During our upcoming ski trip in the Alberta Rockies this March, we’ll be visiting Calgary for the first time. As a matter of fact, it will be our first time in the Canadian Rockies ever. We’ll have a brief one-day layover in Calgary before we move on to skiing in Banff and Lake Louise and will try to get a sneak peak at Alberta’s capital.
To prepare us for our compact discovery of Calgary, I have talked to Paul Newmarch from Tourism Calgary to get a lay of the land so to speak, to give us an overview so we’ll be able to explore Canada’s New West.
1. Please provide us with some general information about Calgary. How large is the city, where is it located, what is the weather like?
According to the civic census, Calgary’s population was 956,078 in April 2005. Calgary is located in the province of Alberta, 145 Km east of Banff, and 250 km from the US border. Calgary’s average summer temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius, and in the winter, average temperature is -8 Celsius. That said, there is a local saying in Calgary that if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.
2. How can one get to Calgary and what is the best way of getting around in Calgary?
Calgary is accessible along the TransCanada highway, or by direct air from a number of cities, including the following:
Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, St. John’s, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Yellownknife.
The following US cities have direct connections to Calgary:
Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Maui, Minneapolis, New York (JFK), Orlando, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.
You will find direct flights to Calgary from the following European cities:
Frankfurt, London and Manchester.
The best way to get around would be to use the Calgary Transit System. Train service is free in the downtown core, and a one way adult fare is $2.25. Otherwise, taxi cabs are available to and from all areas of the city.
3. Please tell us a bit about Calgary’s history.
Calgary’s history as a city began in 1875 when a detachment of North West Mounted Police (NWMP) arrived. The NWMP established Fort Calgary at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in an area that, at that time, had few permanent inhabitants. Except for local native peoples who used the area for hunting, the only full-time occupants were Sam Livingston, a homesteader, and his family.
Calgary was named by NWMP Colonel James Macleod after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. (Although there has been much discussion on the topic, it is believed Calgary is derived from the Gaelic Cala-ghearridh meaning “bay farm.”) Just listed Calgary
On Nov. 7, 1884, Calgary was officially incorporated as a town and less than a decade later, on Jan. 1, 1894, the town became a city. Harness-maker George Murdoch was the first mayor of Calgary. The CPR was delivering a continuous supply of settlers to Calgary by 1885. These new immigrants had an impact on the established ranching life surrounding Calgary as they moved on to the range formerly inhabited by large herds of cattle. Although the ranching industry changed significantly after its arrival, the presence of the CPR led directly to the importance of the processing and exporting of meat to Calgary’s economy.
4. Please tell us about some of the major attractions, museums and galleries in the Calgary area.
Perhaps the best known Calgary attraction is the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day western extravaganza of rodeo, chuckwagon races, pancake breakfasts, square dancing and more. It always kicks off the first Friday of July, this year it runs July 7-16.
In addition, Calgary is home to Western Canada’s largest museum, the Glenbow Museum. With exhibitions that change twice a year, and a permanent exhibit on the history of some of Alberta’s first nations people, the Blackfoot, it is an attraction not to be missed.
Calgary is also home to the world renowned Calgary Zoo. The Zoo has more than 1,000 animals, and the new Destination Africa and Canadian Wilds Exhibits.
There is also Canada Olympic Park (one of the host sites from the XV Winter Olympic Games), Heritage Park, (Canada’s largest living historical village), Spruce Meadows, a world famous show-jumping facility, Fort Calgary, the birthplace of the city , the Calgary Tower and the Calgary TELUS World of Science, a family attraction offering hands-on exhibits.