A popular start or ending point for adventures and excursions in the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is a city that deserves more than an overnight stopover. Neither one of us is much of a city slicker but we believe Calgary to be on the more approachable side.
Maybe it is because we never feel too far from nature, with the Bow River flowing right through the heart of the city and incredible backdrop that is the Rockies.
Or perhaps it is that we’ve found plenty of fun things to do in Calgary for adults, something we look for in every city. This post will showcase the latter, to help you too enjoy the best of Calgary.
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Fun Things to Do in Calgary for Adults
This list is by no means exhaustive; there are undoubtedly dozens more fun things to do in Calgary for adults. These are, however, the activities we have enjoyed the most, discovered during multiple visits to Calgary in three different seasons.
We’ve spent the most time in Calgary during summer, so I admit that this list is also biased to that. Some of these activities can be done throughout the year, however.
As well as 15 things to do in Calgary for adults, I’ve also included 8 more bonus activities within three hours drive of the city. The flat, prairie expanse surrounding Alberta does make it incredibly easy to get anywhere fast!
WinSport bobsleigh, Skyline Luge and zipline
With three uniquely amazing activities at one location, WinSport should be near the top of your list when deciding on things to do in Calgary for adults.
My top recommendation at WinSport is definitely the Skyline Luge karting, primarily for how interactive AND budget friendly the experience it is. $25 gets you three rides up the chairlift and down the karting track.
Calgary’s bobsleigh was made famous by Team Jamaica during the 1998 Winter Olympics. You, too, can fly down the track at up to 80km/h in summer.
For even more thrills, check out the WinSport’s zipline. It’s the fastest in North America starts from the top of the Olympic ski jump tower.
Winter activities at WinSport include ice skating, hockey and the largest tube park in Western Canada.
The Calgary Tower has been adorning the skyline since 1968. Rising above the city at 190 metres, the Calgary Tower features 360 degree panoramic views from both the observation levels and revolving restaurant.
A glass floor feature enables visitors to see beyond their feet to the streets below in complete safety.
Although not the most original activity on this list of things to do in Calgary for adults, visiting the tower is an ideal way to visitors to get their bearings of the city.
Local residents may also learn a thing or two from the accompanying audio guide!
At the time of writing, the Calgary Tower is closed for lift maintenance.
Did you know that axe throwing is a competitive sport with leagues, federations and clubs around the world? I definitely didn’t, until visiting BATL (Backyard Axe Throwing League) in Calgary.
It’s more fun than you may initially think too, with most people finding axe throwing to have a quick learning curve.
As well as being a cardio exercise, a source of competition with friends, axe throwing is actually pretty cathartic. It’s social too, with a full menu and bar available at BATL’s facility in Calgary.
Advance bookings are available or you can just walk-in on Friday evenings and weekend afternoons. Be sure to ask to have a go at throwing the ‘big axe’ before leaving (pictured below)!
Brewery tour and tastings
Calgary’s craft brewery scene is booming (40+ breweries at last count), with the biggest concentration in the southeastern area of the city.
Besides going on a self guided tour, there are also organised tours. Many of the breweries offer tours of their own facilities, usually including a tasting drink or flight.
We checked out Minhas Micro Brewery in the northeast of Calgary. The brewery tour starts with an extensive tasting, before a behind the scenes look at the canning and brewing facility itself.
For $12, we found it to be very good value, especially as were were given full size beers and sodas (and the tour sampler glass) to take home as well.
Beyond beer, Calgary also has a number of cideries and a half a dozen distilleries. Cheers!
Cycling beer tour with Urban Pedal Tours
To see more of Calgary’s burgeoning craft beer scene, join Urban Pedal Tours’ for a one of a kind biking adventure. As a bonus, no-one has to drive!
Take a seat on the 15 person U shaped bike and pedal your way around to three local breweries, accompanied by music and an enthusiastic guide.
Moving at around 8km/h through the city, this bike adventure combines a scenic tour of Calgary with beer.
Choose from three different brewery ‘n’ biking tours, all two hours in length. If your group prefers wine, consider the “Wine and Wheels” tour that includes wine tasting with a sommelier alongside local sightseeing.
Gelato tour and tasting
For a cooler alternative to beer, consider gelato! Take a trip to Fiasco in northeast Calgary and discover the behind the scenes action of their hand crafted, small batch gelato factory.
Not just satisfied in making the best quality (and most inventive) gelato they can, Fiasco wants to enrich lives in other ways too. You can find out more on the tour, which also includes a gelato tasting flight (pick your own flavours!)
