• eat
  • shop
  • see
  • go
  • stay
  • daytrip
  • map
  • calendar
  • transport
  • weather
  • currency
  • tofrom

20 Things to Do in Calgary Under $20

By AGATHA ZARZYCKI

The Calgary Tower offers a bird's eye view of downtown. (Photo: courtesy Tourism Calgary)

The Calgary Tower offers a bird’s eye view of downtown. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary)

You don’t have to break to bank to experience some of Calgary’s hallmark attractions! Here are 20 activities to do in Calgary for under $20:

Calgary Tower
The iconic Calgary Tower opened in 1968 and is a staggering 191 meters high (about 627 feet). But don’t worry, you won’t have to climb its 762 steps — two 25-passenger, high-speed elevators soar to the top in 62 seconds. Once there, stand on the glass floor observation terrace for a bird’s eye view of the Rocky Mountains and iconic Calgary landmarks. An audio guide is available in 7 different languages (English, French, Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and German) and will explain interesting trivia about some of the notable art and architecture in your view. Check out the visitor information centre and souvenir shop at the tower’s base, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on the second floor, and revolving restaurant Sky 360 at the top, which makes a full rotation every 45-60 minutes, allowing you a complete panoramic view of the city as you dine. Admission: general (ages 13-64) $18, senior $16, child (4-12) $9, children three and under are admitted free. www.calgarytower.com

Glenbow Museum 
One of Western Canada’s largest museums, the Glenbow features 20 galleries, with permanent exhibitions on Western and Indigenous cultures, military and war history around the world, Asian and African artifacts, and Alberta mineralogy. The museum also plays host to a rotating selection of visiting exhibitions from across the country, and the globe. Glenbow maintains a digital archive of online exhibitions, including some that mirror current in-house galleries, allowing patrons to visit exhibits from afar or at home. Admission: adult $16, senior and student $11, (youth (7-17) $10, children six and under are admitted free, as well as annual membership holders. www.glenbow.org

Loose Moose Theatre
Located on the second floor of the Crossroads Market in the historic Inglewood neighbourhood, this theatre company presents weekly improvised comedy shows. Their Maestro Improv show on Friday nights at 8 p.m. features elimination rounds, where audience members rate performers chosen at random until one performer wins the ‘maestro improviser’ title, going on to direct shows during Gorilla Theatre on Saturday nights. Every show is different, but they’re always very funny. Tickets: general admisison $15, student $12. Some shows not suitable for young viewers. www.loosemoose.com

These are scenes from the first Adults-only night at TELUS Spark, held Dec 8, 2011, from 6 to 9 pm. It was an evening when you had to be 18 years or older to attend. The bar was open, there was a DJ, and staff devised special activities for the night, with a theme of light. About 500 people attended.

Ignite your imagination by exploring the wonders of the TELUS Spark, Calgary’s Science Centre. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary)

TELUS Spark, Calgary’s Science Centre
The science centre houses five exhibit galleries, movies, planetarium shows in Calgary’s only HD Digital Dome Theatre, interactive activities in the Creative Kids Museum, live science demonstrations, and more. The new Brainasium outdoor park features an interactive play area where children learn momentum and teamwork on the five ton spinning rock, explore simple physics on the teeter-totter built for six, slide their hands along the musical railing and climb the netting tower to the 63 foot slide—the largest stainless steel slide in Canada. Adults and children alike will have fun visiting travelling exhibitions and building structures with real tools at the Open Studio Drop-In Workshops. The second Thursday night of every month is Adults Only Night, where the venue is open only to adults to enjoy unique programming, an open bar, workshops and presentations, and kid-free play. Admission: adult $19.95, senior $17.95, youth (13-17) $15.95, child (3-12) $12.95, children three and under are admitted free. www.sparkscience.ca

The Plaza Theatre
The Plaza plays alternative films and functions as a first-run art house cinema. Watch timeless classics or new indie flicks in their single 370 seat auditorium. Movie prices vary, but usually cost under $10. Every Wednesday night the theatre hosts Late Night at the Plaza—a variety show with a selection of entertainment by talented local musicians, artists, comedians, media, dancers, performers, and more. www.theplaza.ca

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
Located at Canada Olympic Park, this attraction showcases the stories and memorabilia of Canada’s sporting legends. Interactive exhibits include shadow boxing with world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, 3D hockey and baseball, simulated rowing, wheelchair racing, and more. Admission: general $12, seniors $10, youth (4-18) $8, children three and under are admitted free. www.sportshall.ca

train and ice cream

Ride the steam train, visit the storefronts and street corners of old, and interact with characters right out of history at this living historical park. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Park Historical Village)

