It’s true - Calgary IS the “Gateway to the Rocky Mountains”, but it’s also a diverse, modern metropolis with lots to see and do without having to leave the confines of the city. If you were originally planning to breeze through Calgary on your way to the mountains, we urge you to take a day or two to check out all that Calgary has to offer.
Summer is the best time of the year to find yourself in Calgary with lots of great things going on. We’ve got music festivals, night markets, world-class bike paths and over 30 rooftop patios serving up refreshing drinks. Don’t forget to rent a raft and float down the Bow River, or feel the excitement of the world’s biggest Rodeo competition at the Calgary Stampede. We promise you won’t be disappointed!
Here are 12 of the best things to do in Calgary in the Summer:
Attend a Festival
Calgarians love any excuse to be outdoors in the summer! We love the sun and we love celebrating music, food and culture with our friends. The plethora of outdoor festivals hosted right in the city could easily keep you entertained every weekend until the first leaves start to fall in the autumn.
Of the many festivals taking place from June to August, here are the most popular:
Calgary Lilac Festival – a family-friendly street festival in June. Lots of artisans, food, music and beer gardens!
Calgary Folk Music Festival – the biggest music festival of the summer season. It’s held at Prince’s Island Park over the course of one weekend in July. Musical troubadours from around the world perform at the Folk Fest.
A Taste of Calgary – a food festival that allows participants to sample all the city’s culinary delights in one location. You’ll also find beer gardens, music and other entertainment. This festival happens in early August.
Chasing Summer – an outdoor dance and electronic music festival that happens over a weekend in August.
GlobalFest – an international Fireworks Festival with some of the best pyrotechnic acts from around the world. This festival is held at Eliston Park and celebrates the diversity of cultures in Canada with food, entertainment and of course, FIREWORKS. Happens every August.
Float down the Bow River
One of the best ways to enjoy a hot summer day in July, is to float down the Bow River in an inflatable raft with a handful of your favourite people.
While the Bow River should never be underestimated, there is a section that runs through the city that is relatively safe. In other words, you don’t necessarily need a guide. Simply rent a raft from The Paddle Station and they’ll make sure you’re safely equipped and ready to navigate the river.
The popular floating route will have you appreciating Calgary’s skyline from a totally different perspective.
Take in the Calgary Stampede
If you’re lucky enough to be in Calgary during the Calgary Stampede in July, you MUST take a day or two to experience it. Don’t even think twice ... you’ll 100% regret missing this truly unique cultural experience!
The Stampede is a ten-day celebration of western hospitality at its best. Every year more than a million visitors come to Calgary to experience the heart-pounding excitement of the world’s largest outdoor rodeo (which includes bull-riding and barrel racing).
For ten full days the rodeo happens every afternoon and is followed by chuck-wagon races and a spectacular grandstand show of music and dance that ends in a fireworks display!
During the day, Stampede park has a TON of other attractions to experience including:
- A full midway of adrenaline pumping rides and games
- 300 + musical performances of world-renowned bands and song writers
- Beer tents, jam packed with cowboys and cowgirls ‘stampeding’
- Agricultural exhibits with award winning animals and farm equipment on display
- Hundreds of incredible food trucks serving up daring foods
- A First Nations camp where you can learn about the history and culture of Canada’s original inhabitants
Outside of the Stampede grounds, the city of Calgary completely transforms, as people don their best western wear and completely let loose for 10 days. As the Calgary saying goes: ‘What happens at Stampede, stays at Stampede’.
Find out what’s happening at The Calgary Stampede this summer and start planning now!
Bike or walk along the Bow River
Calgary has one of the most extensive urban pathway systems in Canada. With over 980 kilometers of bikeways and pathways, Calgarians and tourists alike take advantage of the well maintained network in the summer.
Some of the most picturesque sections of the pathway network run along the Bow River and through dozens of beautiful parks and neighbourhoods that dot the city.
You don’t have to wander far from the center of Calgary to hit the River Walk – a gorgeous section of the pathway that runs next to East Village and into Inglewood. Along this section there are a number of world class river-side cafés, art displays and public lounge spots to check out.
If you didn’t come equipped with a bike, try renting a bike at Eau Claire Rapid Rent . They are conveniently located downtown and next to Prince’s Island Park. Just a five-minute ride (or 15-minute walk) from the rental shop is the famous Peace Bridge.
Visit Heritage Park Historical Village
If you want to experience what it was like to live as a western Canadian settler in the late 1800s and early 1900s, take a full day to explore Heritage Park Historical Village. It’s Canada’s largest living history museum and it’s located on a 130 acres of beautiful parkland next to Calgary’s Glenmore Reservoir.
All of the 150+ exhibits at Heritage Park are interactive and include amazing attractions such as:
- an antique amusement park
- an authentic steam train (that you can ride around the park)
- a working village with blacksmith, bakery, ice cream parlour and townspeople (costumed actors)
- a First-Nations encampment and fur trading fortress
- a working barn with lots of farm animals (horses, pigs, chickens, etc)
- the SS Moyie – a replica steam powered boat that offers tours of the Glenmore reservoir
For the amount of entertainment and discovery that you’ll do over the course of a day, the price is more than reasonable: only $27 for an adult.
