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What is Calgary Known For? More Than Just Cowboys & Rodeos!

  • February 21, 2024
  • By Cody Battershill

what is Calgary famous for?

What is Calgary Famous For?

Calgary is a place that many people could point out on a map, but not everyone is familiar with what it is known for. Located within the province of Alberta, those familiar with the “Heart of the West” often think about the not-too-far-off Rocky Mountains, the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, or the Calgary Stampede, also known as the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth."

Apart from these three reputation-gainers, there are a ton of other things Calgary is known for amongst the national and international community. Below we list the top 10 things that make Calgary special, and what activities and events to look for while you’re here!

Top 10 Things Calgary is Known For:

what is Calgary famous for - Annual Stampede Rodeo

Calgary Stampede

  1. The Calgary Stampede, the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”
  2. The Calgary Flames (NHL) and Stampeders (CFL)
  3. Host of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and today is a major training ground for Canadian Olympians
  4. Is where the famous Western-style “ginger beef” dish originated from back in the 1970s, which is now enjoyed in restaurants across the West
  5. Is where the famous “Ceasar” alcoholic beverage was invented by Walter Chell back in 1969, which is now an iconic Canadian drink
  6. The short 45-minute drive away from outdoor leisure in various parks and reserves of the rolling foothills and Rocky Mountains
  7. Home to a 138-kilometre-long pathway system, one of the largest in the world
  8. The Bow and Elbow Rivers and downtown islands such as Prince’s Island Park and St. Patrick’s Island
  9. A hotspot for everything related to Canada’s energy sector including oil and natural gas, renewables, and new emerging technologies such as hydrogen and geothermal
  10. Downtown Calgary Fire of 1886, which led to the construction of the sandstone buildings still seen throughout the city centre

Home of the “Caesar” Beverage

what is calgary famous for - caesar drink

Bacon Caeser

Equivalent to America’s “Bloody Mary” drink, Canada’s “Caesar” beverage is today considered as the country’s national cocktail. Key ingredients include vodka, clam juice, tomato juice, spices and Worcestershire sauce.

Walter Chell, a food and beverage worker in Calgary, created this delicious concoction in 1969. Since then, the drink’s popularity has spread across the country and its origins have made the Caesar one of the most notable things Calgary is known for.

The Calgary Inn asked Chell to create a cocktail to celebrate the grand opening of Marco’s a new Italian restaurant. According to sources, Chell spent much of his time crafting the drink, and after three months of trails and tribulations, he created the perfect blend.

Today, the Caeser cocktail stands as a national icon, celebrated every May on National Caeser Day where many restaurants offer several different versions of the drink to celebrate its Canadian heritage.

Home of “Ginger Beef”

what is calgary known for - ginger beef - elizabeth carson

Ginger Beef - Elizabeth Carson

Ginger beef is another food and drink item originating from Calgary. It is said that George Wong, a chef from northern China, invented the dish at the Silver Inn Restaurant in the Chinatown area of downtown in the 1970s.

In 1975, sisters Louise Tsang and Lily Wong opened the restaurant to serve Chinese Canadian food. In an attempt to boost sales, the family thought of adding smaller, snack-like dishes to the menu to be eaten alongside alcoholic beverages. After several attempts at creating ginger beef, Lily and her husband George finally aced the recipe.

Today, ginger beef is a main entrée featured at Chinese and Western-Asian restaurants across Canada. In many instances, authentic Chinese restaurants have also adopted the dish onto the menu as a result of its popularity.

Famous Historical Attractions in Calgary

Moving to Calgary

Calgary Tower

Calgary is known for its several historical attractions by locals and tourists alike. These buildings will catch your eye with their classic look; many are protected today under the city's Heritage Act. Some of Calgary's historical buildings include:

  • Calgary Tower
  • Lougheed House
  • Calgary's Old City Hall
  • Calgary Fire Hall No. 1
  • AE Cross House (Rouge Restaurant)
  • St. Mary's Parish Hall
  • Memorial Park Library
  • Fairmont Palliser Hotel
  • Bank of Nova Scotia Stephen Ave
  • Bank of Montreal Stephen Ave
  • National Hotel
  • Grain Exchange Building
  • King Edward Hotel

Find Calgary’s historical buildings in the downtown business core, East Village, and the Beltline.

Quality of Life in Calgary

peace bridge bow river attraction in Calgary

Downtown Eau Claire Community

Calgary is also known for being one of the top five most liveable cities in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Liveability Index has consistently ranked Calgary as one of the top ten most livable cities in the world from 2009 to 2023.

