303km (188 miles) S of Edmonton, 788km (490 miles) W of Regina, 512km (318 miles) NW of Great Falls

Calgary has come a long way in a relatively short period of time: From its beginnings as Fort Calgary, an outpost of the Northwest Mounted Police, in 1876, the city has evolved in just over 130 years to a bustling, dynamic urban center of more than a million souls and a center of international commerce.

The 1988 Winter Olympic Games helped put Calgary on the international map, and its legacy has been one of enduring tourism. Visitors now associate Calgary with the mountains, even if they are still another hour's drive west.

But despite some Calgarians' protestations to the contrary, this is an oil town, first and foremost. More than 90% of the country's oil, gas, and energy business is right here, as are more than half of the coal companies. Calgary's fortunes have ever followed the price of oil, and the city is well acquainted with the boom-and-bust cycle.

Boom or bust, business rules here. People in this city are entrepreneurs and risk takers, and when the good times are rolling, they roll right along with them, flaunting their wealth and doing their best to live large. Posh restaurants and cafes are routinely jammed, and high-end retail shopping is practically a contact sport here as flush Calgarians seem hurried to spend their money as quickly as they can.

With the influx of money has come a flood of cultural facilities and awareness, too. The city is more cosmopolitan than at any time in its history, and the common phrase that seems to be gaining momentum here tells the tale: During the first oil boom, Calgary grew; in the second one, it grew up. This leaves Calgary, ever-ambitious, looking to join the top shelf of North American urban centers -- if, as many Calgarians believe, it's not there already.

Visitor Information -- The downtown Visitor Service Centre (tel. 800/661-1678 or 403/263-8510; www.tourismcalgary.com), at the base of the Calgary Tower (101 9th Ave. SW) and at the airport near the luggage carousels, provides free literature, maps, and information. The friendly white-hatted volunteer greeters at the Calgary Airport can also point you in the right direction.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.