Due to the recently beautiful weather we’ve been having, I’m interrupting my Netherlands recap to bring you something more locally based.
I’ve teamed up with Expedia.ca to bring you my favourite places to enjoy nature in Calgary. Because, while Calgary is usually known for its proximity to the mountains, there are actually quite a few places to visit within the city that will save you at least 2-4 hours of driving.
Below, I’ve categorized my selections so that you can pick the spot that suits your mood for the day. So, check out the list, grab a picnic, throw on your runners, and get going!
One thing that’s always true for Calgary is that you really don’t know how long sunshine and warm temperatures will last, so when you get both, you have to make the most of it.
Best trail selection
There are a number of large parks in Calgary if you’re looking for hiking or biking trails. From inner city to down south, they are easily accessible and large enough to get lost for a day.
Fish Creek Park is located in the deep south, and boasts approximately 13.5 square kilometers of green space. The largest urban park in Canada, it’s full of forests, rivers, and plains, in addition to a variety of birds, critters, and larger wildlife. Free for admission, Fish Creek also has areas for swimming and day camping.
Nose Hill is another vast inner city park, which is mainly made up of plains. It’s perfect for a sunny day, but with little treed areas, it can get quite hot. Again free for entry, it possesses a number of trails designated for hiking or biking, as well as a large off-leash area for dogs. During your walk, you’ll spot a number of floras, and a pretty wicked view of the downtown core.
Best spots to enjoy a meal nearby
From quick bites to fine dining, there are a number of parks in Calgary to suit your refreshment needs.
Central Memorial Park is only a block wide, but boats beautiful flower gardens and a set of fountains. Within it, is Boxwood Café, a tiny restaurant featuring fresh ingredients and rotisserie meat. Unfortunately closed at the moment, a new concept is set to open in the fall and I am sure it won’t disappoint. In the meantime, Central Memorial is a frequent hub for some of the city’s best food trucks.
St. Patrick’s Island is another great green space to enjoy a picnic lunch. Minutes from the Simmons building in East Village, you can grab a variety of treats, sandwiches, and salads from Sidewalk Citizen, or enjoy a sit down lunch at Charbar.
If you’re unsure whether you want a picnic or a fine dining experience, Prince’s Island Park is another great option full of opportunities. On the edge of downtown, it’s home to a number of great restaurants with takeaway or sit down meals. For pastries, sandwiches, or pizzas, head a few blocks over to Alforno, and for celebratory or fine dining, book yourself a reservation at River Café. Home to a number of events such as Folk Festival or Shakespeare on the Bow, you’ll likely find some entertainment while you’re there.
Best parks for activities
Calgarians are quite active, and as such, there are a number of areas to enjoy sporting or leisurely activities.
Glenmore Reservoir is likely the most activity-focused and family friendly park in Calgary. With a south and north side, its home to a large path for cycling or jogging, tennis courts, as well as water based activities such as sailing, boat, or kayak rental. In addition to a number of trails and the reservoir itself, you’ll find the Weaselhead Natural Area and Variety Spray Park.
Riley Park, located close to SAIT, is another of the more activity-based parks in Calgary. It’s home to a cricket pitch, picnic tables, rock garden, and playground, making it an inner city attraction. In addition to these formal features, you’ll quite often spot a pick-up match of soccer, football, or even frisbee.
Sandy Beach is much more of a relaxed park, with its main activities being sun bathing and wading in the river. One thing to note is that this park has minimal parking, so it’s better if you can park your vehicle farther away (or avoid driving in general), and walk your way in. Located along the Elbow River, Sandy Beach is frequently used as a starting point for river rafters, although you’ll want to make sure you do your research on what to bring and what type of raft to use. With one of the few beach areas in town, you can spend the day relaxing in the sun, cooling off when necessary, and then use the BBQ stands to whip up a meal in the evening.
Already mentioned above, St. Patrick’s Island is another great place to enjoy an afternoon of activities. With a small wading area diverted from the river, it’s a beautiful spot to cool off and relax. Take a walk around the island using one of the trails and spot some of the best views of the inner city, or cross over one of the bridges and into Inglewood. Combining nature with inner city life, there are tons of events hosted by East Village here, including Thursday movie nights on the rise, or tobogganing come winter.
Best places to take your furry friend
There are a number of excellent off leash parks in the city, perfect for spending some quality time with your pooch. With over 150 areas, off leash designations make up approximately 17% of Calgary parks!
Sophie’s favourite, is River Park. With a long stretch of grass for running, and a loop of trails for those wanting a bit of exercise, it’s the best of both worlds. You’ll find all breeds, from large to small, and it’s sure to tire out your best friend. The main area takes about an hour to walk (plus added time for fetch), and then there are a number of offshoot paths that will take you down to the river for a dip. Watch out for signs, as some of these are strictly on-leash areas.
Another crowd favourite is Edworthy Park. With three large areas for running, and a number of trails, it’s a great option if you’re looking to spend a few hours outside. It can get busy early weekend mornings, but there always seems to be enough parking.
Smaller in size but closer to the river, is Roxboro Park. It’s much shadier and suitable if your dog gets hot in the sun. It’s also got a lengthy trail (on-leash) as well as a few spots to head down and into the river.
The smallest of them all is the fenced area in the Beltline, at Connaught Park. It’s too small for a game of fetch, but it’s the perfect inner city spot if your pooch just wants to play around with a few of his or her pals. Entirely fenced in, it’s got dog-friendly features such as a raised play area, concrete seating, and a doggie fountain. It’s more suitable for smaller dogs due to its size, but with that being said, Sophie’s known to have enjoyed it a time or two.