If you have a day to spare during your time in Calgary, don’t hesitate to spend it exploring Heritage Park Historical Village. You won’t be disappointed.
Go downhill karting
A must-try while you’re in Calgary!! Located at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park, downhill karting is a family friendly thrill for all ages. You take the scenic chairlift up the ski hill to the top of the karting track.
Enjoy the views of Calgary as you ride the chair, because on your way down, you’ll be too busy steering your kart around 50 twists and turns on the kilometer-long descent. It’s a fun and fast-paced ride that will leave you wanting more. Most people ride 3 or 4 times before they’re ready to call it quits!
Eat ice cream
Calgarians eat ice cream in all seasons, but the summertime allows us the excuse to really indulge– and completely guilt-free! Eating ice cream is, after all, THE quintessential summer activity.
There are a number of fantastic local ice cream shops that are not to be missed on those magical summer evenings when the sun is shining until 10pm (yes, that’s a thing here):
Village Ice Cream might be the most popular and well-loved local ice cream in Calgary. They have a handful of locations throughout the city and serve up their velvety ice cream in a standard cup or freshly made waffle cone. The handcrafted, small-batch ice cream uses local ingredients and is always served fresh. Some of the best flavours are salted caramel, cardamom, maple pecan and Earl Grey. Delicious!!!
Made by Marcus is another contender for best ice cream spot…. partly due to their Instagram-worthy sundaes, but also because they will leave you craving more. If it’s a really warm, sunny day, arrive early because the line ups at the 17th Avenue location sometimes spans blocks. That’s how good it is.
Play beach volleyball
If you’re looking to get some much needed exercise after all that amazing ice cream, the city of Calgary has a number of beach volleyball courts that are open to the public and free to use. They’re used on a first-come-first-served basis, but most Calgarians already using the courts would happily invite you to play along.
Shaw Millenium Park is conveniently located downtown and has three outdoor beach volleyball courts that are well maintained by the city. Just grab a volleyball, take the C-Train south-west to Downtown West-Kirby station and ‘voila’, you’re there! The best part? It’s FREE!
Check out a patio
Calgary is known as the sunniest city in Canada, and Calgarians really likely to soak up the Vitamin D during those precious summer months.
Beginning in May, restaurants and bars around the city start setting up temporary patios in front of their shops and on their rooftops, attracting throngs of sun worshippers looking for a cold pint or refreshing cocktail.
Check out this extensive list of Calgary’s best patios by Avenue Magazine.
Image courtesy of @ntl8 (National on 8th Avenue)
See outdoor theatre at Shakespeare by the Bow
Calgary is blessed with many luscious parks and green spaces. The most central and colourful of them all is Prince’s Island Park – located next to the Bow River and at the heart of downtown Calgary. In the summer the park hosts a number of music and cultural festivals and on the weekends families flock there with their picnic baskets and Frisbees.
One of the best ways to enjoy Prince’s Island Park is to take in a FREE evening production of one of Shakespeare’s classics. Put on by Theatre Calgary, Shakespeare by the Bow runs from June to August and several times a week. Bring a blanket, a snack and your favourite person. Sit back and enjoy the entertainment.
Image courtesy of @ShakesBow
Shop local at the Inglewood Night Market
Inglewood is a small neighbourhood just East of Downtown Calgary and easily accessible on foot of my bus. Its main street (9th AVE SE) is lined with historic buildings that house dozens of unique boutiques, bars, restaurants and cafés.
On five evenings over the summer (from June to September), Inglewood closes off a couple streets to car traffic and hosts The Inglewood Night Market.
The market has over 100 small vendors selling an assortment of locally made products including artisan handicrafts, clothing, collectibles and baked goods.
Aside from all the great shopping, the market also hosts food trucks, dance performances, bands and beer gardens.
It’s free to walk around and people watch, but if you plan to pick up some unique gifts for friends back home, come armed with cash.
Image courtesy of @inglewoodnightmarket
See a Canadian Football Game
Remember, you’re in Canada now. Football does NOT refer to that globally beloved sport where players kick a black and white checked ball into an oversized net. In Canada, we’re referring to a totally different game. This game is way more physical. It actually encourages players to ram into one another as they attempt to move an oval-shaped pig-skin ball down the field.
Like in the U.S.A, Canada has its own league of professional football teams (known as the CFL). Calgary’s team – the Calgary Stampeders – are a force to be contended with. They’ve been to 17 championship games (the Grey Cup) and have won 8 of them.
If you happen to be in town during one the Stampeders’ home games, tickets can be purchased the same day and at relatively low cost. Put on a red sweater or t-shirt and head to McMahon stadium at The University of Calgary. Grab a beer and slice of pizza from the concourse, find your seat and take in the spectacle that is a football game!
Check out the Calgary Stampeders this summer with the season starting in late May.
The city of Calgary has a lot to offer over the summer months – festivals, music, outdoor sporting events and tons of luscious green space to explore. Before you plan your big adventure to Banff National Park and Lake Louise, consider taking a few days in Calgary to experience the warm western hospitality!
Wondering what to do in Calgary in the winter? Check out this article about the https://blog.gvenglish.com/blog/45/top-10-things-to-do-in-calgary-in-the-winter.
And, if you want to learn more about your opportunities for learning English while exploring Calgary's amazing summer, check out the list of English courses available at Global Village Calgary.