ITINERARY: MOUNTAIN-TO-CITY GETAWAY

In a day, Calgary visitors have it all: pristine Canadian Rocky Mountain adventures from sun-up to eclectic urban fun into the night.

The hour’s drive to the Canadian Rockies from downtown Calgary takes you by its pretty rivers, Canada Olympic Park Winsport, horse and cattle dotted farmland, charming Canmore (spot its Three Sisters Mountain Range backdrop) and through the historic Parks Canada entry gates into an adventure playground for nature lovers.

Watch for deer, elk, moose, wolves and overhead hawks. Hoodoo formations line stretches of the gently winding four-lane highways that lead to the charming historic mountain towns of Banff and Lake Louise.

Hit the road early and explore those mountains. Then drive back — into the sunset — for a night of memory making, Calgary-style. The contrast between nature and civilization has never been more fitting than in this city by the mountains.

TOP 5 ROCKY MOUNTAIN MUSTS

1. Stretch Your Legs in Banff
Cap off your drive with a mountain town stroll in Banff (established in 1885) like more than 4 million visitors do each year. Glacier-fed waters prime locally made beer served at dozens of Banff Avenue and offshoot restaurants. Fondue is the go-to here — Swiss-style or Japanese shabu-shabu. Galleries, clothing boutiques and jewellery stores make mountain shopping bounty a breeze. Did you know that Alberta’s own KORITE ammolite is Canada’s gemstone? Shop for this rarity here in abundance. And you can find more rare Qiviuk apparel here than anywhere else. Woven or knitted from the underbelly wool of Arctic bison (warmer than wool and softer than cashmere). Buy a ball or two, find a fireplace and have have a go at knitting your own ultimate souvenir.

2. Take to the Waters
Steamy hot 100% natural mineral-rich waters have been helping visitors unravel in the outdoor soaking pools for more than a century. You’ll be feeling nostalgia as you enter the pool area. So go all the way, splurge $1.90 and rent vintage inspired bathing garb. The Banff Upper Hot Springs (at 5200 feet above sea level) are the highest hot springs in Canada. There is an affordable spa on site and we suggest booking ahead for a mountaineer massage.

3. Cultivate Your Creativity
Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is a modern, global leader in arts, culture, and creative work, nestled not far from the town centre on a rocky rise amid the evergreens. Its calendar of rich programming year-round for the public complements its competitive residencies that attract the world’s most inspired creatives — in technology, music and visual arts.

4. Tea Tradition with a Twist
The family-run Lake Agnes Tea House (built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901) is a 3.5 km forested hike from Lake Louise and features the original windows, tables and chairs from its earliest days. Order a pot of 100 Monkeys (legend say, it wards evil spirits) or a secret-ingredient White Mischief. These and 100 more fine loose leaf teas are brewed at 7,000 feet above sea level in a lovely hanging valley on the shores of Lake Agnes. Horses are available for hire at Brewster or Timberline Stables in Lake Louise if you opt not to hoof it on your own steam! Open June 4 to October 10 daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

5. Glacial-Pace Water Sports
Hop into a bright red canoe and paddle the turquoise-blue glacial beauty of Lake Louise Spring to Fall. Hires are affordable and self guided jaunts across the lake are the iconic photo opportunity. But there are more ways to ply the waters in these mountain parks. The lakes and rivers of Banff and Lake Louise — pristine and picturesque — are meant for more than shoreline admiration. River whitewater rafting and float trips are as fun as lake canoe or kayak trips. Have a go at stand-up paddleboarding. The freshest perspectives are gleaned on the water here.

BACK IN THE CITY

1. Have a Beef
Alberta is known for its beef. Calgary is in its protein prime with a host of classic to nouveau steak offers. Step back in time and book in at Caesar’s Steakhouse where the decor is true to its 1970s origins — red carpets, gold chandeliers and white tablecloths — and its table-side manner is classic. For a modern take on steak, you’ll always find solace at:

  • Anju Restaurant
  • charbar
  • Vintage Chophouse & Tavern
  • Wellingtons of Calgary
  • Open Range
  • Modern Steak

The list goes on, but definitely expected in beef country!

2. Tune In
Architecturally stunning Studio Bell is a brand new music and technology destination bordering downtown in the up and coming East Village. Enjoy the design from the outside at night when the building is a lit. While the museum closes at 5 pm (here you learn the story of music in Canada, rock out with interactive instrument installations and sing along in vocal booths), there is a calendar rich with evening programming. Time to plan your trip? Watch for tickets online and make a night to remember.

3. You and Your Boo
Calgary’s Inglewood neighbourhood with its turn of the century charm hosts a regularly scheduled Ghost Tour. Take your chances and turn up at Rosso Coffee at 8 pm to scare up some fun.

4. Let’s Dance
One part art gallery, one part night club and one art live music venue, the HiFi Club is a city staple and catalyst for after-dark culture with collaboration at its core. Tap into the local scene through art and dance here with stellar dj’s and big-name visiting alternative artists.

5. Theatrics
Be theatrical during your visit – we don’t mind at all. Theatre runs deep in Calgary’s cultural scene, and it will never disappoint. We have theatres aplenty, from One Yellow Rabbit, Theatre Calgary Lunchbox Theatre and Vertigo Theatre. The best part? All found within walking distance from or in the mecca of arts and culture in downtown Calgary – the Arts Common.

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