Calgary was our hub for a day trip to Banff National Park.
Before arriving, I had only known the city for two things: The hometown of the twin music duo Tegan and Sara, and the Winter Olympic spot that Cool Runnings happened.
We caught a cab from the airport to our Airbnb with a driver who was full of stories. He told us about how he immigrated in the footsteps of his dad from Bangladesh (I believe), started a business and ended up calling Calgary his home despite its conservative background that he didn’t really agree with. The low key feel and the opportunities that Calgary could offer him were reasons enough for him to call it home.
Our Airbnb was in The Guardian Towers, a tall pair of residential towers near the Calgary Stampede, an area that seemed to be on its way to being developed.
Calgary is a small city of about 1.3 million with a very different feel from Vancouver or Montreal. You immediately sense it. It makes Vancouver look extremely hippie and Montreal seem like some city on the other side of the Atlantic altogether. It’s probably akin to a typical American Midwest city, and although I’ve only been to Omaha and Chicago, I’d imagine this comparison to be pretty accurate.
The city blocks are big and destinations are further away than you’d think. There’s a streetcar, the CTrain, that runs through the central downtown area, but outside it things are pretty spread apart with not a whole lot in between. It’s definitely more of a driving city. Despite this, we spent our time exploring on foot, mostly south of Downtown on 17th Ave SW and then Downtown itself.
During the rodeo season, the city apparently gets lively as it’s the main event of the year. Otherwise, it seems to be pretty quiet with stores closing early around 6PM. We were there in May and it’s still very lit at that hour, so it was a strange sight to see the city basically shut down in the daylight. Calgary happens to be the sunniest part of Canada actually, and days during that time went until around 8PM.
People in Calgary seemed pretty nice, which fits the stereotypical mold for Canadians in general. The vibe was very laid back - no rushing around, no nonsense - it was a conversations with shop staff type of place.
While I wouldn’t necessarily put it as the main destination of an international trip, it’d be interesting to see it really come to life during the rodeo season.
One thing that took me by surprise was that there were some delicious places to eat, including seafood in this city despite it being far from the ocean. Here’s some great places that we ate at:
Village Ice Cream
First stop of Calgary after checking in was Village Ice Cream, a dessert shop that we found nearby that had good reviews. while I forgot to take a pic of the ice cream iteself (I know...), those reviews were right. Village Ice Cream has 3 locations, the one that we went to was somewhat like a popup in an empty garage. The ice cream was amazing, creamy and with an assortment of flavors. Maple Pean, Salted Caramel, Cardamom... and seasonal flavors like Guava Coconut Milk. Simply amazing.
Ten Foot Henry
Searching for places to eat in town, we came across Ten Foot Henry, drawn in by its name. It became apparent that having a reservation would be the best as it's popular, but we got in after an hour or so. The location is hip, probably an old building gutted and renovated. The dishes always seemed to have a mix of flavors from around the world, like the hanger steak with truffle mustard and gai choy. Their white win sangria is also pretty delicious.
Rodney’s Oyster House
We randomly walked into Rodney's after discovering that it was a well-reviewed restaurant only a couple blocks away. Calgary is in the middle of Canada but their seafood was quite good, both the oysters as well as the shrimp cocktail. Their Alberta beef tartare came recommended by the staff, who I'll add was friendly and helpful at giving us recommendations, and that was delicious as well. Worth a stop.
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