Home > Best Places to Stay in Calgary
Updated: January 21, 2020
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The Best Places to Stay in Calgary
Best Areas in Calgary (including Kananaskis) for…
- Best Area in Calgary for Sightseeing: Downtown
Downtown features many of the city’s top attractions: Calgary Tower, Glenbow Museum, and Stephen Avenue Walk (a pedestrian-only zone along 8th Avenue) with unique shops, pubs, and restaurants. The CORE Shopping Centre has over 140 stores and the mall’s top level is home to the Devonian Gardens, a botanical garden with fountains and an indoor playground. Calgary has many public art pieces (50+ are in the downtown core) such as the Wonderland Sculpture, a wire structure of a girl’s head standing 40-feet tall; the Brotherhood of Mankind which consists of 10 giant-sized nude statutes; and the Women of Persons, Canada’s Famous Five women. When exploring downtown, you may want to see Prince’s Island Park located along the banks of the Bow River, offering walking trails, flower gardens, and a beautiful lagoon (in winter, free public ice skating). Many locals and tourists alike enjoy the Riverwalk pathway which meanders along the north edge of downtown and connects Prince’s Island Park to the East Village, the Elbow River, and the Calgary Zoo, to name a few. Not to be missed, is Studio Bell, Canada’s music museum which also hosts concerts and music festivals.
- Best Area in Calgary for Nightlife: 17th Avenue (for dance clubs – the Beltline area)
Calgary’s hip & trendy 17th Avenue area offers its share of the city’s nightlife with lots of pubs and microbreweries, a variety of trendy eateries, and numerous coffeehouses. There are venues such as Betty Lou’s Library, a prohibition-style speakeasy with an intimate vibe, and the neighborhood cocktail bar, Milk Tiger. During the annual Calgary Stampede (held for 10 days in early July), the 17th Avenue area can take on a party-like atmosphere due to its proximity to the Stampede grounds. If you are looking for dance clubs, head a few blocks north of 17th Avenue to the area known as the Beltline.
- Best Area in Calgary for Food and Restaurants: 17th Avenue
17th Avenue (also known as 17th or the Red Mile) is roughly a dozen city blocks lined with restaurants, bars, and coffeehouses. It is very pedestrian-friendly and many people stroll the boulevard while shopping. A few excellent restaurants are The Coup for vegan/vegetarian and Una Pizza specializing in thin-crust pizzas (or while you wait for a table, check out their romantic and cozy wine bar, Frenchie, located at the back of the restaurant). There is also an assortment of very good restaurants along the south end of 4th Street SW which intersects 17th Avenue.
- Best Area in Calgary for Families: Downtown
Most of the downtown hotels have indoor pools and offer easy access to the CTrain (or a short drive) to visit Calgary Zoo and Telus Spark Science Centre (both are a must see, if you have kids). Devonian Gardens in the CORE Shopping Centre has a great indoor playground and botanical garden. Downtown also offers the extensive +15 skywalk which is connected to several downtown eateries, including numerous food courts.
- Most Romantic Area/Hotel: Kananaskis Country
If romance to you means being in the peacefulness of remote wilderness and sharing private walks with your better half in breathtaking mountain views, or enjoying a world class outdoor Nordic Spa together, then the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge in Kananaskis Country is the place to stay (1-hour drive west of Calgary).
- Safest Areas of Calgary: Everywhere except east of Downtown
Calgary is considered a safe city and has a very low crime rate. However, the east side of Downtown, especially during the late-night hours, is more prone to signs of homelessness, prostitution, and drug use (not necessarily dangerous, but noteworthy).
The 8 Best Neighborhoods in Calgary for Tourists
Downtown is the first stop for many visitors and is a mix of shops, large office towers, and city attractions such as the Calgary Tower and the Glenbow Museum. Stephen Avenue Walk in central Downtown is a popular pedestrian mall and has many shops, pubs, and eateries, including fine dining options, and is a favorite with the business crowd on weekdays, especially during lunch hour. The CORE Shopping Centre is the only mall in the Downtown core, spanning three city blocks and featuring the flagship store of the high-end Holt Renfrew. The top floor of the mall is home to Devonian Gardens, an urban oasis with one hectare of botanical gardens, fountains, and an indoor playground. Calgary’s Arts & Entertainment District is at the east end of Stephen Avenue (8th Ave) and home to some of the best performing arts in the city, including the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Theatre Calgary, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. The Vertigo Theatre is also located at the base of the Calgary Tower. Downtown makes for a great home base for sightseeing, as it’s well-connected via the CTrain light rail system and city buses, including tour companies headed for Banff, Jasper, and the Icefields in the Canadian Rockies.
Calgary’s hip & trendy 17th Avenue, affectionately known as either “17th” or the “Red Mile”, offers a large share of the city’s nightlife with lots of pubs and microbreweries, along with a large selection of trendy eateries and numerous coffeeshops. 4th Street (which intersects 17th Avenue) also offers some fantastic restaurants and is famous for their Lilac Street Festival held annually in May. During the annual Calgary Stampede and some of the Calgary Flames’ home hockey games, this area can take on a party-like atmosphere due to its close proximity to both Stampede Park and the Saddledome arena. The nickname, the Red Mile, originated in 2004 when Calgary’s NHL team, the Calgary Flames, made the playoffs and their fans, some 50,000 of them wearing their home team’s red jerseys, celebrated on 17th Avenue.
