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Calgary is an absolute gem in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. There is plenty to do both in the city and nearby Banff National Park. It’s an outdoorsy mecca, and an urban paradise all rolled into one – plus, it has been named one of Canada’s friendliest cities!
We actually lived in the mountainside town of Canmore (about an hour from Calgary) for a long time, so we know the city well. We spent a lot of time exploring both Calgary and the nearby Canadian Rockies, and Calgary really does have a special place in our hearts.
We’ve done many tours in and around the city, especially when friends and family visited. Many of the best things in Calgary don’t actually require a tour. However, certain activities require you to take a tour or are made much better (and more convenient) by one. Plus, some of the tours in Calgary are great experiences in themselves and introduce you to the local culture and history.
In this blog, we’ve listed our favorite tours you can take to have some of the best experiences in and around the city. We don’t want you to waste time when a tour isn’t necessary, so we’ve left out the ones you should skip.
So keep reading to learn about our top 10 picks for the absolute BEST tours in Calgary, Alberta – you won’t want to miss them!
- 4. Calgary city sightseeing tour
- 5. Columbia Icefield day trip
- 6. Kananaskis whitewater rafting
- 7. Bicycle tour
The BEST Tours in Calgary All Year Round
1. 2-day tour of the Canadian Rockies
Calgary is a fantastic place to take a tour of the Rocky Mountains. When you’re so close to some pretty epic places to explore, it would be a shame not to go!
This 2-day tour of the Canadian Rockies leaves from Calgary and includes some epic places. You’ll get to explore some of the incredible highlights of Banff National Park while spending one night in a comfy hotel. While day trips are totally possible from Calgary, we’ve found staying a night or two means you don’t feel rushed!
You’ll start off with a visit to Sulphur Mountain for an optional ride up the Banff Gondola (make sure you add this on when booking!) then onto Bow Falls before grabbing lunch and having free time to stroll around downtown Banff.
Your afternoon of Day 1 is spent exploring the Hoodoos Trail and one of my favorite spots – the stunning Johnston Canyon. The canyon and its waterfalls are incredible all year round and this tour includes free crampons during winter in Banff so you can hike the trail to see the magical frozen waterfalls!
Day 2 is equally as amazing with stops at the Spiral Tunnels, and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park and then you get to visit what are in my opinion two of the most beautiful lakes in Canada. Yes, lucky you, you’ll get to see Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Both of these lakes are breathtaking in all seasons, but if you visit in the summer, that shade of turquoise blue will blow you away.
What makes this one of the top Banff tours from Calgary is that all your park entrance fees, accommodation, transportation, and tour guides are included. Visiting some of these spots on a tour is super handy especially since parking is very difficult at Lake Louise and no longer allowed at Moraine Lake. All you’ll need to do is pay for your food and any optional extras like the Banff gondola ride.
The tour runs all year round, so there may be a few changes to the itinerary if certain spots are closed in the winter. But the guides more than make up for that, by adding on fun winter activities like snowshoeing at Johnston Canyon! Ticket prices vary depending on how many people you’re booking for, but expect to pay around $465 CAD per person for the tour including the gondola ride (that’s around a $60 CAD value alone!).
Enjoy two incredible days in the Canadian Rockies by booking your spot on this 2-day tour here!
2. Street art with craft beer tour
Two things we love most about Calgary are the vibrant street art and the fantastic craft beer.
We’re HUGE craft beer fans and have spent a lot of time sampling specialty brews across Calgary. Some of our favorites include The Establishment Brewing Company and The Dandy Brewery Company, but there are loads to try!
And as for street art, Calgary has some amazing works around the city. Calgary is really diverse – in fact, it’s home to more than 240 ethnic groups – and this is definitely reflected in the street art murals that you can see in the city.
And luckily, this Street Art with Craft Beer Tour combines both beer and art! First, you’ll head to Bottlescrew Bill’s and Buzzards craft beer pub, where you’ll sample a range of brews and get to know the local beer scene. We liked starting off with a tasting as it was a good way to get to know our group and guide before heading out for the rest of the tour.
