Every July, Alberta’s biggest city shuts down to focus on The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth — the Calgary Stampede. Indulgent TravelingMom traveled to the 105th Stampede and shares 8 ways to do the Calgary Stampede right.
Back in 1912, an American performer and promoter named Guy Weadick created the very first Stampede in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). It’s been a bustling attraction ever since, growing by leaps and bounds but maintaining the heart of the Stampede created more than a century ago. More than “just a rodeo,” the Calgary Stampede is an experience! Here are 8 ways to do the Calgary Stampede right.
8 ways to do the Calgary Stamped right
Get a cowboy hat
Eat the Midway
Visit the Indian Village
Have dinner at ranahans
Watch the rodeo
Stay for the Grandstand Show
Go to a concert
Find free food
Read on for more info!
OK, to be clear, there really is no wrong way to do the Calgary Stampede. Show up and explore and you’re already doing it right. But if you’re looking for a few ideas to get you started, or to add some serious VIP-style indulgence to your Stampede experience, keep reading…
1. Get a cowboy hat.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: do not — I repeat, do NOT — buy a pair of cowboy boots when you arrive at the Stampede on day one and expect to wear them day in, day out. Your feet will be in agony. Come prepared in a pair of boots you’ve worked in really well. There’s a lot of walking involved and you’ll thank me for this advice later.
But what you should do when you arrive is get a hat. The “official” Stampede hat is white with red trim, but there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of styles from which to choose. And as many vendors. The most well-known western wear retailer in the area is Lammle’s and there’s a huge pop-up store outside on the fair grounds.
2. Eat on the Midway.
Come hungry and ready to try some of the new foods the Stampede offers every year. This year, for example, there were 58 new foods on the Midway — from funnel cake poutine to deep-fried lemonade! The best Calgary Stampede Midway foods are both savory and sweet, and in most cases, portions are so big that you’ll want to share.
3. Visit the Indian Village.
Part of the Calgary Stampede since the beginning, the Indian Village offers a small but rare closeup look into Canada’s First Nations culture. Your Stampede admission gives you free access to the village and all of its entertainment and activities.
Teepees from various indigenous groups adorn the village and there’s traditional food, like bannock, available to eat. I recommend trying the bannock taco! There’s also a daily Powwow, too, which is one of my Stampede highlights.
TravelingMom Tip: Remember that a teepee is a sacred place, like someone’s home. Remove your hat before entering and ask before you touch anything in it. If you’d like to take photos inside a teepee, ask the owner and respect him or her if the answer is “no.”
4. Have dinner at ranahans.
You need deep pockets for the most indulgent treat available at the Calgary Stampede — ranahans al fresco dining. Used most often for corporate hosting, every ranahans ticket comes with an outstanding buffet dinner and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, plus premium outdoor seating in the Grandstand — including overhead coverage if it rains. This was my favorite meal throughout the week thanks to inventive dishes like spicy grilled shrimp atop grits.
5. Watch the rodeo.
Whether we watched from comfortable seats in the Grandstand or standing-only spots along the rails, I loved the rodeo events at the Stampede. You’ll need tickets on top of your grounds passes to see the rodeo shows, but they’re a must to complete your Calgary Stampede experience.
There were three events in particular that stood out to me the most:
- The chuckwagon races — One of the most popular events at the Stampede, and it doesn’t disappoint. Find a veteran Stampeder to fill you in on the rules and don’t blink.
- The kids’ pony races — Picture three children chasing down a pony with the goal of one of them getting on and riding for three strides. Now picture most of those kids simply being dragged along in the dirt by said ponies instead. Hilarious!
- The new relay race — This debuted at the 2017 Calgary Stampede and, boy, was it exhilarating. Instead of a relay baton changing hands, think rider changing horses and galloping bareback around the track using three different horses.
6. Stay for the Grandstand Show.
After the chuckwagon races each night, there’s a big Grandstand Show with dancing, singing, pyrotechnics, aerialists and more. It’s about 30 to 40 minutes long and culminates in Disney-worthy fireworks. Definitely worth the price of admission, but if you just want to see the fireworks, skip the ticket and simply find a bench in the fair grounds and look up around 11:30 p.m.
7. Go to a concert.
There are numerous concerts throughout the 10-day Calgary Stampede, and many of them are free with grounds admission. This year, for example, Alessia Cara was one of the free concerts. (And then she was mauled by screaming tweens on the fair grounds afterward.) Brooks & Dunn played this year, too, but required an additional ticket.
8. Find free food.
More specifically, free breakfast. Each morning during the Stampede, there’s a free pancake breakfast on Stephen Avenue in downtown Calgary. Not far from there, you’ll find even more free pancakes and bacon in Olympic Park thanks to corporate sponsors. My suggestion? Try them all and turn it into a competition to find the best pancake
The Calgary Stampede lineup is available well before the July festivities so you can plan your visit early. And, as they say at the Stampede: YA-HOO!
Psssst! Turn your trip to Calgary into an opportunity to explore the area. Hit up Banff National Park for Instagram-worthy scenery for days, or if you’re more of a winter person, fly into Calgary between December and April and make the trek to Panorama Mountain Resort for incredible skiing.