NHL lockout: Fill-ins for Calgary Flames


Does the NHL lockout have you on edge? Think of the absence of hockey as a chance to go over the boards exploring the other options in the city’s you visit or live in. The Calgary Tower is one way to enjoy life without the Flames. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Jody Robbins Writer

CALGARY, ALBERTA — With the NHL lockout dragging on, hockey fans who normally visit Calgary better make alternate plans to fill their frozen winter nights. Fortunately, Calgary’s chock full of nationally acclaimed restaurants, newly opened beer halls and cool cultural experiences; we’re not all oil deals and Stampede, ya know. Here are some recommendations to fill the void without resorting to PS3 and X-Box in the absence of the Flames.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Calgary

Calgary is firmly on Canada’s culinary map thanks to innovative chefs and a dedication to locally sourced products. Model Milk and Borgo Trattoria were the only two restaurants west of Toronto to make enRoute magazine’s list of Best New Restaurants 2012.

“This recognition is as much for our guests and Calgary’s amazing culinary scene as it is for us,” says Justin Leboe, executive chef and managing partner of Model Milk.

Despite being located steps away from the Saddledome, Model Milk isn’t lacking customers despite the absence of Flames fans. Boasting one of the best burgers ($19) in the city, it’s also the place to go for a hearty Sunday dinner, served family style.

If you’re looking to whet your whistle, Cowtown has no shortage of beer halls.

Recently opened National focuses on North American micro-brews, while Fräuleins decked out in dirndl serve up satisfying steins at Wurst, a Bavaria-inspired bar where it’s OK to pretend it’s Oktoberfest any time of year. And you can always get your brew on at Craft Beer Market, reputed to have Canada’s largest selection of draft beer, with more than 100 on tap. For brewpubs, the Wild Rose Brewery was ranked No. 10 in’s 2012 list of Top 24 Brewpubs in Canada and serves award-winning beer.

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One of the best morning-after-the-night-before remedies can be found at Galaxie Diner, home of the city’s best all-day breakfast. You need to get here early to snag a seat in the stylized ’50’s diner, but it’s well worth it. Feed your hangover with the Cody Scramble ($11.50) or throw back a real milkshake ($4.50 for a small), if you can stomach it.

Science Centre Ignites Your Curiosity

Canada’s newest science centre  — the nation’s first in more than 25 years — isn’t the same joint you visited on school field trips, but it’ll likely make you feel like a kid again. On the second Thursday of each month, Telus SPARK! hosts an adults night for “kids” 18 and older. Wannabe Einsteins get free reign of the facility without kids, enjoying bar service and grooving to tunes cranked out by a DJ.

Get Cultured

Move over redneck reputation, Calgary’s wearing a new hat. As Canada’s Cultural Capital for 2012, Calgary boasts a wide variety of performances and artistic venues to explore the finer things in life.

Shake off your NHL withdrawal with a live performance at Loose Moose Theatre ($12-$15), an improv comedy company that serves as training ground for some of the country’s top acts. For 35 years they’ve been presenting weekly improv comedy to belly-laughing audiences for less than the cost of a movie ticket.

For a bird’s-eye view of the city, be sure to zip up to the top of the Calgary Tower, where you’ll be 191 metres above the city, enjoying views of the Rocky Mountains and the area’s downtown — which can be seen through the glass floor. There’s also fine-dining opportunities and an arts display at the top. Admission is $15.24 for adults and $6.67 for kids.

Cookin’ with Celebrity Chefs

There’s no shame in hibernating at this time of year, but eventually one gets bored of the same old recipes. Learning a few skills in the kitchen can go a long way. The Cookbook Co. Cooks dishes out classes led by Calgary’s top chefs almost every day of the week, including the ever-popular Friday Night Couples Classes ($90/person). And downtown deskers can get a leg up on dinner with the Rush Hour series ($40/person) at SAIT’s new Culinary Campus in Scotia Centre. Besides learning how to create a quick and healthy meal, participants avoid congestion and receive the necessary provisions to recreate the dish at home.

There’s Always Hockey in Calgary

Can’t stay away from the rink? Get your fix saddling up in the ‘Dome for some ice action courtesy of the Calgary Hitmen, the city’s junior hockey team. See future stars in action — before they become arrogant millionaires. These kids play hard, for both love of the game and a chance to make the show.

While mildly concerned about having to resort to talking about politics, the weather or god forbid, how he’s feeling, season ticket-holder Dean Koeller, is confident something positive will come out of all of this turmoil. “Maybe instead of talking to my neighbour (an Edmonton Oilers fan) about who has the better team, we’ll get to know each other a little better and find some common ground to make the over-the-fence dialogue even more entertaining,” he says.

Map Showing Model Milk, Craft Beer Market and Telus SPARK!

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Jody Robbins is a travel and lifestyles writer. Contributing to the Calgary Herald, Today’s Parent and Up! magazine, she divides her time between Calgary and Canmore. She is also the Family Travel Columnist for and the Alberta Regional Chair for the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, which earned 2.5 million Twitter impressions in its first month for the #Vacay50 hashtag campaign. Jody is active on Twitter (@Jody_Robbins) and maintains her own blog (Travels with Baggage), where you can keep up with all of her latest adventures. When not travelling with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband and one dog), this wannabe foodie can usually be found chowing down at the latest hotspots before attempting to work it all off on the trails.

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