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How to Spend 3 Days in Calgary

How to Spend 3 Days in Calgary

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Heading to Calgary for a few days and trying to plan the perfect itinerary? It can be hard to decide exactly how to use your time, especially if you have just three days. 

Don’t worry though, we have crafted the ideal way to spend three days in Calgary. We’ve traveled to Calgary countless times and sorted out the can’t-miss sights, tastiest restaurants, and hidden gems. As an Albertan myself, you are in good hands!

You can either follow this itinerary exactly (and will have a fabulous trip) or pick and choose your favorite activities. We even threw in a day trip to the mountains in Banff, so you will truly experience the best!

Day 1

Breakfast at Namo Cafe Bistro

a selection of colorful breakfast foods from Namo Cafe Bistro
It almost looks too good to eat! Photo Credit: Namo Cafe Bistro

I don’t know about you, but I can never turn down the opportunity to go out for breakfast. It just hits differently on vacation, doesn’t it? Namo Cafe Bistro is our top pick for your first day in Calgary!

What makes Namo special for me is that they get all their ingredients from local sources, so the menu is constantly rotating to reflect what’s in season. That means incredibly fresh dishes! 

They offer a variety of benedicts, brunch bowls, and smashed toasts (try the Tuna Poke Toast!) – everything is good so you can’t choose wrong. They also have a coffee bar and a full bar, so treat yourself to a mimosa if you’d like! The staff are friendly and warm, just about as warm as the coffee they serve. 

A dish is about $20 CAD, but for how fresh and large the portions are, it’s not a bad price. As is true for most amazing brunch spots, it can get really busy on the weekends so I suggest booking a table in advance. There are two Namo Cafes in Calgary, but I prefer the one on Edmonton Trail!

Spend the morning exploring Canada Olympic Park

view of Olympic Park in Calgary from the luge
Downhill gokarting in Olympic Park!

It’s time to burn off some of that breakfast and the WinSport Canada Olympic Park is a fun way to do so. Originally built for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, it’s now open to the public. We like to go downhill go-karting during the summer, and during the winter, it’s a great spot to go skiing or snowboarding! 

The Olympic Park is a 20-minute drive from Namo. Driving or taking an Uber is the easiest way to get here, as the public bus will take about an hour and a half to get here. 

Have a blast going downhill karting

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at the Luge in Calgary
Go-karting is so much fun!
People ride down the Luge on the track in Calgary
Gotta go fast!

For those of you who are competitive (like we are) you will absolutely love go-karting! You don’t actually have to be super competitive to enjoy this sport, but adding a little high stakes to the event makes it even more fun. 

Dan and I had a blast cruising around the downhill go-kart track. This is the longest go-kart track in the world at 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles), and because it’s downhill you can pick up some serious speed! You’ll have full control over the brakes and steering though, so don’t be worried about it being too fast. 

We spent about 1.5-2 hours here, as you can purchase multiple rides. Buying 2 rides is $30 CAD and 4 rides is $40 CAD, which is actually pretty reasonable for how thrilling this activity is! You can pick up tickets online here so you don’t waste time in line!

There is also mini golf and ziplining, and this is the fastest zipline on the continent so you know it’s a good time. Go-karting begins at 10 am, so you can have a leisurely breakfast before heading here. I recommend double-checking the hours before you go as they can change. 

Hone your skiing and snowboarding skills

People skiing at Olympic Park in Calgary on a sunny winter day
In winter, this is the place to be! Photo Credit: jewhyte on Deposit Photos

Since the Olympic Park was built for the Winter Olympics, this is the best time to visit!

There are ski runs for all levels (not just Olympians) and they also have two terrain parks for those who can freestyle ski and snowboard. The ski runs aren’t as long or advanced as traditional ski resorts so if I’m being honest this isn’t my favorite place to ski. But it’s convenient to the city and the Olympic history makes it worthwhile! 

Lift tickets are available for $59 CAD for a 4-hour pass. This is much cheaper than some of the other iconic ski resorts in Alberta, which is a perk! You can rent gear from Sports Rent for about $50 CAD.

Stop by a brewery or the farmers’ market for lunch!

selfie of Bailey and Daniel drinking craft beer at a brewery in Calgary
The perfect lunch spot!

After a few hours of exploring, it’s time for lunch! We have two options, depending on your travel style. Either stop by one of Calgary’s many breweries or hit the farmer’s market, open year-round!

