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Calgary isn’t known as “Cowtown” for nothing. The city’s downtown may run on big business and cosmopolitan bustle, but scratch the surface and you’ll find a rough-and-tumble frontier spirit. Calgary’s blend of old and new makes for intriguing contrasts, and even with limited time in the Alberta metropolis, there’s plenty to see and do. Here’s the best way to see Calgary in one day:
Starting the day with a good cup of coffee is essential, and for some of the best Calgary has to offer, head over to Higher Ground Café. Located in the city’s hip Kensington neighborhood, the café serves breakfast sandwiches made with organic ingredients, perfect for eating on the go. While you’re at it, stroll down Kensington Avenue as the strip’s eclectic collection of independent shops open for the day.
Now that you’ve had a taste of one of Calgary’s trendiest enclaves, it’s time to head downtown to the city’s chicest strip, the Stephen Avenue Walk. Stretching along Eighth Avenue from First Street to Fourth Street SW, this pedestrian mall incorporates nine major shopping centers and department stores, along with boutique shops and restaurants. Here, you can people-watch to your heart’s content while stopping occasionally to browse the shops and street merchants, or listen to one of the many buskers.
Having worked up an appetite, it’s time for a quintessentially Calgarian lunch. The River Café, on Prince’s Island Park, is accessible by a number of pedestrian footbridges from downtown. The restaurant gives guests the chance to experience regional ingredients including elements like bison, rhubarb, kohlrabi and fiddlehead ferns.
Once you’ve eaten, take a stroll around the island. Located in the middle of the glacier-blue Bow River, the 50-acre island was donated to Calgary by the family of lumber mill owner Peter Anthony Prince in 1947. The gorgeous green space is lined with walking paths, picnic sites and gardens and hosts many of the city’s major outdoor events including the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
You’ve seen Calgary’s flora, now it’s off to see its fauna at the Calgary Zoo. The second largest in Canada, the zoo is arranged by geographic region and includes a big Canadian wilds section home to indigenous animals like grizzly bears, bison, wolves and deer. Exotic animals, such as giraffes, zebras and lions are also represented. The zoo is renowned for its endangered wildlife breeding programs, including red pandas and Vancouver Island marmots.
After such a busy day, it’s time to linger over a casual meal. Calgary’s Uptown 17th Avenue neighborhood is home to many restaurants and pubs. UNA Pizza and Wine is popular for its cozy feel and pizzas topped with ingredients like swiss chard, prosciutto and pecorino. Top it off with a local microbrew at one of the bars lining 17th and your Calgary experience will be complete.