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Welcome to Calgary, Alberta | Hometown Hostess

Calgary, AB – Photo credit: Melissa Lee
Sarah and I met over a decade ago and were instant friends. We had many amazing times together at Saint Mary’s University and are excellent travel partners. We ventured to Peru together 4 years ago (pre-children entering either of our lives) and agreed that the trip would not have been the same with anyone else. we were excellent travel partners and have enjoyed visiting each other, getting to meet each other’s little ones and making new memories together with our families in tow. I can attest that Sarah and her husband are some of the best hosts I know, but without further ado will let you get into Sarah’s recommendations of what to do and see while visiting her adopted hometown of Calgary, Alberta.
Sarah & Jenna – Banff Springs 2016
Before we get into the travel suggestions I asked Sarah two quick questions about her city and about herself as a hostess…

Why do you love this place? It is full of energy, things to do, and proximity to the mountains

A little about you as a hostess:  As my husband and I are both from Ontario, we are regular hosts to friends and family from out of town, and we love showing off our city and the mountains!  Now that we have a 1 year old, our visits from family have increased, and our choice of activities has also changed, but we are planners and like to get in as much fun as we can when we have visitors!  Calgary has a lot to offer in both the summer and the winter, but unless you’re a skier, I would recommend a summer visit! I will add that I’m not a big shopper, so while my recommended itineraries will not include shopping, there are some massive malls and outlet malls in Calgary that are worth checking out if you want to shop!

Calgary & Surrounding Area two ways
by Sarah H.

Quick Stay Itineraries for Anyone:

If you’re looking for a good time, but not a long time, you should absolutely make a trip out to Calgary during the Calgary Stampede!  It has something for everyone: Great music, a very festive atmosphere, lots of crazy food, endless party options, animals, games, rides, rodeo, chuck wagons, live entertainment and fireworks! The Stampede opens the first Friday in July after Canada Day, and runs for 10 days. Dust off your cowboy boots and hat, and join in the fun at least once in your lifetime!  Pro traveller tip: If you plan to come for Stampede, book well in advance as flights and hotels book up and get expensive quickly!  
calgary stampede
Calgary Stampede

6 Day Family (or couples) Itinerary for Calgary and surrounding area: 

If you have 5 days to spend in the Calgary area, here is my recommended itinerary:

Day 1 – Zoo, Rafting & Good Food
Spend the morning at the Calgary Zoo (the pandas have arrived!)  You can see the majority of the zoo in a few hours, and it is lots of fun for kids and adults!  Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy while you’re there!  The zoo gets busy fast, so plan to be there when it opens for the best experience.
calgary zoo
Calgary Zoo
After lunch, you can drive down the street to Lazy Day Raft Rentals and rent a raft which you can then float down the Bow or Elbow river!  This is a very relaxing and enjoyable experience if you like boats, but keep in mind the water is just above freezing at all times, so you can’t go swimming.  The rental place offers a shuttle service and information on start and finish points. Bring some snacks, drinks, sunscreen and a hat. You can expect this adventure experience to take about 4 hours.

If you are looking for a great kid-friendly restaurant for dinner after, try Tubby Dog on 17th Ave, or if you can get out without the kids, I recommend trying The Nash.

Day 2 – Dinosaurs & Pizza
Check out Drumheller and Dinosaur National Park. Go to the Royal Tyrrelle Museum, go for a hike and look for fossils, stop for ice cream at Asteroid Cater on the way to see the Hoodoos. It’s an hour and half drive from Calgary, but well worth the day trip; you’ll feel like you went back in time!
royal tyrell museum
Royal Tyrrell Museum
When back in Calgary, grab some dinner at Famoso with the family or if it’s just the adults and you want something a bit fancier, try Model Milk or Teatro where you can also check out Olympic Plaza.

Day 3 – Olympic Park & Mountains
Today you’ll be heading our of town into the mountains so pack your bags and get ready for views you’ll never forget!

Start your day with breakfast at Blue Star Diner, then on your way to the mountains, stop at Canada Olympic Park for some sight-seeing, mini-golf, summer bobsleigh, zipline, skating, luge or more. If you decide to skip Olympic Park and head right into the mountains watch for Heart Creek trail (near Lac des Arcs) and enjoy a hike on your way into the mountains.
heart creek trail
Heart Creek Trail
Continue driving west and settle into Canmore for a couple of nights (the total driving tome from  downtown Calgary to Canmore is about an hour to an hour and a half).  I recommend the Clique Hotels & Resorts as they have 1, 2 or 3 bedroom condos to rent with pools and they can be much more affordable than Banff.  Clique also offers a mystery deals during some months where if you let them choose the hotel and you can save a lot of money! Side Note from Jenna: We stayed at Stoneridge Mountain Resort during our western Canada road trip in 2017 and loved it; Sarah’s recommendation was right on point!

Spend the rest of the day wandering the streets of Canmore, and if you want to go out to eat, try the Trough for something more fancy, or The Grizzly Paw for a great beer selection.  I also highly recommend Tapas Restaurant, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co., and the Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. for other great food options in Canmore.

Day 4 – Lakes & Mountains
Drive to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise (about an hour drive).  Get up and do this early, because the tour busses and other tourists flock here like crazy and it can be hard to get parking.  If you didn’t pack your own lunch, stop at Laggan’s Bakery in the town of Lake Louise for something to take out.  They also have exceptional gluten free options.  Go for a walk at Moraine Lake first and enjoy the pristine scenery.  Rent a canoe if you feel like splurging (you could probably buy your own canoe for the price they charge for a family to take one out!).  Then head to Lake Louise, check out the hotel, and walk to the end of the lake for an amazing view of the hotel.  If you are feeling like a longer hike, there are some tea houses that you can hike to as well.  I don’t recommend trying to eat at any of the hotel restaurants, you probably won’t get in, the food isn’t amazing, and it’s very expensive.
Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake – Photo Credit: Sarah 
You will likely spend your entire day at these two locations, then head back to Canmore for a soak in the pool or hot-tub and a nice dinner either in your condo, or out in the town.

Day 5 – Canyons, Banff & Mountain tops
Start your day with a drive just past Banff to Johnston Canyon. This is another place that gets busy so going early is your best bet.  Then head to Banff for lunch at the Elk & Oarsman and if it’s nice, sit on their rooftop patio.  Then enjoy the shops, a visit to the Banff Springs Hotel, Bow Falls, and if you feel like splurging, up the Banff Gondola (if you still want a view, but not the huge price tag, consider getting a chair lift pass at Nakiska which is close by).  Finish your day with dinner at the Maple Leaf
Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon
Day 6 – Travelling Home
Leaving the mountains is always bitter sweet, but after a few days of fun it’s time to head home. Make your way back to Calgary to catch your flights home or continue driving to your final destination. See you again soon!

I hope you enjoy your visit to Calgary and the surrounding area – be sure to share your experiences with Jenna and I 🙂

If you would like to become a Hometown Hostess and give us a tour of your hometown (or adopted hometown), filled with local flavor and the “real suggestions” of what to do, contact Jenna at jenna.l.macdonald@gmail.com with “Hometown Hostess” in the subject line.


Sarah’s shoes for that: “Dawson” cowboy boots


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