Grey Cup of Travel: Calgary vs. Toronto

Grey Cup Toronto 2012


Story by Vacay.ca Staff 


The 100th Grey Cup celebrations have taken over Toronto, with a party atmosphere filling the city days before the Argonauts play the Stampeders. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The Argonauts and Stampeders will battle it out on the gridiron for CFL supremacy on Sunday, but which of the finalists in the 100th Grey Cup game hails from a better city for travellers?

Vacay.ca looked at how Toronto and Calgary stacked up against each other in seven categories. Here are the results:

SHOPPING: Both cities have Holt Renfrew locations for the high-end shopper as well as major downtown shopping centres (the CORE in Calgary; the Eaton Centre in Toronto). Although Toronto has the edge on trendy designer wear, boutique shops and vintage stores, Calgary is fixing itself up nicely. New stores have turned Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood, Inglewood, into a window-shopper’s delight. Plus, visitors can always shop to look “Western”, whereas Toronto’s style leans toward the usual denim and plaid. Best of all, Alberta doesn’t charge a provincial sales tax, so Calgary shoppers only pay the 5% additional GST charge that’s levied by the federal government. In Ontario, the HST (harmonized sales tax, a combination of provincial and federal taxes) is 13% on purchases. EDGE: Calgary

HOTELS: This one is the most lopsided of the categories. With the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Shangri-la, Trump Hotel, Thompson and Hazelton, Toronto is loaded with luxury accommodations, and also has the Drake and the Gladstone, two affordable West Queen West properties that are cultural hot beds. Meanwhile, Calgary has one of the better Fairmont properties, the Palliser, and an excellent boutique property, Hotel Arts, but is light on upscale and unique places to stay. EDGE: Toronto

DINING: Both cities have great restaurants — Toronto just has more of them. It also has more eclectic cuisine, with a selection of every kind of flavour you like. Calgary has its ethnic spots too, but, again, the lack of variety and choice isn’t there yet. While Model Milk in Calgary is one of the most exciting restaurants to open in the country this year, Toronto has two new establishments — Cafe Boulud at the Four Seasons and the Momofuku franchise adjacent to the Shangri-la — that have created a tremendous amount of buzz since opening this fall. EDGE: Toronto

ATTRACTIONS WITHIN THE CITY: Calgary has a tower that resembles Toronto’s CN Tower, but is 362 metres shorter — and that about sums up the difference between the two cities’ cultural offerings. Toronto’s museums, music venues, nightlife, cultural attractions and theatre outclass any other city in the country. Its public transit system, while far from excellent, is superior to Calgary’s. EDGE: Toronto

ATTRACTIONS CLOSE TO THE CITY: The Rocky Mountains or Niagara Falls? That’s what it essentially comes down to when trying to gauge a winner in this category. With the belief that going up is more exhilarating than looking down, the Rockies win out. There are also more wildlife-viewing opportunities in Alberta and the fossil sites in Drumheller are a short drive from Cowtown, too. EDGE: Calgary

MAJOR ANNUAL EVENT: The Toronto International Film Festival draws the biggest movie stars from Hollywood and elsewhere to reveal the best new films of the year. It is a massive event with huge economic impact for the city and one that fans clamour to attend each year. TIFF, though, can be an elitist event, with rope lines and  security teams with earpieces ready to intimidate. The Calgary Stampede, on the other hand, is the most fun you can have north of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Smiling volunteers meet visitors at the airport and hand out cowboy hats, free breakfasts are served daily, and the night-time fun is an attraction in itself. EDGE: Calgary


White hats and western hospitality are trademarks of Calgary, a friendlier city than Toronto. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

FRIENDLINESS: By world standards, Torontonians are terrifically friendly. By Canadian standards, they could do with some more cheer and warmth. Albertans tend to be quick with a smile and laugh, and the tight-knit Calgary community gives the city a great sense of civic pride, especially these days. Economic prosperity has made most people a little more joyous and ready to open up to conversation. EDGE: Calgary

WINNING CITY: We won’t know until Sunday if the Stampeders will be victorious in the Grey Cup, but the players and their fans can go in knowing their city is a superior destination to Toronto. In the Grey Cup of Travel, Calgary beats Toronto.

More About the 100th Grey Cup

Date: Sunday, November 25 at 6 pm at Rogers Centre, Toronto (broadcast on TSN). Tickets are sold out.
Halftime Show: Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and Gordon Lightfoot are among the performers.
Players to Watch: Stampeders running back Jon Cornish set a single-season record for Canadian-born players with 1,457 rushing yards this year. Quarterback Ricky Ray threw for 399 yards last week as the Argonauts beat the Montreal Alouettes to advance to the Grey Cup.
Grey Cup Festival: Festivities are happening throughout Toronto, including a fan-zone experience near Rogers Centre that features autograph signings and flag football games. For more, visit the festival website.
History: The first Grey Cup game was played on Toronto’s Rosedale Field on December 4, 1909, and was won by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. The game was not played for three years because of World War I, which is why 2012 marks the 100th Grey Cup contest. The Argonauts will seek their record 16th Grey Cup title while the Stampeders go after their seventh championship.
More Coverage: Read this article for additional Grey Cup party and festival information.

Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

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