Prairie Dog Brewing

The first option is one of my ever-favorite breweries, Prairie Dog Brewing. Now, Calgary has a ton of breweries to choose from, but this one stands out for its large and open atmosphere, amazing food, and high-quality craft beer, of course!

They do southern BBQ well and you can find some of the best ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, and mac and cheese around! We had a hard time choosing, so we got the customizable lunch platter to try a variety of dishes – the brisket was my personal favorite. For beer, we loved the Tail Twitcher IPA and the Super B, which actually won a medal in the Alberta Beer Awards. You can also get a tasting flight of anything on tap, including seasonal and guest beers, cider, or mead. 

Prairie Dog Brewing is open at 11 am, just in time for lunch! They are about a 20-minute drive from Olympic Park, near the Chinook Mall.

Ol’ Beautiful Brewing Co.

Ol’ Beautiful Brewing Co. has a completely different vibe, but is still incredible! It has a mid-century modern decor that makes me swoon, as well as a huge patio during summer. They have a popular burrito food truck that serves big portions that are cooked to perfection – seriously it’s worth a visit here just for the food!

Okay, maybe the beers are the true reason to visit, as they offer a wide variety of styles. You’ll find traditional beers like IPAs, lagers, and fantastic seasonal brews. But they also offer unique styles like a Japanese Ale, Mexican Lager, and Blood Orange Blonde. So if you enjoy trying experimental beers, you’ll really love Ol’ Beautiful Brewing!

They are open from 11 am daily and best of all, everything is reasonably priced! It is located downtown and will only take you about 20 minutes to drive there from Olympic Park.

Calgary West Farmers’ Market

a selection of donuts on display for sale at the farmer's market
The donuts are really good!
Bailey walks through the indoor Farmer's Market in West Calgary
This indoor market is HUGE!

If craft breweries aren’t your scene, no worries – I have another fantastic lunch option! The Calgary West Farmers’ Market is an indoor market, open year-round, and has dozens of vendors – food and craft alike. This is also a great option if you’re starving by the time you finish up at Olympic Park, as it’s right across the road. 

There are lots of lunch options here, ranging in cuisines, prices, and dishes. I love the Bangkok Street Food vendor, which makes some of the best Pad Thai I’ve had outside Thailand itself! For dessert, we always stop by the donut stand because how can you resist? There are also vendors selling clothes, handcrafted items, fresh produce, and flowers, so explore for a bit!

The farmers’ market is open from 9 am to 7 pm Wednesday to Saturday and until 5 pm on Sundays. 

Visit Calgary Zoo or Heritage Park in the afternoon

penguins in the snow at the calgary zoo
The penguin walk at the Calgary Zoo is my favorite!

You get to choose your next activity! Dan and I enjoyed both the Calgary Zoo and Heritage Park so much we couldn’t decide, and both are great for different reasons.

Make some new friends at the Calgary Zoo

Who doesn’t love visiting a zoo? The Calgary Zoo makes impressive strides in conservation and ethical treatment of animals, so we love supporting this cause wherever we can. 

This zoo is quite large, we spent a few hours exploring and didn’t see it all. We did see gorillas, bears, penguins, hippos, and Komodo dragons! Although I loved the butterfly conservatory because you could walk through and have hundreds of butterflies fly around – it was pretty magical. 

They often host events, which are always fun for kids. You can check the event calendar here before you visit! I recommend buying tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in line, they are $37 CAD for adults and $26 CAD for kids. The zoo is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day.

Immerse yourself in history at Heritage Park

Gasoline Alley Museum at Heritage Park
Gasoline Alley at Heritage Park.

Heritage Park Historical Village is a great way to dive into Calgary’s history, or shall I say “living history”? This is an interactive museum where you wander through old-western buildings, interact with staff who stay in character, and see the horse-drawn carriages and the steam train! 

This is a great family outing, as there are many activities suitable for kids. Heritage Town Square has tons of old-fashioned shops, including Harvey’s Confectionary for some sweet treats. Our favorite part is Gasoline Alley’s antique car collection, which is quite large! There are cars from the early 1900s to the mid-50s, as well as memorabilia and other gas-powered items. 

Admission to Heritage Park is $35 CAD during the summer and $15 CAD the rest of the year. Stepping back in time is such a fun way to spend a few hours, and learn about Calgary’s history as you explore!

Related Read: Tours are a great way to learn about the city, and make exploring a breeze. Check out our favorite Calgary tours here!

Head downtown for dinner

Bailey walks through Downtown Calgary
Downtown Calgary

Before we dive into our dinner options, be sure to plan your time for dinner around sunset. Our last activity for the day is best at sunset, so you’ll want to catch it! Either go to dinner beforehand or if you’re a late diner, go after sunset.

There are too many amazing restaurants in Calgary to choose from, but since you have to choose – I recommend Caesar’s Steakhouse and Lounge! Caesar’s has been a staple in Calgary for over 50 years and they offer some of Alberta’s finest beef, plus the vibe is to die for. They take a cozy and luxurious ambiance seriously, and paired with perfectly prepared steaks and amazing wine, what more could you ask for?

We had the rib-eye and baby back ribs on our last visit, and I can hardly describe how yummy they were. You’re definitely paying for quality, as steaks are $54-$130 CAD and starters are $30 CAD, but sometimes you need to splurge and treat yourself! I recommend making reservations in advance, as Caesar’s is always busy.

a selection of steak and seafood at Caesar's Steakhouse and Lounge in downtown Calgary
So yum! Photo Credit: Caesar’s Steakhouse and Lounge

On the total opposite side of the scale is The Coup, but honestly, it’s just as worthy in my opinion! The Coup is a plant-based restaurant that sources all of its products from local vendors – we love supporting local businesses whenever we can. You really can’t tell their food is entirely plant-based from the hot pot to the drunken noodles and sushi, it’s all top-tier.

The atmosphere is much more relaxed than Caesars, so if you’re tired after a day of exploring and don’t want to get all dressed up, The Coup will accept you! They also make a mean cocktail and can make any cocktail as a mocktail so all can enjoy it. I suggest making a reservation (especially on the weekend) because this is a local hot spot and can be very busy.

Enjoy panoramic sights from the Calgary Tower as the sun sets

Bailey stands on the glass viewing deck on the Calgary Tower
This is much scarier than it looks!
View of Calgary from the Calgary Tower in Canada
What a view!

It’s time for the elusive sunset activity I hinted at before! Well, you probably scrolled down to peek or have read the heading and know what I have in store for you: sunset at the Calgary Tower! We are suckers for a good sunset, and the Calgary Tower has the best views of the city as the sun goes down. The cityscape with the Rocky Mountain background is too beautiful to skip over, and seeing it from 157 meters (517 feet) up is simply stunning. 

If you can time it right, get here about 30 minutes before sunset to beat the crowd. This will give you time to enjoy the 360-degree views and the glass-bottom platform that extends over the city (yikes!).

The Calgary Tower is open daily from 10 am to 9 pm (10 pm during the summer). I highly suggest booking your admission tickets in advance here so you don’t waste time waiting in line and can simply get up there for the views! Entrance is $19 CAD per person. 

If you want a truly memorable experience, have dinner at Sky 360! This is a rotating restaurant in the tower, so your views are the best in the city. Reservations are required to dine here. 

Day 2

Breakfast – Eat at River Café 

Eggs Benny at the River Cafe in Calgary
Eggs Benny at the River Cafe in Calgary
Drinks at the River Cafe in Calgary
We opted for beer and cider instead of coffee!

What’s better than a tasty breakfast? Breakfast with a view! We love fueling up at the River Cafe, which sits along the Bow River. During the summer, we sit on the patio to enjoy the fresh mountain air and the views, and during the winter, we love the cozy and rustic decor inside!

The River Cafe also stands out because it uses local ingredients, so the quality is always really high and the menu rotates seasonally. When I was last here, I had the egg plate, which was your classic breakfast of eggs cooked to order, delicious seasoned potatoes, and meat (go with the bacon, obviously!). 

They serve brunch on the weekends only from 10 am to 4 pm. You can still stop in for lunch during the week starting at 11 am! I suggest booking a table in advance, as this is a well-loved breakfast spot. 

Morning – Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary 

dogs playing at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Photo credit: Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
dog at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Photo credit: Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

Our next activity is about 45 minutes outside the city, but it’s worth the drive – trust me! The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is a non-profit wolfdog rescue and you can actually go see these adorable creatures. I told you it would be worth the drive!

