From the high-rise condos towering over the city skyline to the peace and quiet of Calgary's best gated communities, Calgary is a fantastic city to live in. The city offers many different cultural festivals and special events throughout the year, which locals and tourist visitors enjoy. Two of the biggest annual festivals in the city are GlobalFest Calgary and the Calgary Stampede—the latter is a rodeo and festival that gives "Stampede City" its nickname. Here's a guide on everything a person needs to know to attend the biggest outdoor rodeo in the world.
What is the Calgary Stampede?
"The Calgary Stampede" is a not-for-profit organization that arranges and hosts the annual parade, rodeo, and other events surrounding the Stampede. The rodeo and fair last 10 days every summer, starting on the first Friday in July. If that first Friday falls on Canada Day, the rodeo's dates are pushed back a week. More than one million people attend the Stampede every year, and the city takes on a party-like atmosphere in the days surrounding it.
The Stampede kicks off with a parade that runs through Downtown Calgary. There are stage shows, agricultural exhibits, First Nations exhibits, and free concerts at the Stampede every day during the celebration, and the rodeo action starts at 1:30 p.m. every afternoon. The evening show includes fun events like chuck wagon races and massive fireworks displays each night.
How Can I Go to the Calgary Stampede?
Driving a personal vehicle to the Stampede and parking in one of its 17 parking lots is one way to get there. General admission parking is $25 for a personal car that weighs no more than one tonne. RVs, animal trailers, and oversized vehicles are not permitted. For general admission parking, if the visitor leaves with their vehicle and comes back, they'll have to pay for another parking spot. General admission parking is reserved for the lots directly north of the Stampede grounds.
Reserved parking spots are available for $50 per day or $500 for the entire 10-day event. Note that Lot 8 is reserved for handicap-accessible parking.
Public transportation is another option for getting to the Stampede grounds every day, as Stampede Park is directly between the Erlton and Victoria Park CTrain stations. The city bus service runs along Macleod Trail and 12 Avenue SE, the west and north sides of the fairgrounds. Downloading the My Fare app on an Android or iPhone makes it easy to purchase tickets and ride the train to the Calgary Stampede.
Calgary Stampede Rodeo
The Calgary Stampede Rodeo features ten days of championship rodeo action that culminates with the championships on the final Sunday of the event. Competitors from all over Canada and the US must qualify before competing in the Stampede, which features more than $1.5 million in yearly prize money. The Rodeo kicks off at 1:30 p.m. every day during the Stampede. Tickets for the Rodeo or the evening show that are bought in advance include admission to Stampede Park on that day.
Stampede ticket prices vary based on proximity to the action at GMC Stadium. The highest seats in the west stands start at $66 per person, front and center tickets in the west stands sell for $129, and tickets on the North and South Infield sections on the stadium's eastern side sell for as much as $320. Tickets for Finals events at the Stampede tend to sell out, so it's advisable to purchase seats ahead of time.
Many of the best competitors in the world make their way to the Calgary Stampede every year, not to mention the animals. The events that take place over the ten days of rodeo action are:
- Barrel racing
- Bull riding
- Tie-down roping
- Steer wrestling
- Saddle bronc riding
- Bareback riding
Calgary Stampede Parade
The Calgary Stampede Parade kicks off the event every year. This parade takes over several blocks of Downtown Calgary beginning at 9:00 a.m. on the first Friday of the Stampede. The parade route starts on 9 Avenue between City Hall and the Calgary Tower, heading westbound. The route then turns north on 10 Street, loops back to the east on 6 Avenue, and heads toward Stampede Park.
The CTrain runs along 7 Avenue in Calgary, and every stop in the Downtown area is only one or two blocks from the parade route. Taking the train, biking, or walking are the best ways to get Downtown to watch the parade. All parking garages and streets near the parade route are blocked off starting at 6 a.m. and don't reopen until 2:00 p.m, so a vehicle parked in a garage or lot too close to the parade route is stuck until then.
The parade features more than 150 floats, dozens of marching bands and organizations, amazing horses pulling wagons, and visiting dignitaries. Some of the condos in Downtown Calgary provide the best overhead views of the parade. A different Parade Marshal is selected every year to ride in the first car of the parade; past Parade Marshals have been notable people like William Shatner, Bing Crosby, and Walt Disney.
Who Can Enjoy the Calgary Stampede?
People of all ages can enjoy the Calgary Stampede. There are events geared toward young kids, family-friendly events for all ages, and some "adults only" entertainment.
People moving to Calgary with kids will love the options offered by the Calgary Stampede. For example, the BMO Kids' Zone is a kid-friendly venue for children 12 and under, and there's face painting, inflatable bounce houses, and a massive multi-level playground. Children also enjoy the Dog Bowl, which has canine athletes performing amazing tricks and stunts.
The First Nations cultural exhibit at the Elbow River Camp features tipis, works by local artisans, dancing, and other entertainment. Meanwhile, the Freestyle Motocross has death-defying stunts at high speeds, and there are free world-class country music and rock concerts at the Coca-Cola Stage every day of the Stampede.
The Calgary Stampede Evening Show is one of the biggest draws every year. It happens every night in the same stadium where the rodeo takes place. Chuckwagon races begin at 7:45 p.m., followed by a significant pyrotechnic event called the Bell Grandstand Show, which features jaw-dropping action. Every evening is capped off with a spectacular fireworks show in the arena. Tickets for the Evening Show range from $88 to $142 each.
The Cowboys Casino is a place for some adult-only entertainment at Stampede Park. It serves cocktails and has table games, slot machines, sports betting, and poker.
Enjoy the Biggest Outdoor Rodeo in the World
One of the reasons locals love Calgary is the range of cultural events and festivals hosted here. The Calgary Stampede is a citywide celebration here every year, taking more than 2,500 volunteers working year-round to bring it into existence. Everyone who attends it agrees that it's worth the admission price. From the unforgettable championship rodeo action to the parade to the fireworks shows, there's something for everyone at the Calgary Stampede!
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