Calgary Stories and Tips

Getting to know Calgary

Calgary Tower Photo, Calgary, Alberta

I was struck with the way Calgary has the look of a modern-day "Dallas". In many respects this is what it is. Oil and banking money built its soaring Downtown skyscrapers. The oil riches had its origins in 1914 with the first successful oil well. Today Calgary is the oil capital of Canada.

The grid system with Avenues running east west and Streets running north south is like New York. It makes it easy for us to find our way around. A light railway, which runs along 7th Avenue before branching out, saves on shoe leather. Travel inthe Downtown area is free on this service.

The weather was in the high 20s when we were there but winter temperatures are often 25 degrees below and the golfing season is only four months long. To cope with the low temperatures the city has heated covered walkways between the skyscraper blocks so that people can move from building to building without getting frozen. A famous feature of the climate is the chinook. Warm, dry winds pour down the eastern mountain slopes and continue across the prairies raising temperatures by as much as 30 degrees in an hour. Although the city contains many trees, both the altitude and chinook winds makes it difficult for them to survive. Trees can mistake chinook winds for the start of summer and start growing just to be killed by frost.

Shopping
The Canadian Dollar has been losing value for the last 25 years; therefore visitors from countries with a strong currency find the prices in Canada cheap.

Calgary has many fine shopping areas. Visiting the Downtown on 8th district, which encompasses indoor malls from Penny Lane to TD Square to Bankers Hall and beyond will satisfy your entire shopping needs. The city’s largest shopping mall is the Chinook Centre. This is the place you will find Calgary’s largest collection of national chain boutiques. The Eau Claire Festival Market next to the entrance to Prince’s Island Park is worth your while to visit. The market has one-of-a-kind stores, restaurants and the 300-seat IMAX Theatre and Cinescape entertainment centre.

Eating Out
You will find meals are enjoyable as the service is attentive and polite. The city has excellent restaurants. Because it is not a tourist trap prices are lower than towns such as the Rocky Mountain resort of Whistler and around 25% lower than comparable restaurants in the UK. All restaurants I visited produced an excellent meal. Canadians make breakfast one of the main meals of the day so you often don’t need a meal at lunchtime. Restaurants with all culinary tastes are available. Thai restaurants give especially good value. For those who like a taste of Irish washed down with Guinness, Irish pubs are becoming almost as common as McDonalds. The revolving restaurant in the Calgary Tower provides you with an excellent view of the city.

The Social Character of Calgary
Residents often refer to Calgary as "Volunteer City", a title fully earned during the 1988 Winter Olympics as Calgary produced more volunteers than any other Winter Olympics. Many of the participants billed the event the "best Games ever."

The Olympics left Calgary with a rich heritage including a bobsleigh and luge run, three ski jumps and the Olympic Oval built to house the speed skating events. On the Stampede grounds stands the Saddledome, named after its saddle ahaped roof. The hockey events and the figure skating competitions took place there. Today it is also heavily used for large-scale events such as rock concerts. Now people travel from all over to train for winter athletics at Calgary.

Again the world-renowned Calgary Stampede held in early July displays the volunteer spirit. The city transforms into a modern version of a western town. Everybody, even lawyers, dress-up in cowpoke outfits for the occasion and you would probably find yourself taking part in an impromptu square dance in the street with a Calgarian showing you the steps.

It is unlikely the volunteer spirit would have survived so well without a sound system of law and order. Canada’s policy of setting up the rule of law before Calgary became a town by settling the Canadian Mounted Police in a fort paid dividends. The "mounties" earned a reputation not only of always getting their man but also for being trustworthy.

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