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Top Attractions for Families in Calgary

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Home of one arguably the greatest outdoor shows on Earth, the Calgary Stampede, and a mere one-hour drive east of the Rocky Mountains, Calgary has long attracted tourists. Cowtown is Canada’s oil and gas headquarters and many families are fortunate to tag along on a business trip or make a pit stop here en route to Banff National Park. But my hometown can hold it’s own as a city break destination. It’s an ideal place for active families—especially during the shoulder season before the mountains are warm enough for exploring. Here are my picks for the top five attractions for families in Calgary.

Top 5 attractions for families in Calgary

Riding bicycles at Prince Island in Calgary (Credit: Tourism Calgary)

Science Centre

Igniting children’s imaginations, TELUS Spark is Canada’s newest science centre. The facility offers hands-on activities for kids of all ages, including teens. The tricked-out toddler area sports a physics station, tables for water play, and a massive indoor play structure. Other galleries offer interactive exhibits so older innovators can have a go starting a canyon at an erosion table or building toys in the Open Studio.

TELUS Spark Science Centre

TELUS Spark Science Centre (Credit: TELUS Spark)

Calgary Zoo

With a wide variety of wildlife from Africa, Australia and the Canadian wilds, the Calgary Zoo ranks among the best  zoos in the country. Offering preschool programs and behind the scenes opportunities for every age group, your brood can do so much more than simply observe the animals. There’s a large cafe onsite, but many families pack a picnic lunch and sit along the river. Be sure to check out Penguin Plunge, a polar paradise that’s home to four different penguin species.

Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo

Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo (Credit: Tourism Calgary)

Downtown

While no longer the tallest building in Canada (or Calgary for that matter), you can’t miss going to the top of the Calgary Tower. Here, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the city’s landmarks from the Observation Deck, where a glass floor makes it seem oh-so-scary. From there, head over to The CORE, a downtown shopping center that houses Devonian Gardens, a tropical home to over 500 trees and shrubs. The gardens have a fantastic indoor playground and lots of room for burning off energy.

Calgary Tower

Calgary Tower (Credit: Tourism Calgary)

Shopping

We all know if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy and mama loves a bargain. Alberta is the only province in Canada with no provincial sales tax. You’ll still have to pay the five percent Canadian goods and services tax (GST), but your purchases will be much cheaper here than anywhere else in the country. Calgary has several fantastic malls. Chinook Centre has over 200 stores and an IMAX movie theater; meanwhile Market Mall offers pleasant shopping options and sports a toddler play zone. Near the airport, Cross Iron Mills is the city’s outlet mall where you can find Bass Pro Shops, an impressive store-cum-wildlife-exhibit.

Calgary Skyline

Calgary Skyline (Credit: Tourism Calgary)

Eau Claire Area

Flanking the Bow River, the Eau Claire market is where urbanites go to recharge. Inside the market are several funky shops, a large indoor playground and a movie theater. Outside, street performers provide entertainment as kids plunge into the splash park or attempt to play with the ducklings and Canadian geese. Journey across the bridge into Prince’s Island Park, where you’ll find a large playground and River Cafe, one of the city’s best child-friendly restaurants.

Have you ever visited Calgary? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage (JodyRobbins.com). When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

Comments

  1. So many great things to do – I haven’t been to Calgary since before my kids were born and I really need to go back soon! Love that last photo of the Calgary skyline with the Saddledome!

    • Calgary must be a terrific city. Have you found that global warming has had a positive effect on Calgary? After reading you bio I feel that I want to read more of your travel experiences.

  2. Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

    Lisa, I’m so glad you liked that pic of Saddledome. Really hope you make it back to Calgary with kids. If you ever do, let me know!

  3. Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

    Ellen, interesting question! Calgary’s weather is notoriously difficult to predict. We can get snow in July and have balmy temperatures in February. I don’t know if that’s because of Global Warming or if it’s just always been that way. Still, I love our Chinook’s (warm wind fronts) that break up the winter. Really please you’re enjoying my travel experiences. You’ll find more of them on my own blog: http://www.travelswithbaggage.com (though I save my best ones for Travel Mamas:)

  4. seo adelaide says:

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who
    you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Wow! Thanks so much. That’s one of the nicest comments I’ve ever had. Please come back to this site anytime! I’ll be posting soon on my experiences in Mexico City.

  5. Thank you! I’ve traveled to Calgary my whole life. My husband and I are coming up for the stampede and bringing our 9 month old. We usually stay with family but will be staying in a hotel for 10 days. Can’t wait to take our daughter to the zoo.. I’ve never been. Any other suggestions? We are also going to Banff and Edmonton Mall.

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Do I ever! I’d check out Fluor Rope Square downtown near Olympic Plaza during Stampede – it’s got all the good stuff but less crowds. My fave Stampede Breakfast is at Cafe Beano 17 Ave & 9 St. It’s on July 6 this year around 10 am – no pancakes but comfort foods like Christmas Morning Wife Saver. Banff is great – lots of easy day hikes and you can rent a bike with chariot and do the Legacy Trail into Canmore. For West Ed: hit the water park and T&T supermarket for fun Asian. I love Whyte Ave in Edmonton and can spend a day browsing, sipping coffee at trendy cafes, etc… If you need anything more specific don’t hesitate to reach out (jody@jodyrobbins.com) Oh, Telus Spark has a great kid’s section with lots of appealing activities for babies and Toddlers.

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