Calgary Stampede 2013 & Travelling Around Alberta
Replies: 20 - Last Post: Jan 14, 2013 2:00 PM Last Post By: thoughtpolice
Dec 16, 2012 10:29 PM
I will be flying to Alberta on 11 July 2013 evening and plan to visit the Calgary Stampede and the sights of Alberta for the next 9 days. I know that the Calgary Stampede lasts till 14 July. I am predominantly interested in anything relating to the culture and heritage of Western Canada. How many days should I stay for the Calgary Stampede? I can potentially spend 3 days up to the final day but is there that much to see? Does it make a difference if I watch the Rodeo and evening show on any specific day? For the Rodeo, is it best sitting at the lowest centre seats for comfort and photography?
Where should I stay in Calgary during the duration of the Stampede? Is there any need to stay nearest to the Stampede or is it ok to stay in the city centre and commute to the festival grounds?
I intend to drive around Alberta after the Stampede. Is it advisable to book the accommodation in Calgary and the major tourist centres given that many tourists will be in Alberta at that time?
Thanks for any advice.
Dec 17, 2012 6:07 AM
1Whats ur budget?
Stampede is actually a city wide event. The stampede grounds has the amusement park, rodeo, and shows, but throughout the city, there are parties, free pancake breakfasts on almost every corner, festivals, beer gardens, etc.
I personally think 2 days max on the grounds is enough. If you can, bull riding and the chuck wagons seem to be the most popular.
Budget will dictate you accommodation. If your near the c-train, access is quite straight forward. Look at hotel alley in the NW...its far, but literally right on the train line. Downtown is also very popular, but be ready to bring your cash as it will be $300 and up per night. Book early!!!...the city is packed during stampede.
Dec 18, 2012 9:34 AM
2I'm not sure how far you're looking to go, but if you're up for the drive I recommend checking out the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump.
July is a great time to visit Calgary, have fun!
Dec 19, 2012 9:04 PM
3Advise you book accomms in Calgary as soon as possible ~ it is probably the busiest (and most expensive) time of the year, and it's possible to be shut out.
I prefer to see the rodeo on the semi-final or final day ~ the winners are presented with their prize cheques, etc on the last day.. that's sort of fun to see.
Again, the earlier you can book a ticket the better ~ higher in the stands is good for photography, but if you end up with rush or standing tickets ~ you usually end up down at ground level by the fence ~ and hear the action and feel the vibe, just makes for gruesome if it's hot (no shade) or raining (no cover).
The rest of your Alberta trip should be OK for accomms - of course, weekends are usually busier with weddings, reunions, tournaments, etc added to the regular mix of vacationers and tourists and it wouldn't hurt to arrange in advance if you know where you will be.
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump is worth the trip as suggested previously, and I like to send people about 90 minutes east of Calgary to Drumheller and the Royal Tyrell Musuem:
and southwest of Calgary to Kananaskis Country.
Dec 21, 2012 9:51 AM
4I'm seeing a lot of great advice! I agree with suggestions of Buffalo Jump and Drumheller. I would also encourage you to drive the mountain loop (Calgary --> Banff --> Jasper --> Edmonton --> back to Calgary). If you don't have time/desire to drive that whole loop, I would encourage you to at least take the drive to Banff. The Canadian Rockies are amazing to experience and drive through. The old town feel of Banff & Jasper is also great. At that time of year, you have whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, helicoptor tours and many other options.
littlechilds touch'd on Stampede being city wide so it might be worth investigating more on what that means to you and what events you would enjoy (including what is free?)? As much as the Stampede is an event to remember, I would encourage you to look into some smaller rodeos on the circuit. IMO, stampede is more about the carnival, rides, food, etc etc (which is all great) but if it is the rodeo atmosphere you are after I think you might really enjoy a real small town rodeo (including the nightlife).
Hopefully the following will be helpful (some of the calendars may not have 2013 info yet)....
as has already been said, Stampede week will be insanely busy and difficult to get accomodations. any accomodations along the C-line will not only be good but better than having to park at Stampede events. Accomodations anywhere else in Alberta shouldn't be to difficult to find.
