Where to eat, drink, explore, and adventure in Calgary.
You know that feeling when you visit a city and find yourself wishing you knew a local who could tell you where to shop for vintage treasures, how best to spend a free afternoon, and where to find a gourmet pizza that will blow your mind? Just in time for the event profs of the world to descend on our home city for ILEA Live this August, our owner Dustin Westling, CSEP, is offering up his list of must-visit spots around YYC that will have you eating, shopping, and adventuring like a boss. Bonus: Most of the list boasts such killer Instagram accounts that they are worth hitting that follow button, local or not. Whether you’ve been to Calgary before or this is your first time visiting Canada’s Gateway to the Rockies, read on for the inside track to an inspiring, exciting, and maybe even eye-opening trip to our beautiful and vibrant hometown.
Neighbourhoods to Stroll:
Inglewood is Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood, where today you’ll find the city’s best shopping, great live entertainment and art, and Dustin’s recommendation for a cup of coffee that will leave you trying to fit in another visit to Rosso Coffee Roasters.
This neighbourhood is worth a walk-through for shopping, grabbing a bite to eat, or just people watching. Container Bar is a fun stop for a creative cocktail, or if cats are more your thing, there’s a café for that.
There’s no shortage of restaurants, shops, and coffee spots to choose from on Fourth Street, and cool streetscaping and historic surroundings make this a great place to wander.
Where to Shop:
Antique and Unique
Be prepared to spend hours exploring this gorgeous shop full of treasures. You might not be able to take that apothecary cabinet home on the plane, but a vintage china plate or camera will fit in your carry-on just fine.
This shop is overflowing with amazing finds for your yard and garden, along with interior pieces. We’ll be keeping an eye out when we attend the SEARCH Foundation fundraiser here on August 9, as part of the ILEA Live schedule.
North American Quality Purveyor
If you care about where your clothing comes from, this shop’s for you. Simple, stylish menswear with a mindful approach – including custom-made items – in a cute a-frame shop with a shop dog to greet you. What’s not to like?
Cody and Sioux
Calgary is more than cowboys and Stampede – but don’t think we aren’t 100% proud of our western roots. This shop will make you a believer in stylish western-wear – hit it up before opening night.
Liz and Lottie
Sassy welcome mats, wedding and baby gifts and cards that don’t make you want to roll your eyes, and jewellery with NSFW language – this shop is full of attitude, in all the right ways. Grab something for you, and something for whomever is on your sorry-I-got-to-travel-and-you-stayed-home list.
East Village Junction
This one’s more than shopping. We love anything that brings people together, and this summer pop-up does that with retail shops set up in shipping containers, a central courtyard for mingling and lingering, workshops, music, art, and food trucks.
Toys, clothing, and other useful things for the tiny humans in your life. This stuff is well-designed, well-made, and let’s just say it – really, really cute.
Where to Eat:
A base in Vietnamese food with influences from across Asia, this will be unlike anything you’ve had. Shout-out to Chef Duncan Ly, a long-time colleague of Dustin’s.
This restaurant’s founders didn’t focus on a theme or style of food – just on what they liked to eat. We can’t argue with that.
Located in the Design District, this ‘chef-driven’ bar has a mid-century modern look that any design-nerd can appreciate. Like most of us these days, they don’t have a phone, so book a reso online or text to find out what the wait is like.
Fantastic food. A great patio. Warm, bright, and unique décor. The most comfortable seating, including a special harvest table for large groups. To quote Dustin directly, “everything about this place is magic.” Just go; you won’t be sorry.
Suzette Brittany Bistro
Two French chefs team up on a menu inspired by the North of France and featuring local and seasonal ingredients.
Canadian cuisine at its finest, featuring seasonal, sustainable, indigenous, and foraged ingredients – enjoy it on the beautiful tree-lined patio.
Una Pizza + Wine
There’s average pizza, then there’s good pizza, and then there’s Una Pizza. And the fun doesn’t stop there, because the whole menu is pretty life-altering – try the Kale Salad, and thank us later.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth:
Village Ice Cream
Try unique and local flavours like Two Hills Earl Grey, Guide’s Mint, or Phil & Sebastian Coffee, and don’t be surprised if you bump into the list-maker himself – Dustin admits to visiting this spot four nights/week (it’s literally within view of his place, so can you really blame him?).