Then, you’ll continue on to check out the Beltline Urban Mural Project (or BUMP for short). Beltline is one of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods and around a third of its population are immigrants. BUMP is an initiative to transform Beltline into an open-air art museum with murals that reflect the heritage, diversity, and modern-day culture of Calgary.
What makes this tour special is how knowledgeable the guides are about the origins and meaning of the art you see. You’ll also get to chat with several of the artists themselves and learn about the inspiration behind their work. Going on a tour makes checking out the BUMP much better because you feel more connected to the artwork and gain a deeper appreciation for it.
The tour costs $89 CAD and there’s a maximum of 12 participants, so you’ll get to know your fellow travelers and honestly, by the end, we felt more like we were hanging out with a group of friends rather than taking part in an organized tour – which is exactly how we like these experiences to be!
You’ll meet at Bottlescrew Bill’s to begin the tour, and the price includes your tasting. Tours usually start at 2 pm or 5 pm and last for 3 hours. You’ll end up in the 17th Avenue Retail and Entertainment District, so you may find yourself heading out for a night out with your group after the tour!
This tour is perfect for solo travelers, groups of friends, and basically anyone who appreciates good craft beer and amazing street art. If this sounds like you, don’t hesitate to book this street art and craft beer combo tour online!
Related Read: Cochrane is a small town just outside Calgary. If you want to try even more craft beer and other local spirits, visit these 4 different breweries and distilleries in Cochrane, Alberta!
3. Day tour to Banff
Banff is an AMAZING mountain town right in the middle of the Canadian Rockies, and it’s a must-visit when you’re in this part of the country. It’s one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations! We’ve spent a ton of time here and always enjoy the picture-perfect views, the cozy, relaxed vibe, and the plethora of fun outdoor activities.
Banff is 127 km (79 miles) from Calgary, so taking a day tour is a must if you don’t have your own wheels. But honestly, that’s not the only reason we recommend this full-day Banff National Park tour. It’s got a great itinerary that a local expert carefully crafted, so you’ll get to visit some true hidden gems – which really sets this tour apart.
It’s also a small group with a maximum of 5 travelers, so you really get to know your guide and can experience the area like a true local. The guides really make this tour – they’re so fun, friendly, and passionate about traveling in the Rockies. Their enthusiasm is definitely contagious! Plus, they’ll take many pictures of you enjoying the gorgeous scenery and have you laughing the entire time.
You’ll head to all the top spots and give you an excellent overview of the area, including Lake Minnewanka, Castle Mountain, and of course, the beautiful town of Banff itself. You’ll also head to Canmore (where we used to live!), and if the group is keen, there might be an extra stop at Lake Louise. What’s cool about this being such a small group tour is that you can tailor the day to the interests of everyone on the trip.
This tour costs $185 CAD and you can arrange hotel pickup and drop-off, although there might be an extra fee depending on where you’re staying. This includes the entry fee to Banff National Park, bottled water, and ice cleats if you need them during winter in Banff.
It’s really such a wonderful day out and we would highly recommend this tour to anyone who wants to experience the beauty of Banff – it stands head and shoulders above the rest. However, it’s not offered every day and it does sell out, so check availability and book your tickets online today!
The Best Tours in Calgary in the Summer
4. Calgary city sightseeing tour
There’s sightseeing, and then there’s sightseeing in style. This 70-minute city tour is awesome because you get to see Calgary’s most famous sights in a vintage sidecar motorcycle. It may be one of the most unique and adrenaline-pumping tours we’ve experienced!
It’s perfect for those who are short on time but want to check out some of the top sights in Calgary. If you’ll be here for a while, it’s also a good way to get your bearings in the city.
