8 of the Best Things to Do in Calgary in Summer

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When it comes to the province of Alberta, Canada, chances are you know about its famous national parks, mountains, and incredible lakes.

But what do you know about its cities? Chances are you don't know a whole lot, because Alberta's cities are criminally overlooked as simply being the places you fly in to/out of for trips to Banff and Jasper.

Calgary is overshadowed the most, I think, by Alberta's national parks. It's the largest city in Alberta, and yet most visitors completely breeze through it on their way to the mountains.

Well stop it, travelers of the world. Calgary is actually really cool, and a great city to spend a couple days in before you head to the national parks.

Calgary skyline
Calgary skyline
Pastries from Sidewalk Citizen in Calgary
Tasty treats in Calgary

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Tourism Calgary, who hosted me during my trip. As always, though, all opinions are my own!

I said more than once that I could totally live in Calgary, and I wasn't kidding – it's a great city!

If you want to find that out for yourself, here are just a few of the unique things to do in Calgary on your first real visit.

Top things to do in Calgary in summer

You might know that Calgary is a wintry destination thanks to the fact that it hosted the Winter Olympics once. But I think summer is actually the best time to visit Calgary.

Calgary is a great city to be in during the summer. It never gets too hot, there are always things going on, and there are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors without ever leaving the city limits.

Here are the best things to do in Calgary in summer:

1. Bike or walk the Bow River Pathway

Riding a bike along the Bow River in Calgary
Photo thanks to Twist Travel Mag

Like many major world cities, Calgary is built along a river: the Bow River. The river originates in the Rocky Mountains, and flows right through downtown Calgary.

The Bow River Pathway is a network of pedestrian and bike paths that connect both sides of the river and the various parks and neighborhoods along it. On a nice summer day, you can go for a walk or rent a bike to explore part of this beautiful trail.

Along the Bow River in Calgary
Along the Bow River

The river turns a bright glacial blue color during the summer months, and as you walk or cycle you can stop to admire bridges that cross the river – including the famous Peace Bridge.

This pedestrian-only bridge was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and unveiled in 2012. It's reported to be used by 6000+ people every single day.

Peace Bridge in Calgary
The Peace Bridge spanning the Bow River
Things to do in Calgary in summer
Walking across the Peace Bridge – but you can also bike it!

If you're visiting Calgary and don't have a bike of your own, you can rent one from River Valley Adventure Co. or Bow Cycle E-bikes, and then take your bike over to a newer section of pathway called RiverWalk, which stretches for 2 kilometers in the East Village neighborhood.

This is my #1 thing to do in Calgary in the summer simply because it's suitable for anyone and everyone, and doesn't cost a lot of money!

2. Float down the Bow River

The Paddle Station in Calgary
You'd probably never guess this was in Calgary!

Another way to enjoy the water in Calgary is to rent a raft or kayak from The Paddle Station in order to float down the Bow River.

The river isn't super dangerous, meaning you don't have to book a guide if you don't want to (though, I won't lie: it was great to basically not have to do any paddling on our guided float!).

Rafting the Bow River in Calgary
Floating down the Bow River

You can float for several miles down the river, including under some of the city's bridges. This is a great way to get a different perspective of the Calgary skyline.

Floating under the Peace Bridge in Calgary
Look at this cool angle of the Peace Bridge!

Booking with the Paddle Station includes all the gear you need, plus service at the start and end locations of your float. Plan to spend about 2.5 hours on the river.

3. Watch surfers at 10th Street Wave

Surfers? you ask. In a city? Yes! Calgary has a specific wave in the Bow River under the 10th Street Bridge that is perfect for river surfing.

You'll often find surfers here practicing their moves after work and on weekends.

River surfing in Calgary
Photo thanks to Tourism Calgary

4. Shakespeare by the Bow

Calgary is home to lots of parks and green spaces, but my favorite I visited was Prince's Island Park. It's a park located on an island in the Bow River, and is a super popular spot for everything from festivals to picnicking.

Prince's Island Park in Calgary
Prince's Island Park is SO pretty.