Heritage Park Historical Village
This living history museum features more than 180 attractions and exhibits that re-create Western Canadian history from the 1860s to the 1950s. Interact with costumed interpreters, explore pioneer homes and businesses, ride a steam train, board a paddlewheeler on the Glenmore Reservoir, try antique rides and games, and enjoy Western Canadian cuisine at Selkirk Grille. While the park is open seasonally May through October, year-round daily attractions include dining at Selkirk Grille and Railway Café, exploring Haskayne Mercantile Block — a collection of one-of-a-kind boutiques and an antique shop — the Big Rock Interpretive Brewery, and the Gasoline Alley Museum of vintage cars. Access to Heritage Town Square (located before the gates) is free. Park admission: adult $26.25*, senior (65+) $20.50, youth (7-14) $18.75, child ($13.50). www.heritagepark.ca (*Adult admission during the summer season is more than $20, but overall most of their other offerings are under $20. And, even at $26.25, it’s still very much worth a visit.)

Olympic Oval
The world-class, high performance atmosphere of the Olympic Oval skating rink is not just for professional athletes. Located at the University of Calgary, the 450 meter oval ice surface is open to the public, with equipment rentals available at the Skate Shop. The facility also houses artwork that fosters a connection between artists and athletes—it’s worth checking out. Admission: adult $7, youth and senior (55+) $4.75, family $18.50, special needs (with assistant) $5. Children five and under are admitted free. www.oval.ucalgary.ca

Lougheed House
The former home of senator James Lougheed and his family is now a public heritage centre that features permanent and temporary art and historic exhibits, and is a designated National and Provincial Historic Site. Explore this 1891 Victorian sandstone mansion on your own or with an interpreter for a guided tour. Relax in the Beaulieu Gardens, pick up an antique souvenir in the Lougheed House Museum Shop, or go for tea and a light meal in The Restaurant at Lougheed House. Admission: adult $8.50, seniors and students $6.50, child (6-12) $5, children under six are admitted free.  www.lougheedhouse.com

Stargazers take in the night sky, despite scattered clouds, at one of the Rothney Observatory's annual Milky Way Nights, August 2, 2013.

Stargazers take in the night sky, despite scattered clouds, at one of the Rothney Observatory’s Milky Way Nights. (Photo courtesy of Alan Dyer)

Rothney Astrophysical Observatory
Located on a hilltop in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the University of Calgary’s Rothney Astrophysical Observatory is home to one of the three largest telescopes in Canada. The RAO hosts public events and open houses once monthly that offer perfect occasions to star gaze. These outdoor gatherings provide everyone from amateur astronomers to true observers opportunities to look through the telescopes and view constellations and other celestial events. Admission: $10 per person, or $30 per car. www.ucalgary.ca/rao

The Military Museum of Calgary
Uncover the triumphs, misfortunes and sacrifices of the Canadian Forces at the second largest military museum in Canada. Their eight museums and galleries include the Army, Naval, and Air Force Museums of Alberta. Walk through a World War I trench, enter the wheelhouse of a World War II ship model, and visit exhibits at The Founders’ Gallery. Admission: adult $15, seniors, students and youth $5, children 7 and under, along with military veterans, are admitted for free. www.themilitarymuseums.ca

The Hangar Flight Museum
Formerly known to locals as the Aerospace Museum of Calgary, The Hangar Flight Museum was originally used as a drill hall for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in 1941. The space later turned into the first aviation museum in Calgary. Visit over 20 exhibits that commemorate Canadian flight history, from the first jet combat aircraft to the world’s first certified helicopter. The Hangar Movie Nights feature aerospace-themed films the second Thursday of each month from October to May. Admission: adult $12, seniors (65+) and students (12-17) $8, children (age 3-11) $6, toddlers age 2 and under are admitted free. www.thehangarmuseum.ca

SG7W4072z

Splash into summer fun with a trip to the Village Square or Southland Leisure Centres. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Calgary)

City of Calgary Leisure Centres
Get active at The City of Calgary’s two leisure centres. Admission includes access to the wave pool and slides, fitness centre, gymnasiums, exercise and aquafit classes, as well as scheduled public skating and shinny hockey. The recreation areas also each have their own unique qualities—the 5.5 acre Village Square Leisure Centre, located in the northeast, boasts its own safari-themed waterpark, while the Southland Leisure Centre, located in the southwest, spans 227, 000 square feet and its pool features a rope swing. Admission: adult $12.50, child/youth (age 7-17) and seniors $6.25, preschooler (age 2-6) $3.10, toddlers two and under are admitted free. www.calgary.ca