You’ll hit the road and stop for photos at places like Scotsman’s Hill and Crescent Heights Park, both of which offer beautiful views over the city. With the provided headset, you can enjoy commentary along the way and understand what you’re seeing. Plus, the tour only takes about 70 minutes, so it’s great if you’re pressed for time or have a short attention span on tours!
We loved the feeling of riding around in a sidecar, and it was so much fun to be out on the open road, taking in all of the sights. Our guide was super friendly (and a safe driver!), and we gleaned lots of cool info about the city and its history. As a bonus, you get to wear a cool helmet and feel part of a motorcycle gang!
This tour costs $219 CAD per person and leaves several times a day, so you can tailor it to your itinerary. There’s a minimum age limit of 9, but this could be a great activity for families with older kids. It’s equally great for couples and groups of friends.
This is the only chance you’ll get to zoom through Calgary on a vintage motorcycle, so check availability and book your tour online here!
5. Columbia Icefield day trip
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful and picturesque drives in North America – and, we would argue, the world! This full-day adventure tour definitely tops our picks of the best tours on the Icefields Parkway since you’ll journey through some of the most stunning landscapes in Alberta to the amazing Columbia Icefields.
The tour departs from Calgary and takes you to top sights along the Icefields Parkway including the Waputik Range, Bow Lake, and the Crowfoot Glacier. It’s such a stunning drive, and going as part of a tour means that all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the views!
However, the real highlight of this tour is a visit to the Columbia Icefield, which is one of the largest non-polar icefields in the world. It really is something to behold, but you can also upgrade your tour to include a ride on the Ice Explorer, which takes you to walk on the Athabasca Glacier. This is honestly one of our favorite ever experiences because it was absolutely breathtaking, and it just felt so surreal to be walking on a glacier. I mean, how many times in your life are you going to experience that?!
This is a bigger tour (with a max of 50 travelers), but it definitely didn’t feel crowded. We had plenty of time to take photos, ask questions, and explore.
You can join this tour from May through the beginning of October. Tours happen on Wednesdays and Saturdays only so plan your trip accordingly if you’d like to join!
The tour costs $201 CAD for adults and $182 CAD for kids without the Ice Explorer tour, but we HIGHLY recommend adding this on because it’s just such an incredible experience. The whole trip costs $294 CAD for adults and $242 CAD for kids with Ice Explorer admission, and in our opinion, the money is totally worth it. Your national park fees and one piece of standard carry-on luggage are included in the price.
You can’t visit Alberta without seeing these incredible glaciers. So check availability and book your tour online here!
Related Read: There are many breathtaking stops along the Icefields Parkway. You can read more about one of my favorites, the Glacier Skywalk, here!
6. Kananaskis whitewater rafting
Just outside Calgary is some amazing whitewater rafting, and we had so much fun on this river rafting tour!
The Kananaskis River is stunning, and one of the best ways to enjoy its beauty is to raft it! This tour includes Class 1-3 rapids, so you’ll get some calmer sections along with adrenaline-pumping ones.
There are only 7 travelers allowed per boat, so your experienced guide can keep you safe and ensure a great time. Although it’s exciting, it’s still very safe. Anyone over 5 can join, and it’s a fun bonding activity for the whole family.
Your rafting experience starts with the most thrilling part of the river, so you’ll get a burst of adrenaline immediately. Then, the waters become gradually calmer, so you can settle in and enjoy the scenery. Towards the end, you’ll have a chance to swim in the river. The waters might be calm here, but they’re also very cold!
What I loved most about this rafting tour – aside from the adrenaline rush – is how fun and knowledgeable the guides are. They know every twist and turn of the river, along with some fun facts. So not only do you get an action-packed adventure, but you’ll also learn about the Kananaskis River and the region.
All the equipment, your excellent guide, and some photos are included for $130 CAD or $80 CAD for kids 5-15 – a very reasonable price. You obviously can’t take pictures while paddling, so it’s cool that you still get photos to remember your trip (like the one above!). This tour runs from mid-May to mid-September, so you’ll experience the best rafting weather. Your group will meet at 1:10 pm at the Riverbase for your 4-hour tour, which is a wonderful way to cool off in the afternoon.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush near Calgary, we highly suggest booking this tour online here!