Made by Marcus
Before you click that link, let us warn you that their Instagram account will make you want ice cream in ways you never knew were possible. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
Pubs, Bars, and Lounges:
Untitled Champagne Lounge
A huge selection of champagnes and sparkling wines makes this the perfect spot for celebrating an Esprit Award win (yours or anyone else’s!).
Betty Lou’s Library
We can tell you that it’s located in the Devenish Building, but finding the entrance and locking down the secret code is up to you.
We love this spot for events, and we love it on a Saturday night, too. Book a booth; you won’t regret it.
We can’t think of any better way to sell this spot than by quoting their Instagram bio: “Rum, Caribbean Food, and Good Vibes.” Sounds like a vacation within a vacation, right?
Proof Cocktail Bar
An above-average place to find an above-average cocktail. With names like Howling Wilderness, The Petticoat Army, and The Other, Other Woman, ordering is half the fun.
Poolside by Hotel Arts
Grab drinks on the patio beside a sparkling Italian Bisazza glass-tile pool for a glamourous night-out in the city.
The Morning After:
Everything a great diner should be, with the perfect good ol’ breakfast for soaking up last night’s libations. You’ll feel almost as good as new, we promise.
Food that’s made from scratch and worth waiting to get in, even when you’re feeling a little groggy the morning after, say, an Awards Gala. We suggest the breakfast poutine…
Your Free Time:
Inglewood Lawn Bowling Club
Think lawn bowling is just for seniors? Think again.
WinSport Summer Activities
WinSport was originally founded to bid on Calgary’s hosting the winter Olympics, and since then has morphed and lived on as a hub for sport and active living in the city. Their list of summer activity options will keep you busy from dawn to dusk.
Lazy Day Raft Rentals
We challenge you to find a Calgarian who hasn’t done this at least once. After you’ve floated the river, these guys will even shuttle you back to your vehicle, solving that pesky problem. Get ready to reach maximum relaxation levels.
Art and Museums
You’ll get a chance to visit the National Music Centre as the venue for the ILEA Live Closing Event, but you might want to plan a second visit to check out five floors of exhibitions about music in Canada, among other reasons to explore ( your Instagram account will seriously benefit from the gorgeous architecture).
Small but mighty, this gallery is worth a visit.
In the Mountains:
There is so, so, SO much that could be included here that this list is just a drop in the bucket. Get in touch with our Business Development Coordinator, Riley, for more hiking advice and recommendations – don’t hesitate to drop her a line at email@example.com. That said, here are some of Dustin’s recommendations on enjoying the beautiful Rocky Mountains:
Grassi Lakes Trail
This offers a choose-your-own-adventure approach, with a very doable route as well as a more challenging option.
Johnston’s Canyon and Ink Pots
This is a popular hike for great reason – a well-maintained, easy-to-hike trail with beautiful views the whole way.
Tunnel Mountain Trail
This one’s a little tougher… not the right choice for the day after a long night, but on a good day, you’ll be rewarded with 360 views of Banff.
This is something every new visitor to the Rockies should do – the views are unbelievable.
Banff Lake Cruise
Seeing the mountains from the lake is another completely different and totally stunning way to experience the Rockies.
The Georgetown Inn
This is exactly what you’d expect a mountain-side inn to look like, located just outside of Banff National Park in Canmore. Dustin’s recommendation here is the fish and chips.
La Belle Patate
A great spot to stop in Canmore when you’ve worked up an appetite – the poutine will restore your energy nicely.
Park Distillery + Bar
Located right in Banff National Park, this is the place to go for locals and tourists alike. Campfire-inspired food, spirits distilled in-house, and a huge craft beer selection should satisfy just about anyone.
Juniper Hotel Bistro
Get your meal with a side of views-for-days at this bistro that boasts wall-to-wall glass.
Waldhaus Pub and Patio
Checking out the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is basically required for first-time visitors to the Park; grabbing a pint and a bite at Waldhaus while you’re there is more of an insider-secret.
Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
We could talk your ear off about how incredible and inspiring a visit to the Banff Centre is. For the sake of brevity, we’ll simply strongly suggest you check out their events listing, including the Saturday Night Jazz.
As they so aptly put it themselves, “pins, pints, pizza.” If you think bowling isn’t a cool thing to do for a night out, you’ve never been to High Rollers.
The Banff Indian Trading Post
This go-to for First Nations crafts and goods has been located in Banff National Park for over 100 years. As you might expect, that kind of history comes with no shortage of stories and legends.