Roadtrips to Calgary from anywhere in Saskatchewan are no big deal – even for a weekend. Despite being a 6-hour drive from Saskatoon, we flatlanders love to head westward. Our neighbouring province of Alberta is ideal for summer holidays and weekend adventures.
There’s a lot to see and do in Calgary in the summer, including two locations perfect for having new experiences and creating memories with family and friends. You can visit both the TELUS Spark Science Centre and Heritage Park Historical Village all in one day. But I’d recommend taking a day each to explore both. There are non-stop activities and always something new and different to explore every visit.
Here’s a breakdown of the best sights and experiences at each location to help plan your next road trip.
I was a guest of TELUS Spark Science Centre, Heritage Park Historical Village and Fairmont Palliser as part of a media trip. But as always, all thoughts and experiences are my own.
Heritage Park Historical Village
Visiting Heritage Park is one of my first memories of Calgary. I was 8 years old when my parents took my brothers and me to the park for the day. Two moments I remember clearly are seeing the characters in their historical costumes and riding a train for the first time.
Visiting as an adult, I now realize and appreciate how incredible this place is and what a community-focused institution it is within the city and province.
Behind-the-Scenes – On my recent trip, I was treated to a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of the costume department at Heritage Park. There are more than 17,000 pieces in their collection. Every piece is sewn and tailored specifically for the volunteers and employees. The amount of expertise, effort and care put into every detail to create the authentic atmosphere at the park is truly incredible
Five Highlights to Check out at Heritage Park Historical Village
There’s a lot to do within the park. You’ll want to download the interactive digital map in advance to plan your day. The above-mentioned train is a great way to get around the 127-acre park. It’s also perfect to get an overview of where everything is (or take a break from all the walking you’ll do).
1. Interact with the Volunteers
There are nearly 800 volunteers of all ages who spend their time each summer helping create the magic of Heritage Park. They are the heart and soul of this place. Volunteers come back year after year because it’s such a wonderful community. They’re truly passionate about the park and its history.
Take time to interact with volunteers around the park, especially those who are part of the “The Canaries (La)CROSSE the Hilltops” Street Production. This year, the theme for the park is “The Way We Played” and celebrates sports over the years.
2. Go For a Ride on the Paddlewheeler S.S. Moyie
The S.S Moyie paddle wheeler represents a period of nautical history from the 1860s when Western Canadian lakes and rivers were home to steamships. While originally built to ferry gold miners for the Klondike gold rush, it actually ferried passengers near Nelson, British Columbia. The S.S. Moyie at Heritage Village is a half-sized replica which sails several times a day along the Glenmore Reservoir. The price to ride is included in admission.
During my ride on the paddle wheeler, I spoke with Captain Andrew. While he retired from his full-time career 21 years ago, he’s been volunteering as a captain of the paddle wheeler ever since. He told me to listen closely when the steamship’s whistle blows while out on the reservoir. It’s a special morse code message for local residents of a nearby assisted living facility.
Interesting Fact: The real S.S. Moyie paddle steamer sternwheeler is a National Historic Site of Canada located in Kaslo, British Columbia. It’s the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler and is open to the public to visit.
3. Eat a Ramen-Coated Hot Dog and Ride the Midway
It’s hard to pick just one highlight at the Conklin Lakeview Amusements Antique Midway. Not only is the Ferris wheel one of the oldest in Canada, but its speed will get your adrenaline pumping. If your little ones are too small, there’s a second, miniature-sized Ferris wheel nearby. There is also a carousel, drop swings and midway games to play.
At the concession, a unique spin on a hot dog is the Muku Ramen Hot Dog. It’s a Korean-style deep-fried ramen-noodle-covered hot dog with a marshmallow drizzle and sprinkles on top. It’s an unexpected mouth-watering combination of sweet and savoury with a delightful crunch.
4. Stop in at Gasoline Alley
For car lovers, a stop to marvel at the three-floor vintage car museum of Gasoline Alley is a must. Home to one of the world’s largest public collections of antique vehicles and gas and oil-related artifacts, it’s also host to the largest collection of restored trucks.
Gasoline Alley is set up to look like a turn-of-the-century street scene. The museum is interactive and you can climb inside some of the antique cars for a photo op. Make sure to read the tales about the province’s most notorious whiskey runner while you explore.
