24 hours in Calgary before heading to the Rockies

Prince’s Island Park, Calgary
Prince’s Island Park, Calgary
The Fit Foodie

24 hours in Calgary before heading to the Rockies

Your guide to exploring the city before visiting the Canadian Rockies.
By
Sally O’Neil
Wellness travel guru Sally O’Neil can be found most days drinking Almond Lattes on the world-famous Sydney Harbour where she calls home. When she isn’t knee deep in writing and photographing her own cookbooks, she’s testing a new workout or petting stranger’s dogs in the park.

You can follow Sally on Instagram at @thefitfoodieblog, or head to her website www.the-fit-foodie.com to read more.

So you’re about to make the adventure of a lifetime to Banff, or Jasper, or both (you lucky thing!), but don’t overlook your likely pit-stop in Calgary beforehand. Less than half an hour from the closest international and domestic airport to the Rockies, you’ll find the city centre. Make sure you stay a night and check out all this sunny city has to offer.

I recently checked Banff off my bucket list and, on my way to the Rockies, I had the chance to explore everything the city has to offer. Here’s what I recommend that you can’t miss.

River Café, Prince’s Island Park in Calgary.

The River Café on Prince’s Island Park in Calgary

Sunset on Prince’s Island Park

Sunset on Prince’s Island Park

Eat

Head to Rosso Coffee Roasters for a delicious breakfast. They source their bagels from local bakers Bagelino’s (rated the #1 bagels in Alberta), so you’d be crazy to miss out. As their name suggests, Rosso also roasts their own coffee, which the owners have personally travelled across the world to source. It’s the perfect place to start the day and pick up a bag of coffee beans to take with you.

If like me, you seek out healthy options, you’d be crazy to miss the delicious food being served up at Wise and Wright. Head here for a delicious lunch-time salad (my favourite is the Thai) and pick up a superfood latte whilst you’re at it. They have everything from beetroot to reishi, lions mane to turkey’s tail. There’s not an antioxidant they don’t have.

For a nourishing dinner, head to The Coup. An awesome (predominantly vegetarian) restaurant, though there are many vegan options too. My pick was the Spicy Tofu Satay Bowl with Almond Sauce.

Flower + Wolf, Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire

Flower + Wolf at Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire has a great Old Fashioned

Drink

Coming from Sydney, where the coffee is amongst the best I’ve had in the world, it’s not easy to find anything that stands up to a Mecca Roasters Almond Latte. I’ve become quite the coffee aficionado. However, if you’re looking for an excellent brew, I can highly recommend Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. Its rustic interiors and cool-vibe atmosphere will keep you wanting to hang out for hours. You can see the roastery at work on-site in this renovated mattress factory, through glass panes.

If it’s a cocktails kinda night, head to Flower + Wolf after dinner for a very excellent Old Fashioned. On weekends, be sure to ask for Jesse to make it for you - a legendary local whose cocktail skills are next-level.

The Calgary Tower

Get a new perspective on the city at the Calgary Tower

Stephen Avenue in downtown Calgary

Exploring Stephen Avenue in downtown Calgary

Play

Before you arrive, be sure to check out Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals – an epic service that will deliver a push bike to you at your hotel so you can explore the city on two wheels. They’ll also collect it when you’re done and ensure you have all the protective head gear you need to stay safe on strange roads. There’s no better way to see the city.

After waking up refreshed, start the day on a great notes and get those endorphins racing with a spin class at One Cycle Fitness. Suitable for all fitness levels, get a 50-minute full-body workout that will lengthen and strengthen muscles. You can also eat a croissant at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery without guilt!

If you want some perspective on the city, head to the Calgary Tower. At 191 metres tall, this viewing deck is a great way to see the skyscrapers in their glory. To the west, you can see as far as the snow-capped Rockies. If you’re feeling brave, step onto the glass floor and look directly down over the streets below.

In the afternoon, it’s time for some light retail therapy. Shop up a storm at Hudson’s Bay Department Store – the oldest department store in Alberta, or stroll around the boutique stores, coffee shops and pretty streets of Kensington, just over the Peace Bridge.

Help kick that pesky jet-lag with a relaxing late-night yin yoga class at Hot Shop. With classes running daily, from early morning right through to 9.15pm, you’ll be sure to find a slot to engage in a gentle flow - leaving you feeling rejuvenated in mind, body and soul.

Kananaskis Nordic Spa

Relax at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa

When it’s time to leave for the mountains, you can’t bypass Kananaskis Nordic Spa. Situated approximately 1.5 hours by car from Calgary (halfway between the city and Banff), this beautiful new spa lays home to a range of hot and cool therapies for the ultimate detox, and if you want to make a night of  it, they have beautiful accommodation here too. You’ll be in outdoor heated pools surrounded by mountains. Hot tip: head there on a clear night to catch an incredible view of the stars, or even the Aurora.

The Westin Calgary

Views of my suite at The Westin Calgary

Stay

The Westin holds a special place in my heart. After teaming up with them in Melbourne to deliver a wellness workshop, I can understand why people choose to stay with them wherever they travel across the globe. The Calgary version is no exception. It has an epic fitness centre, making it easy to keep on-track while travelling and the beds are like sleeping on an ACTUAL cloud, which, to be honest, really does rain on the parade of most AirBnBs. Admittedly, I’ve since purchased their signature bedding to recreate the best sleep of my life at home. There’s also a Starbucks at the hotel - if you just can’t wait for that caffeine hit!

That’s one jam-packed 24 hours, so be sure to plan out your trip in advance if you want to fit it all in. Of course, if you’re more the spontaneous traveller, just bookmark this page and come to it for inspiration when you’re wandering the city streets.