The Calgary Stampede and Banff National Park are bucket list experiences you have to see for yourself. Start your trip in Calgary with The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth and continue your journey to the jaw-dropping scenery of Canada’s first national park. One week is the perfect amount of time to enjoy the energy of the Calgary Stampede and natural beauty of Banff. Here’s how to include both of these incredible experiences in your Alberta summer vacation.
10 Reasons Why the Calgary Stampede and Banff are the Ultimate Vacation
10 Reasons Why the Calgary Stampede and Banff are the Ultimate Vacation
The Calgary Stampede (July 7-16, 2023) is the ultimate festival experience and has been a marquee Calgary event for over 100 years, attracting over 1 million visitors annually. For ten days each year, jeans and boots are standard attire, free pancake breakfasts start the day, and a spectacular fireworks display lights up the night sky.
Calgary Stampede Parade
The Calgary Stampede Parade is where it all begins. The iconic parade has been the official kickoff to The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth since 1912, with a collection of floats, marching bands, and horseback riders travelling through downtown Calgary. Everyone from Walt Disney and William Shatner to ‘Heartland’ actor Amber Marshall and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield have been the Stampede Parade Marshal over the years. Check the Calgary Stampede website for the official parade route.
Local tip: Find a spot along the parade route early as popular downtown locations fill up quickly each year. You can even bring a folding chair to watch the parade.
Calgary Stampede Rodeo
The world’s best rodeo competitors and animals compete in the Calgary Stampede Rodeo. Get a front row seat for barrel racing, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc, and bareback - six events and ten days of rodeo action! It all comes down to Showdown Sunday, the richest day in rodeo, when $1.5 million in prize money is awarded, and champions are crowned in each event. The Calgary Stampede Rodeo takes place daily at 1:30 p.m.
Local tip: Calgary Stampede Rodeo tickets purchased in advance include admission to Stampede Park on the day of the ticketed event.
Thrill seekers and gamers will love the Calgary Stampede Midway. Take your shot and win the big prize or put your hands in the air with classic rides, including midway favourites like Crazy Mouse, Wave Swinger, Zipper, Polar Express, and the Mega Drop. You can purchase coupon packs or unlimited ride passes to get in on the all the fun.
Local tip: Level up with a Ride All Day Wristband and the Fast Pass (Midway Express Access Pass) add-on that takes you to the front of the line for faster entrance to each ride.
Live music is an essential part of any trip to the Calgary Stampede. Nashville North is a legendary venue for live music, hosting country music all day long. House bands keep the party going all day with a nightly headliner. This 18+ venue is included free with park admission.
Local tip: Check the Nashville North headliners list ahead of time and arrive early to get a spot in line for the big show. Lineups can start in the early afternoon and get busier after the Rodeo finishes for the day.
Calgary Stampede Evening Show
It’s a great idea to start planning your visit to the Calgary Stampede with the Evening Show. This entertainment doubleheader takes place nightly at 7:45 p.m. that includes all the action of the Rangeland Derby Chuckwagon Races followed by the entertaining Bell Grandstand Show, a variety show of song and dance numbers, acrobatics, and live music. The show wraps up with a spectacular fireworks finale to finish another day at The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. This is a must-see event at the Calgary Stampede.
Local tip: Evening Show tickets purchased in advance include admission to Stampede Park on the day of the ticketed event, and are separate from Rodeo tickets.
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Banff National Park
Time for some outdoor adventure and the breathtaking scenery of Banff National Park. More than 4 million people visit Banff National Park each year, making it one of the most popular destinations in the world. Discover the incredible views and essential experiences for your time in Banff, just 90 minutes west of Calgary.
Hiking in the Canadian Rockies is a must-do part of any Alberta vacation. That’s what makes Johnston Canyon one of the most popular destinations in Banff National Park. Walk the well maintained pathways and explore the Lower Falls, about 30 minutes from the parking lot, or take an extended hike beyond the Upper Falls to the Ink Pots, a series of green coloured mineral springs. Johnston Canyon has limited parking and can be accessed via Roam Transit Route 9 from May to October from the Town of Banff.
Local tip: Beat the crowds and visit Johnston Canyon during the week, early in the morning, or mid evening, for the best access to this incredible natural place.
Location: Bow Valley Pkwy, Alberta
One of Canada's most iconic landscapes, Lake Louise is a two-hour drive along the Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary. Experience the beautiful turquoise waters of Lake Louise with canoe rides, horseback tours, and legendary hikes. You can walk around the Lake Louise Shoreline Trail to the Victoria Glacier at the opposite end of the lake, or if you are looking for more of an adventure, hike to the famous Lake Agnes Tea House for pastries and a pot of fresh brewed tea.
Local tip: Rent a canoe from the Lake Louise Boathouse for an epic Instagram shot with the Canadian Rockies as your backdrop.
Location: 111 Lake Louise Dr, Lake Louise
Located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake is near Lake Louise and another bucket list location in Banff National Park. Once you arrive, it’s a quick walk up the moraine rock pile for incredible views of the turquoise waters below. You might overhear locals referring to Moraine Lake as the “Twenty Dollar View” because it once graced the back of the Canadian $20 bill. It continues to be one of the most photographed locations in Canada.
The Banff Gondola takes you on an extraordinary trip from the base of Sulphur mountain to panoramic views of six mountain ranges. The gondola ride takes eight minutes with plenty of activities to explore at the top. Check out the family-friendly Above Banff Interpretive Centre or take the boardwalk to the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site. Weekdays are the best time to avoid the lines and take in views of six mountain ranges just an hour and a half from Calgary.
Local tip: Dine 7,486 feet in the air at Sky Bistro, with a distinctly Canadian menu and mountain views in every direction. You’ll see why they call it a dining sanctuary in the sky.
Location: 100 Mountain Ave, Banff, AB
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise just might be the most iconic hotel property in Canada, surrounded by mountain peaks with breathtaking views of the Victoria Glacier and Lake Louise. Originally built for outdoor enthusiasts over 100 years ago, this luxury resort in Banff National Park is a must visit destination whether you are checking in for a stay, relaxing at the spa, or enjoying a cocktail from the Lakeview Lounge. Afternoon Tea is served daily from 12:00pm to 2:30pm in the Fairview Bar & Restaurant, a once in a lifetime experience in the heart of Banff National Park.
Local tip: Add the Fairmont Banff Springs to your historic hotel tour, welcoming visitors from around the world for over 130 years to the “Castle in the Rockies.”
Location: 111 Lake Louise Dr, Lake Louise, AB