Driving Distance, Calgary: Airdrie

A few years ago, Airdrie was North America’s fastest-growing city and the once sleepy community (a 15-minute drive north of Calgary) has ballooned from some 8,000 people to nearly 50,000 citizens, in just a couple of decades. The population influx is partly attributed to Calgarians moving to Airdrie for a break on real estate prices but the city attracts many others with its small town identity as “Alberta’s Friendliest City” (Airdrie’s old slogan). It’ll likely annex with Calgary within the next 20 years, but there’s no reason you can’t visit now and spend a day getting to know your neighbour.

It’s technically in the Balzac/Sharp Hill area but the mega-mall CrossIron Mills is the last turn before Airdrie and needs to be seen if you’re planning a trip that way. The mall is split into six “neighbourhoods” and the sports area, with a huge Bass Pro Shop and Pro Hockey Life, will likely be the most interesting thing for male shoppers. The mall also features a state-of-the-art Cineplex SilverCity complex, complete with an arcade and is one of only six theatres in Alberta that has UltraAVX.

After the mall, proceed to the city of Airdrie and stop in at ‘Where on Earth … Did You Get That’ Antique Mall. This former 15,000 sq. ft. Canadian Tire has been converted into a huge antique warehouse. Vintage house wares, cool patio furniture, and rec room décor you won’t find anywhere else make this uniquely named space a cool shopping experience for couples.

Airdrie’s culinary scene is admittedly quite shallow, but there are a few independent restaurants worth visiting. Rico’s in the Village is a century-old house just off of Airdrie’s Main St. where Chef Rico Pacheco puts his soul into a compact yet elegant fusion-tapas menu (Spanish staples get a South American kick with dishes like the Chilean empanadas or the baked provolone with Latin-style chorizo sausage). Peppercorns, on Airdrie’s East Side, offers locally sourced ingredients on a globally diverse menu and the quaint family restaurant also stocks a respectable wine cellar. Entrées like the chicken cacciatore, veal forestiere, or a flatiron steak with garlic Nann bread will definitely make for an enjoyable lunch date. Lastly, Paros on Main is a Greek restaurant that attracts visitors from all over Southern Alberta and beyond. Delicious largely portioned dishes and a fun atmosphere have kept this eatery packed since it swung open its doors, close to a decade ago.

Airdrie’s recreation centre, Genesis Place is in the midst of a three-phase overhaul, but the complex’s six pools, waterslide, indoor track and gymnastics facility are up and running — making a family outing in Airdrie easily handled by this one stop. And for a day with the dudes, book a tee-time at Woodside — Airdrie’s 18-hole golf course, that was once a secret, but the long, well-managed course has become a seasonal highlight amongst Calgary golfers.

Image courtesy of FancyLady

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