Written by Drever on 10 Nov, 2002
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…Read More
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.
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.
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.
Written by dell1972 on 24 Aug, 2005
My experiences in Calgary were unbelievable. I was scared when I arrived in Calgary, because I didn’t know anyone. All that changed when I met a young guy named James at the airport. He helped me get a cab, and we met up downtown with…Read More
My experiences in Calgary were unbelievable. I was scared when I arrived in Calgary, because I didn’t know anyone. All that changed when I met a young guy named James at the airport. He helped me get a cab, and we met up downtown with a few of his friends. I have been to other cities in Canada, like Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa, but nothing like Calgary. They take pride in their Calgary Stampede and hockey. Everywhere I went had some dealing with the history of the cowboys and native Indians. Also, I met some of native Indians in the city. They were humble and nice. One thing I did like about the city was that the people are health-conscious and do exercise. I am a health addict and love to stay in shape. There are plenty of smoothie shops and health-food stores. I had a chance to go the rivers and relax. I went to the mountains and smelled the fresh air. I was able to release my stress from America. They love their NHL hockey and CFL football teams. I didn't want to leave. I cried and felt sad, because this city was great to me. I met 10 great people. I did take some pictures. I will go back to Calgary, and I was thinking about moving there. If you are looking for friendly and great city, Calgary is the place. Close
Written by Kim M. on 23 Aug, 2005
I could live in Jasper. At least, I could live in Jasper in the summertime. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the Jasper Townsite, but after a few trips in to eat, shop, or just kill some time, I fell in…Read More
I could live in Jasper. At least, I could live in Jasper in the summertime. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the Jasper Townsite, but after a few trips in to eat, shop, or just kill some time, I fell in love with this tiny little community.
The main bulk of what most visitors would consider "the town" is about 2 blocks deep and 5 or 6 blocks long. The shops, restaurants, and park information center cling to the main drags of Connaught Drive and Patricia Street, drawing the majority of travelers into one small area. While I enjoyed what these establishments had to offer, it was the back streets of Jasper that really charmed my senses.
Dropping back a block or two from the sometimes bustling front streets, Jasper Townsite begins to look less like a destination and more like a home. Small houses and even smaller condo-style units are tucked in wherever possible without seeming too crowded. Perhaps it is the large scale of the mountain scenery that makes even the tightest row of dwellings look like an insignificant intrusion on the landscape. The recreation field, activity centre, and high school all crouch unassumingly behind the rows of shops, almost invisible to the un-inquisitive eye. According to local literature, Parks Canada has been fighting expansion in the communities within Jasper and Banff and a "need to reside" policy limits infiltration by new residents who might push for more housing and businesses. As for me, I like Jasper the way it is - or the way it was when we arrived.
I can't help but feel that we witnessed a historic event in our travels through the town. One day, we waited patiently at a stop sign. The next day, we scooted around some heavy equipment at the roadside. Then, one day, there it was - a traffic light. Whether this might have been a long-awaited replacement signal I cannot say, but I suspect that in fact, we did witness the first traffic light to go up in Jasper Townsite. It was a bit sad, really, to see such a quaint little town suddenly take that one small step toward... bigness and change. One thing I liked best about Jasper was its sense of sleepiness and removal from the rest of the world. Even the movie theater seemed to fit into the profile of the town, not affecting its character. This light, however, this monstrosity, if you will, didn't seem to fit at all. This was not your small town signal that dangles on a wire, lights pointed in all directions from a single box. This was a multi-part system mounted to black steel arms that reached out over the street and demanded to be looked at. While I know that traffic safety demands this growth and that even small towns like Jasper must change with time, I cannot help but feel a little lump of sadness for the loss of that one small bit of character. That one slight concession to the 21st century seemed to bring with it so much uncertainty about the days ahead. Many years from now, when I am able to return once again to Jasper, I hope that I will find the heart of its character unchanged. I hope that despite the trappings of new times and new technologies, it will remain, at its core, a sleepy little town drowsing away in the mountains of Alberta.
Written by Kim M. on 21 Aug, 2005
From the air, it could be any other city, until that familiar sight looms into view. Anyone who watched the 1988 Winter Olympic Games knows the Calgary Tower – the 190.8m tower that glowed with the light of the Olympic flame. It stands…Read More
From the air, it could be any other city, until that familiar sight looms into view. Anyone who watched the 1988 Winter Olympic Games knows the Calgary Tower – the 190.8m tower that glowed with the light of the Olympic flame. It stands today just as it has since 1968, watching quietly over this city in southern Alberta and its annual 10-day shindig, the Calgary Stampede. The Ferris wheel, the big top, the miniaturized milling crowds – all of this stretched out below us in an inviting expanse of fun. We were going to enjoy this.
