Calgary is a beautiful city, I know this for a fact because I’ve lived here for the last 18 (or so) years. And while it’s mostly a sleepy town known to visitors for our proximity to the mountains for 10 days every year Calgary is some travellers dream vacation spot due to the world-famous Calgary Stampede.
If you’re headed to good ol’ Cow-Town this year (yes, that is what the locals somewhat lovingly call the city) for this year’s big shindig (Calgary Stampede dates for this year are July 5 to 14), here’s a quick little handy guide:
Calgary Stampede Events
There are a ton of Calgary Stampede events over the course of the festival—everything from concerts and shows, to rides and value days. If you’re headed to the Stampede, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind, whether you’re planning to attend or avoid them.
Stampede “value” days:
- Calgary Stampede Sneak-a-Peek, July 4
- Parade Day, July 5
- Cenovus Family Day, July 7 (free entry before 11 am)
- McDonald’s Community Day, July 9 ($2 entry between 10 am and 2 pm)
- BMO Kid’s Day, July 10 (free admission for kids 12 and under)
It goes without saying that the value days tend to be busier than other days that the Stampede (which are incredibly busy to begin with), but if you are looking to cut some costs, they’re the days to keep an eye out for.
You can learn more about value days at the Calgary Stampede website.
Calgary Stampede Sneak-a-Peek
While the Calgary stampede officially starts on July 5, the Calgary Stampede Sneak-a-Peek night starts at 5 pm on Thursday, July 4. You can check out the rides, food and exhibits before the Stampede kicks off the next morning with the parade.
Tickets on Sneak-a-Peek day are $9 for regular grounds admission tickets with free admission for children under six, and midway costs are the same as they are every other day.
Calgary Stampede Parade
The Calgary Stampede Parade is the official Stampede kickoff event, and it takes place the morning of the first Friday during the Stampede. In this case, the parade is on July 5.
The Calgary Stampede parade is a great experience, but if you want a spot front-and-centre, you’ll need to get there early. While it starts at 9 am, people head to the parade route to find free seating SUPER EARLY.
Plus, the roads in the downtown area close at 7:30 am. I would highly recommend not driving downtown, and while you can take transit, you will have to walk a bit.
The Stampede website has detailed information about the parade route. So check it out before you go!
Grand Stand Show at the Stampede
The Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show—which is technically called the “Evening Show” though literally no one calls it that—takes place nightly inside the Stampede grounds at the Grandstand (go figure).
The show is actually a “double-header” that starts with the GMC Rangeland Derby (these are good ol’ fashioned chuckwagon races) and ends with a song-and-dance type show where the Calgary Stampede fireworks are featured.
You can get tickets for as low as $50 CAD on the website if you want to attend. I’ve attended once or twice in my life, and honestly legitimately enjoyed my time. I’d recommend it.
Calgary Stampede Concerts
There are a ton of event-like occurrences during the Stampede, but one of the things many people look forward to are the Calgary Stampede concerts.
Every year a ton of musicians make their way to Western Canada to attend the 10-day event and perform on one of the many stages. There are free shows inside the grounds at the Coca Cola Stage (previously I’ve seen Good Charlotte and Simple Plan here), and a number of paid concerts both on and off the grounds.
This year, some of the big acts coming this year include:
- Emerson Drive—July 4, Nashville North
- T-Pain—July 8, Coca Cola Stage
- Metric—July 10, Coca Cola Stage
- Jess Moskaluke—July 11, Nashville North
- Sugarland—July 13, Saddledome (Virgin Mobile Concert Series)
You can out the full list of concerts at this year’s event on the website.
Calgary Stampede Food
I’ll be honest with you, locals are mostly in it for the Calgary Stampede Midway food. Every year there are a whole host of mind-boggling food combinations that sound both delicious and disgusting all at the same time.
Picture the Canadian delicacy poutine, lined with bacon, doused in maple syrup, deep-fried and topped with cotton candy—OK, that’s not an actual dish, but you get the point.
Some of the best sounding 2019 Calgary Stampede food choices include:
- Corndog Poutine (found at the Mardi Gras Grill)—exactly what it sounds like, poutine topped with corn dogs!
- Edible Flower Ice Pop (found at Family Squeezed)—mojito flavoured with edible flowers
- Garlic Parmesan Freakk Fries (found at Freakk Fries)—crispy extra long fries tossed with delicious sauces
- Creamy Truffle Lobster Dumplings (found at Dumpling Hero)—lobster stuffed dumplings
You can find the quirky food choices mostly on the Calgary Stampede Midway inside the grounds. You’ll want to check out the Calgary Stampede food page to find out which food specials are at which stands.
Calgary is a great place to visit, and I’m not just saying that because I live here, but we’ve made it on a few of the must-visit lists in our lifetime. It’s honestly a gorgeous, quiet and safe city, that makes for a relaxing low-key vacation spot.
Where to Stay in Calgary During Stampede
If you haven’t booked your Calgary hotel room yet, chances are you won’t get one. But if you’re reading this article to plan for next year, I can give you a few tips about where to look for the best places to stay in the city.
If the purpose of your visit here is to attend the Calgary Stampede, the best place in the city to stay is the downtown area—this will cut down on your transportation costs because almost everywhere in downtown is within walking distance.
Some of the closest communities to the Stampede grounds include:
- Victoria Park—the Stampede grounds are in Victoria Park—Hotel Arts is the closest hotel to the grounds. Approximately a 5-minute walk.
- The East Village—the new Alt hotel is a cool choice. Approximately a 10-minute walk.
- The Beltline—the Farfield Inn is close, but slightly more expensive. Approximately a 10 to 20 minute walk, depending on where you are.
- Inglewood—this is a historic community, you’re probably best to find a B&B or an AirBnB in this area. Approximately a 15-minute walk.
- The Core—this is the business district of downtown Calgary, there are a ton of great choices, I would recommend the Sheraton if you can afford it. Approximately a 15-to-20-minute walk.
Hotels in Calgary around this time will likely be upwards of $150 per night. There are two hostels in the downtown area for cheaper lodging, Wicked Hostels in Victoria Park, and HI Calgary City Centre Hostel in the East Village.
Great Calgary Restaurants to Check Out
Calgary has some great restaurant choices, and a quick Google search will find you a host of great choices. That said, here are a few of my favourite places to check out:
Brunch: My favourite brunch joints are, hands-down, The Beltliner or Red’s Diner. Both are within walking distance of the Stampede Grounds in the Beltline district.
Lunch & Dinner: If you need a cheap lunch or dinner choice, I highly recommend El Furniture Warehouse on Stephen Avenue. It’s a 15 minute walk from the grounds, and their drinks and food are both cheap, all day long.
Late Night: If you’re hankering for a bite to eat after dinner, I would highly recommend checking out Posto. Their menu, which consists of amazing pasta and pizza choices, is half-price after 10 pm (in the last hour of services).
Other Things to Do in Calgary
Calgary isn’t all about the Stampede. If you have some time before, after or even during, to check out a few other things in the city, I would highly recommend visiting the following:
- The Calgary Zoo—we have panda bears, enough said.
- Chinook Mall—a great choice for high-end shopping, if you’re looking for discount shopping Cross Iron Mills just outside of Calgary’s north end is an off-season mall with high-end stores that have great discounts because their items are from last season.
- Heritage Park—if you’re into history and want to take a walk through historic houses, take in some dated amusement rides and get some great candy, Heritage Park in Calgary’s south end is a historic amusement park that’s a ton of fun.
Calgary is also an hour’s drive from Banff, Alberta, which is great for hikes, mountain sports and just general Alberta beauty!