Life In the Big Green Jolly

Embrace local. Explore often.

Embrace local.  Explore often.

How to spend 48 hours in Calgary

art in Chinatown neighborhood of Calgary. Silver arch with a dragon reflecting trees, wolf statue looking back towards the arch

Calgary is the largest city in the Alberta province of Canada.  The city vibe is welcoming, trendy, and upbeat. It is a pedestrian and cyclist friendly city.  

Forty-eight hours in Calgary gives you a taste of all the city has to offer.

Day 1

Fly into Calgary International Airport mid-afternoon.

Take an Uber from the airport to downtown.  There is a public bus to downtown but the Uber will be faster.  Plus the Uber driver will likely give you advice on where to eat and what to see.  If one of the tips is to “watch out for the Canadian beer – it’s strong”, you might find that driver’s definition of “strong” is different than yours.

Drop your bag at your hotel of choice.  We found the Ramada Plaza on 8th Ave SW to be a great selection for our home base.

Walk to a local brewery.  Last Best Brewery in the Beltline district is a great option for upscale pub grub and a micro-brew.  The “There will be Porter” beer pairs well with the appetizer Spent Grain Falafels. The noise level in the brewery is loud so plan to play charades with your server.

Wander down Stephen Avenue (also known as 8th avenue).  Part of the walk is pedestrian-only.  Be sure to check out the Galleria Trees between 2nd and 3rd street.  These large sculptures, in December, were lit up and playing holiday music. In addition to having an aesthetic function, these sculptures have a functional purpose – to cut down on the wind tunnel effect on this section of the street.

White sculptures called Galleria Trees on Stephen Walk in downtown Calgary
Galleria trees

Day 2

Be grateful breakfast is not included in your hotel stay.  Walk to the Galaxie Diner on 11th street SW pausing to admire the random murals on your stroll.  Trust us – you will appreciate the walk once you see the amount of food on your plate. Get there early otherwise plan on waiting in line outside.

mural on a house, aliens or gargoyles. Calgary, Canada.
Mural, Beltline District. Calgary.

I strongly recommend the Galaxie French Toast.  This is the first time I’ve had grilled banana and I hope it won’t be my last. Real maple syrup is served –  try not to drink it straight up. If you are a meat eater, order the breakfast burrito. If you have room, the hash browns and toast are ‘unlimited’.

Man standing in front of Galaxie Diner, Calgary.  Sign says
Galaxie Diner – home of the all-day breakfast

Call an Uber to drive you to the Winsport complex.  The venue is about 25 minutes northwest of downtown.  Winter activities include skiing, tubing, luge, and bob-sled experiences.  Plan to spend a minimum of three hours playing here.

Man launching from the starting block of indoor luge practice track at Winsport
Winsport “Try Luge” experience

Return to your hotel to get ready for dinner.  Assuming you did not make advance reservations, plan to dine early for your best chance at getting a table.  If a table is available, go to Ten Foot Henry.  If the hostess offers to seat you at the chef’s table, take it.  It is a community bar table that overlooks the cooking area and is great entertainment as you eat.  Know that meals are served “family style”. Think tapas or “small plates”. Three to four plates are sufficient for a couple.

After dinner, walk to another local brewery.  Inner City Brewing on 11th Avenue SW is a low-key choice.  Ask about their ‘infusions’. A brew-master takes an on-tap beer and runs it through some type of infuser to change the flavor.  The intent is to see what flavors meld well with an existing beer and what the public thinks of the result. This helps them create unique combinations during future brewing events.  

During our visit, the porter had been infused with ingredients that made it taste like a liquid smore treat. Quite tasty. The brown ale had been infused with coconut and curry flavors. We were skeptical. Surprisingly, those flavors melded together nicely. I asked the brew-master if he expected that infusion to work – he laughingly said everyone told him he was crazy to try it.

Day 3

Again, be grateful breakfast is not included in your hotel stay.  Walk to Sidewalk Citizen Bakery on Confluence Way.  Grab a table where you can admire the view of the Bow River.  If charred avocado is available, try it. For a unique breakfast, order either of the shakshuka dishes.  Be sure to order a pastry so you can eat it slowly while watching the hundreds of runners on the RiverWalk.  More than a few runners will gaze enviously at your sweet treat. Contemplate maybe joining in on a run next time you are in town.  The running groups look like they would welcome visitors if you offered them a pastry.

Geese standing on ice in Bow River, looking at northern bank skyline
Bow River, Calgary.

Stroll down the RiverWalk.  Be sure to cross over the Bow River via the George C King bridge to get a bird’s eye view of Saint Patrick’s Island.

George C King bridge over partially frozen Bow River in Calgary
George C King bridge

Calgary has strong support for public art. That is evident in the many murals along the riverwalk. The current installation is “Window to the Wild” by local artist Curtis Van Charles Sorensen.

Lion statue atop base indicating Sien Lok Park, Chinatown neighborhood of Calgary in snow.
Sein Lok Park

Continue west on the riverwalk and then head south on Centre Street to stroll through part of Chinatown.  Admire the lion statues at the entrance to Sien Lok Park, Chinatown’s green space. According to the Sein Lok Society of Calgary, “sein lok” translates to “happiness through good works”. Vow to explore Chinatown in more depth on your next visit.

Observe the lion statues on top of the Centre Street bridge. Lion statues have graced the bridge since 1916. The current lions are replicas of the original statues. In the early 2000s, the city removed the original statues for preservation and display elsewhere in the city as the Calgary winters were taking their toll on the historical statues.

Centre Street Bridge with Lion statue on top of bridge
Centre Street Bridge Lions

Grab a rental car and head out to your next adventure at Banff National Park or Columbia Valley.


Forty-eight hours in Calgary allows you to skim the “to-do” list of eating, drinking and outdoor fun. While you can use Calgary as a gateway city to other Canadian adventures, Calgary is a destination city in its own right.

Fast Facts

  • Trip Date: December 2018
  • Location: Calgary, in Alberta Canada
  • Cost: $ – $$$ depending on selected activities

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