When we flew into Calgary International Airport on July 10, the Stampede was in full swing. The moment we stepped through the gate, the terminal was abuzz with talk of bulls, broncs, and cowboy hats. The sounds of country music drew us on as we collected our baggage and followed the herd toward the rental car counters. Much to our surprise, we turned a corner and were greeted by a whole bevy of folks in Western wear carrying curious little sticks in their hands. Unable to help ourselves, we let the herd sweep us toward them, wondering just what in the world they were doing. Like prime Alberta beef cattle, we were trapped and poked with those little sticks before we even knew what was happening. I looked down, and sure enough, there it was on my hand in bright red ink – "CS". We had been branded. My new husband and I had just become the official property of the Calgary Stampede. This was to be a vacation that would leave its mark on us in a variety of memorable ways. Much to our delight, we discovered that Canada is, in fact, our very friendly neighbor to the north.
Canada has a short history but it is all on display, including the First Nation’s culture, in the many museums, culture parks and craft shops. The Canadian natives, skilled carvers, have examples of their art everywhere, including totem poles. The life of the early settlers,…Read More
Canada has a short history but it is all on display, including the First Nation’s culture, in the many museums, culture parks and craft shops. The Canadian natives, skilled carvers, have examples of their art everywhere, including totem poles. The life of the early settlers, the work of the mountie, developing the oil industry and building the railroad are displayed for you in many exhibitions.
Devonian Gardens is an extraordinary indoor garden. The climate-controlled garden features more than 138 varieties of greenery, including 16,000 Florida tropical plants and 4,000 local plants, flower-banked pathways and tree-decked plazas. Waterfalls, fountains, fish and turtles, as well as beautiful sculptures are also displayed.
Glenbow Museum is western Canada's largest museum, with over 93,000 square feet of exhibition space spreading over three floors. More than 20 galleries are filled with artefacts from Glenbow's collection of over a million objects. The art collection contains some 28,000 works, which date mostly from the 19th century to the present. Glenbow receives historical, modern and present-day works from the northwest of North America, focusing on representing this region and its place in western Canada.
Heritage Park houses Alberta’s past and turn of the century prairie life. It is one of Canada’s largest historical sites and covers 250 acres. Many of the displays are still working. A blacksmith makes shoes for the horses that work in the park. A bakery uses old-fashioned ovens to turn out baked goods that it also sells. A steam locomotive with passenger cars will take you around the park.
Calgary Zoo located on St George’s Island now has a prehistoric park covering eight acres displaying life-size replicas of dinosaurs in their natural habitat. The Botanical Gardens include an arid garden, a rainforest and a butterfly garden.
Written by Jim Rosenberg on 30 Sep, 2000
In looking over some of the prices of package tours to Calgary and the Canadian Rockies, one might think there is something tricky to know about travel in this area. There isn't.
Over the past several years, we've found great airfares into Canada…Read More
In looking over some of the prices of package tours to Calgary and the Canadian Rockies, one might think there is something tricky to know about travel in this area. There isn't.
Over the past several years, we've found great airfares into Canada -- even during the popular summer months -- by using zone fare coupons from Northwest Airlines. Once you're there, a rental car will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. Banff and Lake Louise are an easy day trip from Calgary, but we opted for a circle tour, staying a night in Calgary, a night in Jasper and two nights in Edmonton. (It's not that Edmonton necessarily deserves more time, but by timing things out, we were able to essentially spend two days in the mountains while enduring only one night of mountain lodging prices).
The drive from Calgary to Banff and on up to Jasper is a leisurely day-long adventure if you stop to catch a few sites along the way; some may prefer to take even more time and I couldn't fault them for it. It's well worth whatever time you spend. Jasper is a relaxing stay and perhaps a bit less commercialized than Banff, although there are plenty of dining choices and diversions available.
Keep your camera handy on the first 90 minutes of the drive from Jasper to Edmonton, since there are many scenic vistas and plenty of wildlife. The final two-thirds of the drive to Edmonton are admittedly not very exciting, nor is the the three-hour drive from Edmonton to Calgary -- but it's small price to pay for your experience. (The comparative lack of scenery is probably made more apparent by the eye-popping scenes you've been enjoying over the prior two days).
Both Edmonton and Calgary are safe, clean cities to enjoy at the edge of the Canadian prairies. We've given you some suggestions for places to stay and resaurants to visit, but there is no shortage of discoveries to make and it would be difficult to find more friendly and accommodating people than our Canadian neighbors. It's easy to get into a friendly conversation in nearly any situation and you may easily find yourself having cold ones for an evening with your new friends.
The West Edmonton Mall is a mandatory stop -- you have to see this fantastic facility to believe it and you need not be a shopper to enjoy hours of diversions. (If you've been to the Mall of America in Minneapolis, you've seen the 'smaller' version of this experience. The West Edmonton Mall is larger and offers a more complete entertainment experience).
