Calgary is a young city. Young historically, as it was founded relatively recently, in 1875, at the junction of Alberta’s Bow and Elbow rivers as a post for Mounties, inaccessible until the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in 1883. Then ranchers flocked to the area, drawn by vast, sweeping plains and the strikingly beautiful Canadian Rockies that loom like gentle giants in the distance.
Calgary’s citizens also confirm the city’s youthful nature. The average age is 35, which translates into numerous young families strolling down the city’s broad streets, enjoying the long summer days that stay well lit until 10 p.m. Mostly, Calgary is a young city because it acts young. It enjoys pony rides and the outdoors, and every July during the Stampede, Calgarians play like no other people on earth, turning this quiet mountain city into a rowdy rumpus room where horseplay is strongly encouraged.
The heart of the new west, Calgary mixes cosmopolitan style with the adventure of the Rockies, creating a picture-perfect vacation destination that prides itself on being family-friendly. How friendly? The city’s Child and Youth Friendly Calgary organization send groups of kids, ages 4-15, to test out restaurants and venues. Only the places with exciting kids’ menus and child-safe features get the seal of approval.
Travel agents overwhelmingly give their seal of approval for families to vacation in Calgary, where even the airport is designed to stave off boredom with entertainment areas for both adults and kids. Not only is the city family-friendly, where the “Plus 15” walkway system allows pedestrians to walk safely and easily downtown, but it’s also wallet-friendly. With no provincial sales tax, the American dollar goes further. Plus, downtown Calgary is a designated “free fare zone,” meaning the modern and clean streetcars, known as the C-Trains, are free, making it easy to explore.
The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth
Yet the real reason travel agents send families northward year in and year out is for the “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Calgary Stampede. For 10 fun-filled, action-packed days each July, the Stampede roars into town to celebrate Western pride and the pioneer spirit. The Stampede electrifies the city, along with everyone in attendance, filling the streets with cowboys of every shape and size, square dancers, lively parades, and the exuberant spirit of the Wild West.
The Calgary Stampede truly is the largest outdoor show on earth, attracting more than a million visitors each year. The pace is fast, friendly, and frenetic. But it has to be to host so many events, like chuckwagon races, rodeo competitions, stage shows, bareback riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, and more. At the Stampede, you have to keep your eyes peeled, for blink once and you might miss the wildest, zaniest moment of the entire show!
The best in the world converge on Stampede Park, the site of the Stampede located in the heart of Calgary. Filling 137 acres, Stampede Park is a Wild West epicenter of fun, filled with music halls, midway rides, and the kid-favorite Bugzilla exhibits, which, as you may surmise, features really big bugs. One of the most popular attractions is the Indian Village, a camp where natives representing Stoney, Blackfoot, and Sarcee tribes greet visitors in full ceremonial dress.
Dressing up is a big part of the Calgary Stampede, and one the little buckaroos enjoy as they dress up like cowboys. Parents should follow suit, literally, and celebrate the occasion by donning faded jeans, cowboy boots, and the biggest, shiniest belt buckle you can find. They call this “Stampede Mode,” and it’s one of many celebrated traditions.
Other classic Stampede traditions involve pancakes and chuckwagon races. The famous pancake breakfasts, for which people line up every morning, began in 1923 when “Wild horse” Jack Morton began dishing out delicious flapjacks from the back of his wagon. As for the chuckwagon races, those began in 1919 after a big buffalo barbeque, when an impromptu race broke out to see which chuckwagon could pack up their gear and leave the fastest. The quick-paced action impressed the folks in the grandstand so much that it led to the Stampede’s most popular event, the Rangeland Derby.
The Rangeland Derby is just part of the non-stop action that will have you and your kids hootin’ and hollerin’. Between the bull riders, steer wrestlers and stunt teams, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for so long you’ll wonder why you paid for the entire seat! You’ll never second-guess the value of your vacation if you use a travel agent, for they can deliver an itinerary that will have your family stampeding toward Canada faster than a bucking bull can toss a sweaty-handed cowpoke.
Just the Beginning of a Canadian Adventure
We at K3 Travel know that Calgary is the perfect launching pad to other Canadian adventures, so they can help you make the most of your family vacation by organizing family-friendly side trips to resort towns like Banff and Lake Louise or elsewhere throughout Alberta, which is called “Canada’s Rocky Mountain Playground” for a million spectacular reasons.
The Calgary Stampede is true “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”