The Calgary Stampede is a fantastic mix of fair grounds, concerts and rodeo all squished together in a fun two week long family friendly (or not) Mardi Gras atmosphere. There is no better time to be in Canada than during Stampede and the Calgary region that hosts it provides dozens of fun adventures for all ages.
You might also wand to know What Are The Top 10 Calgary Stampede Rodeo Events and we have a list for that too!
Below is a list of the top 10 things to do at the Calgary Stampede:
1 – Evening Grandstand Show – TransAlta Lights Up the Night
The evening grandstand show sells out nearly every night year after year for good reason. TransAlta’s sponsorship of this event started in the 1990’s and kicked up the quality to a world class high. In addition to a substantial fireworks display that caps off the show near 11pm, the evening usually includes about 10 acts over 4 hours, including the world famous Chuck Wagon races which are the highlight of the Canadian rodeo circuit. Cirque du Soleil quality acrobats, comedians, the Stampede Show Band, native dancers, high wire acts, motor cycle stunts… it’s all there and these performers bring their A game.
2- Coke-a-cola Grandstand
Your $18-ish admonition to the park ticket includes a series of free concerts every day with one headline evening act. In 2016, the Stampede Coke Stage hosts all ages Dora-the-Explorer and comedian shows during the day but at night it shines for teenagers with acts like Mother Mother, X-Ambassadors, the Dudes, Walk Off The Earth, The Sheepdogs, Dear Rouge and many This is an small open air venue without seats that lets you get close to the artists, so if you REALLY want to get a great view of the show, you need to show up about 90 minutes early and hang out in the mostly shaded area.
3 – Crazy Midway Food
Every year the Calgary Stampede steps up its game in the crazy food midway. Scorpion Pizza (yes, with real scorpions), deep fried Mars bars, Jurassic pork mac and cheese, lobster corn dogs, deep fired pizza, and the ‘just can’t make enough of them fast enough’ mini-donuts. I personally find that I want to get out of the heat when I want to eat so head over the Stampede food court in the lower level of the Big 4 Building. There is no McDonalds there, just great Billingsgate Fish and Chips (50 years in 2014!), beef on bun, Wicked Wedge Pizza and so much more in a cool, dark place with real bathrooms.
4 – Stampede Lotteries
Ok, I got it. How interesting can lotteries be. Well, it turns out Stampede lotteries can be pretty interesting. The Rotary Club always gives away a million dollar luxury home, THAT IS ON DISPLAY ON THE GROUNDS… Yup, after you win it they will relocate it for you. There are always HUGE line ups to tour the house. The Kinsmen sell tickets for stuff on wheels, like Chevy Camaro’s, GMC 350 pickup trucks, boats, Kawasaki, motorcycles… The Lions clubs run smaller traditional cash lotteries including the “cash tornado booth”. There is even a 50/50 draw that will payout near $1 million. These tickets are now so popular, they sell advance tickets months before the Calgary Stampede begins and they nearly always sell out the advanced allotment. I have volunteered at these booths over a number of years and I can tell you that visitors do not take much convincing to buy these. The odds way better than 649 or Powerball, the prizes fantastic and the profits go to worthy causes.
5 – Stampede Midway
Its no surprise that all the kids want is the midway rides… (ok… and the food!). The Calgary midway has been run by North American Midway since 1975 and they bring in all the big rides. The Drop of Doom, Wave Swinger, Crazy Mouse, Polar Express. Mach 3… they are all ready to go from 11am to close every day.
6 – Agricultural Shows
Like the lotteries, many people think these will be boring, but they are not. The ag shows at the Calgary stampede include fun to watch Heavy Horse pulls, roping demonstrations, and fun to learn educational activities. You can even go through the livestock barns and talk to the ranchers as you pet the animals. From bulls to bunnies, they have it all. Don’t forget to get your $1 milk and wagon wheel near the exit of the ag buildings.
7 – Free Shows At the Calgary Stampede
There are a large number of free shows both in large permanent air conditioned buildings and out along the midway that you and your family will love. The Boyce Theater hosts the Stampede Talent Search and The Coral usually hosts the Super Dogs, but in 2015 they changed to the Dog Bowl. There is a fun kids chuck wagon challenge, outriders band and in 2016 a high dive act was added.
8 – Shopping at the Stampede Market
Yes, there is now officially no place left on the entire earth in which crowds of more than 25 people will not have stores selling to them. The Calgary Stampede converts the large air conditioned BMO Center into a shopping tour-de-force . Slapchop, hottub’s, chamoes, fudge, cooking demonstrations and, well, everything else you can think of. There are even branded backpacks full of assorted promotional junk (Lays chips, coke-a-cola, …) you can buy for $20-ish and carry around the park.
9 – Calgary Stampede Parade
If you have kids, you better go to the parade and you had better get their early. Most parades put me to sleep but the Calgary Stampede Parade is one exceptional event. With marching bands from around the globe, to every kind of horse you can imagine, to specialty floats and inflatables, this giant parade is an logistical marvel and the KIDS LOVE IT. There is always a notable Parade Marshal like Captain James T Kirk (William Shatner), or astronauts like Chris Hadfield, or the 2016 marshals, country music’s (and Calgary’s own) Paul Brandt and pop music’s (and southern Alberta’s own) Jan Arden!
10 – Leave the Grounds and Explore the Region
The City of Calgary and Towns around it offer a vast and varied array of things to do during Stampede. Hit one of the dozen or so major casinos in the region, Go see the bob-sled run, Olympic museum or mountain bike at Canada Olympic Park, the large Calgary Zoo, bike ride through the hundreds of kilometers of trails, visit Calaway Park for rides tailored to those under 15, go to Chestermere Lake and rent a boat, go to Canmore and hike or bike through the mountains near the Nordic Center (1988 Olympic venue!), head out for some fine dining with a view at Ruth’s Chris steak house at the top of the Calgary Tower, drive into the mountains to the Columbia Ice Fields, go for a half day float down the Bow River, go shopping at exclusive high end retailers in Chinook Center, visit the new Lamborghini dealership in Calgary south, watch a play at the Epcor Center, visit the Calgary Flames bar (Flames Central)…
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