Chinese Cultural Centre
The largest stand-alone cultural centre in Canada at 70,000 square feet, its central dome, the Dr. Henry Fok Cultural Hall, contains four hand-decorated columns with genuine gold and a 70 foot high ceiling patterned after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Admire beautiful blue tiles imported from China and the 561 hand painted dragons and 40 phoenixes. The Chinese Artifacts Museum holds an award-winning exhibition hall: Our Chosen Land: 100 years of development of the Chinese community in Calgary. Read books about Chinese culture at the Orrin & Clara Christie Might Library, browse the Chinese arts and crafts store, and dine at the Chinese restaurant. Cultural Centre: free. Museum: adult $5, senior/student/child $3, children 5 and under are admitted free. www.culturalcentre.ca

Art Classes
The community-based Grasby Art Studio, located in the Northwest, offers more than just art supplies — they also teach art classes and paint night events, as well as host several art shows a year. Their drop-in open studio offers instructed art classes from 10 am to 4 pm daily. Whether you’re a newbie, novice, or an advanced artist, choose your medium and work closely with an art connoisseur. All students learn a five-step drawing strategy and the six fundamental principles for professional art production. $16/hour includes instruction and supplies for participation in open studio. www.grasbyartstudio.com

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
This archaeological UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved buffalo jumps in the world. Learn the traditional ways of the Plains People, who relied on the buffalo hunt, at the interpretive centre. Watch drumming and dancing demonstrations every Wednesday in July and August and hike to the drive lanes with Blackfoot guides on the first Saturday of every month from May to October. While it’s not in Calgary, this historical site is well worth the drive. Admission: adult $15, senior $13, youth (7-17) $10, children 6 and under are admitted for free. www.history.alberta.ca/headsmashedin

ian holmes

Fort Calgary offers visitors a trip back into time for a reasonably low admission fee. (Photo courtesy of Ian Holmes)

Fort Calgary
The North West Mounted Police built this National Historic Site in 1875. Located on a 40 acre riverside park where the Bow and Elbow Rivers meet, Fort Calgary features exhibits, an interpretive centre, and recreations of the fort’s 1875 palisade and 1888 barracks. Learn stories about Calgary’s past, try on an authentic RCMP uniform, stand behind bars in the jail cell, treat yourself to vintage goodies at the Museum Shop, and visit their Community Garden. Admission: adult $12, seniors and students $11, youth (7-17) $7, children (3-6) $5, children 2 and under are admitted free. www.fortcalgary.com

Fish Creek Provincial Park
One of the largest urban parks in North America, and the largest in Canada, Fish Creek features the Bow Valley Ranch Visitor Centre, Environmental Learning Centre, and a seasonal interpretive program and Sikome Aquatic Facility — the manmade beach and lake are the perfect spot to enjoy summer. Bird watch, fish, bike, and hike through trails in the riverine forest location. Afterwards, take a break to dine at the casual Annie’s Café, the upscale Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant, or pack your own meal and take advantage of the park’s many picnic tables and shelters, complete with a fire ring and charcoal grill. Whether it’s winter or summer, Fish Creek’s beautiful scenic environment is enjoyable, and free to access, year-round. www.albertaparks.ca/fish-creek

Dance Classes
Put on your dancing shoes and join Alberta Dancesport for a beginner dance class and party every Friday. Their professional instructors, many who have represented Canada at world championship dance events and starred on film and television, lead the one-hour class at 8:15 pm. Each week features a different dance, workshops range from salsa and the waltz to polka, two-step and the East Coast swing. Afterwards, dance to your heart’s content at their dance party, complete with a DJ, until midnight. Tickets: $9 per person, no partner or registration required. Looking for something more advanced? Drop in to the first class of any session (expert level included) for free. www.albertadancesport.com

Butterfield Acres
Enjoy an authentic farm experience from April to October at Butterfield Acres, located on Rocky Ridge Road. Toddlers can play at the Nursery Rhyme Park, while children can enjoy public pony rides and tractor pulled wagon rides through woodlands and over hilltops. Pet and feed old farm friends and new baby arrivals at the Farm Corral, from chicks and bunnies to piglets and donkeys — you can even learn how to milk a goat! Admission: adult $14.99, senior $13.99, child $12.99. www.butterfieldacres.com

arrow graphic

OUR FULL Calgary COVERAGE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *