Last updated on August 23rd, 2023
Welcome to your summer in Calgary! During the ten days of Stampede, there are TONS of things to do in the city that aren’t just on the Stampede grounds. From snapping photos of Calgary’s unique architecture to line dancing on a lit up rooftop by fireworks to having the ultimate Stampede breakfast in a jar, there’s not a minute of boredom in Calgary during Stampede.
In this 2-day itinerary, we’re going to be diving into Calgary’s culture, in music, food, entertainment and scenery! After living in this city for nearly two decades, we’ve had the unique opportunity to truly know the ins and outs of Calgary’s cultural scene and bring our local expertise to the table for this guide.
Though this post is not sponsored, all our meals, experiences and accommodations were comped in partnership with Tourism Calgary for creative media assets. Having lived in Calgary for 18 years, we know of a ton of other amazing places to check out, eat and stay in the city. But during Stampede, the ones below are among our favourite for many different reasons I’ll touch on. As always, I wouldn’t promote anything I don’t love and wouldn’t pay for out of my own pocket! All opinions are my own.
You can watch our vlog from our Stampede weekend and/or keep reading to learn more about each item on the itinerary!
Hotel Check-In Time
There are certainly a number of fantastic hotels to stay at while in Calgary. Our downtown core is tightly knit and all the great stays are in close proximity to great food, attractions and transit. We certainly love Sheraton Suites Eau Claire and the Hyatt Regency – check out my blog posts on our stays at the Sheraton Suites and Hyatt Regency! -, and other great choices like the Westin, Le Germain, Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott, but specifically for Stampede, I highly recommend staying in East Village.
Why? Because it’s a bumping area and close enough to Victoria Park that you could walk! Stampede is a crazy time for Calgarians and tourists alike, so the trains can get packed during the day and especially at night when everyone is trying to get home.
Alt Hotel Calgary East Village is an especially wonderful stay! It’s incredibly chic and modern, with high-tech features and contemporary decor in your room that will definitely elevate your stay. The Alt Hotel brand is a branch of Hotel Le Germain, a Canadian family-run boutique hotel company.
The Alt Hotel has three fabulous restaurants:
- Chix Eggshop, where Country fried chicken meets your neighbourhood diner.
- NUPO, an elevated plant forward cross sushi bar brought to us by renown Chef Darren MacLean from The Final Table. This restaurant also offers one of Calgary’s only intimate Omakase experience.
- EIGHT, nestled within NUPO, is Calgary’s hidden restaurant within a restaurant. This is where Chef Darren’s ultimate top-end Canadian cuisine gastronomic experience is found. The Omakase tasting menu changes daily and the restaurant is only available three times a week, with tickets selling out months in advance.
Being steps away from the riverfront, incredible food, stellar landmarks and the Stampede grounds, you can’t go wrong with the Alt Hotel!
This year, hotels across Calgary provided their guests with a Mott’s Caesar kit to create your own Caesars! As some of you may know, Caesar is the official cocktail of the Calgary Stampede, and during your visit, you’ll notice that tons of restaurants and bars will put their own twist on the Caesar’s drink to make it extra special.
Studio Bell, National Music Centre
Discover East Village’s gems by first visiting the National Music Centre. This is a magnificent piece of architecture so you’ll likely want to capture some photos outside as well as inside the building. You can easily walk here in eight minutes from the Alt Hotel.
The interior of Studio Bell was intricately designed optimally for acoustics, as there is often live music concerts. Most of the instruments being demo’d are pieces of history or instruments lent out by various groups of artists.
The building contains different sections of Canadian musicians – Indigenous artists, French Canadian artists, various genres such as Country, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and more – and even has a Music Hall of Fame on the top level. I won’t spoil much more for you, but will point you in the direction of everything you need to know on admission, hours of operation, and other visitor information here!
Calgary Central Library
Just a two-minute walk from the NMC is the new Calgary Central Library, an architectural masterpiece. Brought to us by architectural firms Snøhetta and Calgary-based DIALOG (I used to work closely with DIALOG’s interior design and mechanical teams as an engineer), the unique design of the library evokes a welcoming invitation to visitors on the outside as well as engages those inside.
The crystalline geometry of the triple-glazed façade is composed of interwoven hexagonal patterns resembling snowflakes and symbolizing the inclusivity of the community. The wide cedar wood archway of the building emulates the Chinook cloud arches that are specific to the Calgarian region, creating an embracing atmosphere to all people. Moreover, no matter which direction you come from, the building allows all its sides to appear as the “front”, again a focus on the library’s goal of inclusivity.
One of the biggest feat of the Calgary Central Library is its site within a complex urban condition: it sits right on top of a C-Train line. The LRT’s tracks were never moved in the construction of the library, but the building’s architecture allowed for the train tunnel to stay intact. The library encapsulates the transit line, bridging East Village and Downtown, which used to be bluntly separated between old and new.