You can visit on your own with the self-guided sanctuary walk for $33 CAD. There is also an intro tour for $47 CAD which includes a guide and photos, so this is ideal if you want to learn a little more behind the scenes. For those true animal lovers, you can join the interactive tour that lets you engage with the wolfdogs. The guide will tell you the history and behavior of the pack, all about the wolves, and you might even be able to feed them!

This interactive tour must be booked in advance – check out the details here

They do have a set of guidelines for the safety of the wolfdogs and us visitors. Children under 6 aren’t allowed, nor faux or real fur clothing items. The sanctuary is open from 10 am to 5 pm on Thursday through Monday. 

We had an amazing experience seeing these dogs, so I know that any tour you decide to go on will give you a good look!

Lunch – Walk Stephens Ave/ArtWalk

Daniel poses for a photo on the art walk on Stephens Ave
Cool art everywhere!
Bailey at a display on Stephens Ave at the art walk
Enjoying the Art Walk!

Head back to the city for one of my favorite activities, exploring Stephen Avenue! This vibrant street is pedestrian-only and you’ll want to spend hours wandering through all the cute shops and historic buildings. 

This is a huge art hub, there are tons of galleries that are fun to check out, as well as heaps of street art. Calgary has a popular ArtWalk that happens every September. While it’s a small window, if you happen to be in the city it’s so fun to join! The galleries have special exhibitions and workshops and there is a buzz of energy here. 

If you’re not in town for the ArtWalk, you can go on a self-guided art walk whenever you’d like. Calgary has a great public art map that will lead you all around the city – you won’t believe how much there is to see!

Stephen Ave is a great place to stop for lunch, you’ll have a hard time deciding because there are so many options. We love The Wednesday Room, which is an upscale 60s-style restaurant and it reflects the art and history vibe of the area. 

The Cactus Club is another one of our go-to’s and it’s a bit more casual than The Wednesday Room. They have a phenomenal happy hour from 2-5 pm, so if you can schedule a late lunch it’s a good option. For a local spot, check out Thai Thien Sub. They have amazing Vietnamese food and are super affordable. 

Afternoon – Walk/bike along the river

View of the river valley in Calgary in Fall
In the fall, the views are just stunning!

You’re really getting your steps in today! There is a great network of trails to walk or bike along, and I can’t think of any better way to spend a beautiful afternoon. 

The Bow River Pathway and the Elbow River Pathway are two of the best walking paths in Calgary. We used this handy trail map to figure out where to go and were easily able to access the trail from downtown via the Peace Bridge. 

We opted to walk this route, but there is also the chance to cycle! This bike tour makes exploring the Bow River easy, as they provide bicycles, helmets, and the route. It is a great way to see the most as you pass Prince’s Island Park, Fort Calgary, and the Beltline.

We love cycling tours because we always learn so much about the city! This 3-hour tour is $139 CAD. 

Dinner – Eat Alberta beef! 

Alberta Beef dish from a restaurant in Alberta
Alberta Beef is famous around the world!

While in Alberta, you have to try the famous Alberta beef! It is known around the world that Alberta sources some of the finest beef, and you’ll be spoilt for choice while in Calgary. 

People might argue about where to find the best steak in the city, just as they argue about how rare it should be! You can find some of the finest cuts at Vintage Chophouse & Tavern and I personally love the ambiance here. It’s upscale and classy, while still being super friendly and welcoming. They also have a huge wine selection to pair with their amazing Alberta Beef. 

For something a bit more casual, CattleBaron Steakhouse is just as tasty. They locally source their AAA steaks, and I must say that their homemade sauces take it to the next level. Finally, if you didn’t make it to Caesar’s Steakhouse + Lounge last night, you can always go tonight!

Come hungry, because Alberta beef is so good you’ll need a lot of room in your belly!

Night – Mini Golf at Taiko Canteen 

Bailey sips a cocktail at Taiko Canteen   
Oh, and the cocktails are fantastic!
Daniel plays minigolf at Taiko Canteen in Calgary
Taiko Canteen has such a fun atmosphere!

After dinner, it’s time for some fun at Taiko Canteen. This is your chance to flex your mini-golf skills and enjoy a few drinks. There is also food available, but I doubt you’ll be hungry after that big tasty dinner!