Overall, this circle tour offers a little something for everyone of any age and it is well worth putting on your list of things to do. And those package prices? Well, we were able to cover all expenses including airfare, lodging, rental car and meals for a family of four at around $600 per person in high season for a 5 day/4 night self-drive tour, thanks to good planning and the attractive exchange rate.
Written by Jim Rosenberg on 20 Mar, 2001
If you're coming to Canada from the U.S., your transition to Canadian money will be a simple one that does not require much advance planning. Unless you have a bank that really specializes in making Canadian currency exchanges, you are probably better off not…Read More
If you're coming to Canada from the U.S., your transition to Canadian money will be a simple one that does not require much advance planning. Unless you have a bank that really specializes in making Canadian currency exchanges, you are probably better off not bothering to exchange any money prior to your arrival in Canada. The reason is that many banks attach flat fees for currency exchanges and also have a spread between what they sell the currency for and what they will pay to buy it back. Spreads and fees almost invariably add up to far more than ATM fees would for similarly valued transactions and there is simply no reason to pay them if you can avoid it.
ATMs are found virtually everywhere in Canada and that is your first choice for obtaining Canadian currency. (If you use a debit card, be sure to check with your financial institution or have a backup plan). Most businesses in Canada accept credit cards and you will receive your most favorable exchange rate by going that route, rather than drawing cash for expenses. The reason is that while purchases involve a "grace period" on your bill, cash advances do not. Many card issuers are now adding a percent or two for foreign currency transactions. It's not a good thing, but nothing to get overly concerned about either. The exchange rate you see in the newspaper each day involves large, interbank transactions. Your bill will be converted at close to that rate. All things considered, the extra add-ons will still leave you far ahead of the typical retail-level currency booth transaction.
While many businesses in Canada will also accept U.S. money, it's generally not a good idea for you because the exchange rate is often not the best. Travelers checks? While you can certainly use them if that is your practice, they can present a hassle to convert to cash and they may also involve a flat fee to transact. On the occasions I've used them, I've purchased them in the currency of the country where I'm planning to spend them. This enables the checks to be transacted directly for purchases (where they are accepted), rather than requiring a stop at a bank.
Finally, the lowest denomination of paper money in Canada is $5, since coins are minted for $1 (Loonies) and $2 (Toonies) amounts. In any foreign country, you should endeavor to use up your coins before leaving; often only paper currency can be converted back into U.S. dollars.
Save your receipts for lodging and any retail purchases that total more than $50. You can get a refund on some or all the General Sales Tax (GST), Provincial Sales Tax (PST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). The amount of the tax and the portion to be refunded varies by province. You can claim the refund by filling out a form that you can find online at:
http://www.rc.gc.ca/visitors/ -- fill out the form and mail it in with ORIGINAL receipts and your boarding pass showing your flight leaving Canada (proof of export is required to claim the refund). If you are leaving by car, you can take care of your refund at the duty-free store at the border. Do NOT use commercial services, which often display brochures or run ads in visitor guides. The fees are outrageous and the claim form is very easy to complete and submit.
While you should always be careful with money and alert to unsafe situations, no special safeguards beyond what you would normally take while traveling in the U.S. are required in Canada. It's as "safe" a place as there is.
Written by slowmover on 16 Aug, 2007
Plus-15s are the overhead indoor walkways connecting most of downtown Calgary's major buildings. They are a brilliant solution to our cold winters and they have a "street life" of their own, of sorts. Yes, it's a bit sterile, but it works very well...most of the…Read More
Plus-15s are the overhead indoor walkways connecting most of downtown Calgary's major buildings. They are a brilliant solution to our cold winters and they have a "street life" of their own, of sorts. Yes, it's a bit sterile, but it works very well...most of the time.When you're downtown, you'll see bridges crossing many of the avenues, 15 feet above ground (almost 5 metres), hence the name, Plus 15. There are large blue and white maps on pedestals all through the Plus 15 network to help you navigate. It's often quicker to go outside, but the Plus 15s are faster if you're essentially going in a straight line - no stop lights! They're also much more comfortable if it's really cold.They link a few of the main hotels and the downtown shopping centres (which feel like one big shopping centre once you're inside).
Lately there have been complaints about pedestrians not feeling safe on the Plus 15. Personally, I would avoid using them as a single woman walking alone after about 5:30pm, when the office crowd has mainly gone home. Same goes for the morning, before about 7:40. I don't want to be scary, though. As a downtown worker I used the system every day, during standard work hours and later, without any incidents.Ask at your hotel if you have any concerns. They'll know the latest scoop. By day, and around the shopping centre part, you will be fine. The greater danger of using the Plus 15s these days is that you might be offered a job. Remember, you're here to play, not work!