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Kick up your Spurs at the Calgary Stampede

Published by Kirsten Schmoll, Writer

Country: Canada

The Experience

It's the most anticipated event of the year for the rodeo fans. A short window of time where locals and visitors alike forget the hubbub of everyday life, don their cowboy boots, and hoedown. The entire city of Calgary shuts down for one of Canada’s greatest events, the Calgary Stampede. Traditionally known for its preservation of “western heritage and values”, the 10-day event has developed into the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. For more than a century, Calgary Stampede Park has been home to an epic rodeo. So grab your boots, hat and cowboy chaps and prepare to have the time of your life.

To kick off the festival, check out the Calgary Stampede Parade. Held on the first day of Stampede, it heralds the beginning of the 10 day celebration, honoring Calgary's western culture and values. With hundreds of floats, marching bands and other cultural displays the Calgary Stampede Parade will set you off on the right foot.

As soon as you hit Stampede Park, the smell of a good ol’ fashioned farm fills your nose. That, and the smell of cotton candy, hot dogs and pop corn. It doesn’t get much better. There are food vendors throughout Stampede Park selling everything from traditional treats – candy apples, French fries, pogo dogs – to corn on the cob and deep-fried chocolate bars. You can even get your hands on some gourmet grub in one of the many restaurants on site. Whatever you’re in the mood for, it will likely be at your fingertips at the Calgary Stampede.

Besides great food, there are more than 40 different rides providing endless fun to visitors, so keep you arms and legs inside the car at all times and enjoy the ride. If fast and furious isn’t your thing, ever taunting fair games and betting tables are located around every corner, but good luck fitting that over sized stuffed teddy in your car when the day is done. Midway coupons and wristbands are available for visitors to ride and play all day.

Once you’ve navigated your way through the rides and games, you’ll find the Calgary Stampede Grandstand has much more to offer. There are a number of themed areas scattered around the park designed to educate and display the ways of the west and are free to enjoy. One of the highlights of the festival is the Calgary Stampede Rodeo. Your trip wouldn't be complete without cheering on your favorite cowboy or cowgirl as they rope a steed, race their chuck wagon or hold on to their bronco for dear life. When you’re done watching the Calgary Stampede Rodeo, switch up your cowboy boots for dancing shoes and head into Nashville North, one of three great concert venues on the grounds where you can eat, drink, dance, sing and mingle. Between Nashville North, the Coca-cola stage and the Saddeldome Plaza visitors are able to see some of the biggest names in country music with a beer in hand and lots of room to line dance. Most concerts are even free to enjoy.

As the Calgary Stampede Park's population swells beyond 100,000 people every day of the event, the gates become only a doorway to other participating venues. Bars, clubs and pubs around town host parties daily and nightly. The nightlife gets so busy you have to show up early, like 2pm early, or you won’t make it in to join the party. Between rodeos, parades, rides and pancake breakfasts you'll never be at a loss for ways to show your Stampede spirit.

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When to Go to Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede takes place once a year in the heat of the summer sun. The festival usually runs between the second and third weekend in July. These ten days are perfect for enjoying a cold beer on one of the stampede's patios during the day or in the evening.

Accommodations can get quite busy this time of year, so be sure to book your Calgary Stampede hotels ahead of time.

Odds n' Ends

Calgary Stampede tickets cost CDN$ 14.00 for general admission to the grounds. Once inside, midway coupons and wristbands are available for visitors to ride and play all day. Getaway packages are also available which include specific events and locations.

Calgary Stampede Grandstand shows vary from event to event and day to day depending on seat location. Standing room is the cheapest at CDN$12.00 and prices go up as high as CDN$ 354.00. Discounted group rates are also offered. Concert tickets are priced based on act but are generally cost the same as what you would pay for a concert off the grounds.

Country and western wear isn't compulsory but it's always fun to dress for the occasion. Almost everyone wears something to play the part. Even if you're not a cowboy, break out your old cowboy hat and tight blue jeans for fun. Sunscreen on the other hand is absolutely compulsory. While the blazing sun is easy to avoid on the grounds by hanging out in one of the indoor exhibits, it feels so good to take in the rays so slather it on! If you're heading to the Calgary Stampede with friends, it's best not to drive. You'll likely have too much fun in the beer tent. Use public transportation to get around.

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