For a more interactive Fiasco experience, sign up to the Gelato Academy. In this class, you get to make your very own flavour of gelato.
2020 update – Fiasco Gelato has been renamed Righteous Gelato
Float or walk along the Bow River
The Bow River divides Calgary into two and brings nature right into the middle of the city. There are a number of ways to enjoy the proximity of the Bow River while in Calgary, from river side patios to picnics in the riverside parks.
My top two suggestions, however, would be to either take a walk along the banks of the Bow or raft right down it.
The latter is probably the most fun and can be surprisingly easy too, with shuttles and rental rafts available from Lazy Day Raft Rentals. The Bow River is classified as Level 1 so the rafting experience is mellow, though life jackets are recommended due to the strong current.
Studio Bell, Canada’s National Music Centre
Studio Bell is a place to celebrate music, both the musicians who have made it and the story of how it came to be. And you don’t have to be a music aficionado to appreciate it.
Indeed, JR and I aren’t particularly familiar with the music industry or the mechanics of music but we spent a good three hours here. We were particularly impressed to learn how many people in the Hall of Fame were Canadian and not American as we had always assumed!
There are plenty of interactive displays to inspire your musical side, including vocal booths, instruments and audio mixers.
Be sure not to miss the Kimball Theatre organ demonstration that takes place Wednesday – Sunday. This amazing organ from 1924 can imitate dozens of different instruments and was once used to accompany silent films.
It wouldn’t be quite right to talk about things to do in Calgary for adults without mentioning the Calgary Stampede in some way. This ten day extravaganza in July is, after all, one of the biggest annual events in the world.
Beyond the namesake rodeo, the Calgary Stampede has a huge range of activities for adults including live music, races, nightly fireworks, beer gardens, expo halls and more fried food than you can shake a stick at (frog legs, Oreos or giant squid anyone?)
Outside the Calgary Stampede grounds, there are free pancake breakfasts taking place in different communities every day.
In the evenings, prepare to party as patios, clubs and country themed bars offer Stampede specials and keep doors open late.
Self guided street art tour
Calgary has a lively street art scene, something that is easily noticeable when walking around downtown. One of the most vibrant aspects are the colourful murals that cover the side of many commercial buildings.
The Beltline, for example, has 11 permanent murals which depict Calgary’s cowboy roots, local indigenous culture, abstract patterns and wildlife.
Besides murals, there are also many fascinating sculptures and other art installations scattered around the downtown area. You can find a map of some of them here.
My favourite art piece has to be the so-called “drinking birds” – officially titled TRIO – located outside of the new Calgary Central Library (which is basically an art installation in itself!)
A calming place to escape from the city at any time of year, the Glenmore Reservoir is a favourite of locals. This artificial lake is located on the Elbow River and is accessible via both road and transit.
There is a 15km loop trail around the reservoir, great for both cyclists and walkers. Best used from March to October, the route has minor elevation and beautiful views of the foothills and mountains.
Glenmore Reservoir is a good paddling and fishing destination in the summer. Canoes can be rented on site at the Calgary Canoe Club.
If you’ve ever been curious about skydiving, iFly in Calgary offers an affordable way to try it it. iFly is an indoor skydiving experience in which you can try out the freefall experience in the safety of a wind tunnel.
Each ‘flyer’ receives 1-on-1 flight instruction to float on a cushion of air that simulates freefalling at 12,000ft (3650m) in the air.
I haven’t tried this yet myself but my friend Leigh from hikebiketravel.com did recently. She describes it as being ‘great fun’ but surprisingly tiring. So keep that in mind when planning post-iFly activities.
ParkRun in Nose Hill Park
Calgary’s Nose Hill Park hosts a weekly Parkrun, a completely free 5km international running event. Every Saturday, thousands of people in twenty two countries across the world run a timed Parkrun for training, exercise or just for fun.
Still a growing movement in Canada, Parkrun is open to everyone, no matter your pace (walkers are welcome too!)
Nose Hill Park is one of the largest urban parks in Canada (over 11 km²!) and offers a great retreat from the city. Sign up for Parkrun on the website, print your unique barcode and then meet the group at the Edgemount Boulevard parking lot at 8.50am on any Saturday.
Bonus: 8 fun activities around Calgary perfect for adults
Three hours of driving from Calgary opens up a huge range of activities and places to visit. The famed lakes and mountains surrounding Banff are undoubtedly the number one destination for many, but it’s not the only option.
