Oh, Canada

Getting to know the natural (and edible) wonders of
our northern neighbor’s breathtaking Calgary and Banff.

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  • Written by
    Shannon Sharpe

I was raised by a Canada-lover. My father had a spe – cial place in his heart for all things Canadian—the cities, the sports teams, even the national anthem.

Growing up in the Northeast, we visited our neighbor to the north on a semi-regular basis—travel – ing to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and that classic tour – ist destination, Niagara Falls. But I was much more unfamiliar with Western Canada. So when I was plan – ning a trip to Calgary, I had no idea what to expect. 

“Go to Banff,” I was advised by friends who cited the beauty of the national park nestled in the Canadian Rockies about an hour-and-a-half outside the city. With just that one tidbit of advice, I arrived in Alberta and discovered that was just one marvel among many

Calgary is a metropolis filled with natural beauty, a plethora of cultural events and a culinary scene that rivals that of other Northwestern cities such as Van – couver and Seattle. And while the area may be more commonly associated with winter sports ever since it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988, the summer is prime time to experience all that this city offers.


Every year more than 1 million cowboys, cowgirls and their devoted fans flood the city to attend the Calgary Stampede (July 8–17), a 10-day rodeo and festival. Much more than just bull riding and steer wrestling, the fair features nightly concerts with a plethora of major headliners, a midway with rides, games, food and agricultural showcases. For those craving a bit more of a sophisticated experience, there is a wine garden where sommeliers pair wines with cheese and charcuterie. (calgarystampede.com)

It’s not just folk music lovers who will enjoy the Calgary Folk Music Festival (July 21–24) at Prince’s Island Park. Known for its genre-bending lineup— think roots, funk, country and old-time influences— the 2016 four-day event features more than 70 artists from around the world. Both one-day tickets and—for those who are looking for a completely immersive music experience—four-day passes are available. (calgaryfolkfest.com)

There is a reason that everyone recommends mak – ing an excursion to Banff National Park when in Alberta. Outdoor activities abound in the summer with opportunities for whitewater rafting, horseback riding and hiking. For an experience like no other, take a trek to one of the two historic alpine teahouses: Lake Agnes Tea House and Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. Upon arrival visitors will be rewarded with refreshments such as such as sandwiches, soup, scones, lemonade and (of course) tea. (pc.gc.ca)


After an award-winning 2014 renovation by CHIL Interior Design, Hotel Arts has become the destination boutique hotel for those looking for a high-design hotel experience. The artful rooms showcase dramatic headboards, thought-provoking art and luxurious bathrooms. The hotel’s two restaurants, Raw Bar (“Vietmodern” cuisine) and Yellow Door Bistro (classic food with a contemporary twist), have this same funky vibe. (hotelarts.ca)

Romance and charm abound at the Kensington Riverside Inn, which sits beside the Bow River. It is the perfect escape for an indulgent weekend. Book a Riverview Suite—complete with a fireplace and deep soaking tub for two—and savor the tasting menu of chef de cuisine Sean Cutler at the hotel’s four-diamond Chef’s Table. (kensingtonriversideinn.com)

History and architecture lovers will fall in love with the centuryold Fairmont Palliser, which has been known to host heads of state and royalty. The legend goes that after the Canadian Pacific Railway expanded westward, an influx of tourists began arriving in Calgary. William Van Horne, general manager of Canadian Pacific Railway, declared, “If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists,” and the Fairmont was built. (fairmont.com/palliser-calgary)


The locals are abuzz about Michelin Star Chef Neil McCue’s Whitehall, which opened in 2015. The menu is available à la carte, but the tasting menu is the best way to experience the executive chef’s culinary glory. The seasonal menu is strongly influenced by Chef Neil’s native country of Britain and features both modern and old-world recipes. The cheese soufflé is already legendary among foodies. (whitehallrestaurant.com)

Refusing to be “pigeonholed” is the concept behind Pigeonhole, the eclectic wine bar that serves small plates showcasing a multitude of flavor combinations—more often than not featured in unexpected ways … think jalapeño salad cream with your charred cabbage, or chorizo emulsion on your spaghetti squash. And while it’s a wine bar, don’t forget about the cocktails. The midcentury modern design inspires one to take a cue from Don Draper and order one of their signature drinks. (pigeonholeyyc.ca)

Calgary’s original farm-to-table restaurant, the River Café in Prince’s Island Park features a lodge-like setting that makes this hyper-local cuisine—even the butter is locally churned—that more enjoyable. The chef’s tasting menu, which features such things as fresh-shucked West Coast oysters and Mountain Creek bison striploin, is a showcase for Canadian food. (river-cafe.com) 