7. Bicycle tour
We love hopping on a bicycle and taking in the sights of a new city, which is why this 3-hour bike tour of Calgary is perfect. Calgary has a lot of natural beauty, so we think a tour in the open air is the best way to experience it.
This bike ride takes you along the Bow River on an enjoyable and easy trail (not to mention beautiful). You’ll also visit Prince’s Island Park, the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum to see the life-sized terracotta soldiers, and St Patrick’s Island. You’ll also pass through the charming neighborhood of Inglewood, which is known for its vintage stores and eclectic restaurants. Overall, you’ll get a great feel for what Calgary is all about and see some of the most interesting sites in the city.
But itinerary aside, what makes this bike tour special is the guides’ passion for and knowledge of the city of Calgary. They’re also very accommodating and are happy to tailor the itinerary to the group’s needs, which will have a maximum size of 10. You’ll hear some great stories about the city that bring the landscape to life and feel more like you’re being led around by a friend than a professional tour guide.
The tour costs $95 CAD for adults, or $88 CAD for teens and seniors. It’s also very family-friendly. You can opt for an infant buggy or a pull-along bike for kids for an extra $20 CAD, so the whole family can enjoy the ride!
Tours meet at 10 am at a local bike shop, where you’ll get fitted with equipment before heading off. The entire thing takes about 3 hours, so you won’t be too exhausted by the end, but you’ll still get a decent morning workout!
We feel bikes are the best way to see Calgary, especially early on during your visit. So if you’re visiting anytime from June – September, check availability and book your bike tour online here!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
The Best Tours in Calgary in the Winter
8. Lake Louise and Abraham Lake
If you’re visiting Calgary in winter, you can’t miss the opportunity to see Lake Abraham, aka the “bubble lake”, which is so-named due to how methane bubbles freeze between the ice layers, creating a unique and truly breathtaking winter wonderland. This full-day tour combines this amazing attraction with a visit to Lake Louise, where plenty more outdoor adventures can be had!
Upgrade your day with a spectacular helicopter tour over Lake Abraham. Seeing the frozen bubbled surface from high above is special because it’s such a rare phenomenon. Plus, who doesn’t love a helicopter ride?
Visiting Lake Louise in the winter is also an absolute must when you’re in Calgary. The lake and the surrounding mountains look especially stunning when everything is blanketed in snow. You’ll visit the famous Lake Louise Ski Resort, which we think is the best in all of Canada. The chairlift takes you insanely high up, and the views are just incredible – plus, with over 100 ski runs, it’s impossible to get bored here.
You can also upgrade your tour to include a ride on the sightseeing gondola at Lake Louise or go snow tubing, which is great fun if there’s room in your budget. It’s one of those experiences that makes you feel like a little kid again, and we love it!
The basic tour package costs $160 CAD for adults and $142 CAD for under 15s. There’s a maximum group size of 25, so it doesn’t feel like a giant commercial tour, and there’s still a fun, friendly atmosphere. It’s great for families or groups of friends and basically anyone who enjoys nature and being active!
The main reason we recommend this tour is because Lake Abraham is pretty remote, so it’s a lot easier to reach as part of a tour. Plus, you get a fun day out in Lake Louise, too, so you can maximize your time! You won’t need to stress about arranging activities, lift passes, or transportation, as all of that is taken care of for you – making this tour a no-brainer if you’re visiting Calgary in winter.
If you want to experience a winter paradise near Calgary, choose your date and book your tour online here!
9. Kananaskis snowshoeing
The Kananaskis is the perfect winter day trip from Calgary. And snowshoeing is one of the best things to do in the Kananaskis. The beauty of this area is vast, and a great way to experience it is on this snowshoeing tour through the Alberta backcountry.
