At an elevation of 3,500 feet, the air is mountain fresh, and with chinook winds providing spring-like weather any winter month, the climate is friendly in Calgary. First built as a fort in 1875 by the North West Mounted Police to quell the illegal whiskey trade, Calgary became a bustling cowtown. Today, this booming energy-driven cosmopolitan center has a population of more than one million.
The spirit of the West lives on in names of major traffic arteries Crowchild and Deerfoot Trails, the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League and the indoor arena Pengrowth Saddledome, a 17,000-seat Calgary center of entertainment.
Favorite Local Cuisine: Buzzards Cowboy Cuisine (140 10th Ave. SW). Specialty is sirloin steak and prairie oysters (calf testicles, which are absolutely delicious!).
Best Western Art Gallery: Westlands Art Gallery (214 First Street West) in Cochrane, about 20 minutes west of Calgary, which features work by Alberta artists depicting cowboy and ranch life.
Best Western Bookstores: Ken Jackson’s Books (5864 Dalcastle Dr. NW) and Tom Williams Bookstore (122 17th Ave. SE) sell rare and out-of-print books.
Best Spot to View Wildlife: Fish Creek Provincial Park (15979 Bow Bottom Trail SE) is home to wildlife such as deer, coyotes, owls and beaver.
What historic site do most of the schoolchildren visit? Fort Calgary (750 9th Ave. SE), at the forks of the Bow and Elbow Rivers.
Do-Not-Miss Attraction: Heritage Park (1900 Heritage Dr. SW), a frontier town with many original buildings. Ride the trolley, the steam railroad train, horse drawn wagon or the antique carousel.
Old West Attraction: Bar U Ranch, established 1882, is a 40-minute drive southwest of Calgary. The historic site commemorates the history and importance of ranching in Canada.
Popular Local Event: Calgary Stampede, first held in 1912, kicks off with a two-hour long parade through the streets of Calgary and runs for 10 days in early July.
Good Cowboy Bar: Ranchman’s (9615 Mcleod Trail S.), featuring big name Country music performers.
Average House Cost: As of February, $472,000 Canadian ($465,000 USD).
Weather: We have all four seasons but because of the altitude (higher than 3,000 feet) and the proximity of the mountains, we can have any one of them in any month. The popular saying about the weather is, “If you don’t like it, wait 15 minutes!” The temperature range is 80s to minus 30s.
Who knows Alberta’s history best? Hugh Dempsey, historian and writer of Western Canadian and First Nations History. He was director of History at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
Western Tradition: For more than 60 years, Calgarians have been presenting visiting dignitaries with a white cowboy hat, a symbol of the city’s cowboy heritage.
Special thanks to Calgary resident Bill Dunn for sharing his love of the town with us.