Calgary is a city that has always thrived on adventure, from the cowboy antics of the first ranchers to the rough and tumble oil booms to the looming slopes of Banff National park, which have tempted and challenged adventurers form all over the globe for the last century.
It is not surprising then that the majority of excursions in and around the city glorify the great outdoors, from the deep powder of Banffs ski resorts to the world famous trout fishing on the Bow River.
When you first arrive to Calgary, the fastest way to get oriented in is to take a trip to the top of the Calgary Tower, where the entire city is spread out 190 meters below. The restaurant and lounge in the observation deck rotate slowly, giving you a 360-degree view every few minutes, so you never know what you will see next when you look out the window.
Exploring the city on foot is easy if you take advantage of the paved walking and cycling trails linking downtown with most of the residential areas and municipal parks. From th e broad, tree-lined boulevards separating Eau Clair Market from the Bow River to the twisting walkways of Fish Creek Park, it is possible to ride from one end of the city to the other without ever leaving a bike path. If you feel like a gentle stroll along the riverfront, Princes Island Park along the Bow River provides a quick getaway from the bustle of the downtown streets. Bicycle and in-line roller skate rentals are available during the summer, and maps issued by the city detail routes and points of interest.
Tour bus packages are the easiest way to see the countryside around Calgary in a short time. Several companies provide motorcoach trips from major Calgary hotels to Banff, the Columbia Icefield, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump and Waterton Lakes N ational Park. Brewster Tours offers the world famous SnoCoach service, where huge tour buses equipped with all-terrain tires carry passengers onto the Columbia Icefield, one of the largest sub-arctic glaciers in North America.
If you want to get off th e beaten path and see parts of the mountains invisible from the tour buses, guided horseback rides are offered at several ranches in Kananaskis country. These rides last anywhere from an hour to several days, and are relatively inexpensive. Some ranches a lso offer bed and breakfast facilities for those wishing to stay overnight.
Heritage Park and Fort Calgary are two sites that allow you to discover the pioneer way of life with turn of the century buildings, artifacts, and guides dressed in period costu me. The Glenbow Museum details the history of Western Canada, as well as its exhibits on cultures the world over.
For prehistoric entertainment, the Calgary Zoos Prehistoric Park features a re-creation of life in Alberta 60 million years ago, complete with life-sized dinosaurs.
A relaxing time can be had floating down the Bow River, which runs from Banff to Calgary, in a canoe, raft or drift boat. Guides are available to help you navigate the twisting channels, and they can show you the best places to fish for the famous Bow River brook trout.
Hunters seeking antelope, white-tailed deer and bighorn sheep in Kananaskis Country can secure the services of a guide through one of several outfitting companies in the area.
Canada Olympic Park, site of t he 1988 Winter Olympics, is open for tours year round; its most impressive sites include the 90-meter ski jump and the bobsled track. The top of the ski jump tower is the highest point in Calgary, and can be rented out for parties and conventions. The Bobsled Bullet is a modified bobsled that you can ride at speeds of over 90 km/hr down the same track featured in the Disney movie Cool Runnings.