Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 21, 2017

© Canadian Tourism Commission

Busy 17th Avenue is a hub for shops, galleries and restaurants like Local 510.

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Calgary

Forget the cowboys: the city’s young urban vibe will win you over

It's amazing how many Canadians have stereotyped Calgary as a nice place to drive through on your way to Banff or, worse still, as the sum of its Stampede celebrations. Sure the annual party of all things Western is unique in the country, but the other 350 days of the year, most Calgarians are not interested in roping calfs, riding broncos or even wearing Stetsons. Between 1998 and 2008, this young city grew 30 percent, and it's hopping. Locals are out at the latest hot new restos, checking out art galleries and theatres, and hiking and biking in some stellar riverside parks — and you'd do well to join them.

Art lovers can check out the contemporary art galleries clustered around pedestrian Stephen Street, like the Esker Foundation (1011 9th Avenue Southeast, #444; eskerfoundation.com) and Newzones (730 11th Avenue Southwest; newzones.com). Another good bet is the well-respected Art Gallery of Calgary (117 8th Avenue Southwest; artgallerycalgary.org), which showcases local and international artists working in photography, painting, installation and sculpture.

Know your Eames from your Aalto? Then make a beeline to the Design District (11th Avenue Southwest between 4th and 14th Streets Southwest), home to dozens of furniture and design stores, mid-century antiques and restaurants.

The Glenbow Museum (130 9th Avenue Southeast; glenbow.org) is known for excellent interpretive exhibits chronicling First Nations cultures from across the continent, and added a large new gallery devoted to the modern history of Alberta.

Think science and drinking don't mix? The Science Centre (220 Saint George's Drive Northeast; sparkscience.ca) will convince you otherwise: its adults-only evenings the second Tuesday of the month feature cocktails, music and more challenging interactive programs.

If you can't breeze through town without getting your cowboy fix, take the kids to Heritage Park Historical Village (1900 Heritage Drive Southwest; heritagepark.ca), Canada's largest living history museum. Or mosey over one evening to Ranchman's Cookhouse and Dance Hall (9615 Macleod Trail Southwest; ranchmans.com), the hangout of choice during Stampede and the perfect place to break out your two-step.

New Calgary cooking

Over the past seven years, young chefs have shaken Calgary out of its middling meat-and-potatoes rut, so it's not surprising that foodies here take discovering new restaurants seriously.

A newcomer on the scene that's been getting a lot of attention is Anju (510 10th Street Southwest; anju.ca), which serves up modern Korean tapas like pork-belly steam-bun sliders and kimchi jambalaya in a modern relaxed space.

Also on the radar is Home Tasting Room (8th Avenue Southwest, Main Floor 110; hometastingroom.ca), a wine-centric small-plates venue that serves high-end comfort food for lunch and artisanal fare in the evenings.

Charcut (899 Centre Street Southwest, #101; charcut.com) has been around a few years, but still heads “best of” lists. Owned by Top Chef Canada runner-up Connie DeSousa, it showcases house-made charcuterie and spit-roasted dishes with a European twist, like pig's head mortadella or pork kielbasa.

The classic destination for a special night out is Rouge (1240 8th Avenue Southeast; rougecalgary.com). Set in an old heritage house in Inglewood, it serves up French-influenced dishes and pairs them with a cellar that's gotten a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

This city is lousy with steakhouses, ranging from old-school haunts to trendy joints, and most will serve you prime Alberta beef. But for equally impressive sides like truffled mac and cheese and lobster mashed potatoes, head to Vintage Chophouse and Tavern (320 11 Avenue Southwest; vintagechophouse.com). It also offers plenty of interesting options for the beef-averse in your midst.

For a casual bite near the shops and galleries of 17th Avenue, try the bustling Local 510 (510 17th Avenue Southwest; localtavern.ca) which adds its own spin to pub fare, like stout-braised lamb shepherd’s pie or mussels with black bean-ginger cream.

Big sky country

When you're on the doorstep of some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the country, it's hard not to feel the call of the road. You might want to drive out to Banff National Park (banfflakelouise.com). Sure, it's popular and can be crowded, but after 15 minutes on the Icefields Parkway, you'll understand why everyone's there.

Or point your GPS to less-travelled Kananaskis Country (albertaparks.ca/kananaskis-country.aspx. Dotted with impressive scenery, national parks and plenty of trails, this is the place that has provided backdrops for movies like Legends of the Fall and Unforgiven.

If you have dinosaur-loving kids in tow, try a day trip to the badlands of Drumheller (traveldrumheller.com). There, the Royal Tyrell Museum (Highway 838, Midland Provincial Park; tyrrellmuseum.com) will wow kids with hands-on experiences and interactive displays. You can also take the loop drive past an old ghost town and eerie hoodoo formations for the full Wild West experience.

There's also plenty of nature to explore right in town. The city is criss-crossed by two rivers, and laced with large nature reserves. Urban wanderers should head to Prince's Island Park (First Avenue and Fourth Street Southwest; calgary.ca/csps/parks), lined with paths along the Bow River and shaded by cottonwoods, it's lovely for a stroll or a jog. It hosts summer music and theatre festivals and has the added bonus of having the excellent River Café (25 Prince's Island Park; river-cafe.com) at its heart.

Of the dozen or so great parks in Calgary, the 1400-hectare Fish Creek Provincial Park (albertaparks.ca/fish-creek.aspx), on the southern end of town, is the largest. Bisected by two rivers, it is a sprawling sanctuary for dear, muskrat, beaver and coyotes and offers a labyrinth of 50 kilometres of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Once you're wandering here, you’ll fee like you’re miles from anywhere. For more information on travel to the region, consult VisitCalgary.com.

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