If Calgary seems like a comfortable city, perhaps that's because it's a lot like Salt Lake City. They have mountains, a downtown light-rail system, an Olympic Park that once hosted the Olympic Games, and a big summer festival and rodeo. (The Calgary Stampede, which runs from July 4-13 this year, has similarities to our Days of '47.)
And just as Salt Lake can be a gateway to the national parks of southern Utah, Calgary is considered the gateway to the parks of the Canadian Rockies. Calgary is about 80 miles from Banff (or 129 kilometers, as the signs will say there).
But Calgary also has its own distinct Canadian personality. Though not the capital, it is the largest city in the province of Alberta and the third largest city in Canada.
With the nearby mountains, it is a popular destination for winter sports, but is also known as a city of festivals. In addition to the Stampede, it has a Lilac Festival, a Folk Music Festival, One-World Festival, and International Writers Festival and the second-largest Caribbean Festival in the country.
Among the popular things to see and do in Calgary are:
• Calgary Tower. Built and opened in 1968, this 626-foot (190-meter) structure was once the tallest in the city. An observation terrace offers panoramic views of the city and the mountains. And a glass section lets you see straight down to the sidewalk. There's also a revolving restaurant at the top.
• Glenbow Museum. This downtown museum features both rotating and permanent exhibits on life in Western Canada as well as the world beyond. Permanent collections include everything from Asian art to Western history, Blackfoot life and culture, treasures from the mineral world and West African symbolism. Also a lot of fun is the exhibit featuring warriors through the centuries, from Samurai to Medieval knights to the First Nations of the Plains.
• Stephen Avenue. A pedestrian street in downtown Calgary, it offers shops, restaurants, cafes and art galleries as well as live entertainment, mini-festivals, buskers and artists.
• Devonian Gardens. This indoor garden is located on the fourth floor of TD Square and includes approximately 20,000 plants, as well as bridges, fountains, waterfalls and sculptures.
• Heritage Park Historical Village. This historical park depicts life in pre-1914 Alberta, and includes working models of a steam train, paddlewheel boat and electric street car. The village has a mixture of relocated historic structures and replica buildings.• Canada Olympic Park and Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame. In 1988 Calgary became the first Canadian city to host the Winter Games. Now a training and recreation facility for both athletes and the public, the park offers skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding and mountain biking. You can also explore the Olympic Odyssey; an audio tour with headset features voices of world-renowned athletes and sound effects from thrilling achievements.