The Calgary Central Library is among many notable photo spots in Calgary. Spend some time in the building to admire the grand oculus and the bright wood paths spiralling up to the grand oval skylight. If you’re keen to check out more of Calgary’s photo spots, check out these top 10 photogenic and Instagrammable cityscapes to shoot in Calgary!
Bike Along the Bow River
Calgary’s own Rocky Mountain river is an attraction of its own. The summer months are filled with people walking, running, scootering, biking along and even floating down the Bow River. The best way to enjoy summer downtown is taking a ride along its riverfront promenades, traversing across its quaint and outstanding bridges as well as taking a stop in its many parks.
The best place to rent e-bikes or urban bikes for your riverfront ventures is at Bow Cycle E-Bikes, right across from the Alt Hotel. Cruise down from East Village to Eau Claire to Kensington, crossing the Peace Bridge, and make sure to head over to Prince’s Island Park for a rest stop, picnic and maybe live entertainment!
If you’re on a budget, Calgary has a couple of reputable e-scooter ride-share options (such as Bird and Neuron Mobility) that you can pickup with their respective app! These are definitely a great option to get around Calgary’s riverfront and downtown areas in a fun way and at a lower rate.
Dine at Charbar
Head back to the hotel to freshen up before walking across the street to the Simmons Building, where Charbar is. Charbar brings to Calgary culinary from Argentina, with the Argentine wood-fired grill as the true inspiration behind the restaurant’s identity. A blend of Spanish and Italian cuisine transformed, Charbar also prides itself on the quality of ingredients, bringing to the table fresh, locally sourced foods that best represent Argentina’s cuisine.
Must-tries are definitely going to include their ceviche, avocado and pistachio bruschetta, and their wood-fired vegetables as sides with their steaks.
Fireworks at King Eddy
Now, I know that the Simmons Building has a rooftop patio, a.k.a. the Rooftop Bar @ Simmons, a.k.a. Calgary’s best rooftop patio. But it’s time to get the Stampede party started with a blast to the past.
The King Edward Hotel is Calgary’s second oldest hotels, welcoming guests from 1910 to 2004. It was left abandoned for a few years before becoming part of East Village’s rejuvenation project to be incorporated into the National Music Centre. The interior and exterior of the building were scanned for historical preservation and was rebuilt brick by brick from its original structure. King Eddy now hosts live music as a restaurant and rooftop bar. Check here to see who’s playing while you’re here!
King Eddy houses the world’s first recording mobile studio, i.e. the famed Rolling Stone Mobile Studio. This giant bus of an artifact is where so many legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll singles and albums were born!
With another short walk back to the National Music Centre, you’ll find King Eddy across the street from Studio Bell for some drinks and the best seats to view the daily Stampede fireworks that go off every night of Stampede at 11-11:15 pm. What a perfect way to end the night!
Breakfast Sandwiches at Sidewalk Citizen
Today’s the day to head to Stampede – finally! And what does that mean? Carnival food galore. So for breakfast, grab something light and/or healthy to start your day on the right foot.
Sidewalk Citizen Bakery is just across the street from the Alt Hotel, yet again, situated in the Simmons Building. Israeli military trained, biomedical engineer, Aviv Fried is one of Calgary’s best self-taught bakers. His baking skills have taken him all around the world, from Paris to the highest monastery in Nepal, and he has graced Calgary with a bakery, restaurant and deli to share his culinary experience and authentic mediterranean taste.
Sidewalk Citizen’s breakfast sandwiches were among the best I’ve ever had! Also, if you’re ever coming back to Calgary and want to learn to bake bread like Aviv, you can book one of their baking classes!
Time to Get to the Stampede Grounds!
The Stampede grounds are awaiting your arrival! It’s time to fully immerse yourself in all things Stampede with rides, food, performances and rodeo! If you’re able to plan ahead, you can pick up some discounted packages before you go:
- $50 Stampede Bucks can be purchased at participating Costco locations for only $39.99 (20% off)
- Ride All Day wristbands or card for 60 ride coupons are available for purchase at Safeway, Sobeys and IGA for only $39.99 (over 25% off)
Check the link I provided above for real-time updated pricing and value deals!
Stampede admission pricing and park hours are found here!
Midway Food, Rides and Games
North American Midway Entertainment is the company that provides us with all things carnival fair and amusement park. This was the highlight of Stampede for me as a kid, and it still is!
Watch out for those long lines for rides, and find out what kinds of foods you’d like to try before you head over to the grounds. They always bring something new and some all-time favourites to Stampede every year.
