Nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies is Calgary, Alberta, a city known for big oil, big ranches, big hats and a variety of free things and stuff to do that will make you want to say giddy up.
4 Must-Try Hotels in Calgary
Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, a TripAdvisor Award of Excellence Winner.
Hotel Blackfoot, a TripAdvisor Award of Excellence Winner.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Airport , 80% approval rating.
Comfort Inn & Suites South, laundry facilities and waterslide.
More ideas: Cheap Hotels & Places to Stay in Calgary
Stroll the Streets
If you go to Calgary you have to experience Stephen Avenue Walk.
Located in the heart of Downtown Calgary, this area is free to explore and features stuff like live performances, buckers, music, festivals, artists, nine major shopping centres, some of the best restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars in the city, and wonderful boutiques and galleries.
One of a kind shops and galleries your taste? A trip to Eau Claire Market is a must.
For everything from cheap to chic, Kensington, Calgary’s urban village, makes a wonderful half-day escape. If you want to get to know the stories behind the streets, buildings and landmarks of Calgary, the city offers free self-guided heritage tours (there are also other tours available for a nominal fee).
And when your legs get tired of walking the streets, keep in mind you can hop on the downtown portion of the CTrain, between 3 Street East and 11 Street West along 7 Avenue, for free.
Cruise the downtown
Get a different perspective of the city’s sites by winding your way down the Bow River.
That’s right, one of the free things to do, that’s a favourite among the locals, is to grab a tube or dinghy and float down the Bow River, which takes you right past the Downtown scenery.
Think of it like a lazy river ride with an urban twist.
Be sure to pack a paddle, picnic and water, and don’t forget your sunglasses, sunscreen and of course a life jacket.
Gobs of Galleries
An inspiring free thing to do in Calgary is to visit some of the city’s many art galleries.
Experimental art lovers will find the Stride Gallery to be a perspective-altering outing.
Art Central is another hip spot to explore. It’s an indoor community of studios and galleries—admission is free and you’ll find everything from paintings and sculptures to jewellery, flower arranging and clothing.
Home decorator nuts will relish a romp through the Design District, a downtown quadrant of home décor stores, furniture places and galleries including Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art, Virginia Christopher Fine Art, and the Paul Kuhn Gallery.
Take the elevator ride to the top of the TD shopping centre downtown and you won’t find yourself in the men’s wear department, instead you’ll step out into oneof the world’s largest indoor botanical gardens.
Free to discover and drink in, the TD Devonian Gardens is a tropical escape in the middle of the city, with amazing stuff including over 20,000 species of plants, a small pond, a stream, a school of coy and original art to add a finishing touch.
Satisfy your appetite to know more about grain production and transportation at the Grain Academy Museum. Admission is complimentary and through interactive displays, you can try threshing the grain, blowing the chaff and grinding the grain.
Plethora of Parks
Calgarians love nature stuff and the city provides lots of opportunities to experience it with a bevy of free parks to traverse.
Fish Creek Provincial Park, a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, is one of the largest urban parks in Canada with over 200 bird species, walking and biking trails and, if you’re so inclined, world-class trout fishing in the Bow River.
Another great birding spot is The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre. Over 250 bird species call this TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner home, and don’t be surprised if you spot deer, foxes and coyotes in this grassland and forest habitat.
For some of the most beautiful hiking trails this side of Banff, Alberta trek over to Glenmore Park. Nearby is Weaselhead Flats, a park area that lies at the foot of the Elbow River and features unique wildlife to the area like Common Loons and Tundra Swans.
If you’re in the heart of the city and seeking out a relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle, Prince’s Island Park is perfect. This TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner is an island in the middle of the Bow River. Simply cross over one of the many bridges and you’ll find yourself in an oasis of pathways, hiking trails, large art sculptures, beautiful gardens and fountains.
Throughout the summer months Calgary is alive with free festivals.
One of the city’s favourites is the Kensington Sun and Salsa Festival, and no wonder. The Kensington neighbourhood comes alive with six stages featuring street performers, dancers and more. There are great deals to be had from street merchants and of course there’s the salsa–over 40 varieties to try, all for free!
Take a “trip” to New Orleans at the Marda Loop’s Marda Gras.
Celebrate the music, food, dance, theatre, film, literature and visual arts of Africa at the Afrikadey! Festival.
Sample authentic cuisine and culture at the Chinatown Street Festival.
And if you’re a dog nut, you don’t want to miss Pet-A-Palooza. This free, pet-friendly, family event takes place in July and features events such as the Running of the Bulls i.e. a race featuring French and English bulldogs, dog agility demos, treat and food samples for fido, over 80 pet product exhibitors and more.
And if the Calgary Stampede is on when you’re there…
Every July the city goes full on cowboy as it hosts the Calgary Stampede. It’s a rodeo, exhibition and festival all wrapped up into one and attracts over one million visitors.
While the Stampede itself costs money to attend, there is free stuff to do in conjunction with the event. For example, you can chow down at any of the numerous free pancake breakfasts held across the city and at night, you can shine up your boots and kick up your spurs to free entertainment at Olympic Plaza (renamed Rope Square for the event).
Plus check Groupon for Deals on Calgary Things to Do
A great way to enjoy almost-free things to do in Calgary is to check Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 cities.
Visit the Calgary Groupon page and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on attractions, tours, theatre tickets, activities, golf, skiing, comedy, dinner spots and accommodations.
The Groupon Calgary page is a smart place to check out when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your Calgary visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.