Information & Facts
Calgary experiences warm summers and bitterly cold winters,
temperatures often dropping well below freezing. The mountains
cause Calgary's climate to be rather dry, the little rainfall that
does occur falls in summer (June to August). Winters are long and
cold and occasionally relieved by a warm wind called a Chinook. The
weather in Calgary is highly changeable and daily predictions are
often off the mark.
Calgary's affluence has meant a restaurant boom that encompasses
nearly every worldwide cuisine, so eating out in Calgary can
include a range of experiences. The city's specialty is Alberta
beef, which is generally acknowledged to be some of the best in the
world, but expect to see elk or bison on the menu as well. There
are a range of great international options as well, from sushi and
Asian to French and Italian cuisine.
The best Calgary restaurants are generally located within easy
distance of the city centre, and are concentrated in three areas:
the Eau Claire district on Prince's Island, with trendy hotspots
like Joey Tomato's, Prego Cucina Italiana and River Cafe; the chic
4th Street and 17th Avenue Mission district, offering cosmopolitan
choices like Towa Sushi, Fleur de Sel and Mercato; and the downtown
area that includes Chinatown and the Stephen Avenue pedestrian mall
with restaurants like Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Saint Germain and
All restaurants in Calgary are smoke-free, even outdoor dining
areas. Nearly all restaurants will accept credit cards and Canadian
cash, although some will take American dollars at their own
discretion. The exchange rate is never in your favour, though. A
service gratuity of 10-15% is expected and not included in the
Getting around in Calgary is made easy as most of the city's
attractions are concentrated within the city centre. The streets
downtown are laid out in a numbered grid with avenues running east
to west and streets running north to south, while in outlying areas
themed neighbourhoods have more meandering streets which can be
confusing to visitors.
Because of the grid system, walking around downtown Calgary is a
simple way to get around. The Eau Claire market area and the
Stephen Avenue Mall are pleasant pedestrian-only areas.
Calgary's public transport system is efficient and reliable,
with a light rail and bus system servicing the city centre. The
light rail runs from 4am to midnight every day, and the buses
operated from 5am to midnight, with some routes continuing until
1am. There is a fare-free zone in the middle of town, and in other
areas a pass can be purchased at any Co-op, Safeway, 7-Eleven Food
Store or Mac's Convenience Store.
There are plenty of taxis available, either by hailing them in
the street or calling the dispatch. Note that taxis cruise mainly
the central areas of the city.
Driving in Calgary is relatively stress-free. Many streets are
one-way, and streets marked 'transit only' are for public transport
vehicles only. Parking downtown can be scarce and confusing, as the
city uses an automated pay system that requires you to enter your
zone and license plate number into a pay station. It is often
easier to park in a private lot. There are numerous companies from
which you can hire a car in Calgary.
The official languages are English and French
(predominantly in Quebec).
The currency used is the Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is divided
into 100 cents. One-dollar coins are also known as loonies (due to
the picture of a loon, a type of bird, on the coin), and two-dollar
coins as toonies. Banks and bureaux de change will change money and
travellers cheques, as will some hotels, but the rate will not be
as good. Major credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are
plentiful. US Dollars are largely accepted, though due to fraud,
larger notes might not be and change is usually given in Canadian
Calgary's nightlife is always hopping, which is no surprise
considering more than half of its population is under 30 years old.
The most popular nightlife areas are in the city centre, including
the lounges, pubs and restaurants in the Mission district, focusing
at the intersection of 4th Street and 17th Avenue. Stephen Avenue
is bustling in the early evening as young professionals empty their
offices downtown, and you'll find quite a few clubs, pubs and live
music venues there, including the Beat Niq Jazz and Social Club,
Marquee Room, and the sports pub Flames Central.
