Holidays Travel

Travel: There's more to Calgary than the Stampede

Never mind Vancouver or Toronto – make sure Calgary is on your itinerary if you're visiting Canada

The annual Stampede is Calgary's most famous attraction
The annual Stampede is Calgary's most famous attraction The annual Stampede is Calgary's most famous attraction

IN a past job, I was fortunate enough to to be based out of Calgary in Canada. It was such an incredible experience. It's a beautiful city with so much to offer every type of traveller. It is also home to a thriving Irish ex-pat community – which as someone living there alone made my six months in Calgary extra special.

I was also lucky enough to live there across the changing seasons and got to experience both winter and summer and how the city comes to life in different ways in each.

Calgary is the largest city in the province of Alberta
Calgary is the largest city in the province of Alberta Calgary is the largest city in the province of Alberta

The Stampede is Calgary's most famous attraction, pulling in visitors from all over the world; it is so worth it. It's known as 'The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth' and it truly lives up to its name.

The city embraces its western heritage and you will feel like you've been transported back to the Wild West. There's rodeos, wagon races, concerts and carnival rides to keep you entertained and so much more to learn and appreciate western culture. Everyone gets into the festival spirit by wearing cowboy boots and hats so you really feel like you're involved and part of the event. The Stampede is definitely worth visiting Calgary for and a unique experience that you simply won't be able to find anywhere else.

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It was in Calgary that I attended my first ice hockey game and it was an out-of-this-world experience. While I love my GAA, nothing compares to the fanfare of ice hockey and how involved the fans are in creating an electrifying atmosphere at every game.

The Calgary Flames is the home team and their fans traditionally wear red – I made sure to join in, and while my understanding of the rules was a bit rough, you couldn't help but getting caught up with the hype and roaring at the opposition along with everyone else even when you're not 100% sure of the reason why...

The Calgary Flames is the city's ice hockey team
The Calgary Flames is the city's ice hockey team The Calgary Flames is the city's ice hockey team

Heading to an ice hockey game is absolutely necessary and you can get reasonably priced tickets on the day for most games. While you might not leave a newly converted sports fan, the games are really enjoyable and good craic all the same.

Calgary is located near the Rocky Mountains which makes it an ideal location for outdoor activities. There are a number of mountain parks near Calgary, notablyBanff National Park which is a wonderful place to hike. There are a number of spots for skiing and snowboarding if you're there in winter – be sure to make the most of the colder weather. It's an all-weather city, with plenty of activities to do throughout the year so you will be spoilt for choice on how you're going to fill your day.

Calgary sits between the foothills of the mighty Rocky Mountains and the vast Canadian Prairies
Calgary sits between the foothills of the mighty Rocky Mountains and the vast Canadian Prairies Calgary sits between the foothills of the mighty Rocky Mountains and the vast Canadian Prairies

My six months in Calgary went by far too fast but I was lucky enough to experience so much the city has to offer. If you're fortunate enough to be visiting for a number of weeks, it's a handy base to also explore other Canadian cities, and getting around is fairly straightforward.

This definitely makes things easier when you're predominantly travelling by yourself. If you've a limited time in Calgary, there will be plenty to fit into your holiday whether you're travelling alone or with friends or family and you may need to factor in a return trip in the future just to explore more.

For me, there will always be a special place in my heart for the city and I look forward to returning soon.