If you want fabulous food, wonderful hotels and great shopping in up-and-coming urban areas, be sure to add Calgary and Edmonton to your list. These two Alberta cities serve as gateways to the Rocky Mountains. Find out what to do in Calgary and what to do in Edmonton.
Where to Eat in Calgary
The food scene here has exploded over the past few years. You can still find great Alberta beef but you will also find incredibly inventive Japanese food and chefs who spend more time fussing over heirloom carrots and foraged mushrooms than they do worrying about grilling a steak.
Shokunin has been voted one of the top 100 restaurants in Canada and features marvellous dishes, such as scallops roasted on an open fire with bonito flakes.
Vin Room makes excellent crab cakes in coconut milk with Peruvian peppers and serves small bowls of popcorn with truffle oil; an ideal match for Champagne.
For a quick and tasty lunch, try Dumpling Lab in Chinatown, where $13 gets you seven dumplings of your choice, served with purple yam dumplings, seaweed salad and edamame.
Charbar features everything from grilled meats to vegetable ceviche and is run by the folks who own the renowned Charcut.
What to Do in Calgary
Studio Bell at the National Music Centre opened a few summers ago to rave reviews. It is a tribute to Canada’s glowing music scene, with interactive displays and cool information about such iconic Canadian musicians as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Drake and Diana Krall. They also have the former mobile recording studio owned by the Rolling Stones, used in the making of Exile on Main Street and many other classic records.
The Glenbow Museum is a fine spot to learn about Alberta and Canadian history. Their private collection even includes a pair of massive bloomers once owned by Queen Victoria.
In Inglewood, the Esker Foundation features cutting-edge art installations.
Calgary also features mile after mile of great walking and biking trails along its riverfront.
Where to Shop in Calgary
The fast-rising East Village area has several cool shops, including Liz and Lottie on Riverfront Ave. that has everything from picnic gear to bicycle phone holders and baby moccasins.
Across the river in Inglewood, check out Kent of Inglewood for shaving gear, knives and other cool stuff.
Lemonceillo is a gorgeous home décor shop just down the road. Kensington, just west of downtown is another cool area for shopping.
Manana Imports is great for clothing and jewelry.
Where to Stay in Calgary
The Kensington Riverside Inn is the only Relais and Chateaux hotel in Calgary, a cozy, five-star experience with lovely rooms and excellent service. There is free Wi-Fi and complimentary bike rentals, and the onsite restaurant Oxbow serves up wonderful, fresh cuisine.
The same group owns the trendy Hotel Arts in downtown Calgary, which is filled with cool works by local artists.
The Fairmont Palliser is an old-time favourite, with classic rooms and a vast, welcoming lobby that makes you feel you have arrived someplace special.
Millenials and fans of European styling should check out Hotel Le Germain.
Where to Eat in Edmonton
Baijiu is one of my favourite restaurants in Canada, an excellent Chinese spot in the super-hot and trendy Mercer Building. The Brussels Sprouts (seasonal) are the most popular item on the menu and the bao are excellent. Try the Lazy Susanne drink with rum Agricole, tequila, Aperol, guava, grapefruit, lime and cardamom bitters.
The chef behind Ono Poke on 104th St. travelled to Hawaii to find the best recipes. In Old Strathcona, Ampersand 27 makes terrific pizza. Bar Clementine makes excellent drinks and great food in a setting that feels like a tres chic French bistro.
A few minutes from downtown is the much-heralded RGE RD has a cool interior design and wonderful food. Try the bison, but leave room for the Grizzly Gouda and potato perogies with bacon, white onion cream and warm cabbage slaw.
South of downtown, Ritchie Market has a sleek coffee shop, meat market, cycling store and a new brewpub called Biera that serves Blind Enthusiasm craft beer, made right on the spot.
What to Do in Edmonton
The South Saskatchewan River Valley is a tremendous asset for Edmontonians; a gathering spot for winter and summer recreation of all times. Rent a bike and cycle the pretty bike paths that run through the valley, or try a kayak or canoe trip.
The Art Gallery of Alberta is a lovely bit of architecture in the heart of downtown, with fascinating, thought-provoking exhibits.
Rogers Place is a great place to see the Edmonton Oilers. In summer or fall, the Canadian Football League Edmonton Eskimos are a great bet, especially if they are taking on the rival Calgary Stampeders.
Where to Shop in Edmonton
104th Street NW south of 104th Ave. NW is a terrific area of Edmonton, with cool brick buildings that date back a century or more and hip new shops.
Earth’s General Store features everything from organic twig kukicha tea to garam masala powder and Himalayan pink salt. Just a few steps away is Jacek Chocolate, which makes tasty and incredibly beautiful chocolates.
Old Strathcona is a fabulous neighbourhood with great shopping and tons of character. The Plaid Giraffe has lovely jewelry, or stop in at Foosh for cool sneakers, Star Wars socks, Herschel knapsacks, ball caps and more.
Of course, there’s always the massive West Edmonton Mall.
Where to Stay in Edmonton
The Union Bank Inn is housed in a former bank building, with 34 cool rooms in the heart of downtown. They deliver free wine and cheese to your room every evening, and how cool is that?
The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald is perched on the edge of the South Saskatchewan River valley, with lovely views and a marvellous terrace for summer dining or drinking.
Whether you are heading to the Rockies or just dropping by Edmonton and Calgary, we hope this list gave you all the info you need to plan what to see and eat in these two Alberta cities.
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