Calgary Travel Guide (Winter Edition)
Last month my boyfriend and I had the pleasure of visiting Alberta for 2 weeks. We had plans to visit his best friend in Red Deer and explore Calgary, Edmonton and Banff. Today I’ll be focusing on our trip to Calgary and compiling all our favorite things to do, locations to eat and places to stay during the winter! Enjoy.
Things To Do In Calgary:
During winter, there are so many fun indoor and outdoor activities in Calgary! We were only in Calgary for a short time, but here are the activities we experienced (and loved!).
Experience The Glow Winter Light Festival
Our hotel was located in downtown Calgary and by pure coincidence it was Glow Downtown Winter Light Festival. During the second and third week of February, downtown Calgary becomes a glow fest with glowing immersive, family-friendly activations, performances, and art installations. There were (heated) outdoor patios, fire pits and light activations that made exploring downtown Calgary that much more magical! If you find yourself in Calgary during the Glow Festival I’d recommend a visit downtown!
Visit the Calgary Zoo
The Calgary Zoo was one of our favorite activities! It is comprised of a 125 acre sanctuary for animals of all kinds – from lions to penguins! They pride themselves in educating visitors about the importance of biodiversity and animal conservation. The indoor and outdoor animal habitats are stunning! There is so much to see – you can easily spend the entire day there! My favorite exhibit was the penguins.
Go to a Calgary Flames hockey game
Calling all hockey fans! Calgary is home to the Calgary Flames who play at the Scotiabank Saddledome! They play quite often in the winter. Tickets are relatively affordable and you can typically score some last minute deals.
Go for a stroll on the gorgeous boardwalk
Downtown Calgary has so many pretty walking paths! While grabbing a coffee at Phil & Sebastien Coffee Roasters we discovered a stunning river walk along Bow River. It was perfect for an afternoon walk with a hot coffee (or hot chocolate!) in hand.
Grab an authentic cowboy hat at Smithbilt Hats
Calgary is known for their cowboy hats! If you want the real deal, visit Smithbilt Hats. They are the crème de la crème of cowboy hats. Smithbilt uses wool or felt to construct hats and still uses the original hat building equipment that founded the company in 1919. It smells amazing inside! It’s a tiny building but the hats are magnificent. My boyfriend doesn’t splurge on clothing or accessories. However, he DID purchase a cowboy hat from this shop and says it was worth every penny!
Places To Eat In Calgary:
Calgary has an impressive lineup of places to dine for breakfast, lunch and dinner! We were lucky enough to try out a variety of food and beverages. Below are some of our favorite places we dined at while in Calgary.
Phil & Sebastien was hands down my favorite coffee shop! The interior decor is super cute (very Instagram worthy!) and their beverage selection is impressive. Hint: make sure to try the dulce latte! One of the best caffeinated beverages I’ve had! I insisted we return the next day to grab another!
Yellow Door Bistro: If you are a superfan of breakfast and/or brunch – you need to dine at Yellow Door Bistro! Their interior decor is charming and unique (very Instagram worthy!) and is comprised of several rooms all with unique themes. Their brunch menu is next level. We loved it so much we dined twice during our trip! Hint: Order their giant stuffed cinnamon raison french toast. It comes with walnut caramel sauce and cream cheese custard – and tastes like heaven.
Cactus Club Cafe: If you’re looking for a cool lounge vibe, Cactus Club Cafe: is amazing! They have great food, great music and a sensual atmosphere. It typically attracts a younger crowd, so it would be a great place to bring friends or a date! Hint: Order the prawn crunch roll if you love sushi. I am a sushi snob and it was AMAZING.
Earls: I’ve heard great things about Earls and I was not disappointed! Earls is upscale casual dining and their restaurants are gorgeous. They carry everything from sushi to bowls to burgers! Hint: the Mother Earth Bowl is delicious! I added chicken for a more filling meal.
OMO Teppan & Kitchen: If you’re a fan of Teppanyaki, you will love this Japanese Steakhouse. It is both dinner and entertainment! A teppanyaki grill is used to cook your meal in front of guests. Their highly trained chefs are hysterical (they crack jokes the whole time) and cook the most delicious meat, seafood, rice, veggies and more. Portions are large so make sure to save room! The teppanyaki meals come with soup, salad and ice cream!). Hint: Order the seafood lover teppanyaki (it comes with lobster tail, scallops, calamari and jumbo shrimp.).. it’s unreal.
Where To Stay: Hotel Arts
Zach and I had the pleasure of staying at Hotel Arts located in the heart of downtown Calgary. I only have great things to say about our stay – we will absolutely be returning in the future!
Rooms: We loved our deluxe king room! The rooms were ultra modern and cozy. The bed was comfortable and the bathroom was spacious and luxurious. We had a balcony that overlooked a gorgeous view of downtown Calgary.
Lobby: The lobby was super modern and filled with tons of intricate pieces of art. I loved the multiple fireplaces and couches you can lounge in 24/7! The lobby was quite and relaxing – a great place to read a book, enjoy a chat or warm up by the fire.
Amenities: What differentiates Hotel Arts from other hotels in the area is their absolutely STUNNING indoor pool and poolside lounge! I was taken aback by the large pool surrounded with lounge chairs, tables and multiple fire pits. It was the perfect pool experience for a winter visit. You can also order food to your table right by the pool! During the evening the lights dim and it becomes a super romantic nighttime lounge. Bonus: the entire room is heated so it is an amazing escape when returning from the outside cold!
Staff: The staff were all very friendly and accommodating. Housekeeping were professional and worked quickly. We were told we could request a mini fridge in our room and it was a lifesaver when bringing home leftovers!
COVID Precautions: We were happily met with several COVID safety precautions throughout the hotel. There are hand sanitizer stations throughout the hotel, guests are required to wear masks in all common areas (when not seated and dining) and all staff wear masks. We both felt safe throughout the duration of our stay. *These precautions were in place 02/2021 make sure to review the revised precautions for your stay.
A Few Extra Tips
- Expect extremely dry and cold weather when visiting in the winter. Your skin will likely take a beating. Pack the following items to keep your body moisturized: hydrating moisturizer, travel size hand cream, hydrating lip chap, body lotion, leave-in hair conditioner. Bonus: bring a moisturizing face mask and foot cream.
- Keep hydrated. The cold, dry air can make you extremely dehydrated. I found myself waking up with a dry mouth almost every morning! Make sure to drink tons of water. You can also bring a travel size humidifier for added hydration!
- Pack warm clothing. Alberta can reach unbearably cold temperatures during the winter. It’s not uncommon for the weather to be -20 to -30. Therefore, if you’re planning on spending time outside – make sure to pack WARM clothing. Layers are everything! Make sure to bring a down jacket, wool socks, warm insulated gloves, fleece lined leggings, snow pants, a scarf (or something to cover your face) and a warm hat. Bonus: bring hand and foot warmers! We used these several days while adventuring outside and they were lifesavers!
- Don’t forget to visit the mountains! Calgary is a close drive to Banff. It is well worth it to drive out! The mountains are stunning and it will be an adventure you’ll never forget!