A booming oil industry has moved Calgary off the prairie and into the boardroom, out of its cowboy boots and chaps and into a more polished, buttoned-down urban façade. Once a mounted police outpost, the city has since sped into the future as a corporate center for energetic technology and green industry enterprises. It hasn't fully abandoned its frontier roots, however. Calgary, at the foot of the Canadian Rockies, continues to embrace all things outdoors. For evidence, look to annual carnival of steer driving and livestock wrestling -- the Stampede.
Things to Do
Make way for the greatest rodeo on earth. Mid-July each year, the Calgary Stampede brings a rip-roaring parade of covered wagons (prairie schooners), bucking broncos and ranch hands -- and about a million tourists -- to town. To see how the west was once, experience Heritage Park Historical Village, Canada's largest living history museum. For slightly more mild-mannered pursuits, brilliant views of the mountain and prairie terrain that surround the city are possible from the observation terrace of Calgary Tower.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Cowhands head out to honky-tonk on weekends at Ranchman's Cookhouse and Dance Hall, where you'll get every chance to learn and then try out your two-stepping and line dancing skills. It's the hangout of choice during Stampede. The more modern and trendy types venture toward multi-level Mercury Lounge for a candlelit drink from an extensive menu of heady martinis and, if your wallet's deep enough, bottle service.
Restaurants and Dining
Invite your inner cattle rustler out for Alberta beef -- the tender comforts of juicy AAA prime rib or a sizzling sirloin. The rustic setting and stone fireplace of the award-winning Saltlik Steakhouse are inviting, but the beef, such as the chipotle barbecue sirlion, brings people back. The Vintage Chop House and Tavern serves up steaks and gourmet comfort food, such as truffle cream sauce macaroni and cheese, in a quiet setting framed in dark woods and leather.
Leap for athletic glory at Canada Olympic Park, the home of the 1988 winter games. Don a helmet and try your skills at rock climbing or mountain bike racing during warmer months -- the park accommodates all levels. Winter's the perfect time for beginners and the slope-ready to try a bit of snowboarding or skiing on the white powdery peaks where Olympians excelled.