If you get as far as Edmonton, you could see West Edmonton Mall, Fort Edmonton Park, K-days (formerley known as Klondike Days). K-days has pretty much the same carnival as the Stampede but without the rodeo. Depending on the dates, Edmonton has some fantastic festivals as well.
Best wishes and enjoy!!
Dec 21, 2012 8:10 PM
Dec 21, 2012 8:22 PM
Dec 21, 2012 9:37 PM
Dec 21, 2012 11:52 PM
8How about this:
Day 1: drive from Calgary to Edmonton stopping at Elk Island N.P. and West Edmonton Mall, them on to Jasper. Night in Jasper.
Day 2: full day and night in Jasper.
Day 3: drive to Lake Louise. Visit Moraine Lake. Night in Lake Louise or Moraine Lake.
Day 4: drive to Banff, sightseeing and night in Banff.
Day 5: remaining sights in Banff; drive to Drumheller. Night in Drumheller.
Day 6: visit dinosaur museum, drive to Head Smash-in Buffalo Jump, then drive back to Calgary.
Does this makes sense?
Dec 22, 2012 1:25 AM
9Everyone has preferences/opinions. For myself, here are some driving times a other suggestions for your thoughts. You can consider these, revisit your timeline and decide if you have allowed enough time. I hope somebody else can add timeline info about Tyrell and Buffalo Jump. Jasper and Banff both have hostels, B&B, YMCA and guesthouses for reasonable accomodation. Many nice hotels if you want to spend a bit more and both have Fairmont properties if you want extravagantly beautiful.
Approx driving times:
Calgary to Edmonton is 3 to 3.5 hours
WEM to Elk Island is 1 to 1.25 hours (via Anthony Henday Drive South loop)
Elk Island to Jasper is 4.5 to 5 hours
Jasper to Banff is about 4 hours (not including stops)
Banff to Calgary is about 1.5 hours
If your not going to spend time hiking, mountain biking or whitewater rafting in Jasper, I would include a half day wandering about town/shops, a drive up to Pyramid lake & the Gondola, definately a short visit to Jasper Park Lodge and enjoy some of the nightlife.
En route to Banff:
Athabasca falls, a short stop at Lake Louise and definately a ride or walk up the Columbian Icefields. Moraine lake is beautiful but I suspect Pyramid Lake (known for its green water & minnows) and Lake Louise would satisfy anything Moraine Lake could/would accomplish.
Banff Hot Springs, Banff Springs Hotel, wander about the shops a bit (especially the Merman :) in the Old Indian Trading Post), and again some decent nightlife.
You asked if Elk Island is worth it? If there was nowhere else to see buffalo, I might go but this is not the case. IMO your timeline is a bit tight to go the opposite direction (to Jasper) to see buffalo which you can probably see en route from Edmonton to Jasper. Just do a bit of googling for some farms on that route and you can probably stop on the side of the highway long enough to see some buffalo.
For Calgary accomodations, try to book as soon as you possibly can (during Stampede week don't be surprised if they required full prepayment). for the remainder of your accomodations, I would book in advance but also ask each property's cancellation policy. most places will let you cancel without charge (conditional to 24 hours notice) in case you find cheaper/better suggestions along the way.
Hope this helps...
Dec 22, 2012 8:38 AM
10Above advices are all good, I like #8's timeline and #9's details. #9 is pretty accurate, but the driving timelines are a bit long...most those drives can be cut down 1/2 hr or so (maybe not calgary-banff)....Im guessing they were taken off google maps.
This might just me (I know l take heat for this lol), but drumheller in my opinion is a bit overrated...maybe its because I live in Calgary and drive through it every month;)
Dec 22, 2012 8:57 AM
thanks for the compliments.
no google maps here. I've lost count of the number of times making those drives but I admit quoting the longer side of the drive times for the sake of a new person to the routes (the OP), short stops along the road (like bathroom break or seeing animals in the mountains), going the speed limits (grin) etc. Good on you for adding feedback.
Jan 5, 2013 7:05 PM
12Stepping in a bit late on this thread, but here's my thoughts (grew up in Calgary, now live in Northern Alberta). While in Calgary, check out the Glenbow Museum in downtown. Google some of the sites listed above to see what entertainment is happening during Stampede Week - you'll probably find some big names in whatever is your music taste. The LRT is a great way to get around town - cheap, frequent and just about every corner of the city is covered. Allow some free time to walk down Stephen Avenue (the outdoor mall on 8th avenue downtown) and people watch.
