This trip to Alberta was a spur of the moment kind of trip. In the summer while I was over in Idaho spending a day at Silverwood Theme Park, I had wondered to myself how long of a drive it would be to Edmonton. According to Google Maps, it would be just shy of 10 hours to drive from Athol, thus it was a bit far at that time, but the interest in going would remain. Not too long ago, I looked up the cost of flights to Edmonton from Seattle as well as to Calgary, and found I could get a direct flight from Seattle to Calgary on Air Canada for just a bit more than $200, so I bought my ticket, found a hotel to stay for a few nights just South of Downtown Calgary, then waited for the time to come to begin a nice long weekend visit to Alberta!
The flight to Calgary was my first flight with Air Canada, and was also the first time I have flown into Canada, as my previous visits with our neighbor to the North involved crossing the border by land. It was a smaller regional propeller plane, and offered some great views of the Rockies that I had forgotten to take pictures of, but alas it was a fairly smooth and uneventful flight, which I appreciated.
This trip would also be the first time I've rented a car myself since prior to this I was either riding with family or friends, or was on a tour with transportation provided. The biggest thing about driving into Canada as I had experienced a few months prior when taking the day trip up to British Columbia for Playland and Cultus Lake Advenutre Park is getting used to the use of the metric system for distances and speed limits. Luckily with Canadian cars, metric is usually the default measurement used in their displays.
Before going into Downtown Calgary, I mad a stop to fulfill a promise I made to myself as a kid. Those who knew me during my youth and early high school days know that I was to be a HUGE pro wrestling fan. I would watch the various shows of WWE (or WWF back when I was really into it) religiously. One of the wrestlers that I loved to hate because of his ability to play the bad guy well was Owen Hart. Owen was one of the most talented wrestlers I had ever seen, and was in each of the first four shows that I attended live with my mom or dad. When I last saw him live as part of a tag team with Jeff Jarrett against the New Age Outlaws for a house show at Seattle's Key Arena in April of 1999, I had no idea it would be the last time I would see him at live event, as a little more than a month later he tragically passed away from a stunt gone wrong at a pay-per-view show in Kansas City, where he fell from the rafters of the arena and struck on of the ring posts, suffering incredibly traumatic injuries. As a huge fan of wrestling, I experienced a great deal of sadness from the loss of a favorite performer.
Shortly after his passing when I found out that he had been laid to rest in his native Calgary, I told myself that should I ever made it there, I would go to visit his grave to pay my respects. 16 years later, that visit would come as I finally found myself in Calgary at Queens Park Cemetary to pay my respects to a man that helped provide many childhood memories.
After visiting Owen's memorial, I went south toward the city center and drove through it to stop at the hotel to check-in and drop off my luggage. Once that was all squared away, it was a short drive back into town to explore.
The downside to an October visit is missing out on the experience of the Calgary Stampede, their annual rodeo and agricultural event. This is an event that I would love to come back and see in person, especially the wagon races they feature. The Stampede Park area has a few facilities that are used throughout the year such as the Scotiabank Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames and Calgary Hitmen hockey teams. This arena would come back up later in the evening as I wanted to take in a hockey game, so I parked the rental in the lot near the arena before going into the heart of the city. Calgary's downtown area is really easy to navigate as it follows a basic grid pattern throughout, and is easy to walk around.
In the heart of downtown is one of the most unique buildings of Calgary, which is none other than the Calgary Tower. One of the best places for a view up high in Calgary. As part of your visit, you can borrow a handheld device with a touch screen interface that tells you about different buildings that you see around downtown, and also stories from local people throughout the years since Calgary had been established. What's also really neat is that you can syncronize it to the elevator ride up, and it will give a height comparison to different things in the world as you get closer and closer to the top. It is a free service, and all you need to do is to give them an ID to hold until you return it.
As for the view from the observation level, it's pretty darn good! From this height, you are pretty much higher than just about any other building in the city, and can see several areas including Stampede Park.
While Calgary sits on some fairly flat lands like several other major cities of the Midwestern United States and Central Canada, going up the Calgary Tower lets you see the contrast of the plains with the Canadian Rockies. it was a little cloudy over them on this day, but this would be an amazing view of them on a clear day, and if you look carefully, you can find the ski jump tower at Winter Olympic Park, where several events of the 1988 Winter Games were held.
One of Calgary Tower's highlights is this glass platform which you can stand on and look down for a different view of the city below. Those who are brave enough can also stand or sit on it for some unique pictures.
Since I have never done one of these before, it was a bit unnerving for the first few moments, and while I realize that the glass is so thick that it would take a lot more weight to break it, there was that thought in the back of my mind for the first few moments about it doing just that. After getting used to it, it makes for a really fascinating view of the street below. Of course not everyone will "fall" for the experience of the glass platform due to the fear of heights. If you are comfortable though, you can have some fun with the angling of your camera, and have yourself a Hans Gruber moment.
Back at ground level, I discovered that they had this really cool LEGO portrait that someone made paying tribute to the city, and you could also get your picture taken with a beaver mountie!
While some may see this towers are being a bit touristy, they make a great way to see the city they are a part of and the surrounding area as well, and the Calgary Tower is no different in that respect. The handheld device is also a nice touch as it gives visitors the flexibility to move about the observation deck while listening to the audio. If you find yourself visiting Calgary, the tower is definitely worth a stop.
Next, it's time for some hockey!