I like the Calgary Tower. At the time of it’s building, 1967, it was the tallest free standing structure in North America. I remember seeing it slowly rise into the sky during 24 days of continuous concrete pouring. The view from the top was breath taking. You could see the tower from just about anywhere in town and it became one of our proud symbols of the city.
Unfortunately, at 191m, the tower is now only the sixth tallest structure in Calgary . To paraphrase a Canadian comedian, “What are you supposed to do when you get to the observation deck of the Calgary Tower? Look at the buildings above you and wonder what the view is like from up there?” I just don’t see the point any more.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure that you go on a clear day or you won’t be able to see very much.
Fun Alternatives: Downtown Calgary is in a river valley and there are plenty of surrounding hills that provide vantage points for viewing and picture taking. Close to downtown, try the North hill (about 8th Ave N) for beautiful views of downtown. For views of the entire city, try the hill above Edworthy Park (Sarcee Trail) or Nose Hill (John Laurie Blvd).
Calgary began as a fort built between the Bow and Elbow rivers. On the original site, the part of the fort has been rebuilt, the front wall (what Hollywood calls a façade). To the side is a small expensive museum with some frontier artifacts.
Fun Alternatives: Save your money for the Glenbow museum which has a better collection of artifacts and Heritage Park with its authentic period buildings.
I got roped into lowering the flag and wearing a redcoat when at Fort Calgary.
It was fun and I believe I played my part well.
Allow yourself to be roped in and have fun.
There is not much to see in the reconstructed fort.
The museum next door was fun too. Well worth a visit.
You could like me find yourself taking part in conversation with a girl from the 1920s or 30s.
Unique Suggestions: Just go along with it and you will enjoy it all the more.
You are on holiday !
Fun Alternatives: Waterton Lakes is the place to see.
Check out the photo !
Click to enlarge.
Supposedly one of the "must do's" when in Calgary, but after you pay your $5-10 for parking and the $13 per person to get in, there really isn't much to do up there. If you spend more than an hour up there looking around or in one of the restaurants it might make it more worthwhile, but if you've been there before or have no inclination to look at the City from above for an hour or more, it's just not worth it.
Unique Suggestions: There are several ways to get discount coupons for admission such as the Entertainment book which eases the sting of parking and admission.
If possible, plan on having lunch or dinner in the restaurant at the top which makes it more worthwhile.
Fun Alternatives: There are lots of alternate things to do downtown including shopping, green spaces and the Glenbow Museum.
This is probably true of every city (I know it is in Mexico), but unless you are buying from the Duty Free, restrain yourself from getting Canadian Flags or T-shirts from the Airport. There are hundreds of Dollar stores around the city (and I dare you to spend a day here without seeing one) that can get you the same Maple Leaf pin or Flames sticker for 1/3rd the price...and with all that money you save, you can buy me a drink!
Unique Suggestions: If you have to buy from the airport...well, then I guess you will just have to suck it up. I have done it as well, so I know firsthand what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger...:)
Fun Alternatives: Bring a bag lunch, or pick up something on the way, that way you don't even have to buy lunch! And check out the Dollar stores! And even the Thrift stores if you are looking for books...they have all of Oprah's picks for sure!!!
Like many cities there is a great lookout point to see the surrounding area. This is no different, and you can be hit pretty hard when buying at the local stores in the tower.
Unique Suggestions: Shop around in the places there and you will find some nice things to buy and bring home, I ended up buying some good stuff I still use months later for a reasonable price!
Fun Alternatives: Don't buy directly at the tower but some of the surrounding shops, you can find nearly or the same things at a far cheaper price.
If for some strange reason you have the overwhelming desire to know what Calgary looks like from an arial-esque perspective, by all means, go up the Calgary Tower. You find out that Calgary is big, made out of a lot of concrete with a lot of random green/yellow spaces.
Unique Suggestions: Go for dinner up there - food is traditional and not that exciting, but it is a very nice atmosphere.
Fun Alternatives: Go to the University and check Calgary out from the 10th floor of McKimmey Library Tower, for free.
Calgary Tower to Calgary is like Space Needle to Seattle or Harbour Centre to Vancouver. After visiting both Seattle and Vancouver on the same trip, I really had no interest in going to the top of Calgary Tower. Besides, at 191m or 627 feet, it's really not that tall. Since taller and newer downtown buildings were built, the Tower's uniqueness has been lost and views blocked.
Fun Alternatives: Want a better view? Go to Banff and take the gondola ride (visit my Banff page).
If you spend most of your time hiking or biking, you'll avoid this aspect. Hit the crowded spots like Moraine Lake or Lake Louise early and take off on a trail that will get you up and away from the crowd (Sentinel Pass into Paradise Valley at Moraine Lake and Fairview Mt. at Lake Louise).
Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are 'Tourist Traps', but you have to see them anyway - they are beautiful. Also while you're there you can leave the crowds behind and do 2 spectacular hikes - Sentinal Pass (at Moraine Lake) and Fairview Mountain at Lake Louise.
The Calgary Tower. Once it was the tallest building in Calgary but that distinction was taken away many years ago. Now it is purely a tourist trap. Pay money to take the elevator to the top of the tower where a revolving deck allows you to have a 360 degree view of the city. There is also a restaurant that revolves which is overpriced (but fun for first-timers). If it is a cloudy day in Calgary there is no view from the top so don't waste your money going up there.
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