Stuart Forster travels to Alberta and experiences exploring Calgary by bicycle and on foot.
Calgary is the most populous city in the province of Alberta, Canada. Yet both walking and cycling are viable means of exploring attractions in and around the urban core.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Destination Canada. Stuart Forster, the author of this article, retained full editorial control. Destination Canada did not review or approve the article.
Though Calgary is the home to well over a million people, I didn’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the size of the city. Beyond the skyscrapers of its compact downtown, Calgary tends to be characterised by low-rise buildings. Perhaps ironically, one of the best places to see that is from the observation deck of the Calgary Tower. The 191-metre landmark opened to the public on 30 June 1968 and celebrates turning 50 during 2018.
Cycling and walking in Calgary
This isn’t one of those North American cities in which you have to rely on a car (or taxi) to get about. Buses and trams (known locally as CTrains) are options for urban journeys. Central Calgary is also criss-crossed by a network of multi-user pathways utilised by both cyclists and pedestrians. I noted locals were using the pathway to commute and for leisure while making my way to points of interest around the city.
If you enjoy cycling but want to avoid the hassle of heading to a store to pick up a rental bicycle, hire a bike from Nomad Gear Rentals. The clue is in the company’s name: it delivers bicycles, locks and cycling helmets to hotels and AirBnB properties across the city then picks equipment up. After a leisurely breakfast I took charge of a cycle outside my hotel, in the East Village, then set off to cycle along the Bow River.
A year-round tourism destination
Having a bicycle meant I could cover a significant amount of ground while simultaneously enjoying exercise. The Canadian Rockies are a 90-minute drive from Calgary. During winter many skiers and snow boarders use Calgary as a gateway to reach the slopes of resorts such as Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay and Lake Louise Ski Resort. The city itself is relatively flat, making it ideal for summertime cycling.
I followed the RiverWalk, a trail running alongside the Bow River, halting at Fort Calgary, the National Historic Site where the city was founded in 1875, before pedalling to Sien Lok Park, by the city’s Chinatown.
Within the park stands a cone-shaped memorial with bas-relief sculpting records the role played by Chinese people in building Canada’s railways and the struggle to overcome hardships.
At the tip of Prince’s Park Island, whose River Café is an option for refreshment, I dismounted to view the nearby Peace Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava, the award-winning Spanish architect.
Crossing to the north bank of the waterway I followed the Bow River Pathway to the Calgary Soldiers’ Monument on Memorial Drive. The monument stands as a reminder of the Canadians who fell in service overseas, including during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France.
The annual Calgary Stampede
Continuing along the river provided views of the Calgary skyline and the Shaganappi Point Golf Course, whose name gave me food for contemplation during the journey through town towards the Stampede Park. Every July well over a million visitors stream to the park to view rodeos and chuckwagon racing plus the music and grandstand shows during the Calgary Stampede.
On my way back to my hotel I made a note of the location of Cowboys, the nightclub whose sign claims it’s the place for ‘the most fun you can have with your boots on’. While buying a pair of cowboy boots at Lammle’s store on Stephen Avenue Walk, Calgary’s principal downtown shopping street, a staff member recommended Cowboys as the place to head to experience line dancing in the city.
A walk to Inglewood
After freshening up, I set out on a stroll towards the city’s Inglewood district. I chose a route that took me through the East Village and past the Simmons Building, a former mattress factory that now hosts a Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters café and the Charbar grill restaurant.
They count among the raft of places, including restaurants and The Blues Can music venue that make this part of town a good option on weekend evenings.
My visit coincided with the monthly Inglewood Night Market, meaning an opportunity to dine on tacos from a food truck between sampling brews in taprooms. The Smithbilt hat factory, which was founded in 1919 and makes the iconic broadbrimmed hats worn by many of the Calgary Stampede’s participants, is also in this part of town. Prior to departing Inglewood I popped into Oak and Vine to pick up a selection of Albertan craft beers to share with folks back home.
Dusk darkened into night as I strolled in the direction of my hotel having seen a significant swathe of the city while keeping my carbon emissions to a minimum.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, was presented with the 2017 British Annual Canada Travel Award for Best Online Coverage.
Illustrating photographs are by Why Eye Photography which specialises in food, portraiture and travel photography.
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