Elbow River Camp
After grabbing whatever eats your heart desires at the Midway food trucks (mini donuts, gourmet hot dogs, lemonade, fried cheesecake, alligator nuggets, turkey legs… you name it), be sure to visit the Elbow River Camp to watch the Treaty 7 First Nations perform their powwow, grab some authentic bannock and homemade wild Saskatoon berry jam, and learn about the five tribes’ history, traditions, garments and stories behind their tipi designs. You can also support local Indigenous artists and business owners by checking out their vendor booths.
This year I got to meet the mother of Calgary Stampede 2021’s poster woman and parade marshal, Katari Righthand. Dolores (her mom) showed me the intricacy of beading the Siksika’s traditional jewelry, and I got to see the making of their buckskin tunics, moccasins and other clothing.
During the ten days of Stampede, families of the five nations of Treaty 7 gather at Elbow River Camp (formerly known as Indian Village) to share their culture and reside in their tipis whose designs go down generations. Each family owns a tipi to a total of 26 tipis on the camp. While visiting Elbow River Camp, you are also welcome to enter the tipis with the owners’ permission and gain a better understanding of their way of living.
The Nash for Dinner
Important note: Check with the Stampede’s website or staff at the park entrance, as well as the parking agents (if you drove), to see if they are granting re-entry at no additional cost. If they are, great! You can most definitely head out, freshen up at your hotel, rest up and grab some dinner. If not, it may not make the most sense to leave the grounds just yet. This year, they did not allow re-entry, but with our work passes and ID’s from Tourism Calgary, we didn’t have to pay for admission twice.
A fantastic choice for food throughout the year is The Nash, bringing contemporary Canadian cuisine in a beautiful space located in Inglewood. Neighbouring East Village, Inglewood is another community in Calgary that was revitalized whilst maintaining its old bones, to create a hip area for shopping, eating and enjoying live entertainment and art.
The Nash holds one of the only two Josper ovens in all of Canada, roasting and grilling delicious dishes over charcoal at high heat to create delicious aroma and flavour.
Much like King Eddy, The Nash has a lot of history. Once a hotel for railway workers, The National Hotel was reborn as a high-tone restaurant. Within The Nash resides Off Cut Bar, an extension of the restaurant serving cocktails and hosting private parties. The Nash is also one of Calgary’s top wedding venues!
The Evening Show at the Grandstand
This is what makes Stampede Stampede, in my opinion. You have to see a show at the Grandstand at least once! And the Evening Show is 100% the better one!
Starting with the rodeo and crazy horseback riding acrobatics, then they roll out the big stage onto the track (yes, that stage pictured below is mobile), and on that stage will be a WHOLE array of entertainment – from Country artists, to motocross, to trampoline performers, to standup comedy, to the amazing Young Canadians, as well as an incredible Indigenous performance by members of Treaty 7 First Nations.
And of course – the grand finale! I had never seen fireworks so close up before! It was such a spectacular show.
Ticket prices do vary for the Grandstand Show. General admission is cheaper, and seating is first come first served. The benefit of general admission is the potential of front-row seats and being in the middle of all the action! The top ticket pricing is in the Clubhouse. We got to see what the Clubhouse was like for the first time. Air conditioned space with priority service (you have your own server), designated seating, with high and unobstructed views, you can see why tickets most more for these seats. Either way – down in the stands or up in the Clubhouse-, you’ll be able to be served directly to your seat during the show!
If you are in Calgary for only two days, your time is coming to an end! But there is one final stop on your Stampede vacation.
Monki Bistro is one of Calgary’s local unique brunch spots that does a fantastic twist on Caesar’s! Found in Inglewood and on Beltline, it’s the perfect venue for those of you staying downtown. BUT they do typically have long wait lines, so definitely put your down early before grabbing your breakfast/brunch here.
My absolute favourite dish of theirs is the Monki Chocolate Fondue. You get three different flavours of fondue (white chocolate, dark chocolate, pink strawberry, Earl Grey and matcha), and it comes with an assortment of fruit and waffles to dip in your fondue shot glasses.
I’ve been here twice now and it’s one of my top choices for brunch in Calgary!
If you’re here during Stampede, definitely grab your Yahoo Breakfast Caesar! Make it a virgin if it’s before 11am, it’s still 100% worth it!
There are tons of places to try and visit while you’re in Calgary during Stampede – I wish I could list them all! Working downtown for four years gave me some insight on all the places companies like to take their clients and employees during this ten-day period. Stampede is really Calgarians’ excuse to party it up in the middle of summer to “network”. You’ll see people dressed up in their Cowboy attire hitting up bars and rooftops at noon, for work events, luncheon’s and company get-togethers.
As a tourist here for Stampede, you’ll blend right in! Enjoy your time in YYC during The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!