First, you’ll hop on a gondola ride in Banff up to the snow-covered hills. From here, you’ll snowshoe for roughly 3.5 hours and take in stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. After all that excitement and exercise, you’ll be treated to hot chocolate and delicious homemade cookies. It’s the perfect way to end such a beautiful tour.
Canadians are known for snowshoeing, and it’s the only way to go hiking here in winter. So if you want to experience winter like a local, you must try it! As a Canadian, I love sharing this experience with my partner whenever we visit in the snowy months. There’s something so refreshing and rewarding about a snowshoe hike.
This winter tour caps off at 11 people, which feels perfect. You can get to know your guide and fellow travelers. You won’t have to worry about being left behind – and you can bond with the group. Plus, I loved being able to ask our guides about the area without feeling like I was dominating their time.
The $140 CAD price tag includes snowshoes, poles, snacks, and experienced guides. Hotel pick-up and drop-off in Banff are included. However, if you’re making your own way here from Calgary, you can meet the group at 1 pm in Sunshine Village.
We love small group tours because you get more personalized attention and more bang for your buck. And to us, this is the ideal snowshoe experience! This tour does tend to sell out, so check availability and reserve your spot online here!
Related Read: You should also check out all the fascinating local animals around this area! Here are our top options for wildlife tours in Banff National Park.
10. Grotto Canyon icewalk
If you want to combine local Indigenous history with an outdoor adventure, try this Grotto Canyon icewalk! This canyon has been here for thousands of years and is frozen over in the winter which makes it even more special.
There’s something magical about this area, and the best way to explore it is with a knowledgeable guide. Your tour guides will teach you all about the geological and human history of the canyon. You’ll witness some natural ice sculptures and stand underneath a frozen waterfall while your guide explains the importance of this region to the Indigenous communities.
This canyon icewalk tour starts and ends at the Mount Royal Hotel at 8 am. So if you’re coming from Calgary, you’ll have to find your way to there or rent a car. My favorite part of the tour was our guide, who brought this area to life with his stories and explanations.
On the 4-hour tour, you’ll hike through 4.2 km (2.6 miles) of terrain, including snow and ice. The hiking portion takes roughly 2.5 hours, so you’ll be happy to devour the complimentary hot chocolate at the end!
The tour costs $95 CAD for adults and $60 CAD for kids (including transport from Mount Royal Hotel and all necessary hiking gear). You must be at least 8 to join and have decent fitness capabilities.
Tours leave daily between mid-December through mid-April, however they do sell out fast! So secure your spot online ahead of time!
Where to Stay in Calgary
Calgary is a great base for many tours, and there are plenty of places to stay. Many tours include hotel transfers from within Calgary. However, if you’re exploring regions just outside Calgary, like Kananaskis or Banff, and driving yourself, you might want to stay on the west side of Calgary.
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. There are cheaper places to stay in Calgary but this place is great value for money. You can book on either HostelWorld.com or Booking.com.
If you can spend a bit more, the Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites is perfect. The suites have a full kitchen which is nice for homemade meals which can save you a lot of money. The rooms start at $118 CAD, 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.
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. The rooms are extremely beautiful, and the views are spectacular. Rooms start at $246 CAD, which is excellent considering the location, amenities, and quality!
If you’re looking for a place in West Calgary, Along River Ridge Bed & Breakfast is my choice. It’s a small bed and breakfast with amazing reviews! Rooms start at $118 CAD, with options for both couples and families. It’s a wonderful location in winter since they have a fireplace, hot tub, and a pool table to keep you occupied!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.
Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
Calgary is such a friendly city with amazing nature nearby. There’s a lot to do here, so tours help you see all the highlights without the stress! I hope this list has helped you narrow down the best tour options and have a fantastic vacation.
To learn more about traveling in this beautiful country, check out my other blogs about Canada! And if you want to read about destinations close to Calgary, I’ve included some options below. Thanks for reading!
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33 Fun and Exciting Things to do in Lethbridge, Alberta