Calgary is famous for being home to the “greatest outdoor show on earth” – otherwise known as the Calgary Stampede. While this is the city’s most obvious claim to fame, Calgary is home to hundreds of hidden gems scattered throughout the city. Many of these are in the downtown area, so for those staying at somewhere such as the historic Calgary Palliser hotel (perhaps while waiting for their journey to Vancouver with Canada Rail Vacations) here is a brief tour of my picks:


The +15 Indoor Walkway

Walking around downtown Calgary you may notice the many skybridges that cross the streets and avenues. Known to the locals as the +15 (named because these bridges are 15 feet off the ground) they really come in handy during the winter, when temperatures drop and snow lines the pavement. However, even in the summer these 86 bridges are a great, climate-controlled way to access many hotels, shops, and entertainment centers. Just make sure you use a map when exploring this 16km indoor pathway.


Udderly Art Pasture

Because of it’s long history of ranchers, cowboys and rodeos, Calgary has earned the nickname “Cowtown”. The Udderly Art Pasture takes this name literally, by displaying 17 uniquely decorated cow statues at the Centennial Parkade +15, which runs along 9th Avenue. This is a legacy from the Udderly Art public art project in the year 2000 that saw 100+ of these cow statues temporarily grazing along Calgary’s downtown streets, parks, plazas and pathways. When the project came to an end, many of the statues were sold, raising more than 1.2 million for select charitable organizations, with the rest continuing to graze at the Art Pasture.

This project is unique to Calgary, but those who are fans of public art pieces such as murals will have fun strolling around downtown as Calgary is home to 105+ public art projects.


Secret Heritage Trail

Just a short walk from the Palliser hotel is Memorial Park. This park is Calgary’s oldest, having been completed in 1912 and is home to Memorial Park library which also opened in 1912 and is now a National Historic Site. In the summer this park is an urban oasis with its flowers, fountains, and monuments. The architecture and history of the library makes it a walk back in time.  While you are in the area, there is a lovely heritage walk along 13th Avenue SW that includes historic schools, churches and homes.

Heritage Restaurants

You can find the latest fusion food in just about any major city, but Calgary has some restaurants that not only have a delicious menu, but are located in 100+ year old homes.

The Deane House was built in 1906 on the Fort Calgary site for former Captain of the RCMP, Richard Burton Deane. Today it is located on the east bank of the Elbow River. The restaurant opened in 2016 with food curated by Sal Howell, one of Canada’s most respected restauranteurs.

Just a little further east is Rouge, located in historic Inglewood in the A.E. Cross House built in 1891. A.E. Cross was not only one of the founders of the Calgary Stampede, but also the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company. Rouge is an elegant restaurant in a garden setting.  Owners Oliver Reynaud and Chef Paul Rogalski opened the restaurant in 2001 and have 40+ years of experience. In 2010, it was named the 60th best restaurant in the world.


The Core Shopping Mall

For many tourists it is easy to think there is no shopping downtown, as you wander along Stephen Avenue and see only patios and restaurants. However, hidden in the +15 walkway just one story above the street is The Core, a huge indoor mall that links with three department stores (The Bay, Simons and Holt Renfrew).  The Core has a two-block long glass roof that is the largest skylight in Canada and features four floors of retail, restaurants and even an indoor park.

The Roasterie Cafe

Calgary is home to a vibrant café scene that dates back to the 60s.  One of the oldest roasteries is located in Kensington Village, just the other side of the Bow River on 10th Street NW. The Roasterie has been roasting its own coffee beans since 1985. The café is tiny and is like a mini-museum with coffee artifacts everywhere, creating a unique café experience.  It is definitely worth the trip (you can walk from downtown in about 15 minutes or take the C-train and get off at the Sunnyside stop). While you are in the area, it’s a good time to walk over and visit the nice folks at Canada Rail Vacations. Their office is #206, 1400 Kensington Road NW and they are open daily until 9 PM.


Ship & Anchor Pub

Downtown Calgary has dozens of pubs, but the quintessential Calgary pub experience is at the Ship & Anchor on 17th Ave.  This well-known bar is where all the cool kids hang out.  It has a very popular patio (even in the winter) and live entertainment. One of its unique features is the live broadcasts of soccer from around the world on their big screen.



Calgary has some amazing bookstores that are not to be missed by any bibliophile. The newest is The Next Page located in a heritage building along 9th Avenue in Calgary’s historic Inglewood neighbourhood. It is perhaps one of the most charming bookstores in North America, there is even a café at the back with a patio in the alley.

If you are a serious bibliophile, you must make the trip to Aquila Books on 16th Ave NW. Inside you will find a curated selection of books specializing in Polar Exploration, Western Canadianna (a great souvenir), mountaineering, Canadian Pacific Railway as well as antique maps, prints, historic photos, postcards and antique scientific instruments.  There is even an Inuit kayak hanging from the ceiling.



If you just want to stretch your legs, Calgary has one of the most walkable downtowns in the world.  It is flat and the grid pattern of the streets makes it easy to get around.

There are two great places to stroll in downtown – Stephen Avenue and Bow River Promenade.  Stephen Avenue is a pedestrian mall from Macleod Trail to 3rd Street SW.  Along The Walk you will discover 30+ early heritage buildings, as well as one of North America’s largest performing art centres, Olympic Plaza and a vibrant patio scene.  There are also entrances to three departments stores – The Bay, Simons and Holt Renfrew.

Take any street and walk north to just past 1st Ave SW and you will get to the Bow River Promenade where you can walk east to Fort Calgary or west to Shaw Millennium Park. If like you can cross the river at one of the many bridges (all have sidewalks) and walk back on the other side of the river.  Don’t be surprised if you see someone flyfishing in the river as it is one of the best in the world, or dozens of rafters floating along the river.

Last Word

I have lived in Calgary for 40+ years, it is my adopted home and while I have travelled to 100s of different cities over the years, I still have a love affair with Calgary. When I retired in 2013, I decided I was going to enjoy every day with the curiosity of a tourist – hence I am the Everyday Tourist.


Richard White

The Everyday Tourist



Twitter: @everydaytourist