Calgary’s relatively strong economy, low crime rates, adept infrastructure, and social programs contribute to a generally high standard of living. Calgary’s highly educated and diverse population also contributes to a high quality of life for locals; about 33 per cent of its population are visible minorities and roughly 30 per cent immigrants, according to the City’s municipal government.

As one of Canada’s most ethnically diverse cities, Calgary is home to a wide range of annual festivals that showcase the best of various cultures including food, dance, story, attire and so much more! Some of the best Calgary festivals include:

  • Lilac Festival – Single day in May
  • High-Performance Rodeo – Late March to Late May
  • Calgary Folk Music Festival – Four days in late July
  • Beakerhead – Late September
  • GlobalFest – Late August
  • Calgary International Film Festival – Late September to Early October
  • Circle Carnival - September
  • Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo – Late April
  • Calgary International Beerfest – Early May

Foothills & Rocky Mountains

what is calgary famous for - close proximity to mountains and lakes

Moraine Lake

The city’s proximity to the beautiful foothills and the Rocky Mountains is at the top of the list of what Calgary is known for. Locals and tourists alike can reach beautiful mountain towns like Canmore and Banff within an hour or so and enjoy outdoor leisure and recreational activities any day of the week.

Mountain lakes, waterfalls, and rivers near Calgary have breathtaking scenery and panoramic views perfect for a family picnic, or perhaps to get that next best snap for your social media account. Some mountain lakes found nearby Calgary include:

  • Johnson Lake
  • Barrier Lake
  • Ghost Lake
  • Lake Minnewanka
  • Lake Louise
  • Moraine Lake
  • Grassi Lakes
  • Quarry Lake
  • Spray Lakes Reservoir
  • Vermillion Lakes
  • Kananaskis Lakes
  • Rawson Lake
  • Twin Lakes
  • Elk Lakes

Bow and Elbow Rivers

best communities in northwest Calgary hillhurst area

Peace Bridge & the Bow River

The Bow and Elbow Rivers are two other reasons why Calgary’s reputation is up there as a great place to live and visit. Summertime river activities include tubing, paddle boarding and canoeing.

Northwest Calgary parks like Bowness Park make for a good place to hop onto the river, while downtown areas like Prince’s Island Park and St. Patrick’s Island are ideal spots to dock. Low-flow lagoons that have been carved out of these downtown locations make it easy to dock onto the river’s embankments.

The Elbow River is slower flowing and better for tubers looking to relax while enjoying some sun. A great starting point is Stanley Park; the river flows north and merges into the Bow River, making St. Patrick’s Island’s lagoons ideal for boarding back onto land.

If you’re interested in a half to a full day of activities along Calgary’s rivers, check out:

Popular Attractions in Calgary

what is Calgary famous for? Nearby Hikes and Mountains

Rocky Mountains

Apart from the Foothills and Rocky Mountains, there are several activities and events happening annually that boost Calgary’s reputation as an exciting place to live and visit. Some of the best attractions to check out in Calgary:

  • Patrick’s Island
  • Prince’s Island Park
  • Fish Creek Provincial Park
  • Nose Hill Park
  • Calgary Tower
  • Glenbow Museum
  • Stephen Avenue
  • 17th Avenue SW
  • Saddledome
  • RiverWalk
  • Chinatown
  • Crescent Heights Plateau
  • Telus SPARK
  • Calgary Zoo
  • Military Museums
  • Winsport’s Canada Olympic Park
  • Sikome Lake
  • Chinook Mall
  • CORE Shopping Mall
  • CrossIron Mills
  • New Horizon Mall

Calgary Fire of 1886

calgary historical picture knox united church

Knoxville Church - Glenbow Museum

Over 100 years ago, Calgary was overwhelmed by a massive fire that destroyed several wooden buildings in the downtown area. As a result, city officials began quarrying sandstone from the embankments of the Bow River to use as a fire-retardant construction material in new city projects.

Today, you’ll see several sandstone structures in the City Centre area. Mostly schools and now designated heritage buildings, these tan-coloured bricked buildings remind us all of the infamous fire of 1886 that destroyed a good chunk of the city. Learn more:

What Else Is Calgary Known For?

calgaryism restaurant review

Family-oriented communities, reasonably priced homes (compared to Toronto, Vancouver, etc), and a good old time all around. Come to Calgary and experience the best that our city has to offer by staying in a walkable area such as downtown, Kensington or perhaps the Beltline, and we promise you’ll have a blast!

More Calgary Links:

Category: Blog, Calgary