white snow that gives you a thrill. In summers, it looks like delightful blue hues. Even seeing the image of Calgary Tower, gives me goosebumps and looks like a perfect holiday destination that you can’t ignore.
If you prefer to travel with some optimization of budget, you are going to like Calgary Tower. The admission fee is quite reasonable and it is worth it. So, don’t get hesitate to visit Calgary Tower and other attractions. Probably, Calgary Tower has become my personal favorite because of the amazing picturesque view.
8. Fort Calgary
Fort Calgary is a national historic site in Canada that is located at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. It is a square-shaped wooden structure and if we talk about history, it is a little bit complex. Once you have a visit there you will get to know deeper about the settlement of the Calgary people.
Fort Calgary is known for being a center of historic and cultural gatherings. The location of the Fort is at the edge of Calgary Downtown which is not in the proper Downtown core. All you have to take the 4-minute drive from Glenbow Museum or a 10-minute walk from Downtown.
If we talk about the reason behind the founding of the fort, this was to curb the illegal whiskey trade by the Northwest mounted police in 1875. The site was reconstructed in 1975 because some significant archaeological remnants were found there, and later was declared a historical and national site.
There are some activities that you can try by going there like trying the uniform of Northwest Mounted Police, exploring a jail cell by going inside or you can take a ride on a virtual streetcar.
Fort Calgary is operated by the Fort Calgary preservation society and the place is owned by the city of Calgary. You would love to know that some structures are in their original state of itself but some of them are reconstructed. You would feel like living history by yourself if you take a walk from one room to another.
9. Calgary Zoo
Exploring this zoo is one of the most wondrous things to do. It is a great place to spend a whole day with your family which is located right near downtown Calgary. Due to the conservation effort of this zoo, it is called one of the most recognized zoos in the world, and of course, the most visited zoos in Canada.
The Calgary zoo will take you on a tour of the world from rocky mountains to Africa, Asia, or North America because you will witness around 1000 animals across 119 unique species from all over the world in one place. The mission is clear to be a leader of the world in wildlife conservation and it is not a surprise for us because the place deserves special attention for sure.
According to my opinion, it would not be enough to spend a day even! you are going to trek through the gorilla’s rainforest or safari over the Savannah. You will be amazed to be there as the visitors also help to protect endangered and rare animals.
You can get easy access via C-Train or memorial drive. This is a beautiful place that you will love to explore. If you are looking for one of the most exciting things to do, this is the best thing that you just got.
10. Core Shopping Centre
Exploring Calgary would not be completed if you don’t visit the fantastic malls and shopping centers where you and your family will be satisfied because there is a lot of entertainment on big screens with luxury departmental stores to delicious dining.
There is everything for everyone that you can imagine. One of the most desirable things to do is to fill up your shopping bags with renowned brands like Harry Rosen and Holt Renfrew. The core shopping centre is best known for around 160 retail stores over 3 city blocks.
There are 4 floors in the shopping centre with some amazing department stores, food courts, and restaurants. You will be pleased to see the indoor botanical garden which is a delightful site, it is called Devonian Gardens.
If you want to rest or relax, this is the stop to have a great time at this urban oasis. I must say that this is the most exciting thing to do in Downtown Calgary.
It is like adding in beauty to have this beautiful garden in the shopping center which includes fountains, fish, and living walls, and for your little ones, there is also a playground to explore and enjoy in the best way.
This is one of the most famous Calgary attractions with the secured underground parking facility with free parking if you visit at weekend.
On weekdays, after 3.00 pm, you can get free parking also because of the availability of an additional 4200 parking spaces within a block radius. So, get ready to start a beautiful journey, this would be probably the best thing to do in Downtown Calgary with some extraordinary fun.
11. Where to stay or eat?
Although Calgary is known for its vibrant food culture, there are one of the most incredible restaurants and coffee shops, and Downtown Calgary is best known for it such as SALTIK, Ten foot Henry, Vero Bistro Moderne, and of course, SKY 360. Apart from these, there are Teatro Ristorante and Ceasar’s steakhouse and lounge which are also the places you can’t ignore.
Some of the best bars are here such as CRAFT beer market, Escoba Bistro & Wine Bar, and Milk Tiger Lounge to make your night more interesting and entertaining.
And if we talk about where to stay in Downtown Calgary, you must not be worried because there are many luxurious and the finest hotels, many of which are located on point from where the main highlights of the city are nearby.
And not only hotels but there are also Pubs, restaurants, shopping centers, and awesome coffee shops all around.
You can also do online bookings for the hotels to find the best of your choice. Some of the leading hotels to stay in our Best Western Plus suites, are Sandman Signature, and Hilton Garden Inn. You even get special offer during the famous calgary folk music festival.
If you are looking for family fun with lots of amazing attractions with a lively and positive spirit, these are some of the best things to do.
From national music centre to banff national park to even canada olympic park. The city has an amazing public transportation system where you don’t have to face such difficulties.
Be ready! Pack your bags because an exciting journey is waiting for you to make some other wonderful and memorable moments.