The following article is presented by Hotel Arts
We all deserve a little pampering sometimes. Because let’s be honest, #AdultingIsHard. And while jetting off to some far flung destination to sip mojitos on the beach all day long is a surefire way to recharge, sometimes something as simple as planning a staycation is all it takes to enjoy a bit of much-needed indulgence. Plus, that way you don’t have to deal with airport security or jet lag, so there’s that.
My hometown of Calgary, Alberta is a fantastic place for R&R, whether your idea of fun means relaxing by a pool, binging at a brunch spot, exploring world-class museums or treating yourself to a new outfit from a trendy boutique. Looking for something more upbeat, like going to a hockey game, sampling creative cocktails, or two steppin’ during the Calgary Stampede? Hey, we’ve got that too! Over the past decade, #YYC has experienced a cultural resurgence that’s getting everyone’s attention, attracting top chefs who have elevated the culinary scene, inventive architecture that’s transformed the already-impressive skyline, and high-end hotels and stores that will wow even the most well-heeled travellers. The result means no shortage of fun things to do in Calgary, whether you were born and raised here or just in town for the weekend.
Ready to spoil yourself? Here’s the ultimate, local’s guide to enjoying a luxurious getaway in Calgary.
Best place to stay in Calgary
With its swanky suites, enviable location, impeccable service and fantastic eateries, Hotel Arts has long been considered one of the top hotels in Calgary. This boutique property is just steps away from popular spots like 17th Avenue, Stephen Avenue and the Stampede grounds which makes getting around a cinch: they even offer complimentary cruiser bikes which are perfect for peddling over to areas like the lively East Village or along the riverfront on a sunny afternoon.
In a nod to its name, the inspired public spaces feature cool sculptures, vibrant murals and gorgeous light installations, setting the tone for this trendy spot as soon as you walk through the front doors. The spacious rooms are the perfect respite from hectic city life, thanks to plush touches like TVs embedded in the bathroom mirrors, private balconies, marble countertops and luxe linens that will make you want to stay in bed all day long (which you’re totally allowed do, because vacation).
Hotel Arts also does a fantastic job of showcasing Calgary by partnering with local attractions and operators to provide unique guest experiences, such as food tours or behind-the-scenes visits of the acclaimed National Music Centre (more on that later). Oh, and let’s not forget the pool…
Best spas in Calgary and where to relax
Whenever people ask me what to do in Calgary, I always recommend the Hotel Arts pool, which is basically the closest thing to South Beach you’ll find around these parts. The outdoor space was totally revamped in 2019, unveiling plenty of chic decor and seating areas for lounging around the sparkling water, making it an urban oasis in the heart of the city.
This is THE place to be a hot summer day, where cool cocktails and beats from a DJ are served up, making it a popular spot to bronze your bod and soak up the sun. You don’t need to be a hotel guest to enjoy this swanky space, as the public is welcome to visit on a first-come, first-served basis with usage fees ranging from $10-$20 per person.
Truth be told, while there are plenty of sunny days in Calgary, that doesn’t mean it’s hot enough to lounge around the pool every day (#CanadaProblems). So, Hotel Arts came up with a solution, adding gorgeous outdoor fireplaces, heated patio tiles and oversized space heaters (which look like giant lampshades and are totally adorable) to ward off the chill. Taking it a step further, they’ve also incorporated an inflatable roof of sorts, which covers the space in winter months so the pool can be used year round.
For even more indulgence, book in at one of the best Calgary spas. Some local favourites include the serene Stillwater Spa which includes amenities like a whirlpool, steam room and private lounge, and The Spa Ritual which has Asian-inspired offerings like a tea ceremony room, Bali sanctuary and bamboo fountain. Enjoying a romantic getaway? Be sure to reserve their Royal Thai Suite, which is a private sanctuary made for two with its own treatment area, changing area and shower facilities.
Top things to do in Calgary
While you may be primed to splurge on this luxury getaway (because again, vacation), it turns out some of the coolest Calgary experiences are totally free. Explore the revitalized East Village, where a great mix of glittering high-rises and restored brick buildings house shops, cafes and restaurants overlooking the Bow River. Keep an eye out for the bright murals and pop-up shops, before ducking into the magnificent Central Library to marvel at the architecture of this four-storey wonder.
Wander along the pedestrian-friendly RiverWalk, which links spots like peaceful St. George’s Island, bustling Chinatown, the ritzy Eau Claire area and Kensington which has some great boutiques. Don’t miss the Peace Bridge, which is one of Calgary’s most photogenic sites as it’s framed by the downtown skyline and stretches across the Bow River. 17th Avenue is always a fun spot for people-watching, while nearby Stephen Avenue is popular with shoppers and the lunchtime business crowd.
Best places to eat in Calgary
Long gone are the days when Cowtown was best known for burgers, beer and BBQ. Today, districts like Kensington, Inglewood, the Beltline and 17th Ave. are lined with award-winning eateries serving up elevated culinary experiences. A fun way to experience them is by booking in with Alberta Food Tours, which does a fantastic job of showcasing great local restaurants while weaving in stories about the history of each spot and the surrounding area. Even if you’ve lived in Calgary forever (umm hi) you’re guaranteed to pick up some new tidbit…like, did you know there used to be streetcars going right through Marda Loop?! Expect to spend a few hours visiting up to five restaurants, with a well-curated selection of both food and drinks and plenty of chats with the chefs or owners.
If you’re staying at Hotel Arts, great dining options nearby include:
- Yellow Door Bistro: While this spot at the base of Hotel Arts has an all-day menu and gorgeous, French-inspired decor, it’s best known as one of Calgary’s best brunch spots thanks to offerings like the millennial-favourite Avocado Toast with puffed quinoa and perfectly-poached eggs, and the divine strawberry custard stuffed cinnamon french toast. There’s also a hot buffet option, which changes each weekend: for example, fried chicken and waffles to complement a southern theme.
- Native Tongues Taqueria: This may be a Mexican joint, but locals swear you’ll find the best burger in town here…oh, and it’s only $10 during happy hour!
- Ten Foot Henry: This veggie-focused restaurant on 1st Street is always packed, thanks to beautiful dishes like the brussels sprouts paired with ponzu, bonito flakes and vermicelli, and the marinated beets topped with avocado, citrus, seeds and tangy chipotle.
Click here for more ideas about the best places to eat in Calgary.
Best bars in Calgary
Celebrate your well-deserved Calgary vacation with a cheers at one of the city’s top spots for a nightcap. Bridgette Bar and its sister restaurant Lulu Bar get top marks for ambiance, as both have ditched the fourth wall which give them a fun, open-air feeling during warm nights. For a classic Canadian experience, head over to the Westin Hotel where the iconic Caesar drink was invented way back in 1969…which is basically the city’s claim to fame and something Calgarians like to brag about every chance we get.
Finally, whiskey aficionados won’t want to miss One18 Empire, which has over 300 types of whiskey, scotch, bourbon and rye to choose from. Bartenders roll a barrel right over to each table, and use it as a surface for smoking and concocting customized old fashioneds. In fact, there are so many options available that there’s even a whiskey wheel which guests can use to select everything from the flavour of their bitters and smoke, to the type of booze used.
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