Planning a solo trip to Calgary? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The largest city in Alberta, Calgary has a population of about 1.6 million people (metro area).
- Over 120 languages are spoken in the city – 25% of residents are foreign born.
- The Western financial and business hub of Canada, Calgary has one of the strongest economies of any Canadian city.
- Considered one of the cleanest cities in the world, Calgary has a very high standard of living.
- Nicknames: C-Town, Cowtown, Heart of the West, and the Stampede City.
- Currency: Canadian Dollar (CAD).
- Spoken languages: predominantly English.
- Best time to visit: from June to August. The summers are warm, but not typically humid. There are plenty of festivals and things to do in the summer. Winters are cold, but great for skiers and snowboarders (Calgary is close to winter resorts such as Banff).
- Arriving via airport: you can take the public 300 BRT (bus rapid transit) to the city for $11 (can be purchased from the driver). Journey takes 40 minutes. Domestic terminal: door 2, pillar 7. International terminal: door 15, pillar 32.
- Taxis are available from the airport, and a ride to downtown (20 minutes) is about $45.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers: HI Calgary City Centre. Located right in the downtown East Village, this a well-furnished and clean hostel – as good as it gets in Calgary. Free breakfast daily, and social area (with pool table and TV) for meeting other travelers.
- Stay anywhere in the downtown core of the city (e.g. East Village, Macleod Trail, University Gate).
- Great hotels for solo travelers: Alt Hotel Calgary (East Village), Hotel Arts (downtown).
- If you are visiting during the Calgary Stampede, it’s best to get a hotel near the LRT line or C-Train.
- Calgary Transit is the city’s public transit system, which includes buses, and LRT (C-Train) service. Fares are $3.60 for a single ticket or ride and include transfers. The system does have monthly passes and all-day passes.
- A good taxi company is Delta Cabs: (403) 278-9999.
- Uber is also an option in Calgary (note: if you see some outrageous quoted price, see if you can get an estimate from a cab company first).
- Note: Calgary’s +15 Skywalk is a public pedestrian walkway system which links buildings downtown. Very useful for pedestrians.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is 2:00 AM (there is a drink restriction after 1:00 AM).
- Main nightlife scene: downtown, generally on and around Macleod Trail, 10th Avenue, 17th Avenue and 8th Avenue.
- Trendy scene: Kensington, Mount Royal and Bankview all feature good restaurants and a trendy atmosphere.
- Great bars for solo travelers: Vern’s (dive bar), Dickens (dive), Ol’ Beautiful Brewing Co. (beer lovers), Palomino (great food too), Major Tom Bar (cocktails), Shelter Cocktail Bar ($$$), Bridgette Bar ($$$).
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Calgary Tower is an observation tower which boasts the highest 360-degree observation deck in the world. The tower contains restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife.
- Peace Bridge: a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Bow River, connecting downtown Calgary and the community of Sunnyside.
- Once was the location of the Olympic medal ceremonies during the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, the Olympic Plaza urban park now serves as an outdoor event area for concerts, festivals, and ice skating.
- Nose Hill and Inglewood make for interesting nature walks, filled with mature trees and a river.
- Fish Creek Park, Sikome Lake and Ranche are beautiful and peaceful walks.
- Carburn Park has picnic areas and a paved walkway and ponds that are fed by the Bow River.
- The Calgary Stampede is Calgary’s biggest annual event, occurring in July. Billing itself “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Stampede features chuckwagon racing, rodeo, concerts, midway, and First Nations exhibits. The city gets absolutely wild during the event, both day and night.
- Alberta has no provincial sales tax, meaning customers only pay 5% tax on Goods and Services. Woohoo!
- Great restaurants to try in Calgary: CHARCUT Roast House ($$$), Ten Foot Henry (vegetarian focused), Vintage Chophouse and Tavern ($$$ – don’t miss this one if you like steak).
- Where to find good cheap eats: anywhere downtown. You can also find cheap ethnic food in Oakridge, 54th Ave. and Chinatown (Centre St. & 1st St). There are also good options around 17th Ave. and 52 Street. A great budget restaurant downtown: Toa Vietnamese Cuisine.
- Dangerous Areas: while Calgary is very safe, the areas best avoided at night are: East Village, 7th Avenue, Mustard Seed, 10th Avenue, Beltline, and Forest Heights.
Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days