Home to the Calgary Stampede -- billed as the greatest outdoor show on Earth -- Calgary is an hour's drive from the Rocky Mountains and within easy driving distance of some of Alberta's most interesting attractions.
Whether you're looking for a break from the chuckwagons and barrel racing or just rounding out your visit, Calgary and the surrounding area are up to the challenge.
The Calgary Stampede -- July 7-16, 2006
For 10 days every year in July, this city shuts down to boot up. It's a time when neighbours come together over block party barbecues and free pancake breakfasts are everywhere. While the Stampede is the focal point of this celebration, many other free events go on throughout the city during this time.
Rodeos are a staple of summer life in Alberta and smaller versions of the Calgary Stampede are everywhere.
Stampede stunners: The Caravan Committee Stampede Breakfasts go through more than five tons of pancake batter, two tons of bacon and sausage, 5,000 bottles of pancake syrup and 85,000 containers of juice.
For more information, visit www.calgarystampede.com.
An hour northeast of Calgary is the tiny community of Rosebud. Once a mining town, Rosebud is now a unique artistic community and home to the Rosebud School of the Arts. Squirreled away off a country road, both the community and the theatre are well worth a visit. For details on current shows and location information visit www.rosebudschoolofthearts.com.
Going way back -- Drumheller
A mere 138 kilometres northeast of Calgary is Drumheller and the opportunity to step back millions of years to a time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. A small community of less than 8,000 residents, Drumheller plays host to half a million visitors annually, most of whom have come to visit the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology.
Internationally recognized as one of the premier palaeontology museums in the world, the Royal Tyrell Museum features 10 signature galleries that move visitors through the Earth's geological time. Youngsters will want to take time along the way to try out the interactive displays that are sprinkled throughout the museum. Ratchet up the fun value of the experience by signing up for a dinosaur dig or a guided hike with a palaeontologist.
Eighteen kilometres southeast of Drumheller is the Hoodoo Trail, which gives visitors an unforgettable view of the hoodoos, natural rock formations of hard rock caps perched on rock pillars.
Image courtesy of the Calgary Stampede
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Have a hankering to enhance your Western experience? Alberta guest ranches offer enthusiasts anything from a brief trail ride to a weeklong stay.
An hour and a half outside Calgary is the Bar U Ranch, now a National Historic Site of Canada. The ranch consists of 35 buildings and structures and has been the temporary "home" of the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII), artists and even the Sundance Kid.
Banff National Park
A little more than an hour west of Calgary is Banff National Park, one of the world's largest protected wilderness areas, where visitors can take in the breathtaking beauty of nature's canvas. Tucked into the rugged Rocky Mountain landscape, Banff offers a bouquet of experiences, from a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain to fishing in Lake Minnewanka to a soak in the Upper Hot Springs (a naturally heated mineral spring pool) to a sumptuous look at the incomparably beautiful Banff Springs Hotel (styled after a Scottish baronial castle).
A must-see: The Columbia Icefield
Located on the boundary of Banff and Jasper National Parks, the Columbia Icefield covers nearly 325 square kilometres and is one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle.
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Image courtesy of the Calgary Stampede
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