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Why Calgary Is the Next Best Canadian City to Visit!

We’re back with our 2nd blog post from Alberta! This time we’ll be covering the city of Calgary and surrounding areas!

To be completely honest with you, we had zero clue what Calgary offered when we were in the beginning stages of this trip. We’re guessing that many of you are in the same boat if you’re not originally from Canada. So, we’re really excited to showcase and write about Calgary, because it’s actually an extremely fun city to explore!

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I’m pretty embarrassed to say that before this trip I had never been to Canada. Living SO close to it, traveling all around the world for a year and still being able to say I’ve never been to Canada seems so wrong on so many different levels. I’m happy to say I’ve finally been and it will definitely not be the last time!

So for starters, Calgary was the perfect introduction to Canada, in my opinion. We flew Air Canada from JFK directly into Calgary and in true Canadian fashion (from what I’ve heard!), everyone was so friendly and kind! From the moment we stepped off the plane, everyone working at the Calgary airport that we came in contact with was over the top nice. Usually whenever you’re in an airport it’s a frustrating experience on some level. Whether it’s going through customs, rude people working (who are probably just extremely tired!), waiting for your bags, it all can be a frustrating experience. Not entirely the best when starting out a trip to a new destination. That’s not the case in Calgary. At YYC Calgary International Airport they have these people (almost positive they’re called White Hats?) who walk around and basically are solely there to help you and put a smile on your face. And that they did! They answered any questions we had, they gave suggestions on things to do in the area and they also give the best hugs (I’m a hugger and so are White Hats, so don’t judge us ok).

We left YYC in such high spirits and headed off to where we would be staying during our time in Alberta, The Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Downtown/Beltline District.

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This Residence Inn was actually just recently opened this past year in cool part of downtown and is now the largest property in the brand’s global portfolio. Its 33 stories high and has just under 400 suites with some of the city’s best views!

If you’ve followed along with us on past trips, you’d know that most of the time we prefer to stay in Airbnb’s when in a place for more than 1-2 nights. However, this Residence Inn had everything we would have asked for in an Airbnb, plus more! First off, the suites are perfect as they are specifically designed for longer stays. They come with a fully-equipped kitchen, small living room, extra closet space and your typical bedroom/bathroom hotel room setup. We always enjoy having a kitchen as you know things can get expensive if you eat out every meal. In addition to the room setup, the hotel had so much more to offer. Some of the amenities that you’d be able to experience are a free breakfast buffet, 24-hour fitness center, a hip lounge area, valet parking, laundry room, a grocery delivery service and a coffee shop/market in the same building!

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After arriving at to our hotel we decided to go out and do one of the things we enjoy most after spending a few hours on a plane, EATING FOOD. We found this really great brunch spot called OEB Breakfast CO. It was the perfect first meal in Canada and we obviously got the Eggs Benedict with their Famous Canadian Bacon (If you didn’t eat Canadian Bacon, did you even go to Canada?). After brunch and a couple of cappuccinos it was time to experience the city!

We walked around Calgary for majority of the rest of the day, visiting two of Calgary’s most iconic structures: The Calgary Tower and The Peace Bridge. Unfortunately the Calgary Tower was closed due to construction while we were there but we would definitely recommend visiting and going to the top if you’re in Calgary. After seeing the Calgary Tower up close we decided to venture to another part of the city to see the uniquely designed/futuristic looking Peace Bridge. This had to be one of the coolest spots we saw in Calgary and the perfect place for a photo-op! After walking around all afternoon, we decided it was time to end the day with some craft beer and pizza at Minhas Micro brewery. We had to get our carbs in for the long day ahead of us as we were due to visit Banff in the morning!

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After a long/unforgettable day in the Canadian Rockies (we have an entire blogpost on Banff HERE), we had to get another good night’s rest as we were all set for one of our planned experiences, a hot air balloon ride at the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival in High River, Alberta. Unfortunately right before takeoff, the hot air balloon rides were cancelled because a snow was in the forecast and on it’s way to Calgary. This being a little setback did not stop us from enjoying our time in Calgary! We decided to go back to the hotel to get our daily breakfast and venture off to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in the town of Cochrane a surrounding area west of Calgary.

Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is a non-profit organizatiton that rescues neglected and abandoned wolfdogs throughout North America. It was awesome to learn all about these interesting animals and what it takes to own one. The sanctuary teaches and promotes responsible ownership techniques by way of numerous programs, as well taking on upwards of almost 20 wolfdogs into their sanctuary. We loved having an unclose experience with an animal we’ve never come in contact (or knew much about!) before. It’s definitely something we’d recommend doing while in the Calgary area!

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After a few hours with the wolfdogs we built up an appetite so quickly and googled a place on the way back to our hotel room. The Broken Plate Greek Restaurant had great reviews so we decided to give it a try! And we’re SO glad we did! Good Greek food can be hard to come by but this place put us right back into Greece with it’s delicious dishes. Make sure to order the Saganaki, a greek cheese that’s flambeed at your table!