Best Hotel: Hotel Elan
Just south of the Downtown core is the Beltline, home to the Design District located along 10th, 11th, and 12th Avenues, with its share of modern art galleries as well as home furnishings and décor stores. Sometimes also referred to as Downtown, it is Calgary’s most densely populated urban neighborhood and has been ranked #1 to live in for several years, and for good reason: it’s walkable to the Downtown core and most attractions in the area, features great restaurants and pubs, and is also close to the Saddledome arena which is home to the Calgary Flames hockey team and also hosts many big-name concerts. The Beltline is also home to the Calgary Stampede grounds which attracts over one million visitors annually.
Prince’s Island is the biggest and best park in Downtown Calgary, located along the banks of the Bow River, and offers beautiful large shady trees, flower gardens, a lagoon, walking trails, and Riverwalk – an extra-wide paved pathway along the Bow and Elbow Rivers. An upscale gourmet Canadiana restaurant, River Café, is smack in the middle of Prince’s Island. It can only be accessed by foot and has been voted as one of Calgary’s most scenic restaurants. The Eau Claire Market area is primarily a mix of riverside condominiums, restaurants, one of two Downtown movie theaters, and a hotel, the Sheraton Suites Eau Claire. Together, Prince’s Island and Eau Claire is a favorite location for many of the City’s festivals, including the Calgary Folk Festival, Shakespeare by the Bow, and the city’s Canada Day Celebrations. The area also features year-round outdoor events such as Pet-a-Palooza, Taste of Calgary, Expo Latino, and various busking happenings.
5. East Village
East Village is undergoing a huge transformation and revitalization, from one of Calgary’s oldest neighborhoods to an oasis for urban adventurers. The Riverwalk pathway meanders along the Bow and Elbow rivers and is a perfect spot to take a stroll or cycle, and bikes and scooters can be rented throughout the city. Calgarians love the outdoors and the city has the most extensive urban pathway and bike network in all of North America. The historic Fort Calgary is in the East Village, as is Studio Bell, home to the National Music Centre which features an excellent collection of 2,000 pieces of Canadian music history, hands-on historic instrument areas maintained by in-house technicians, and concerts in a contemporary setting. East Village is within walking distance of the Downtown core, the CTrain light rail system, Olympic Plaza, and Stephen Avenue walk. Both, the Calgary Zoo and the Telus Spark Science Centre are only a short 5-minute drive from East Village, and both are a must-see if you are traveling with kids. The Calgary Zoo is home to over 1,000 wild and woolly animals and is also popular in winter for its nightly Zoolights, an illuminated winter wonderland.
Kensington is fun, funky, and trendy, and is just across the Bow River from Downtown (connected by two bridges: the 10th Street Bridge and the iconic pedestrian-only Peace Bridge). It is similar to the 17th Avenue area, but on a slightly smaller scale. The Kensington shopping district consists of two streets – Kensington Road and 10th Street NW – and is a mix of unique shops, restaurants, and the city’s historic and old-fashioned movie house, the Plaza, playing newly released indie movies and documentaries. The nearby pathway along Memorial Drive, which follows the Bow River, is a great place to walk, jog, or cycle. The new Slam Festival, centered around river surfing, is held here, with enthusiastic river surfers taking to the waves on the Bow River just under the 10th Street bridge. Kensington is also within walking distance of the Downtown core, CTrain light rail, and The Jube (Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium), an excellent performing arts center.
- Best Hotel: Hotel Arts Kensington
Inglewood is Calgary’s original main street and oldest neighborhood. Its early beginnings are still evident with numerous historic buildings and the nearby Fort Calgary Historic Park. Located just east of Downtown and south of the Calgary Zoo, it has managed to maintain its charm as a relatively small arts and cultural area with numerous shops, boutiques, eateries, and breweries. There are several music halls here, including the Ironwood Stage & Grill, an all-ages live music venue, and a live jazz bar, the Blues Can. A gem of the neighborhood is the historic Deane House, a charming restaurant set in a gorgeous garden setting. You will also find the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre which offers some excellent walking trails and lots of opportunities to spot wildlife (no bikes or dogs are permitted). Note: there are no hotels in Inglewood and the closest accommodations are found in nearby East Village, roughly 1.5 miles west of Inglewood.
Calgary’s Chinatown is located on the Bow riverfront in Downtown Calgary. The centerpiece of the community is the blue-domed Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre which is modeled after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and is the largest of its kind in North America. Restaurants serving diverse Asian cuisines – Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and South Asian – can be found here, along with shops, food stores, and bakeries. The Silver Dragon Restaurant is a local mainstay and serves authentic Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine with fresh dim sum delivered table side. Tucked away in a small corner of Chinatown is the award-winning handmade chocolate bon-bon shop, The Chocolate Lab. Chinatown is within walking distance of the Calgary Tower, Stephen Avenue walk, Prince’s Island Park, and the CTrain light rail.
Best Hotel: Delta Hotels by Marriott
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- Alt Hotel Calgary East Village
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- Hotel Elan
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- Le Germain Hotel
- Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire
- The Westin Calgary
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