by Linda Hoang

There’s more to the Calgary Comic and Entertainment EXPO than cosplay and celebrity meet and greets – though, those are two very appealing reasons to attend. Big name guests like Jeremy Renner (“Hawkeye” from The Avengers), Steve Yeun (dearly departed “Glenn” from The Walking Dead), and Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) are sure to draw fans in droves for 2017, but there’s a lot to see and do in between the fangirling and fanboying.

From video games to shopping, and even heading off site to #CaptureCalgary – it’s certainly worthwhile for visitors making the trip in to town.

Here are five things you have to do when you visit this year’s Calgary EXPO.

1. Shop, shop, shop!

Vendor shopping Calgary EXPO

What sets the Calgary EXPO apart from your local expo? Its sheer size, for one thing. No visit to western Canada’s largest pop culture convention is complete without shopping at hundreds of vendor booths.

There are endless amounts of geeky goodies to browse – be sure to head in with a plan. I like to browse row by row, checking out vendors from one end of the hall to the other, before winding back down the opposite end.

2. Get swept up as a spectator in a video game tournament 

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Believe me when I say watching a live video game tournament is comparable to attending a sports event. What an experience! With play-by-play announcers and heart-pumping music and sound effects, you’ll find yourself jumping out of your seat cheering for your favourite team. Really. Plan to visit and return many times to the EXPO’s Video Game Zone. You can even sign up on site to compete!

Not interested in spectating? (Though, I do highly recommend it). Then there are also classic arcade games or you can demonstrate your winning abilities in the Table Top Gaming area to with hundreds of board games you can play too.

3. Pick your panels

John Barrowman Panel

If waiting in a line-up to meet and snap a photo with your favourite celeb isn’t your cup of tea, consider attending one of their panels instead. Panels are a fantastic way to learn more about your favourite actors in such an authentic way. It feels like anything goes in these panels (of course it depends on their personality too) but you can generally expect a lot of laughs and a lot of interesting tidbits shared from these free sessions.

Don’t just attend the celebrity panels too – there are lots of unique panel and workshop presentations that cover a wide range of comic and pop culture topics. Be sure to check the Calgary EXPO’s programming schedule, which is usually posted closer to the event online and on the app, and available in the physical program you’ll receive when you arrive.

Calgary EXPO also often has Special Events that happen in the evenings. This year you can check out Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s James Marsters in concert at Cowboys or Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes performing a Jay and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes) live show. Check out the Special Events listing for more info and to get tickets.

4. Enlist at Starfleet Academy at TELUS Spark

Any day is a good day to join the Starfleet Academy, but there’s something that just feels right about doing it on Calgary EXPO weekend. Learn to speak Klingon, conduct a planetary survey, guide the U.S.S. Enterprise through a series of threats and participate in phase target practice. It’s all part of your training at Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience. Cool, huh? Bonus points for training in Star Trek cosplay, fresh off of photo shoots at the EXPO.

5. Dine in downtown Calgary 

Calgary’s food scene is phenomenal. It would be a mistake to visit the city without trying some of Alberta’s best restaurants including CHARCUT, Pigeon Hole, Raw Bar, and Bonterra Trattoria, to name just a few. It’s an added bonus that most of these great restaurants are located so close to the EXPO grounds. Plan to spend the day at the EXPO, and fill your evenings with delicious food nearby. You might even catch one of the EXPO’s celebrity guests doing the same. Last year, I dined just a table away from William Shatner.

About Linda Hoang

Linda Hoang is an Edmonton-based food, lifestyle and travel blogger at You can also find her sharing her food and travel adventures on Twitter and Instagram @lindork.

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