How to enjoy Calgary when any other normal person might just stay inside

When I Googled “One Day in Calgary,” I found a website or two with helpful tips for the person whose aim is to cram a whole lot of stuff into a teensy time frame.

It’s become our modus operandi to do what we can to experience an entire city in one day. We’re busy people. Sometimes a day is all we’ve got.

We had exactly that to ourselves this week before our conference started, and were prepared to make the most of it. My early research was promising. With a great transit system, a citywide cycling path, and a cute downtown area, Calgary looks like the perfect place for one of our everything-in-one-day visits.

…. And then we got up that morning to this:

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

That’s fair… faren…, That’s really, dang cold, guys.

I’ll admit to a moment’s hesitation.

… Okay, I whined like a toddler. It’s March you guys. Jeez.

Of course, we’re folk of hardy pioneer stock (or, at least one of us is. The other is mostly just stubborn), and we just recently survived our own, local snowpocalypse. We’re no quitters who are going to let the weather keep us inside. Nope. We bundled up and set out on a walking tour of downtown Calgary.

Our hotel was right next to the Olympic Plaza, which sounded like an obligatory tourist stop, so that’s where we headed first.

There’s a skate rink, which was being cleared of the previous night’s snow, and plenty of space for gathering. Although at the moment there was no one there but us. Because it was freezing. It’ll probably a great place to catch an outdoor concert … once the polar ice caps retreat and people can venture back out of doors.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

It had been ten minutes since we’d left our hotel room. I could no longer feel my fingers.

But because it was International Women’s Day, we had to stop for a series of photos of a sculpture we thought particularly apropos.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

These are the Famous 5 (okay, four of the Famous 5, I didn’t get the whole sculpture), prominent suffragists who lobbied for the right of women to be considered “persons” – as in persons eligible to serve in the Canadian Senate – the term “persons” being a legal one interpreted prior to 1929 to mean “male persons.”

I we decided we could freeze a moment longer to tip our hats, or hoods, to these ladies. I hoped their likenesses enjoyed warmer days on the whole than this one.

We wanted to walk from there up Stephen’s Avenue, a pedestrian mall with a number of registered historic buildings, and maybe then scope out a cute tavern for lunch. We made it about half a block before finding a shop that looked warm and ducking in for a quick thaw.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

On the way into the shop, Mike pointed out a skywalk, one of several we’d noticed.

“That’s where the smart people are,” he said.

I thought the skywalk was probably just a breezeway between office buildings, but maybe we could sneak up to one for a nice view of the street. We found an escalator and slunk upstairs, ready to get caught and thrown out.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

A view from above.

… Which is how we found out just about all of downtown Calgary is connected by a series of SKYWALKS! Heated skywalks, with maps and signs and restaurants! No more risking frostbite while wandering around outside.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

Good job, Calgary

Admittedly, the skywalk thing isn’t as charming as walking along Calgary’s streets with all their historic buildings and shops. If it hadn’t meant risking fingers or toes, we’d have been outside the whole time.

Why wasn’t this skywalk thing on any of the lists?

The skywalk path, while less scenic than hanging out outside, did yield some interesting finds, like the Arts Commons, a multi-venue arts center occupying a full city block, six floors of theaters and other performing arts spaces. Had we any more time, we’d have taken in a play. As it was we just got to watch this set construction from an observation deck along the walkway. I’m sure that wasn’t creepy for the production crew below at all.A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

We found a tavern for lunch, and enjoyed an IPA from Alberta brewer Last Best, while watching curling on television. It all felt like a very Canadian thing to do. And we’d found the Skywalk. We were insiders now.

We were close to the Calgary Public Library, and since anything that didn’t require our exiting the skywalk was automatically on our list of things to see, we checked out the public library.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

A view of the Calgary Library’s mechanized sorting system.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

A scale model of the Calgary library in Legos.

It was warm there. We took many photos …

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

A fire engine in the lobby. Up top, there’s a little landing for reading. Inside, there are cubbies for books. I’m thinking of doing this in my living room. Any ideas where I could get a fire truck?

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

More Legos.

It was some sort of national school field trip day, so everywhere we went we had to wade our way through mobs of junior high school kids, most of whom were wearing the same kind of inadequate outerwear as we’d see at home on people this age. Apparently God didn’t give adolescents anywhere the sense to dress appropriately for the weather.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

The train system looks good, but the train wasn’t really going anyplace warm, so we skipped a ride.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

At a “Safety Expo” for the kids (see my earlier point about including anything on the tour that didn’t necessitate leaving the Skywalk.) Really, it’s probably no wonder these people can’t remember to dress appropriately for the weather. They also have to be reminded to not eat poop.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

We were going to head to the Calgary tower to get some shots of downtown from a bazillion stories high, but it was pretty foggy, and we’re cheap and didn’t want to fork out the $18 Canadian to confirm we couldn’t see past the noses on our faces even from that high up.

We did get some good shots of the tower that night though, all lit up pink in honor of International Women’s Day, the Famous 5 and all the rest of us who are officially also “persons” thanks to their efforts.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic MumblingFor dinner we went to the Bank and Baron Pub, only a half block from our hotel. It’s an upscale tavern in an historic bank building where we overwhelmed our wait staff with sixteen people showing up for a reservation for ten. You’re welcome Calgary.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

From below

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

From up above

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

Where they put the drunk people, sometimes

Most of the entire rest of our time in Calgary would be spent indoors, which is something I’d usually consider a bummer. Except I very much like not freezing.

We did get to enjoy one other night out, courtesy of a heated bus and a hosted event at Calgary’s Heritage Park, a living history park and museum with exhibits and buildings showcasing Western Canada. We saw the inside of exactly one building: a car museum and event venue called Gasoline Alley, which was where we stayed, it being still freakishly cold outside, and the bar being inside and all.

A Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic MumblingA Day in Calgary without Freezing - Manic Mumbling

On the whole, I was kind of impressed with our ability to make it to more than a few of the items on the “One Day in Calgary” lists, when our primary goal ended up being not freezing, I’m going to claim the effort as a success.

And maybe plan to return in warmer months.

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