Here are eight awesome alternative day trip destinations within three hours driving distance from Calgary.
Kananaskis Valley hiking
For hiking views to compete with Banff National Park but without the crowds, head to the Kananaskis Valley. Yes, it can get busy on summer weekends but there’s still plenty of trails to choose from.
We loved Burstall Pass (15.5km) for its gorgeous vistas accessible via only a few short uphill sections. Tent Ridge also offers fabulous panoramas, but a little more effort is required (and no fear of heights!)
Afternoon tea at Mount Engadine
The perfect reward for a day of hiking, afternoon tea at Mount Engadine Lodge in the Kananaskis Valley is both a treat and a scenic experience. $17.50 delivers unlimited artisanal tea and coffee, a charcuterie board full of tasty treats and homemade dessert.
Choose to sit in the cosy lounge or take a seat on the sunny patio overlooking the stunning river valley and mountain backdrop.
Waterton National Park
Another major destination for hiking near Calgary is Waterton National Park. Noticeably more relaxed than the other national parks further north, Waterton has all of the dramatic views and beautiful hiking trails you’d expect but with far less crowds (even in summer!)
Our highlight was the Crypt Lake trail. This is an adventurous 18km return hike that starts with a boat trip across Waterton Lake and culminates with a steel ladder, blasted tunnel and exposed rocky traverse above a 200 metre (650ft) drop off.
Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum
Enter the badlands region in east-central Alberta and you’ll find some of the most formidable (and peculiar) scenery in Canada.
The bizarre looking rock formations have been caused by thousands of years of erosion and are best seen on foot (try the Horsethief Canyon trail).
One of the richest fossil beds in the world is lying under this strange landscape. Often nicknamed ‘the dinosaur capital of the world,’ Drumheller is also home to the incredible Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.
Displaying more than 130,000 fossils, this museum is a must see if you have even the smallest interest in dinosaurs. There are hoodoo hiking trails around the museum as well.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Another must see spot in the Alberta badlands, Dinosaur Provincial Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. More complete dinosaur skeletons (150!) have been discovered in Dinosaur Provincial Park than anywhere else in the world.
Besides the excellent visitor centre and fossil ‘houses,’ there are a number of great hiking trails to explore the badlands scenery in the park. There’s also a huge range of interpretive tours that take you beyond the public areas to fossil dig sites and secret viewpoints.
Located 160km southeast of Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park is best explored on a dedicated day trip from Calgary.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park (Aisinai’pi)
An incredibly sacred place to the local Blackfoot people, Aisinai’pi (or Writing-on-Stone) has the most significant concentration of petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) in the Great Plains of North America.
Some of the surviving examples of pictographs and petroglyphs at Writing-on-Stone date back as far as 2,000 years.
The drive to Writing-on-Stone is about three and a half hours from Calgary (OK, I cheated). It is, however, perfectly possible to see everything in the park in a day. Like Dinosaur, there are also guided tours to some of the protected sections of the park in addition to self guided hiking trails.
Bomber Command Museum of Canada
For a unique Alberta experience, put on a hard hat and explore the inside of a WWII era Lancaster FM159 bomber.
One of only 17 left worldwide, this aircraft is the centerpriece of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton. Admission to the museum is by donation, though entry into the Lancaster itself is $2.
Besides the collection of aircraft inside the hangar and outside the museum, there are also displays about the Dambusters Raid and the Great Escape in World War II.
We combined a trip to the Bomber Command Museum with Vulcan (below) since they are located about 30 minutes apart.
Originally named after the Roman God of Fire, this small town’s name is now better known in association with Star Trek.
And that connection is definitely embraced! You’ll find Star Trek themed road signs, shop windows, street art, monuments and more.
Vulcan’s Visitor Centre doubles up as a ‘Trek Station’ (free entry) with memorabilia and displays about the long running series.
Trekkies can even dress up in Starfleet uniforms in front of a green screen. There’s also a free (!!) municipal park campground in town, so stay overnight if you can!
Where to stay in Calgary
On a budget? HI Calgary City Centre is a solid option. Located centrally, the HI has both shared and private rooms. Breakfast is included.
Top rated on Booking.com – For the best, look no further than the Hotel Le Germain. Spacious rooms, very central location and complimentary breakfast.
Thank you to Tourism Calgary for providing us with a Calgary Passport during our visit, enabling us to see and do more in Calgary. Thanks also to the Calgary Stampede media team for setting us up with Stampede tickets.