Every city has that special tourist attraction, doesn’t it? Somewhere that’s not actually that old or monumental but holds a special place in the hearts of its residents. On a somewhat alarmingly common basis, these little gems in a city tend to me a tower of some sort (I’m looking at you Seattle, Toronto, Auckland) and Calgary is no different.
My favourite part of my visits to Calgary are all to do with staying with friends and really feeling like I’m immersed in the city for a week or so at a time. However, I would not be doing my due diligence as a fan of exploring the world if I didn’t indulge in some of the best tourist activities during my stay as well, would I? After hearing from several people that the thing to do as a tourist in the city is head up Calgary Tower, I decided it must be done.
Now, at present (for posterity, I am writing this during the Covid-19 spread of 2020, so travel and exploration is a little different these days) you must book your ticket in advance and arrive at your allocated slot. However, at the time I was travelling (January 2020) it was a fairly quiet time of year for Calgary and we wandered in on a chilly Tuesday if I remember rightly and it was all super civilised and lovely.
Tickets cost $18 (CAD) for adults, and $9 (CAD) for children, which under current exchange rates works out at around £10.50 for adults and a fiver for children, which isn’t bad really. My favourite thing about activities in Calgary during the winter is that they are invariably super quiet. It isn’t exactly high tourism season for the city (this is more during Stampede etc. in the summer months) and most people flying in to Calgary Airport are either there for business or head straight out to Banff for the skiing. So therefore, you have pretty much got most spots to yourself and wow does it make a change from the hectic crowds of some bigger city exploration.
The entrance way to Calgary Tower actually holds its own little exhibit and offers plenty of free maps of the city and the surrounding areas as well, which are all really useful if you plan on venturing around doing some more exciting exploring, but are also great to pick up if you or your children are in to scrapbooking after a holiday. A big map of Calgary makes the perfect front pack to your book of mementos!
At 191 metres tall, Calgary Tower stuck out above the crowd when it was built in 1967, but since then the contemporary city of Calgary as we now see it has crept up to meet it and in some cases exceed it. However, the plus of Calgary not being an enormous high rise city is that the tower still boasts some of the most stunning views in the area, with the 360 degree panoramic windows offering you the chance to not only peer down at the bundled up commuters walking to work below you, but also to gaze out at the Rocky Mountains in the distance. If you come from a more crowded place like I do, you’ll know what a joy it is for the horizon to just be so far away, and so beautiful.
For added photographic fun, the tower has a glass bottomed platform that you can walk out on if you dare (we definitely got a bit jittery at first!) and there is a looped video playing in a screening room up the top which shows you the construction of the tower and its impact on the city as a whole. There’s something that feels very unified about Calgary, like most of its citizens are genuinely working as a team to try and make the world a bit better. Now, I’m under no illusions that huge unforgivable injustices have happened in this area in the past, but there is an atmosphere of unity and humility about the city that I love. However, that is very much just my personal experience and other people have no doubt found it very different there.
If you’re after something to do to either escape the blistering heat of the summer or the icy chill of the winter in Calgary, then I highly recommend the tower. It offers stunning views, gives you a great vantage point to see other Calgary and the surrounding area landmarks (the Saddledome and the Olympic Park for example!) and is another tower to tick off the bucket list of Towers Around The World!