Street vendors, live music and bustling patios are common sights on Stephen Avenue, a downtown pedestrian mall and one of Calgary’s oldest streets. Upscale restaurants, boutiques, independent theatres, pubs, a shopping mall and turn-of-the-century sandstone buildings offer indoor refuge, or you can stay out in the sun at Olympic Plaza.DINING FINE
Those looking for opulent cuisine have some of the best picks in the city. Down by Olympic Plaza, Teatro is fine Italian dining in an airy space, complete with an open kitchen. Seafood fans will love Catch, a seafood restaurant and oyster bar, while wine connoisseurs have more than 700 labels to choose from at The Belvedere, an elegant dining room and lounge. Old world elegance is the mantra at Tribune, a restaurant that takes a gourmet approach to comfort food.
SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP
Three shopping centres converge on Stephen Avenue to create The Core. Stores run the gamut from discount to designer, and are anchored by The Bay (2 St SW) and Holt Renfrew (3 St SW). The latter is Calgary’s largest luxury retailer, with Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. boutiques and selections from Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Oscar de la Renta and Jean Paul Gaultier.
The Glenbow Museum is Western Canada’s largest museum, with exhibits on Western history, as well as African culture, Asian artwork, and warriors throughout the centuries. Their newest permanent exhibit, Mavericks, is an interactive celebration of Alberta’s rebellious founding fathers and includes a recreated teepee, trading post, train car and Chinese diner.
Wine-centric cuisine is the specialty at Divino, a Canadian bistro with an extensive wine selection, cheese menu and changing roster of expertly crafted desserts—we recommend the Champagne crème brûlée. Further west you’ll find Escoba, another wine bistro with first-rate tapas and cheese fondue, including a delectable combination of Gruyère, aged cheddar and black truffles.
Kismet, a fashion boutique for women, is a quirky, one-of-a-kind stop for colourful attire from Michael Kors, InWear, Eva Franco and Sweet Chemise, and vegan leather bags from Matt & Nat. Or, head to Arnold Churgin for designer, private label footwear and handbags.
Nightlife on Stephen Avenue ranges from sophisticated to ribald, all within the space of a few blocks. The James Joyce, a traditional Irish pub, is the place to go for expertly poured pints of Guinness, hearty food and a casual, friendly atmosphere. The vibe at The Metropolitan Grill, a combo lounge/restaurant/dance club, is decidedly more elegant, or you can head to Flames Central, a high energy sports bar and restaurant in the old Plaza Theatre.
Micah Gallery specializes in artwork and handicrafts by North America’s indigenous residents, including jewellery, home décor, collectibles and fashion. Artisans from the Siksika Nation, one of Alberta’s First Nations tribes, supply peace pipes and beadwork. Or, you can find ammolite jewellery, an iridescent, rainbow-coloured gemstone found only in the eastern slopes of the Rockies.—Sally MacKinnon