10 things to do in Calgary this Summer

Summer is one of our favourite seasons in Calgary! Here, in no particular order, are the top 10 reasons why we believe you can’t beat summers in Calgary.  

The Calgary Folk Music Festival

The only thing better than a sunny day at Prince’s Island Park, sheltered from downtown’s bustle by trees, birds and rushing water, is if that day is spent in mid-July, lounging on a tarp as your favourite band rocks the main stage 20 feet away. When the festival first touched down on Prince’s Island in 1980, it launched three decades (and counting) of sarongs, homespun wares, vegetarian delicacies and acoustic guitars. At the Calgary Folk Music Festival, the world is as it should be for four days: people are happy, friendly, well-fed and unanimously addicted to good music. The 1,500-plus volunteers required to make the annual festival happen are always eager to pitch in and be part of the event. The festival pushes the definition of folk music, and has featured everyone from Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg and Feist to Jill Barber, Rufus Wainwright, Lucinda Williams and Alison Krauss. A musical, feel-good haven from everyday corporate life, it’s delightfully appropriate that the Folk Fest takes place so near to the city’s heart.


Our civic pride makes us want to blow stuff up. (We’re talking about fireworks here, just to be clear.) The annual GlobalFest international fireworks competition and exhibition is a chance to see fireworks on a grand scale in a beautiful park setting. More than 100,000 visitors attended the competition in its first year, 2003, a record that’s been broken several times in the decade since. The fireworks are visible from a distance, but paying to enter the Elliston Park venue is well worth the small investment to see low-lying fireworks and aquatic pyrotechnics that skitter along the lake, and to hear the music to which the show is choreographed. In addition to the fireworks, the festival includes the OneWorld Festival, with cultural events throughout the city and a speakers’ forum.

Calaway Park

Western Canada’s largest outdoor family amusement park, Calaway Park (the name was arrived at by combining “Calgary” and “away”) is 10 km west of the city just off the Trans-Canada Highway. The park, open from spring through fall, features no less than 32 rides ranging from tame to thrilling, along with high-energy entertainment. Your gate admission includes complete access to all the rides — you’ll just need cash for snacks and souvenirs. On a warm summer day, the atmosphere is sheer fun. Those with young children might want to consider investing in season’s passes.

Street Festivals

When the first hint of warm weather falls upon us, it’s time to bust out the summer gear and take to the streets at one of Calgary’s street festivals. In early June, the Lilac Festival offers a lovely introduction to summer. Vendors and performers from around the city gather on bustling 4th Street S.W. to celebrate and ply their wares. Many communities have similar festivals throughout the summer — Inglewood celebrates Sunfest in August, Marda Gras takes place in Marda Loop in mid-August, and the Chinatown Street Festival caps off Hong Kong Week and GlobalFest in late August. But street festivals celebrate more than our neighbourhoods. Carifest, held in mid-August, presents Calgarians with a taste of the Caribbean. The celebration of food and culture of Africa spills out of Prince’s Island Park and through the downtown core for the week of Afrikadey, also in mid-August, while ReggaeFest is celebrated in June. Expo Latino says “hola” in August, and the cooking is slow, smoky and Southern-style on the Labour Day weekend with a 20-year Calgary tradition, Barbecue on the Bow.

The Stampede

The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede draws in about 1.2 million visitors each year over 10 days in July — and the spirit it has produced throughout the city since it began in 1912 is almost annoyingly infectious. And why not? The rides and prizes found on the midway are a carny lover’s delight. Some of the world’s top pop and country musical acts can be seen playing on the grounds. Stampede cuisine is an event in itself as free pancake breakfasts happen all over the. The Stampede itself provides foods synonymous with the annual event —mini doughnuts, corn dogs and everything delicious and deep-fried. At the core of the Stampede, though, are the rodeo and the chuck wagon races, where cowboys and cowgirls compete for major prizes and prestige.

Floating down the Elbow River

If you want to take a mini vacation within the city, floating down the Elbow River is the perfect choice. It’s cheap, easy to organize, full of surprises and safer (not to mention warmer) than floating down the Bow. If you already have an inflatable raft, the only expenses left are snacks and beverages for the two- to four-hour float.You’ll need two vehicles for this nautical journey: one to leave at the docking location (most commonly Stanley Park or the Repsol Centre) and another to get you to your launch site. The most popular starting point is Sandy Beach Park at the bottom of 50th Avenue S.W. To tack on an extra 45 minutes or so of extra float time, go to the launch point located five minutes from Sandy Beach at the parking lot near 19th Street S.W. and 56th Avenue S.W. Walk five minutes east past the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant, then follow the bike path down the hill to the Glenmore dam, and push off. Spending an afternoon drifting leisurely on a raft and cooling off with sprinkles of river water when you so desire is a summer activity that’s hard to beat. Just remember, life-jackets are mandatory and alcohol is prohibited.

The Calgary Stampeders

It’s not only the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames and the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen that can draw thousands of cheering fans. The Calgary Stampeders bring CFL football to life in Calgary at McMahon Stadium.  Competing in the Western Division they have won seven Grey Cups and have appeared in the Grey Cup Championship game 14 times. Nothing beats cheering on the team, while enjoying the weather outside.

Mountain Biking

Our area is well-known for skiing, but Calgary is also right on the edge of some of the world’s best downhill and cross-country mountain biking territory. Canada Olympic Park, right in the city, offers fun and challenging lift-accessed downhill riding during the summer months, and within day-trip or long-weekend distances are the mountain-bike meccas of Canmore, Banff, Fernie and Panorama. Farther away in next-door British Columbia, but still within reach, are Kamloops, Vernon and even Whistler. Gear up, skill up and rip it up.

Elbow and Bow River Pathways

From Bowness Park in the northwest, the Bow River Pathway travels through parks alongside the eclectic neighbourhoods of Inglewood and Bridgeland, past industrial Calgary and into the heart of nature at Fish Creek Provincial Park in the south. The Elbow River Pathway starts in Inglewood, continues past Stampede Park to Mission and trendy 4th Street, and then climbs from Sandy Beach to River Park, where furry friends run free and self-propelled urbanites soak up views of the Elbow River. The mix of nature and urban vibe is a constant along the pathways. Hilltop views of the majestic Rockies, snow-capped and brilliant, spread across the western skyline, while Calgary’s downtown core reaches prominently out of the concrete. Enjoying Calgary’s 700-plus kilometres of walking and biking pathways is an easy sell during the warm days of summer, but few realize how spectacular and peaceful a pathway outing is during the frosty season.

Fly Fishing on the Bow

Is there another major centre in the world where you can fish for trophy-sized wild trout without leaving the city?  If so, we’ve never heard of it. Since fly fishing usually conjures images of pristine and unpopulated wilderness, it might surprise people that the Bow River offers top- quality fishing, smack dab in the middle of the city. These fish are big, but they’re not stupid – as far as fish go. They’ve grown used to the increased activity on the river that international acclaim has attracted, and it take a skilled angler to match wits with these trout. 

Summer means, sun, fun and outdoors in Calgary 

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