We got competitive at the Lucky Putt 9-hole mini golf, which was a little harder than you’d expect! But it made for a fun activity with friends and a unique way to round out the night. They also make great cocktails, and I’m pretty sure knocking a few back led me to win. Be sure to try the watermelon mule!

It’s only $10 CAD for 9 holes of mini golf, and the drinks are reasonably priced too. 

Day 3

Day trip to Banff

Evelyns Cafe in Banff, Canada
Don’t forget the coffee!
Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise at sunrise
The amazing Lake Louise!

Today we are leaving the city and taking a little road trip!

If you’re short on time in Alberta, taking a day trip to Banff from Calgary is an essential addition to your itinerary. You can’t come this close to the picture-perfect mountain town and not visit! Banff is a 127-kilometer (79-mile) drive from Calgary and takes about 1.5 hours, so it’s definitely doable in one day.

There is so much to do in Banff and if you can swing it, I recommend spending a few days here – but even just one day is worth it. If you have a rental car, you can drive and explore around on your own, be sure to read our list of Banff’s top attractions before you go! 

However, I think it’s much easier to take a tour from Calgary, so you don’t have to worry about driving and parking, where to go, or how to best use your limited time. We love this full-day Banff National Park tour because it’s a small group and led by a local, so you’ll see the best sites. 

Bailey poses for a photo on Banff Ave walking street
I love those mountain views in downtown Banff!

We got to visit a ton of iconic Banff places such as Lake Minnewanka, Surprise Corner, and downtown Banff. Our favorite stop was Lake Louise and we try to visit its turquoise blue waters every time we are in town, so we were really happy to find that this tour included it. We also loved that we had over an hour at each location, giving us enough time to explore and not feel rushed. 

Our guide deserves a shout out too, as he made our experience even more memorable! Full of jokes and random interesting facts, we had a really good time with this group. This tour is offered year-round for $177 CAD and includes roundtrip transport from Calgary and national park entrance fees. You’ll need money for food, souvenirs, and any extra activities you choose to do, but all in all, this is good value for a 10-hour day of exploring!

Related Read: Moraine Lake is another can’t-miss place in Banff! Visit this gorgeous lake on a tour from Calgary and read all about it here.

Where to Stay in Calgary

the outside of the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire
This hotel is huge! Photo Credit: Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire

Calgary is a large city so there are plenty of places to stay. The trick is to pick a hotel with a great location depending on the activities you plan on doing. Most of these activities are in the downtown area, so all of these hotels aren’t too far.

Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire – $$$

For luxury travelers, check out the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire. This hotel overlooks the river valley and comes with an indoor pool (with waterslide), hot tub, fitness center, hair salon, and gift shop. Obviously, the rooms are extremely beautiful and the views are spectacular, plus it’s located very close to downtown!

Rooms start around $260 CAD and can be booked on Booking.com.

Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites – $$

A fantastic mid-range budget option is the Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites. The suites have a full kitchen which is nice for homemade meals which can save you a lot of money. The rooms are beautiful, breakfast is included, and they even have a fitness center. On top of that, the hotel’s location is ideal, in the middle of downtown.

A night’s stay here starts at $175 CAD and can be booked on Booking.com.

Wicked Hostels – $

In the center of the city, Wicked Hostels – Calgary is a good choice for budget travelers. The hostel is clean, comfortable, and located in a good area. They offer mixed dorms and private rooms, plus they offer free breakfast every morning (I’m talking Nutella and waffles type of free breakfast!).

Rooms start at $60 CAD for a mixed dorm and can be booked on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a photo in the Calgary Tower
Thanks for reading!

Three days is the perfect amount of time in Calgary. You can explore the city, eat amazing food, and take a day trip to see the gorgeous Rocky Mountains in Banff. We love taking quick trips to this amazing city, there’s always something fun to do!

We hope you found this article helpful as you plan your travels. If you need any more tips or travel inspiration, check out our other Canada blogs! As a Canadian myself, I have traveled all over and love sharing my favorite places. Here are a few to get you started:

15 BEST Day Trips from Calgary for an Epic Adventure (2024!)

BANFF ITINERARY – How to Spend 1, 2, or 3 Days in Banff (2024 Guide!)

4 BEST Calgary to Lake Louise Shuttles

8 BEST Calgary Road Trip Itineraries (From 1 Day to 14 Days)