One unique thing that happens at Prince's Island Park every summer is Shakespeare by the Bow, an outdoor performance series put on by Theatre Calgary. They perform one Shakespeare play each year several times from June through August.

Outdoor Shakespeare play in Calgary
Shakespeare by the Bow

5. Go to a festival

Did I mention that Calgarians like to be outdoors in the summer? Well, they also LOVE festivals. The summer calendar in Calgary is FILLED with all sorts of interesting annual festivals.

Some of the most popular summer festivals include:

If you're visiting Calgary during the summer, chances are there might be a big festival going on.

6. Check out the Calgary Stampede

Barrel racing at Calgary Stampede
Barrel racing at Calgary Stampede

Speaking of festivals and events, we can't talk about summer in Calgary without talking about the Calgary Stampede.

With the tagline “The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth,” the Stampede is basically what you get when you cross a massive county fair with a rodeo. It has all the county fair trappings I know and love from growing up in Ohio (the fried food, the midway rides, the agricultural barns), but also centers around rodeo events like bull riding and chuckwagon races.

Bull riding at Calgary Stampede
Bull riding behind the scenes
Amanda with a cotton candy taco
Cotton candy taco, anyone?

Add in some beer tents, a Canada-famous Grandstand show, some First Nations culture, and a music festival atmosphere that spills out beyond the Stampede grounds, and you have a must-do summer event.

The Calgary Stampede runs for 10 days every July.

Fireworks over a stage at Calgary Stampede
Stampede Grandstand show

7. Go for a date night at Heritage Park

Calgary's Heritage Park is a massive outdoor living history museum on the banks for the Glenmore Reservoir. The park traces western Canada's history from the pre-railroad days of the 1860s all the way though to the 1950s.

The park covers 127 acres, and has all sorts of interactive environments from an 1860s fur trading fort where you can learn about how pelts were used instead of money, to a 1910s railway town where you can visit a print shop and ride a real steam train.

Railroad town at Heritage Park
Recreated railroad town
Old signs at Gasoline Alley at Heritage Park
Old signs and vehicles in Gasoline Alley

Heritage Park is great for kids, but has plenty of summer events that would make great date night activities, too.

For example, you can visit the Heritage Town Square for free concerts on Wednesday nights; sail on the S.S. Moyie (Calgary's only paddlewheeler) on a Captain's Cruise on Glenmore Reservoir; have a gourmet meal inside a vintage Canadian Pacific Railway car; or enjoy drinks and rides at an adults-only Night at the Midway. (Check out all upcoming events here.)

I went to Heritage Park not knowing what to expect, and found myself not wanting to leave 2 hours later.

Train at Heritage Park

8. Race down a mountain on a luge

Luging is generally a winter sport – unless you put wheels on a luge-shaped cart like they've done at Skyline Luge in Calgary!

If you're looking for an adrenaline-inducing activity that's suitable for the whole family, head to Winsport Canada Olympic Park. This was one of the venues for the 1988 Winter Olympics – you'll probably notice the ski jumps when you arrive!

Skyline Luge in Calgary
Photo courtesy of Skyline Luge

There are now several things you can do here during the summer months, from mountain biking to zip lining. You can also go down the Olympic bobsled track in a bobsleigh on wheels.

But the most fun thing you can do here? Go downhill karting with Skyline Luge! Climb onto a “luge” (a small plastic cart with wheels and bicycle-style steering), and zip down a curvy track alongside friends or family.

Skyline Luge track in Calgary
The Skyline Luge track

I haven't been “luging” in Calgary, but I have done this exact thing in New Zealand (Skyline Luge runs the luging in Queenstown and Rotorua, too), and can attest that it is SO FUN.

Where to stay in Calgary

On my own summer trip to Calgary, I was based at the brand new Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Downtown. This is the largest Residence Inn in the world (yes, really), and is probably the fanciest one I've ever stayed in.

