AAA Travel Tips / 7 Things to Do in Calgary Off the Beaten Path

7 Things to Do in Calgary Off the Beaten Path

AAA/Katie Broome
By AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome
December 02, 2019
Nature lovers, musicians, adventure seekers and history buffs will all find something special in Calgary. We hit the streets to discover the best off-the-beaten-path things to do in Calgary that aren’t your typical tourist attractions, and here is what we found.
AAA/Katie Broome

Cross the Peace Bridge into Kensington Village

One of the coolest neighborhoods in Calgary—Kensington Village—is just a short walk from the downtown core. If you’re on foot (or bicycle or electric scooter), cross over the Bow River on the Peace Bridge; the striking steel structure resembles a giant red finger trap puzzle, spanning the river without a single support beam or cable.
Once you reach Kensington Village, wander its two main streets (10th Street N.W. and Kensington Road N.W.) to discover all sorts of trendy local shops and hangouts. A few fun places we recommend: Pages Books on Kensington (1135 Kensington Rd. N.W.), Winebar Kensington (1131 Kensington Rd. N.W.) and the Regal Cat Café (303 10th St. N.W.).
AAA/Katie Broome

Explore Downtown Calgary on a Walking Tour

What better way to learn about the city than from a local? If you have a few hours to spare, hit the streets on a downtown Calgary walking tour. Two companies offer top-notch guided tours that will provide a good overview of what to see and do and point you to some of the best hidden gems.
CalgaryWalks & Bus Tours has a downtown walking tour that is perfect for anyone interested in architecture and history; the 2-hour jaunt includes stops at the visually stunning Calgary Public Library, the Stephen Avenue Walk, Olympic Plaza, the Plus 15 Pedway system and some Instagrammable public art. Walk the YYC hosts free tours where the only payment requested is a tip for the guide. Phone (855) 620-6520 for CalgaryWalks or (416) 697-7654 for Walk the YYC.
AAA/Katie Broome

Jam Out at Studio Bell, Home of the National Music Centre

Experience a whole different kind of museum at Studio Bell, the impressive new home of the National Music Centre. Five floors of exhibits will introduce you to Canada’s music makers and innovators, highlighting Canadian artists and musical groups like Celine Dion, Drake, Arcade Fire, k.d. lang, Joni Mitchell and Alanis Morissette. Listening stations, touchscreens and vocal booths encourage interaction and learning, and many instruments—including a drum kit, a guitar and even Elton John’s practice piano—are on display and can be played. Check the online calendar before you visit, as a performance space hosts regular concerts (some free!).
AAA/Katie Broome

Shop Local in Inglewood

Spend an afternoon in Inglewood, one of Calgary’s oldest neighborhoods located just east of the newly minted East Village. Independent shops line both sides of Inglewood’s main street (9th Avenue S.E.) and a few surrounding streets, catering to seemingly every whim imaginable. Find unique cooking spices at The Silk Road Spice Merchant, army surplus gear at Crown Outdoor & Tactical, beard grooming supplies at Kent of Inglewood, floor-to-ceiling vinyl selections at Recordland, terrariums and gardening gear at Plant and all sorts of cool craft kits at Stash Needle Art Lounge. If all that shopping makes you hungry (and thirsty), pop into local favorite Without Papers Pizza or one of Inglewood’s many craft breweries or coffee shops.
AAA/Katie Broome

Snap a Photo of the City Skyline from Prince's Island Park

Take a stroll through Prince's Island Park to see the city skyline from a new perspective. Occupying an island in the middle of the Bow River (and just steps from the downtown core), the park is a popular destination for office workers on their lunch breaks. Grassy fields, shaded picnic areas, paved walking paths, river views and an educational trail through an urban wetland are among the highlights. If you want to linger in the park a bit longer, consider making a dinner reservation at the upscale River Cafe near the center of the island.
AAA/Katie Broome

Tour the Brand New Calgary Public Library

One of the most buzzed-about Calgary attractions isn’t your typical tourist destination—it’s a library. The new Central Library branch opened to much fanfare in Calgary’s East Village in late 2018, and the $245-million building certainly lives up to the hype.
Designed by an international firm, the Central Library’s most impressive feature is its architecture—wander the four floors on a self-guiding tour to see it for yourself. Other draws include a mural made out of books, a selection of indigenous art in the entryway, a children’s section with games and play structures, and an on-site café and restaurant. If you want to know more about the building itself, reserve a spot on the daily architectural tour (it’s free!).
AAA/Katie Broome

Walk, Bike or Scoot on the Bow River Pathway

Calgary boasts one of the largest and longest paved urban trail systems in North America, and a particularly scenic section runs right through downtown along both banks of the Bow River. It’s easy to explore the Bow River Pathway on foot, bike or even electric scooter (a trend in recent years); the paved route is protected from vehicle traffic and has separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians in busy areas. You’ll have great views of the river and bridges all along the way, and a portion called the RiverWalk (between Centre Street and 9th Avenue S.E.) features public art and a trail-side café ( Sidewalk Citizen Bakery) that makes for a great pit stop.

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