Having been born and raised in Calgary I always enjoy getting back to the city to explore old favourites and find new things to do. That’s why it was a special treat to bring my family up highway #2 from Lethbridge, AB to spend last weekend in Calgary. Not only that, I was thrilled to have my mom fly in from Kelowna, BC to take part in our Calgary adventures.
Although my mom had lived in Calgary most of her life prior to relocating to Kelowna, it had been quite some time since she explored the various attractions Calgary has to offer. After my brother and I moved away it was easy for her to take for granted the many recreational options available.
“I was excited to have the opportunity to “be a tourist” and sightsee in Calgary once again to see what has changed.”
We had an action-packed itinerary that kept us busy from Friday to Sunday.
Deerfoot Inn & Casino
Located in south Calgary, and boasting a great casino, the Deerfoot Inn might seem like an odd choice for a family getaway. But the waterpark, four restaurants, and huge (and affordable) family suites make this a popular spot for families coming to Calgary. The quick access to Deerfoot Trail made it easy to get around the city and reach any attractions and restaurants within 10-30 minutes.
As someone with 10 years of experience working in hotels I know a thing or two about saving money on accommodations. In addition to comparison shopping online, I always check the local tourism websites to see what kind of promotions are happening at the time of my visit.
It turns out some Calgary hotels are having a fall promotion especially intended for people living within an eight-hour drive from the city (hey, that’s us!). The promotion includes a shopping package where you get a $75 gift certificate for each night you stay, up to a maximum of three nights. The gift certificates can be used for shopping, or other entertainment (e.g. movie, bowling) at one of three malls in Calgary – the CORE, CF Chinook Centre, and Cross Iron Mills.
Check out all of the Calgary 48 deals, where you’ll find deals on hotels, food, shopping, and attractions such as the Calgary Zoo, Royal Tyrell Museum, and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Armed with $450 worth of shopping gift certificates, plus a handful of deals for other Calgary attractions, we were set to have the best weekend of the fall.
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
The first stop was Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame featuring galleries with memorabilia of every imaginable Canadian sport, and interactive exhibits and sport challenges. The girls had fun in the virtual play area playing soccer, basketball and hockey. My oldest tried a few of the sports-simulators, including shadow boxing with Lennox Lewis, facing a slap-shot from an NHL player, and going down the ski jump.
The girls have learned about Canadian icon Terry Fox in school and so they especially enjoyed the Terry Fox: Running to the Heart of Canada exhibit.
Always the deal finder, there’s a 2-for-1 admission coupon on the Visit Calgary website.
For lunch we headed over to National Westhills, which had to be the most family-friendly pub I’ve ever been to. The long, communal tables were friendly and inviting for guests, and the menu was terrific. I especially enjoyed the craft beer menu, which includes local favourites from Tool Shed Brewing. The kids were delighted by the popcorn-bowl appetizers.
CF Chinook Centre
After lunch we spent the afternoon shopping with our gift certificates at CF Chinook Centre. The mall is huge and has expanded many times since we’ve last been there. Parking is difficult to find, especially on a long weekend. Still, we managed to find a spot and make our way into the mall. There’s even a handy app called CF SHOP! to help you navigate the mall and pinpoint your parking spot.
The girls headed right over the the LEGO Store and each found a small play set. In a clever trick, the staff offered free LEGO minifigures to the kids who helped sort and put away all the assorted parts. Next we stopped at the Build-a-Bear store and the girls each got to stuff their own animal and name it.
Then the adults took over and happily spent the rest of our gift cards after a couple of hours roaming the mall.
Double Zero Pizza
Double Zero Pizza is located in Chinook Centre and is named after the finest grade of flour on the planet. The service was amazing, and we let the staff decide on the menu for us. I’m glad we did, because items that we would have never ordered on our own, such as mushroom crosta, and the prosciutto & apple pizza, were incredible.
Stuffed and exhausted from a busy day of walking and shopping, we headed back to the hotel to relax and get the girls ready for bed.
Saturday morning was spent at the Calgary Zoo. We lucked out with fairly mild weather – for November – as we wandered around the exhibits.
Prehistoric Park was under construction, but the Penguin Plunge more than made up for that. It wasn’t busy first thing in the morning so we spent a good 20-30 minutes with the penguins watching them play and get their breakfast from the Zoo staff.
Another highlight was seeing Kimani, the eight-month old baby gorilla.
One of the must-see attractions coming up this winter is to experience Zoolights. From November 25th, 2016 until January 8th, 2017, visitors can enjoy over 1.5 million lights and displays. Tourism Calgary is offering admission starting at $11.99.
Sidewalk Citizen Bakery
My mom and I were in awe of the revitalization of Calgary’s East Village. With our Zoo adventure complete we headed over Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, a popular haunt occupying the old Simmons mattress factory along the river walk.
After a day of feasting on Friday it was nice to have a light and delicious soup & sandwich lunch on Saturday.
Next was the Calgary Tower. My mom hadn’t been up there since it was the tallest building in the city centre and she thought it was cool to see how the downtown area has changed in all those years. Our oldest was brave enough to stand on the glass floor but our youngest didn’t want any part of it!
— Boomer and Echo (@BoomerandEcho) November 12, 2016
We took the girls swimming at the hotel waterpark Saturday night while mom, dad, and grandma relaxed and planned our Sunday activities.
A later start Sunday gave us the chance to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely morning. Then it was off the Heritage Park for Sunday brunch at the historic Wainright Hotel, where the staff dress in period costume.
Most of the village exhibits, which span the early 1860’s fur trade to the petroleum and automobile dominated 1950’s, were closed for the season, but it was fun exploring the historical village, which has become a premier tourist attraction in the city and one of North America’s largest living history museums.
Fun fact: This was our kids’ second visit to Heritage Park, after attending Day out with Thomas at the park several years ago.
Gasoline Alley Museum
Finally, it was on to the Gasoline Alley Museum, which showcases vintage vehicles, antique gas pumps, and other automotive memorabilia. While not the most exciting place for kids, the museum did have a large kids area complete with a race-track for tricycles, plus other games and activities.
On our way out we stopped to check out the vintage toy store and marvelled at the old toys (some original, others restored) we had when we were kids. They don’t make ’em like they used to!
Mom’s flight left late Sunday night and we wanted to head back to Lethbridge and get the kids ready for school the next day. So we booked mom in for a nice, relaxing massage at RnR Wellness Spa in the Fairmont Palliser hotel late Sunday afternoon and then arranged for transportation back to the airport. Meanwhile, we headed back south, stopping in at Southcentre Mall to pick up a couple of Christmas presents (What? We only have one mall in Lethbridge!), and grabbing a bite to eat, before making the two-hour drive back home to Lethbridge.
Overall, our weekend getaway was very enjoyable. I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for Calgary and it was great to get the family together to greater explore the city we used to call home. For us, it’s more than just the Stampede and IKEA. I highly recommend discovering Calgary and taking advantage of the Calgary 48 deals offered this winter.
The above trip was sponsored by Tourism Calgary. This post contains no affiliate links, and all opinions are my own.