Calgary is an exciting city in the Canadian province of Alberta, home to a rich Wild West heritage and world-famous attractions. It’s the perfect destination for a city break, featuring all the ingredients for an incredible holiday.

With its iconic Western culture, top sights, tasty cuisine, unique urban cowboy atmosphere, and easy access to jaw-dropping nature, hopping on a direct flight to Calgary from London Heathrow with Air Canada is an easy choice. Calgary is an exciting city to visit all year round, but if you have your eye on Calgary for an autumn or winter break, this guide highlights some of the many reasons to book those tickets.

Winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding

Those seeking an active holiday will find all they need and more in Calgary, whether visiting in autumn or winter. The incredible WinSport Calgary Olympic Park is one of the city’s must-visit attractions, providing many fun activities, including skiing and snowboarding.

Canada locals Maya and Michal from the blog Travel with the Smile share that WinSport is one of their favourite winter activities in Calgary: “WinSport Canada Olympic Park was built in 1988 for the Winter Olympics. It’s now locals’ favourite for beginner skiing and snowboarding. With two chairlifts, several runs including a terrain park halfpipe & slopestyle, and a magic carpet for the little ones, it’s an excellent place for the whole family.”

Pairing city exploration with fun on the ski slopes provides a lovely contrast on any Calgary holiday. Still, WinSport visitors can also enjoy mountain biking, mini golf, and downhill karting.

City sights

Calgary Tower
View of Calgary Tower

A city break to Calgary contains so many possibilities, and this includes some fantastic sights that shouldn’t be missed. For example, Calgary Tower is one of the city’s most iconic attractions. This 190-metre freestanding structure stands high above the city, featuring an epic observation deck with 360-degree views and dining experience.

You could also visit the Devonian Gardens, admiring the beautiful autumnal colours and snowy winter landscapes. These beautiful gardens are in the middle of the city and feature waterfalls, trees, fishponds, playgrounds, and thousands of plants to admire.

Or how about a day out at Calgary Zoo? This is the most visited zoo in Canada, and for good reason; there are over 1000 animals to see and an abundance of fish and insects. Spread across 120 acres, the zoo is open every day apart from Christmas Day.

Jami, from the Adventure Awaits travel blog, visited Calgary Zoo during her time in the city and shared some tips: “Give yourself lots of time to check out all of the different exhibits. I wish we had a whole day at the zoo and scheduled in some of the educational shows and activities for leg breaks.”

Jami also advises that people visiting Calgary Zoo with kids take a break during their time there as “there are lots of open fields and a few playgrounds for the kids to relax and let loose. Grab a snack and sit back and let them run around like their favourite animals!”

Exciting neighbourhoods

There’s something fun going on in every corner of Calgary, thanks to its eclectic mix of exciting neighbourhoods. Away from the heat of the summer months, visitors can enjoy a rich array of shops and restaurants on the desirable 17th Avenue, providing plenty of entertainment and an opportunity to sample some of the city’s local cuisine. For a first-rate tip, Canadian blogger Linda Hoang has highlighted one of her favourite restaurants on 17th Avenue:

The Living Room has an amazing patio right on the bustling 17th Ave., twinkly lights and all, and also primarily specialises in tapas, small dish, sharing style dining. Here, the sauces really stood out in all the dishes we tried, like, we didn’t leave a speck of sauce, from the tomato jam with their chistorra sausage, a muhammara pepper dip with walnuts in the charred shishito peppers, a cauliflower cream sauce in the cavatelli pasta and the roasted garlic buerre blanc creamy French sauce with the spinach & ricotta tortelloni.”

Inglewood is another great neighbourhood to visit, with some fantastic live music to be enjoyed thanks to its wide range of music venues, such as The Blues Can (the unofficial house of blues), the Ironwood Stage and Grill with its 400 shows a year, and the Festival Hall which is home to the Calgary Folk Music Festival in the summer but sees a fantastic line up of great concerts throughout the autumn and winter.

Calgary is a cycling city

Cycling along the Bow River in Calgary
Cycling along the Bow River in Calgary

Calgary is a beautiful city to explore, and one of the best ways to do so is by bike. Cycling is a great activity to enjoy in the autumn and winter, thanks to the city’s brilliant cycle routes. Calgary is home to North America’s largest urban pathway and bikeway network, making it easy for locals and visitors alike to hop on a bike and explore the city’s neighbourhoods, public art installations, gardens and parks.