Residence Inn Calgary Downtown room
My room at the Residence Inn Calgary Downtown

Rooms are large, complete with small kitchen, dining table, sitting area, bed, large closet, and bathroom. My room had 2 flatscreen TVs and huge windows with views of downtown Calgary. And, as a nod to the fact that the hotel sits where the historic Alberta Boot Company once stood, each headboard in the hotel has cowboy boot stitching.

Calgary view
The view from my window

Add to this a central downtown location and free breakfast, and you have a winner in my book. I would definitely stay here again.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room at the Residence Inn here

Other hotel options in Calgary that I would consider include:

Where to eat in Calgary

French toast from Burwood Distillery
Brunch at Burwood Distillery

Calgary is quite the foodie city, and there are tons of options when it comes to where you should eat and drink. In the summer, many Calgary bars and restaurants have outdoor patios that spill out onto (and sometimes beyond) sidewalks.

Some of my personal favorite places in Calgary that I would recommend include:

  • For coffee: Rosso Coffee Roasters – I got the CUTEST latte at Rosso's Inglewood shop.
  • For breakfast/brunch: Sidewalk Citizen – Flaky pastries and delicious breakfast sandwiches abound here. The East Village location shares space in the Simmons Building with Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, too, which makes it a perfect morning spot.
  • For brunch: Burwood Distillery – An unsuspecting brunch spot, I loved the options (both food and brunch cocktail) at Burwood Distillery.
Cat latte at Rosso
Coffee at Rosso
Bee pollen cocktail
Brunch cocktail at Burwood
  • For brunch/lunch: River Cafe – Located in Prince's Island Park, this cafe is in a beautiful spot in Calgary. It also serves up some delicious, locally-sourced food, too. We sat on the outdoor patio and had fruit plates and a cheese board.
  • For drinks: Shelter – This speakeasy-style cocktail bar is a super fun and funky spot to go out for drinks. The place is decorated with old lightbulbs and decorated gas masks, and they even offer cocktail classes a couple times per month.
Shelter speakeasy in Calgary
The inside of Shelter
Fruit and French toast from River Cafe
Brunch at River Cafe
  • For dinner: Ten Foot Henry – SO many locals raved about Ten Foot Henry – and the place totally lived up to all those stellar reviews. You'll find tons of great vegetable-centric dishes here, all of which are great.
  • For dinner: Una Pizza + Wine – If inventive gourmet pizzas paired with a huge wine list sounds like your jam, then definitely visit Una while you're in town. We went to the one on trendy 17th Ave., which is lined with restaurants and bars – almost all of which have summer patios.
  • For dessert: Made By Marcus – The line for this chain of local ice cream stores is often out the door during the summer, but it's worth the wait! Made By Marcus serves up all sorts of crazy seasonal flavors, and all their ice cream is made from scratch.
Pedestrian bridge in Calgary

Who is ready to plan a summer trip to Calgary?

Pin it for later:

Things to do in Calgary, Alberta in the summer
8 things to do in Calgary in summer

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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8 Comments on “8 of the Best Things to Do in Calgary in Summer

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  1. We are planning to be in Calgary in July. This is a very interesting and informative site. Any other information you can send? Do you have any kind of guide to the City? Husband is a photographer and we love to do outdoor stuff!

      I’m afraid this is the only thing I’ve written about Calgary. It’s a very cool city, and there’s so much to do in summer (as you can see from this post!).

    River surfing sounds like a fun activity to watch! 🙂 So does the Shakespeare play in the park. Calgary sounds like a surprisingly fun city!

      I can’t stop telling people how much I liked it. Of all the Canadian cities I’ve visited so far, I really could picture living in Calgary!

    I’ve lived in Vancouver for the last 10 years and I can’t believe I still haven’t made it to Calgary in all of that time. Twice my partner and I have planned trips to Calgary to visit family and do the Stampede, but we’ve had to cancel twice. We need to make it happen one of these years!

    I think you may have convinced me to check out Calgary! The river in the city looks lovely and I’m always keen for a gourmet pizza. Cheers!

      That’s great to hear! It’s a pretty cool city, and you certainly won’t be at a loss if you enjoy good food!

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