Calgary is not much of a cow town anymore. The city has grown since I first visited it many years ago. From a kind of rough-and-ready ugly prairie town it has been transformed into a beautiful and sophisticated city with more to do and of a greater variety than many cities twice its size.
In the area of culture you can’t fault the City’s Glenbow Museum. It always fascinating with a variety of changing exhibits that deal with everything from contemporary fine arts and the culture of Canada’s indigenous peoples, to western Canada’s heritage and world history. The permanent collection of the Glenbow focusing on the history of Canada is unbeatable. The museum offers a full range of programs for adults and kids.
For more experience with visual culture be sure to visit The Nickle Arts Museum on the campus of the University of Calgary. It also has a great program of temporary exhibitions and for the specialist an accessible and very comprehensive numismatic (coin) collection.
Calgary excels in the presentation of performing arts. There is always something interesting going on. Check out the program of presentations by Theatre Calgary and concerts performances by Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. These two organizations are but two of the eight resident companies who perform at Calgary’s impressive Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts.
Calgary has come a long way since the only significant event in the community was the Calgary Stampede. Held in early July, the world famous stampede is one giant exhibition with star performers on the grandstand, a midway and entertainment area, an agricultural exhibition and, of course, the rodeo with its very popular bull riding, calf roping and chuckwagon races.
There are now many more summer, festivals in Calgary that involve non-stop entertainment from late Spring to late Fall. Most of them are somewhat lest wild than the Calgary Stampede. To give an idea of the diverse nature of Calgary’s festivals here are a few examples; the Calgary International Film Festival, Calgary Underground Film Festival, Calgary International Blues Festival, Expo Latino Festival, Sled Island Festival of independent music, art and film and Calgary International Children’s Festival. Here is a link to a List of Festivals and with links to their individual websites sites.
One of the facilities of Calgary that is sure to be a great hit with horse enthusiasts is Spruce Meadows. This state-of-the-art equestrian park in a semi-rural setting is the venue for Canada’s premier jumping competitions. Tickets are often hard to come by so be sure to check out the website long in advance of your trip.
A final Calgary attraction that I can recommend is Heritage Park Historical Village which has among other things an aboriginal encampment and a replica of an 1860s Hudson’s Bay Company Fur Trading Fort. Costumed guides interpret the various displays in the park. For a great view of the city take a ride on the antique Ferris wheel and for an attractive and informative history of the automotive world see the Gasoline Alley Museum. Here the evolution of the car from the dawn of the automotive age to today is presented with plenty of interactive hands-on displays. The artefacts related to the history of the oil and gas industry are very interesting. Calgary is, of course, today much more an oil and gas town than a cow town.