Set amid sprawling prairies, with the Rockies rising to the west, Calgary buzzes with outdoor things to do. In summer, visitors can enjoy a world-famous, 10-day rodeo festival, the Calgary Stampede, which draws on the city’s Wild West roots. During winter months, snow sports and innovative museums draw crowds. The city is also the perfect jumping-off spot for trips to the craggy mountains and turquoise lakes of Banff National Park.
Not sure when to go? We’ve rounded up our favorite things to do in Calgary in the summer versus winter to help you decide.
Come July, cowboy culture takes over the city. Dubbed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Calgary Stampede is a boisterous 10-day celebration of all things Western. Join the roar of the crowd at rodeo events like steer wrestling and bull riding, or check out dazzling evening shows with rumbling chuckwagons, live music, and fireworks.
Kids love meeting cows, hens, and llamas in the hands-on Country Critters zone or spinning on adrenaline-inducing midway rides. Fill up on inventive snacks as you go, from popcorn chicken poutine to pickle-flavored cotton candy. To look the part, splurge on a classic Calgary white hat from century-old manufacturer Smithbilt.
One of the best ways to cool off on Calgary’s warm summer days is to rent an inflatable raft from Lazy Day Raft Rentals. Allow about three hours for a leisurely float on the Bow River from Baker Park to Prince’s Island Park, a popular urban green space with picnic areas and hiking trails. Or, explore the riverside by bike via the tranquil Bow River Pathway. Head west from the Peace Bridge to browse indie boutiques and coffee shops in the village-like Kensington area or pedal east to encounter pandas and penguins at the Calgary Zoo.
Visiting Calgary in the summer means you’ll be in town during peak patio season. In the hip East Village neighborhood, the Rooftop Bar @ Simmons dishes up tacos, ceviche, and Latin-inspired cocktails atop an old warehouse with river and skyscraper views. While you’re in the area, tour the striking Central Library, whose curving facade and light-filled spaces are typical of Calgary’s cutting-edge contemporary architecture.
If you’re visiting Calgary in the winter, there’s no shortage of indoor and outdoor thrills. Families love TELUS Spark, an interactive science center with live demos and planetarium shows, while the Glenbow museum features rotating art exhibitions and displays on Alberta and First Nations history.
At WinSport, a 1988 Winter Olympics venue, you can whiz downhill in a tube park, glide around an ice rink, or ski gentle slopes. Free of charge, cross-country ski trails weave through the city’s parks and golf courses. Many are groomed, including the beginner-friendly routes in Bowness Park and the loops at Confederation Park Golf Course, where the Lions Festival of Lights brings a glittering Christmas light display from late November through early January.
Serious downhill skiers will want to make the drive to the world-class Rockies slopes that lie a couple of hours west of Calgary. Novices and intermediates can zigzag down tree-lined green and blue trails, while experts have the chance to plunge into steep, powder-filled chutes such as the legendary Delirium Dive at Sunshine Village.
Off the slopes, Banff National Park glistens in winter with snow-laden pine trees and frozen glacial lakes. It’s a less crowded time to visit iconic spots like Lake Louise, where you can skate across the ice beneath towering peaks, and Johnston Canyon, whose spectacular waterfalls completely freeze over. Take in panoramic mountain views as you warm up with a soak in the natural mineral waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Ready for your adventure in Calgary? Make Radisson Hotels Americas your launchpad for the perfect winter or summer getaway.