Features | From Pivot Magazine

A crash course on Cowtown 

Football fans and business travellers alike flock to Calgary this month for the Grey Cup and CPA Canada’s Oil and Gas Conference. Here’s how to make the most of your stay. 

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Studio Bell buildingCalgary’s legendary blues venue, the sprawling Studio Bell complex, is home to the National Music Centre (Photograph by Bittermann Photography)


Calgary’s legendary blues venue, the sprawling Studio Bell complex, is home to the National Music Centre, which undulates with the curves of an instrument. Equal parts performance venue, interactive museum and working studio, this dynamic space is a joyous celebration of music. Jam out on a spooky theremin and check out the bus that once served as the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio.


The new $245-million, 240,000-square-foot Calgary Central Library is an award-winning architectural wonder of curved glass and wood—and a great place to get some work done. The walls of the building—just a few blocks from the Oil and Gas Conference venue, the Calgary Telus Convention Centre—are covered with a small gallery’s worth of art, and there’s a variety of public and private spaces.

Barista pouring coffee at Monogram Monogram (Image courtesy of Monogram)


Look for homegrown mini-chains like Monogram, a 20-year-old brewer and roaster with three locations, and Analog, which has six cafés where Slayer machines turn out top-notch espresso. Caffe Beano, meanwhile, has been in business nearly 30 years; it’s known for its excellent home-baked goods (try the Cowboy Cookie) and elaborate coffee concoctions (chocolate espresso milkshake).  


As it approaches its 25th anniversary—that’s 190 in restaurant years—the River Café hasn’t lost a step. Focusing on local, seasonal ingredients made it a pioneer in 1995, and the restaurant continues to be a taste leader. Chef Matthias Fong’s menu—recent dishes include bison tartare with pickled saskatoon berries, smoked wild sockeye with canola seed crackers, and morel mushrooms with ash potato and Jungle Farms spinach—is well-served by the restaurant’s Edenic location in the middle of Prince’s Island Park.

Person getting hot stone massage at Leela Eco SpaLeela Eco Spa (Image courtesy of Leela Eco Spa)


Leela Eco Spa, which has four locations in the city, claims to be as gentle on the environment as it is on customers’ bodies. The carbon-offsetting enterprise is LEED gold-certified, paperless and plastic bottle-free. And its spa services—from couples massages, facials and mani-pedis to cupping, osteopathy and acupuncture—use only organic products.


Leading up to the Grey Cup on Nov. 24, Stampede Park will be full of football-related festivities. The Titan Street Festival includes a 169-feet-long Jiffy Lube Tube Slide, along with the ATCO Stratosphere, a giant inflatable dome that provides a cinematic viewing experience seven times larger than an IMAX screen. Pancake breakfasts, concerts, fireworks, galas and even a rodeo round out the schedule.


When the city has something to celebrate, it comes to 17th Avenue. The artery’s nickname, The Red Mile, stems from the celebrations that accompanied the Calgary Flames’ 2004 Stanley Cup run. Ahead of the Grey Cup, the avenue’s nightclubs, boutiques, bars and restaurants will be in full swing.

The ongoing redevelopment of East Village, formerly a derelict industrial neighbourhood, has completely revitalized the area. Converted factory buildings, home to restaurants like local favourite Charbar, exist comfortably alongside modern glass-and-steel structures like the new Alt Hotel.

Just south of downtown, Beltline is a frothy blend of contemporary design shops (Maria Toms), second-wave coffee purveyors (Société Coffee Lounge), craft cocktail emporiums (Proof) and restaurants (start with Model Milk and Native Tongues Taqueria).