Calgary’s best weather seems to arrive near the end of summer and typically stretches through into early fall. So, it’s important to get out and soak up the sun, scenery, culture, and community while it’s at its most pristine, pastoral and downright breathtaking. Here are a few ideas for memorable outdoor dates in the city this summer.
Often overlooked in Calgary’s diverse cultural landscape are the numerous world-class festivals take place in our fair city — particularly in the summer.
For the music lovers, a few perennial favourites reign supreme, starting with the Calgary Folk Music Festival (July 21 – 24) at Prince’s Island Park. City and Colour, Matt Masters, Blue Rodeo, Buffy Sainte-Marie, k.d. Lang and Yo La Tengo punctuate a diverse bill featuring 68 artists from 14 countries on seven stages. With the mellow vibes and beauty of the little island in the city, ‘Folk Fest’ is probably the most date-friendly music show of the year.
If you’re in the mood for something different, the enduring ReggaeFest (August 18 – 20) at Shaw Millennium Park requires that you know nothing about the artists performing in order to have a great time with some lively people. The organizers clearly embrace this ethos because, 30 or so days away, and the main stage acts have yet to be announced!
For the more edgy, X92.9’s X Fest (August 20) takes place at historic Fort Calgary and offers a truly impressive alt-rock line-up that includes Jane’s Addiction, Weezer, Social Distortion, House of Pain (no, seriously) and the Rural Alberta Advantage.
Don’t forget: Calgary shows its sexy multicultural face during the summer with the Kensington Sun and Salsa Festival (July 24), Fiestaval (July 23 – 24), Expo Latino (August 26 – 28) and Afikadey! (August 8 – 13).
As well, GlobalFest’s annual (August 19 – 27) fireworks competition is a must-see, in 2011 boasting teams from China, the Philippines, Italy, and Canada going head-to-head for illuminated dominance of the city’s night sky.
Float, Ride or Walk
The mighty Bow River gives Calgarians the opportunity to freely float along its main arteries. Traversing the Bow via inflatable vessel has become a free summer pastime on or near the level of Stampede pancake breakfasts. All it requires is dropping a raft in the Bow near Bowness Park and floating at a calm speed until you feel like hopping off (ending your float near Edworthy Park takes about two hours, and getting out near the Calgary Zoo is closer to four hours). The key to a great date on the Bow is safety, and if being a lifeguard is not your thing, there’s an excellent guided tour of the river and environs put on by The U of C’s Outdoor Centre. Also, Heritage Park offers Captain’s Cruises (July 21, 28 and August 4, 11, 18 and 25), providing a more sophisticated Cowtown marine ride. Jump aboard Calgary’s only paddlewheeler, sip fine Canadian wines and beers, eat gourmet hors d’oeuvres, and listen to live jazz as you take in the beauty of the Glenmore Reservoir at night.
For an adventurous ride into Alberta’s past, Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions runs a fun and only semi-corny historical locomotive tour out of Stettler, Alta. Speaking of corny, try getting lost in Calgary’s Corn Maze: As childish as it seems (and it kind of is), trying to escape the 10-acre corn maze will really give you a chance to see her true colours — did you draw the team player, the quitter/whiner, or the exhibitionist?
Image courtesy of D’Arcy Norman.