You can decide to go for a bike along the urban oasis that is Glenmore Reservoir, take in the city skyline by zipping along the Bow River, enjoy a relaxing tour through the quaint Riley Park, or spend a day exploring the many pathways of Fish Creek Park with its pelicans, deer, and owls.

Outdoor enthusiast Thomas, from the blog Out and Across, shares what he loves about biking around Fish Creek Park: “A Calgary gem for cyclists, Fish Creek is a highly maintained provincial park with trail maps posted in multiple locations. As one of the largest urban parks in Canada, Fish Creek easily makes my list.

“This park is conveniently close to my house, at connect about 8 kilometres to the entrance near the McKenzie Meadows Golf Club. The Fish Creek Park bike trails to the Bow River Pathway and the Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, making it a great place to start or finish a ride.”

READ ALSO: Must-visit provincial parks near Calgary

Public art installations

Calgary has a vast public art collection featuring over 1300 pieces across the city. From permanent outdoor sculptures to temporary public art installations, a great variety is on display, all funded through Calgary’s public art funding strategy.

As a result, visitors to the city in Autumn and winter should keep their eye out for some of these fascinating installations, such as ‘Wonderland’ (a large-scale sculpture of a young girl's head located in front of The Bow building downtown), ‘Women are Persons!’ (a statue in front of the Alberta Legislature Building celebrating a legal victory allowing women to be appointed to the senate), and a collection of brilliant pieces by Indigenous artists.

Look at this map of public art in Calgary to help you during your visit.

Calgary is the gateway to the Rockies

Man enjoying Banff in the Canadian Rockies
Man enjoying Banff in the Canadian Rockies

One of the greatest benefits and best reasons to visit Calgary is its close proximity to the glorious Canadian Rockies. Calgary is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, a location of staggering beauty and epic wildlife. This picturesque mountain range spans two provinces and is one of the world’s best locations for outdoor enthusiasts.

So, once you have explored the city, head out and discover the Rockies. With a car hire in Canada, it takes only 90 minutes to drive from Calgary to one of the Rockies’ signature locations, Banff – a stunning resort town and national park. Exploring locations like Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise during autumn or winter will provide visitors with the most gorgeous scenery, whether you enjoy it on a hike, when skiing, or from the car on a road trip.

There are a thousand and one things to enjoy in the Rockies, so if you plan on visiting Calgary, make sure you plan some time to take in its majesty for yourself.

Calgary’s Western Heritage

One of the amazing things about Canadian holidays is the incredible diversity of landscapes and atmosphere. In Calgary, you can experience Canada’s western heritage, featuring cowboys, rodeos, and rugged wild west landscapes. The iconic Calgary Stampede event is a summer highlight, but the Heritage Park Historical Village is the place to be at weekends in early autumn and for lots of special events throughout the winter.

Set on 127 acres of land on the city’s southwestern edge, the Heritage Park Historical Village is a fascinating living history museum celebrating Calgary’s western routes in a family-friendly package. There are more than 200 exhibits and attractions to enjoy across the lush parkland, pleasing history buffs and casual visitors alike. There's something for everyone, from antique steam train rides and paddlewheel ships to farm animals and prairie towns.

Cam and Nicole from the travel blog, the Traveling Canucks, have visited the Heritage Park and share this reflection: “We really enjoyed our time at the Heritage Park. It offers families a unique blend of history and amusement. After visiting, we can see how it has become one of Calgary’s premier tourist attractions and one of North America’s largest and most successful living history museums.”

READ ALSO: 48 Hours in Calgary

Reasons to visit Calgary in autumn or winter

  • Winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding
  • City sights
  • Exciting neighbourhoods
  • Calgary is a cycling city
  • Public art installations
  • Calgary is the gateway to the Rockies
  • Calgary’s Western Heritage

As you can see, Calgary is a great destination to visit in autumn and winter, holding the keys to many exciting possibilities. Whether you want to explore its western routes, hit the ski slopes, relax in the city, or head out to the Canadian Rockies, it’s all possible.

If you want to learn more, take a look at our Calgary holidays page and speak to our Canada travel experts. We would love to tailor-make your perfect Calgary adventure.

For more tips, guides, and advice, visit our blog.

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