Calgary is the fourth largest metropolitan area in Canada. It is located in the transition zone between the Canadian Rockies and the Prairies. It is also located in the province of Alberta and is its largest city. Evidence of human habitation in the Calgary area shows that about 11,000 years ago, this area was occupied by the pre-Clovis people.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, it formed a part of the Blackfoot confederacy. In 1873, John Glenn was the first European to settle here. The site became a post of the North West Mounted police in 1875. In 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the town and Calgary began to grow in earnest.
Today, it is an important business town as well as the gateway to numerous tourist destinations in the Rockies. The city covers an area of 825.29 sq km and had an approximate population of 1,096,833 in 2011.
The city is located between the steep Rocky Mountains and the vast flat prairie lands. It has an elevation of about 1,048 meters. There are two major rivers flowing through the city – the Bow River, which is the largest and flows from west to south, and converges with the northward flowing Elbow River in downtown Calgary.
The city has a dry continental type of climate. Summers are warm but short, while winters can be quite cold. In fact, the temperatures fall every night regardless of the season. Rainfall is mostly concentrated in June. Warm Chinook winds often provide a break from the cold. Calgary endures extremes in temperatures with cold spells and warm spells in winter and summer, respectively.
How to reach (transport)
Calgary is connected to several North American and European cities by air. The city is served by the Calgary international airport, which is about half an hour’s drive away. You can easily travel to the city from the airport by taxi or private shuttles and a bus service is also available.
Several highways including the TransCanada pass through the city. Regular bus services are available and car rentals are also another option.
When to visit
The best time to visit Calgary is from late May to the end of September. This is the best time for sightseeing as well as enjoying the Rockies. However, winter is best suited for taking part in winter sports. The summer months are better suited for hiking and enjoying the beautiful lakes, which are all frozen in winter.
Culture (Fairs and Festivals) and Traditions
Though most tourists prefer to treat Calgary as a springboard to start their winter vacation in the Rockies, the city itself also offers a number of events and festivals. Some of these festivals are as follows:
- The High-Performance Rodeo is celebrated for four weeks in January. It is the city’s international festival of arts where local, national, and international performers from theater, music, dance, comedy, and others showcase their performances.
- The Heritage Day festival is celebrated on 5th August when multi-cultural performances are given. You can buy unique handicrafts or sample the local cuisine.
- The Calgary folk music festival is celebrated for four days in July. Local people showcase their talent in music. The festival started on a small scale but has now attracted global attention.
- The Winefest is celebrated in late February when you can taste a variety of wines.
- The Calgary comic and entertainment expo is held in late April for three days. Different elements of pop culture are shown here.
- From late May to early June, the Calgary comedy festival takes place with performances at a number of venues.
- The Global fest is celebrated with fireworks displays and multi-cultural shows in the second half of August.
In addition to these, a number of other events and festivals are celebrated throughout the year in Calgary.
Points of interest (places to visit)
Most visitors use Calgary as the starting point of their tour of the Rockies. However, there are a number of attractions in the city itself. Some of these are as follows:
- The Fort Calgary historic park, built by the Canadian mounted police, is the oldest landmark in the town. It offers a number of beautiful trails.
- The Calgary stampede ground is famous for the annual rodeo festival held here.
- The Telus Park is the new science center of the city with more than a hundred hands-on exhibits, traveling exhibitions, and four exhibit galleries.
- The Glenbow Museum houses an extraordinary collection of objects related to local history.
Apart from these, the Calgary Zoo, Prince’s Island Park, Olympic Plaza, military museums, Devonian Park, etc., are other attractions of the city.
For a pleasurable stay, Calgary has a vast number of hotels, motels, and guest houses. In addition to the 5-star hotel Le Germain, there are a number of 4-star hotels in the city like Westin, Hyatt Regency, Fairmont Palliser, etc. The 3-star hotels in the city include Staybridge, Clarion, Greenwood Inn, Ramada, Marriott, Best Western, and many more. You can also enjoy budget accommodation at several motels.