If you don't like huge crowds avoid Banff which is highly commercialized. Check it out on the way through but stay in Lake Louise which is quieter. If you like whitewater rafting, you can do a full day on the Kicking Horse River from Lake Louise. Absolutely stop on the icefields parkway and check out the displays and if you have the time, google "Athabasca glacier walks" - four hours hiking on the glacier with a guide who knows lots and will keep you safe. You don't need to be super fit to do this one. Staying in Jasper - check at the park office in town and they'll give you great advice about hikes and things. Last time we were there, the shop in the office (run by the Friends of Jasper Park) had great books, maps, quality souvenirs - including jewellery made from historic trade beads by an artist from Edmonton.
Depending on how much time you have, consider a detour to Grande Cache (detour north from Highway 16) They also have some great whitewater rafting (google Wild Blue Yonder).
Hope you have a great time visiting Alberta.
Jan 6, 2013 11:05 PM
13Thanks for all for the comments. I will skip Elk Island. Does it makes sense to spend one day driving from Calgary to Edmonton and on to Jasper so as to see bits of Edmonton? Or should I drive straight from Calgary to Jasper in one day and then backtrack my way slowly back to Calgary over the next 4-5 days? Is the scenery in both directions same?
What are the chances of seeing wildlife during the drive?
Wow - the accommodation in Calgary during the Stampede period is expensive. Now pondering whether to stay in the Motel District or pay C$50 more to stay in a B&B near Sunnyside. Is the Motel District an unsafe or dull area?
Jan 7, 2013 1:04 PM
14It is not worth going through Edmonton on the way to Jasper from Calgary unless you want to see the mall, which, although large with a few impressive attractions, is just a mall. I am from Edmonton originally and, while Edmonton is okay, it is not a place I'd send a tourist with less than 2 weeks in Alberta. If you elect to bypass Edmonton, I'd suggest taking in some of the rural highways on your trip, such as Highway 2A or Hwy 22.
Yes, the scenery is much different driving from Calgary through Edmonton to Jasper than coming back. The way to Jasper this way will be primarily farmland / ranchland, some rolling hills and some forest until the last hour which gets into Jasper National Park. It can be a pretty drive at times, and a day of driving (7-9 hours) stopping in some of the small towns for lunch or to browse a local antique shop may give you a glipmse of local "culture".
The scenery on the way back from Jasper to Banff to Calgary will take your breath away and is spectacular! Hope for a clear and sunny day for the absolute best views (I'd even postpone the drive a day if needed for the best weather). Plan to stop several times from Jasper to Banff, or even spend a night in a wilderness lodge part way along the Icefields Parkway to stretch the trip out. There are many besautiful walks and hikes you can do along this drive from easy to very demanding.
Your best chance of seeing wildlife will be from Hinton to Jasper, around the Jasper townsite and parts of the Icefields Parkway. Between Lake Louise and Banff, opt for the Bow Valley Parkway as it is better for spotting wildlfe as it is a much less busy road.
My last trip through this circle we saw deer, elk, moose, black bears, a grizzly bear (rare), mountain goats and sheep: pretty much all the major animals. We saw a few moose on the side road up to Maligne lake from Jasper, and for all the time I've spent in the Jasper area (50+ trips) I rarely saw moose from the highway.
As for Calgary, motel village (near univeristy of Calgary) is cheap and relatively easily accessible from downtown / the rodeo grounds by c-train. There's not much "fun" to do in the immediate area of motel village, but it is relatively safe and you can get into downtown by train in about a 20 minute ride that costs I think $2.75. If you stay in a B&B near Sunnyside, it is walkable into downtown or the semi-trandy/eclectic Kensington road neighborhood, so a bit less boring. You'd still need to take the train to the rodeo grounds. Is it worth an extra $50 per night to me? Well, I'll be staying in motel village myself for Stampede, so that answers the question.
(4 star Hotel)
From US$217.26 per night
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From US$260.91 per night
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From US$326.39 per night