Stampede 101 for Families

Stampede 101 for Families
Stampede 101 for Families
Your family guide to the Calgary Stampede

Stampede 101 for Families

Everything you need to know to have a great time with your family at one of Canada’s most iconic events

From horsy rides to holstering a hotcake, there ain’t no shortage of ways to experience the Calgary Stampede. This community celebration may be roped around a rodeo, but family activities take center stage.

I tend to learn things the hard way (see my blog post healthy ways to survive Stampede), but I love sharing tips whenever I can so you can have a great time!

Here’s how to make the most of the Calgary Stampede with wee ones. Giddy up!

Know before you go

You’ll want to make like a Girl Guide and be prepared before visiting the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. While parking is available all around Stampede Park, traffic and toddlers generally don’t mix. Do yourself a favour and take Calgary Transit, getting off at either Victoria Park/Stampede or the Erlton/Stampede LRT station.

As you arrive through any entrance to Stampede Park, you’re sure to notice the ATCO Lost Kids team. Hold your horses and have a wristband applied to your youngster so you can be quickly be reunited should they wander off.

As you plan your day, there are three must bring items you have to pack:

1) Cowboy hat - to look the part and keep the sun off your face

2) Lightweight rain jacket, as thundershowers can catch the crowds by surprise

3) Re-useable water bottle, which you can fill throughout the day at various spots in the park

Kid fun Calgary Stampede

There’s plenty of memories to be created at the Calgary Stampede for kids of all ages.

Most affordable times to visit

The Stampede can be easy on the wallet, if you hit it during their value days. Cenovus Family Day on the first Sunday of the Stampede grants free admission for the entire family from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., plus a free pancake breakfast for the first 25,000 guests.

On the Wednesday during the Stampede, BMO Kids’ Day, it’s free entry for kids and their families from from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., and only $2 afterwards for kids 12 years and under. There’s a free pancake breakfast and a kids’ stage show with performances by the Calgary Round Up Band, Young Canadians, Calgary Stampede Showriders, plus a mini chuckwagon race.

Head straight to Stampede Park after the parade, and you’ll receive free admission from 11 a.m to 1:30 p.m. If it’s only the Midway you’re after, Sneak-A-Peek takes place the night before the parade, from 5 p.m. on, and has a very affordable admission price every year.

Best kid-friendly entertainment  

Enter Stampede Park via Olympic Way for swift access to the Great FUNtier, a midway specifically set up for little buckaroos. Here, you’ll find appropriately sized kiddie rides and games, plus emergency services and armed forces heroes are on hand for vehicle tours and selfies.

Kids love critters, and there’s no shortage of furry friends for them to interact with. Gallop over to the Ag Zone, where you can meet and pet all kinds of farm animals, plus learn how agri-food products go from farm to fork through kid-friendly, interactive activities. If hounds are your jam, Dog Bowl shows run several times a day and are free with Stampede admission.

Midway snacks Calgary Stampede

Plan your snacks carefully at the Stampede. Photo by: Jody Robbins

Don’t get hangry

Hundreds of tempting treats are sold on the Stampede Midway, and each year they seem to be more outrageous (yet oh-so Instagram-able!). Beware! Your young ‘ens may be clamouring to sample crazy food like Pop Rocks Mini Doughnuts or Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Reese’s Cups. To avoid sugar crashes, try to steer them towards the new Watermelon and Raspberry Salad or Napolitano Soft Pretzels.

Other healthy, yet fun options include corn on the cob, turkey drumsticks and wraps from Wrap Daddy’s. For the best value snack, mosey over to the Ag Zone, where milk and cookies will set you back only $2.

Stampede in the city

If you've had your fill of Stampede Park, there are plenty of other venues that offer a good ol’ dose of western culture and hospitality. Free Stampede breakfasts take place across the city and dish out more than pancakes. The Caravan Committee brings in Native hoop dancing demonstration, a petting zoo, plus the Stampede princesses.

Downtown, Fluor Rope Square serves up flapjacks, fiddlers and loads of other entertainers (including cowboys and mascots!) throughout the Stampede. Find Fluor Rope Square at Olympic Plaza and along Stephen Avenue.

There’s a lot to see and do at this family-friendly cowboy-fest. For bucket listers who leave no stone unturned, I’ve written some other articles of interest on my site Travels with Baggage. Check out these 10 Not to miss Stampede experiences. Say you indulge too much on the midway or in the beer gardens (sans children, of course), seek solace with these tips on healthy ways to survive Stampede. And if you really want to earn your spurs, you’ll need to cowboy up and dress the part. If wranglers, spurs and stetsons aren’t on regular rotation in your wardrobe, you might find this Stampede Fashion 101 post helpful.

Jody Robbins

Jody Robbins is an award-winning Calgary-based travel writer, who hasn’t missed a Stampede in over two decades and relishes sharing her experiences on her blog Travels with Baggage.