A Toronto does not a Canada make.
Toronto’s Cool, But What About the REST of Canada?
Ask most Torontonians what Canada means to them, and they’ll give you a perfect view that sounds very… Toronto.
Busy and abundant with life. Representation from every corner of the world. It’s everything we big city slickers spout when we want to prove why our city is better than yours, but that’s from the same city who rarely explores their country east of Montreal or west of Niagara Falls. Instead, we hop on the nearest flight to the Dominican Republic or Cuba—after all, it’s hotter, cheaper, and it takes a lot less time to plan an all-inclusive vacation. But I’ll say the same thing about our country that I did about camping—it’s a mighty big world out there, and we’re doing ourselves a horrible disservice by not experiencing more of it.
Let me tell you some of what I’ve seen.
Welcome to Canada! Well… at Least SOME of it!
At 9.985 million square kilometres, Canada’s the second-biggest country in the world, but much of it’s woefully underutilised.
But this isn’t the Canada I grew up discovering—it’s the 99.93% of the country that isn’t the Toronto area. The travelling I did with my parents was to see family—affording anything else simply wasn’t in the cards. But the travelling bug eventually caught me, and I realised how important it was to see more of my country if I truly wanted to call myself Canadian.
So on this journey to see the Canada everyone else sees so I can better understand it—and taking my kids along for the ride—I’d like to share some thoughts on this country with you from some of the people who live within it.
Our first stop? Calgary, Alberta—Canada’s great cowboy capital of the west!
IS the West the Best? Let’s Find Out!
I’ve yet to give Calgary a proper chance, only spending a couple of days there after a week of visiting family in mountainous Canmore. Yes, the mountains blew us away, but all we packed in on that trip were the Calgary Stampede, Heritage Museum, and a lunch with some fellow #BiSC-uits at the Cactus Club.
Knowing that two days in Cowtown wouldn’t tell me everything I needed to know about the city, I reached out to Dashing Dad—one of its few Dad Bloggers—to help me fill in the blanks and show me what his city means to him.
So sit back, relax, and think about changing your travel plans, because Calgary has plenty to offer.
The Life of a Stay-at-Home Dad in Calgary
by Dashing Dad
For the last 27 years Calgary has been home and while I wasn’t born here and didn’t completely grow up here, it is the city I most identify my personality with.
And I love it.
Our proximity to the mountains, our growing entertainment scene, the endless amount of adventures for my daughter and I are just a few of the many things that make this city awesome.
What follows are just some of the reasons I love it here and why you should too (or at the very least come visit ?).
The Great Outdoors Are Everywhere
I’m not sharing any insider tips by saying Banff and Banff National Park are an amazing reason on their own to come to Calgary. From my doorstep, my daughter and I can be wandering through Banff in under two hours – which I’m told is about the average commute time on the 401. Banff has great hiking, skiing, and just about any other outdoor sport you want to do.
But what gets forgotten is that there is way more than just Banff around Calgary and if you’re looking to get outside without battling thousands of tourists at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake then boy do I have some suggestions for you!
I live in the southwestern quadrant of Calgary and literally twenty minutes from my house is this:
Elbow Falls is a great area to take kids. They can marvel at the waterfall and the river – my daughter got really mad at us that we wouldn’t let her swim in it – or hike through the forests and hills that surround it.
However, if it’s stunning views you’re looking for, then this view is a short 15-minute drive from the city.
But hey, maybe you don’t want to leave the city? After all, if you’re coming to see Calgary you want to see Calgary. Fair enough, we still have you covered.
Enter Fish Creek Provincial Park.
Fish Creek Provincial Park
Fish Creek Park is a provincial park and is the second largest urban park in Canada (just edged out by Pippy Park in St. John’s). As one of the largest urban parks in North America, Fish Creek Park is four times the size of Central Park in New York City and three times the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. (Fish Creek is 3,349 acres, Central Park is 843 acres, Stanley Park is 1,001 acres).
I can walk here.
How amazing is that?
Things To Do With Your Kids In Calgary
If getting outdoors isn’t your thing, don’t worry there’s still LOTS to do around Calgary to keep you and your kids entertained.
Places like the Calgary Tower, TELUS Spark and Winsport (formerly Canada Olympic Park. Check out Dashing Dad’s Instagram to see a video of him doing the latest attraction “Free Fall”) are awesome places to take the kids, but my daughter and I love Heritage Park.
Heritage Park is a historical village located on the Glenmore Reservoir. It’s open every day during the summer and on reduced hours in the fall and winter and is an awesome place to spend a whole day with your kids.
From the steam engine train to the car museum (complete with tricycles for the kids under six to ride) to the many animals – including a horse-drawn carriage ride. There’s more than enough to explore. Additionally, next summer, after renovations are complete to the Glenmore Reservoir damn, you will once again be able to take boat rides around the reservoir on the S.S. Moyie a Sternwheel ship built in 1898.
If living in the past isn’t your thing, then you should check out one of Canada’s coolest new buildings and home to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the National Music Centre.
National Music Centre
The National Music Centre is home to Studio Bell, the King Eddy and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. It has interactive areas where you and your kids can play different instruments. You can explore all of the different exhibits including a recent one with newly inducted members, the Barenaked Ladies. There is also frequently live music being played in and around the NMC or the King Eddy.
Once you’ve wrapped up at the NMC, you can take a stroll along the river or explore the newly developed East Village complete with food trucks, new restaurants and exciting bars.
Things To Eat (And Drink) In Calgary
A recent change to municipal and provincial laws in Calgary and Alberta has meant an explosion of craft brewery’s around the city. This has only been a win for lovers of good food and good beer.
If craft beer is what you’re looking for, here are some of the many to check out:
While we’re known for our beef (which IS amazing) the food scene in Calgary has been booming and a trip down Stephen Avenue, 17th Ave, Inglewood or Kensington will show you not only some of the best restaurants in the city but some of the best restaurants in the country.
The list of favourites is always changing and evolving, but here are a few of my current favourites:
The Calgary Stampede
I’ve managed to go this far without mentioning the Calgary Stampede, and I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it. It’s a major draw to the city and sees well over a million people pass through its gates for 10 days in July. It’s a great experience, however, can be an expensive one, and ultimately Calgary is now SO much more than just the Calgary Stampede.
That being said, if you’re heading to town at the beginning of July, you HAVE to check it out at least once. The kids will love it whether you venture to the rodeo, the chuckwagons, wander the midway, or check out the trade show. Grab a deep-fried Oreo, and let your kids tire themselves out running all over the place.
Calgary’s Pretty Cool
I love raising my daughter here. I know across Canada we’re viewed as a conservative province with conservative views, but I have never once felt uncomfortable or judged because I am a stay-at-home Dad. We’re a diverse and tolerant city and I highly recommend you come and see us. If you need a guide, feel free to hit me up!
Matt is a freelance writer and a stay-at-home dad who chronicles his adventures about raising his daughter and how he feels about fatherhood at Dashing Dad. Find him on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter where he highlights fun activities for families as well as the misadventures of being a stay-at-home parent.
PACK YOUR BAGS! The World’s Waiting!
And that’s what’s up—the world isn’t just where you live; there’s something going on everywhere, and you know I’m gonna keep exploring! With some plans already in store to see more of this country over the next couple of years, do expect to see more of these.
But for now, let it marinate—it won’t be wintertime in Canada forever, and you can check places like Calgary out without the worry of freezing to death. If you need me, I’ll be right here, making my plans to be a travelling man!
Be well, keep your mind open, and until the next, I remain,