Story by Jody Robbins
Vacay.ca Family Columnist
While the mountains have their charm, many choose to kick back and take advantage of the city’s growing culinary and arts scene. Here’s a local’s guide to making the most of your time here.
It All Begins at Breakfast
Brunch is almost as popular here as it is in New York. But when deciding between an old-school diner and a modern eatery, Calgarians look to the past.
Chowhounds saddle up to a counter stool for an all-day breakfast at Galaxie Diner, or linger over the well-developed menu at Blue Star Diner, just north of downtown. It’s licensed so be sure to sip one of the breakfast cocktails to get your day going. And then there’s Diner Deluxe, whose meatloaf hash is considered one of city’s best breakfast dishes. Those who prefer a more well-heeled start to the day step into the bistro setting at Cucina Market Bistro, across the street from the luxury department store Holt Renfrew and the 47th-ranked entry in the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide.
What to Do on the Weekend in Calgary
It’s no secret Calgarians love to shop. But locals hit the high streets just as often as the mega malls. Many prefer to pop into the posh stores in Kensington Village before crossing the controversial Peace Bridge onto Prince’s Island Park. This island oasis within the city features a well-equipped playground and River Cafe, which ranked 22nd on the Vacay.ca list. The restaurant has re-opened and is doing bustling business after the June flood forced it and many other businesses to shut down. Inside, you’ll feel like you’re in an upscale hunting lodge as you warm up by the wood-burning fire and tuck into seasonal, sustainable cuisine (including many game options) amid the rustic furnishings.
No question about it, exploring fall foliage via the pathways that flank the Bow River is best by bike. Rent a retro city bike from BikeBike (which will deliver to your door if its staff isn’t slammed with work in the store) or get cruising on a Brooklyn Cruiser, available for guests at Hotel Arts and Kensington Riverside Inn.
Want to really break a sweat? Head to One Cycle Spin Studio for a full body indoor cycling workout similar in style to celebrity favourite Soul Cycle. Those looking for a good stretch hit their mats at Hot Shop, a Bikram yoga studio in the Beltline area of the city. And nature buffs who don’t want to hit the highway in order to explore the great outdoors take refuge on the trails of Fish Creek Provincial Park, one of Canada’s largest urban parks.
Fine Dining Heats Up Calgary
In recent years Calgary has been flexing its culinary chops, claiming eight of the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada spots. Wondering where’s the beef? This may be cattle country with several great steak joints, but you won’t find a T-bone at Muse. Diners will, however, be exposed to New American cuisine and a chef’s tasting menu at this recently revamped dining establishment. Locals are also loyal to Il Sogno, a romantic spot going 13 years strong, undoubtedly thanks to the handmade pasta made each week by a 65-year-old Calabrese nonna.
Bottoms Up in Cowtown
Care to whet your whistle? Cowtown offers plenty of watering holes to tempt thirsty travellers. Focusing on North American microbrews, National Beer Hall pulls plenty of pints, but it’s the property’s basement bowling alley that keeps the good times coming. Draft sparkling wine and regional Rocky Mountain cuisine is had at Bar C, while the Ship & Anchor is arguably the city’s most popular and unpretentious pub. For craft beer lovers, the Wild Rose Tap Room & Brewery is in a converted military supply store and rank 10th among the Top 24 Brewpubs in Canada.
Where to Sleep in Calgary
One of the city’s few boutique hotels, Hotel Le Germain, is sumptuous and modern in its design, and ideally situated in the downtown core. Female travellers do well with a stay at the recently renovated, all-suite International Hotel. Its women’s-only Orchid Floor offers complimentary white wine and baskets filled with essential items like healthy snacks and pantyhose.
More Vacay.ca Coverage of Calgary
Tourism Calgary website: www.visitcalgary.com
A Map Showing Some of the Businesses in the Article
View Larger Map