On our last full day in Calgary the snow was in full effect. So much so that the helicopter ride we had planned for the morning was cancelled. As much as disappointment this was, the day wasn’t lost at all! We decided not to waste any time so we headed right to the New Central Library. The newly built library is a must see if you’re in the area. The outside architecture of the library is gorgeous but just wait until you get inside. Cascading floors offer a variety of activities for those that are active cardholders as well as those just visiting. There are numerous designated work areas whether you’re just popping in for a quick read or need to conduct an entire business meeting in a private room. Something that really stuck out to me was how many different spaces they have for kids and families. I know personally taking children to a library can be kind of daunting and even the tiniest peep out of the them would frustrate fellow library goers. But that’s not the case with the New Central Library. Families and kids of all ages are most definitely encouraged. So whether you’re just visiting Calgary for a short time or have lived in the area for a while, make sure to spend some time in the New Calgary Library, you won’t regret it!

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After exploring the library we headed out to one of our favorite things we did while in Calgary, an Alberta Food Tour! Throughout our travels, one way we loved connecting and learning more about whatever place we were in was through food. To be totally honest, when I thought of Calgary and Alberta in general, the first thought that came to mind was definitely not food. I was totally wrong! Now I can’t think of Calgary without thinking about the amazing things we tried on our Alberta Food Tour. The company has food tours throughout the Alberta area, located specifically in Calgary, Banff, Canmore and Edmonton. We hopped on the Calgary tour last minute and we’re so thankful there was still space for us!

Our first stop was at Cibo, an Italian restaurant known for it’s small plates and gourmet pizzas. We saw firsthand how the pizzas were made and then of course, devoured a few at the end of our stop there. They were incredible! And we don’t say the lightly being from the NJ/NYC area.

Next up we stopped at Vine Arts Wine and Spirits. A liquor store unlike any other! Personally I hate going in liquor stores in our areas. I can’t really explain it but Vine Arts is nothing like them. It’s got beers on tap, a chill feel to it and it hosts local tastings all the time! After a few tastes of some local brewed beer we made our way to Ollia Macarons and Tea to make some of our own tea and to try some macarons. Ok, here’s the deal with Ollia… I basically ate my body weight in macarons. I wish I was joking. I’m not even a ‘macaron person’, whatever that means. I’m still not sure I’m a ‘macaron person’ or if I’m just an ‘Ollia macaron person’ but regardless go here whether you think you like macarons or not because they’re out of this world good.

After stuffing our faces (and buying another box) of macarons we walked for a few minutes until we arrived at Anju, a Korean restaurant with tons of culture and a cool atmosphere. Nick and I were really excited for this stop because we LOVE Korean food. Anju did not disappoint. Known for it’s small plates and fun cocktails, it’s a must go if you’re in Calgary!

We had two more stops after our delicious Korean dish. The first stop was to the Calcutta Cricket Club. This is another must go, even if just for a drink or an appetizer. The inside of this place will let alone keep you there for an extended amount of time. It also helps that the Indian dishes they whip up are flavorful and authentic. Good Indian food in the States is hard to come by, especially since we’ve been to India and know firsthand how good the food is. So we were extremely surprised by the Calcutta Cricket Club! We will definitely be back the next time we’re in Calgary.

The last stop on the food tour was to Royale, a super stylish restaurant known for it’s brunch, it’s bar and it’s craft cocktails! Royale is a place I would absolutely meet my girlfriends for brunch. We had their signature tiramisu and a tasty drink before we had to head out.

Overall, Alberta Food Tour was such a fun experience for us! We not only learned a lot about food on this tour but we also learned about local farmers, as well as a bit of history on Calgary itself. Obviously we were just visiting Calgary for a short time and we’d definitely recommend it if you’re also visiting but you don’t have to be a tourist to attend this food tour! It’s a great way to meet people and explore Calgary, regardless of how long you’re visiting/lived there!

Our last day in Calgary was short because we had to catch our flight back to New York but we did manage to grab lunch and try another food spot! SaVeg Cafe in Calgary serves Korean style vegan dishes. Now you might be saying you’re not a vegan and neither are we but saVeg is definitely worth the stop if you need a quick lunch!

After our lunch we packed up our stuff, said a sad goodbye to our beautiful room at the Residence Inn (by Marriott Calgary Downtown/Beltline District) and headed to the airport to see my favorite people obviously, the White Hats. 🙂

As always we try to list things we didn’t get a chance to do but have on our list for next time. On our Alberta Food Tour we were really spoiled with tons of information from all those on the tour with us. They let us know about some local places that we’re definitely keeping in mind for our next trip to Calgary!

Here they are –

The Naked Leaf: a local tea shop. We actually did stop in here quickly! We bought a bunch of tea that I’m still sipping on currently!

Ox Bar de Tapas: Spanish tapas, need I say more?

Jinya Ramen: Always a yes to good ramen!

Native Tongues: we weren’t able to actually sit down at the restaurant because the wait was forever so we DoorDashed it instead! The tacos were good and I have a feeling they would have been a million times better if we sat down and ate then in restaurant. Probably not the smartest to DoorDash tacos. Next time we’ll dine in!

Kensington Road : We only had a short amount of time on Kensington, (this is where the Naked Leaf is located!) but we were told this area has so many shops, pubs and good places to eat!

17th Ave : Is another street known for it’s restaurants and entertainment. This is specifically where we were on our food tour!

After rereading this blogpost it sounds like we ate our way through Calgary. Which, I’m not even going to lie, we did! And it was totally worth it! Overall we were SO pleasantly  surprised by Calgary. It’s a gorgeous city, that’s over the top clean, has incredible food sourced by local farmers, offers lots of activities for tourists/residents and sits just a short distance away from one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen, Banff! We’re already trying to plan our next trip back! So don’t write Calgary off. It’s definitely a city we’re expecting to be on the rise in the near future!

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