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As the biggest city in Alberta, Calgary boasts a unique mix of local Wild West tradition and cosmopolitan urban culture. Whether you’re seeking the city’s history or to soak up its contemporary scene, Calgary has a long list of must-sees to offer visitors. To help you narrow it down, here’s Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ list of the five best things to see and do in Calgary.
1. Go to the Calgary Stampede. Each July, the city dons its signature white cowboy hat to celebrate the annual rodeo and exhibition, the Calgary Stampede. Events including chuckwagon races, a parade, a fair, pancake breakfasts, and, of course, bull riding draw over a million visitors over the course of 10 days. The Calgary Stampede has been a tradition since its debut in 1912, and remains the city’s calling card.
2. Visit Calgary Zoo. Located on the Bow River, the Calgary Zoo is the second largest zoo in the country. Established in 1929, today the zoo is home to nearly 300 species of animals divided into regions including South America, Eurasia, Africa and Australia. In the Canadian Wilds section, visitors can see species native to the area including bison, grizzly bears and wolves. The Calgary Zoo also includes extensive botanical gardens and a prehistoric park featuring plants and life-size models of dinosaurs.
3. See The Art Gallery of Calgary. This public contemporary art gallery includes more than 6,000 square feet of exhibition space filled with pieces ranging from pop surrealism, controversial photography, interactive multimedia installations and traditional painting and sculpture. Local artists play a huge role in the gallery’s shows, as do local collectors: both groups regularly lend work for display here. Guided tours, artist talks and practical workshops allow visitors to gain a deeper understanding.
4. Check out The Glenbow Museum. Western Canadian history mingles with artifacts collected from the four corners of the globe at Calgary’s downtown museum. Inside, collections cover everything from community history to aboriginal cultures with one million artifacts. Along with the traditional museum galleries, the institution also houses an art gallery, a library and an archive.
5. Stroll Stephen Avenue Walk. Art, fashion, food and culture collide along Calgary’s historic pedestrian mall, which stretches along Eighth Avenue from First Street to Fourth Street. Lined by the city’s major department stores, including the Hudson’s Bay Company and Holt Renfrew, and dotted with some of Calgary’s top restaurants including Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro, the avenue gains some extra ambiance from the street vendors and buskers set up along its six-block length.