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Calgary has a number of different faces and areas that all represent different aspects of the city.
If you head to the downtown core on a week day, you will see a busier side of the city with more businessmen and offices. In the summer, office workers fill the sidewalk cafes along Stephen Avenue Walk during lunch hour and after work.
During the winter months, however, most downtown workers stay indoors. They navigate the downtown core by using the covered overhead walkways that make up the
system. When the weather is cold, a favourite lunch hour hang out is the indoor
. As a winter tourist in the downtown core, you may enjoy a visit to the
Tip : Downtown Calgary is a business-oriented zone. It takes on a tombstone quality on weekends. But, if you walk just a few blocks beyond the downtown core on a Saturday or Sunday, you can find lively neighbourhoods. Please see the notes on this page regarding Eau Claire, Prince's Island, Chinatown, Kensington, Uptown 17th Avenue and 4th Street SW.
At the north end of the downtown core are Eau Claire Market , a pleasantly shaded path along the shores of the Bow River, and a park on Prince's Island . This is a very pedestrian-friendly and family-friendly area that is home to many of Calgary's summer festivals .
Chinatown is located between the Bow River and 4th Avenue SW in downtown Calgary. There is always lively pedestrian traffic in Chinatown, especially on Sunday. There are a couple of small shopping malls, along with assorted grocery stores and restaurants. The colourful buildings of Chinatown provide a vibrant contrast to the sleek office towers of downtown Calgary. In addition to visiting Chinatown for a delicious and reasonably priced meal (or just a few buns from a Chinese bakery), it is worth visiting the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre.
Kensington is a fun, funky neighbourhood just north of the Bow River. Its hub is the intersection of Kensington Road and 10th Street NW. It has an interesting mix of shops, restaurants and one of Calgary's art house cinemas, the Plaza. The shaded path along the north shore of the Bow River is a wonderful place to walk, run, rollerblade and cycle. Kensington hosts the Sun and Salsa Festival in July.
With its many bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and shops, Uptown 17th Avenue SW ("Uptown 17") has long been known as Calgary's "party street." This reputation reached new heights in 2004, when Calgary's National Hockey League team, the Calgary Flames, vied with Tampa Bay Lightning for the Stanley Cup. Following the games, spectators would pour out of the Pengrowth Saddledome onto 17th Avenue South. There they would be joined by other Flames fans, all wearing red Flames' jerseys and creating the C (Sea) of Red that turned 17th Avenue into the Red Mile. Although the Flames ultimately lost the Stanley Cup final to the Lightning, Uptown 17th Avenue SW has retained its Red Mile nickname.
Intersecting Uptown 17th Avenue is 4th Street SW . Within 13 blocks there are over 35 restaurants from countries all over in the world. At its north end, 4th Street runs into the downtown core. At its southern end it crosses the Elbow River. There is a lovely, shaded walking path along the river, where you can go for a stroll, meet Canada geese on the path and, on weekends, watch folks floating down the river on all manner of water craft. 4th Street hosts the Lilac Festival on the last Sunday of May.
Inglewood is a neighbourhood that centres on 9th Avenue SE (Old Atlantic Avenue) to the east of the downtown core. Unusually for Calgary, the community is blessed with over 200 pre-1914 buildings. In recent years it has been undergoing gentrification, and is in the process of being transformed from a derelict commercial era. Inglewood has been acquiring an interesting mix of antique stores, ethnic restaurants and coffee shops.
Marda Loop is located in the community of South Calgary, along 33rd Avenue SW and 34 Avenue SW, between 18th Street SW and 22nd Street SW. Thanks to a business revitalization initiative, it has gone from a bland strip mall to a vibrant collection of eclectic stores, restaurants and coffee houses. The transformation has been further assisted by the re-development of the adjacent neighbourhood that used to house military families. It has been re-designed as a pedestrian-oriented community with a mix of new homes, infills, townhouses and apartments. This has helped to give Marda Loop / Garrison Woods the feel of an urban village.
International Avenue - 17th Avenue SE - "International Avenue" is the stretch of 17th Avenue SE that passes through the community of Forest Lawn. It is home to a wide variety of ethnic restaurants and shops. The International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre has joined forces with the Calgary Fireworks Festival Society to create GlobalFest , an international fireworks competition at Elliston Park every August.
If you want to see a more athletic side of the city you can go to the Canada Olympic Park , near Calgary's western city limits. The ski-jumping and bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events were held there during the 1988 Winter Olympics. During the winter, you can participate in a number of sports there, including skiing, snowboarding, bobsleigh and luge. During the summer months you can ride the luge in the ice house, you can go mountain biking, and you can play mini golf.
Just a stone's thow from downtown is Stampede Park . It is not only the venue for the Calgary Stampede , but also the location of the Pengrowth Saddledome , the home of the Calgary Flames . In addition to hosting the Flames' hockey games, the Saddledome also is used for large concerts.
McMahon Stadium, which is located in the northwest quadrant of Calgary, close to the University of Calgary , is the home of Calgary's football team, the Stampeders . You can reach McMahon Stadium by catching the Dalhousie (northwest) train to Banff Trail Station.
Calgary has a rather unusual concept for some suburban neighbourhoods. There are a number of neighbourhoods which are designed around an artificial lake and private park. The first (and biggest) of these was Lake Bonavista in the SE quadrant of the city, which was established in 1967. The lake was excavated, and the excavated material was used to build a tall hill next to the lake. A waterfall graces one side of the hill, and in the winter it offers exciting tobogganing for Lake Bonavista residents. Residents pay a mandatory annual fee to maintain the park and lake and other recreational facilities (tennis, fishing) within the park, and are issued with a park pass. Other lake neighbourhoods include Lake Bonaventure and Lake Sundance. The water in the lakes is topped up with the city's treated water. If you're interested in a closer look, consider dining at the Newport Grill (formerly the Inn on Lake Bonavista), which is right on the edge of Lake Bonavista.