There are a number of live music venues, including the Ironwood
Stage and Grill in 9th Avenue, which hosts country, blues, and folk
bands; the eclectic Liberty Lounge in Richard Road, which caters to
the varied tastes of Mount Royal College's students; and The
Distillery in 7th Avenue, which hosts rock and heavy metal
Calgary's dance clubs are as varied as its live music, so you'll
find offbeat places like the Hi-Fi Club and The Warehouse, which
play everything from retro funk to breakbeat; The Roadhouse, which
caters to a younger and more mainstream crowd; or house venue
The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra performs regularly at the
Epcor Centre near the Olympic Plaza, which has five separate venues
for music, theatre and dance productions. The Southern Alberta
Jubilee Auditorium hosts large-scale ballet, opera and music
performances, and you'll find a range of student performances and
productions at the University Theatre at the University of Calgary.
For live comedy, you can visit the Comedy Cave in MacLeod Trail, or
the Laugh Shop Comedy Club at the Blackfoot Inn in Blackfoot
To find out what's happening in Calgary, pick up a copy of FFWD,
a weekly arts and entertainment guide.
Shopping in Calgary reflects the moneyed population that has
grown wealthy with oil booms and big business. You'll find all the
major luxury brands represented alongside most western franchises
and chain stores at the numerous shopping centres and outlet
The most popular Calgary souvenirs are cowboys hats and other
'wild west' items, which are easily found at most shopping
Calgary has a number of large shopping malls in every section of
the city, including the Chinook Centre, SouthCentre, and Signal
Hill Centre in the south; Deerfoot Outlet Mall, Market Mall, and
Sunridge Mall in the north; and the downtown shopping district
surrounding the pedestrian mall on Stephen Avenue.
You'll find more one-of-a-kind items at the Eau Claire Festival
Market on Barclay Parade, including fresh produce, independent
boutiques, art galleries, and a variety of entertainment options
like restaurants, movie theatres, and an arcade. The Mission
District also has eclectic and interesting boutiques and vintage
stores, and is the best place to go for Calgary fashion.
Nearly every shop in Calgary will accept major credit cards and
Canadian money. Most stores will also accept US dollars, but at
exorbitant exchange rates. There is a 5% federal tax on nearly all
goods and services, and the government no longer offers a GST
rebate on goods purchased in Canada.
Calgary's bustling metropolis and vibrant cultural are worth
exploring, but sightseeing in Calgary is dominated by the natural
wonders that surround the city. Calgary is the gateway to Alberta's
many impressive landscapes, which include mountain lakes, rolling
prairies, and icy glaciers.
If you do find yourself exploring the city however, there are
many museums and cultural sites in Calgary worth visiting, all
located within easy distance of the city centre. The Glenbow Museum
is Alberta's largest history museum, with nearly 30,000 artefacts
from Canada's history, with a cafe, shop, library and archives are
also onsite. The Tsuu T'ina Museum looks more specifically at the
history of the Sarcee tribe, complete with antique headdresses and
a model teepee. Another museum worth noting is the Cantos Music
Foundation, which traces the evolution of the piano, and has over
400 different keyboard instruments on display.
The Heritage Park Historic Village takes a living look at
Canada's history, with an antique midway, old-fashioned bakery and
candy store, and authentic steam train among the attractions. Fort
Calgary is another place to explore frontier life, with 40 acres of
land set up to resemble life in 1875. The Deane House Historic Site
and Restaurant is located at Fort Calgary as well.
Calgary was the host for the 1988 Olympics, and you can tour
facilities like the Olympic Oval skating arena; McMahon Stadium,
which hosted the opening and closing ceremony; and Olympic Plaza,
which was built at one of Canada's best skiing hills and offers
mountain biking, rock climbing, bungee jumping and luge rides in
the summer; and skiing (cross-country and downhill), snowboarding,
and bobsled rides in the winter.
Prince's Island Park brings nature into the heart of the city,
with fishing sites and a network of hiking and biking trails. The
park also features the Eau Claire Market, with its array of funky
boutiques, restaurants, theatres and art galleries.
Canada covers six time zones, from GMT 8 in the west to GMT
-3.5 in the east.