Finding amazing free things to do in a new city is a great way to explore. Calgary is a fantastic city that has a rich heritage and a great culture. Thanks to all of the well-priced flights to Calgary the city is becoming increasingly more popular and as a result, there are many amazing things to do there.
From discovering secret gardens to attending some of the world’s weirdest festivals, this article looks at our favourite free things to do in Calgary.
Discover a secret garden at the top of a shopping mall
Where – CORE Shopping Centre, Downtown Commercial, 324 8 Ave SW
When – All year round, during centre opening hours
Guess who’s back! 🤗🤗 The Devonian Gardens are finally up and running again in the CORE mall. Full of beautiful greenery and places to sit and relax, come check out the renovations on your lunch break – you’ve been waiting long enough! 🌴🌸🌳🌺 . . . . #downtowncalgary #iamdowntown #devonian #captureyyc #yyc #calgary #yycgardens #loveyyc #yycvibes #yycnow #cityliving #narcitycalgary #curiocitycalgary #stephenavenue
Get the lift to the fourth floor of the CORE Shopping Centre and instead of wandering into a homeware shop or sky-high restaurant you’ll find Devonian Gardens. It’s a fantastic indoor botanical garden measuring one hectare in space which is full of tropical plants, ponds and places for children to play.
Devonian Gardens is right next to the mall’s food court, so feel free to grab some food and a seat surrounded by beautiful flora or simply come here to stroll around this beautiful place.
Have a free pancake breakfast
Where – All over the city
When – During the Calgary Stampede
Free pancake breakfasts are exceptional things that seem like they only exist in blissful dreams. However, during the Calgary Stampede, the city opens its doors to all newcomers and shows its fantastic spirit through free stampede pancake breakfasts. If you are visiting during the stampede and looking to take part in as much as possible, skipping the lie-in and joining in on one of these fantastic breakfasts is a great thing to do. There is even a site dedicated to helping people find a free breakfast, so all you need to do is find a date that suits you and turn up!
Enjoy some fantastic theatre
Where – Prince’s Island Park, 698 Eau Claire Ave SW
When – Summer
During the summer months, there is nothing more blissful than spending time in the beautiful outdoors. Upgrade this experience in Calgary by enjoying Shakespeare by the Bow, a production put on by recent theatre graduates who entertain the masses with their free-to-watch plays. Taking place in Prince’s Island Park, the performances are free to attend, although a donation box is passed around for those who wish to help support these new artists. Prince’s Island Park sits on the Bow River on the site of a former sawmill. It’s also recommended to bring a blanket and a picnic.
See the birds at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre
Where – Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, 2425 9 Ave SE
When – All year round, from sunrise to sunset
If you are looking for a relaxed place to hike, Canada has millions of options. One of the best in Calgary is at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre. The land it sits on was first settled in 1883, and it became a Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary in 1929. The centre is a perfect place for migrating birds to rest and so the residents of the area change year-round. As you walk through the centre you can see some of the 270 species of birds, 21 species of mammals and 347 species of plants recorded at the sanctuary.
Get creative at Beakerhead
Where – All over the city
Beakerhead aims to bring together a range of people through its culmination of the arts, science and engineering. This 5-day city-wide festival has more than 60 events and they all feature around the slightly bizarre. Beakerhead aims to have no social or cultural barriers, and simply hopes all attendees can embrace its creative culture. They wish to not only educate but collaborate with those who attend, and they donate all proceeds to advancing education at the crossroads of art, science and engineering.
We spoke to the team at Beakerhead, who told us a bit more about the inspiration: “The world of science and engineering is full of wonders that are inaccessible to many. We want to meet people where they live by creating doors and windows into our world through art and creativity. At Beakerhead, science and engineering get mainstream — and spectacular!”
The team told us about some of the main events that shouldn’t be missed: “The free events of Beakerhead are spread out around the city. Hop on a bike and try to visit all 12! They are called Beacons. There are also dozens of ticketed workshops and shows where you can roll up your sleeves and make something — a ‘Jurassic Park’ piece of amber with your own treasure inside or your own cell phone charger or your own facial oil, learning all about it in the process. Not to miss? Beakernight at Fort Calgary on September 22. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the gate.”
Finally, we asked why it’s an unforgettable experience: “There’s something about the feeling that you have discovered something; stumbled upon a delightful installation in an unexpected location. The unexpected lodges in your memory quite easily, and it can make you happy for months to come!”
Float the Bow
Where – Anywhere along the Bow
When – Best done in the Summer
Floating the Bow is an annual tradition in Calgary, and it’s something anyone is welcome to take part in. The Bow and Elbow Rivers flow through the city and both offer a different ‘floating’ experience. Although the Bow is the more popular of the two, the Elbow is calmer.
Every year, during the summer months, people grab dinghies, rafts or kayaks and take to the river to spend some time floating down it serenely. Floating the Bow is free, but you may have to rent equipment if you don’t have it with you, including a life jacket (just in case!)
Explore the +15 Skywalk
Where – All around Downtown Calgary
When – All year round
Cities all have different ways of letting people get around; from undergrounds to bike lanes, you can find all kinds of ways to explore around the world. Calgary’s way is the +15 Skywalk. The +15 sits slightly above street level and allows people to not only see the city from a different angle but also explore without having to go outside. That means it comes into its element during Calgary’s cold winters as you can get around without needing to brave the snow! As well as just being a good way to explore the city, it is also full of its own little shops, eateries and coffee shops. If you are in the city you must explore the +15 Skywalk and everything in it at some point!
And there you have it, some of the best free things to do in Calgary, now the only question is, where will you start? Check out our Calgary holidays to find out…
Image Credit: Intrude by Amanda Parer. Photo by Curtis Anderson for Beakerhead.