5. Ride the Antique Steam Engine Train
The antique steam train was such a highlight for me as a kid. With conductors dressed in their hats and three-piece suits ready to take your tickets, it’s exciting to hop aboard and ride the mile-long track around the park. There are three stations to stop at, all named after real stations throughout Alberta.
The train represents the more than 1 million immigrants who travelled west in Canada in search of a new life. Trains were also an important way of life for receiving goods and shipments – including entire T. Eaton’s houses (to be assembled at their destination).
If you’re a foodie, book a ticket for a gourmet dining experience. Every Tuesday at lunch, you can dine in the vintage River Forth Dining Car while riding the rails.
Events Coming Up Summer 2022 at Heritage Park Historical Village
- June 21 – To celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, the park has two special performances of New Blood: A Story of Reconciliation. The performance tells the story of a residential school survivor through interpretive dance.
- There are free summer concerts featuring local musicians every Wednesday evening at 6 PM at the Heritage Town Square.
- July 12 – learn about the lives of honeybees with a beekeeping expert on the Hive Tour.
- Spend your Sunday with High Tea at Heritage Park. Sittings are from 11:30 until 3:30 and include finger sandwiches, pastries, scones and tea.
READ MORE: 18 Experiences to Have in Western Canada
TELUS Spark Science Centre
There’s nothing I love more than when it’s completely acceptable (and encouraged!) to be excited and enthusiastic like kids are. And the TELUS Spark Science Centre isn’t just for kids – it’s an interactive and educational experience for adults as well.
Tip: Check out Spark After Dark for 18+ nights of science, including cocktails.
As a tactile and kinesthetic learner and explorer, I was stoked to visit for a hands-on learning experience. Science is cool at an age!
Five Highlights to Check out at TELUS Spark
1. Catch a Show in the Infinity Dome
The first thing I did at TELUS Spark was head to the Infinity Dome to catch a documentary on volcanoes.
Showtimes for all current films can be found here.
But this is not your standard movie theatre. The infinity dome rises three stories high and wraps around and overhead in what feels like a 180-degree immersive viewing experience. With 8K digital projection and reclined seats, it makes watching a movie feel like you’re really there. It was an experience unlike anything I’ve encountered.
(It was very hard to capture the theatre in a photo to show how huge and all-encompassing the screen is. Truly an in-person experience!)
2. Try Birdly, a Full-Body VR Experience
If you felt like you were in the movie at the Infinity Dome, Birdly will take the sensation to a whole other level in virtual reality. This full-body VR experience combines visual, aural and haptic motion sensations and robotics to make you feel like you’re a late Jurassic Kapodactylus pterosaur soaring high above the landscape.
Laying on the simulator, the experience was so realistic that my stomach dropped when I swooped down close to the ground. The feeling of diving was so intense I physically closed my eyes as I dove underwater in the simulation. Those nearby or waiting their turn can watch on the Flight Cam TV screen to see what each flyer is experiencing.
Tip: Scan the QR code at Birdly to sign up for a 5-minute time to fly.
While you wait, you can also head to the Pixelarious VR Zone to brush up on your skills. Up to 6 people can play together with the hands-free and wireless VR headsets. There are a variety of different games to choose from and try out including an intergalactic food fight, joining a robot demolition crew and being part of a team of firefighter stuntmen as you battle blazes.
3. Experience the Quantum Sandbox
TELUS Spark is the master at immersive experiences and the Quantum Sandbox is both mesmerizing and captivating. The floor-to-ceiling gallery combines 5 different quantum mechanics principles with Indigenous ways of knowing (thanks to knowledge sharing from Blackfoot community members) in an interactive light experience.
As you move about the space, the pixels and colours around you move and interact in different and unique ways on the floor and walls. While you can come and go from the gallery at any time, the full digital light experience is about 20 minutes long and worth staying through each transition.
4. Try Astronaut Ice Cream
This might just be the most Instagrammable and “out-of-this-world” ice cream in all of Calgary. The Astronaut Ice Cream Café offers 9 different flavours of ice cream designed around each planet – yup, they included Pluto too even though it’s considered a dwarf planet!
I opted for Neptune which is a blue raspberry dip vanilla soft serve with a halo of blue cotton candy with sprinkles in a waffle cone. As for the others, Saturn has a donut for its rings, Earth has a cake pop for the moon and Mars has a mini-Mars chocolate bar. There’s also a bonus sponge toffee, honeycomb cookie and chocolate stick ice cream flavour in honour of the James Webb telescope.
For those with a sweet tooth like myself and who need a frequent ice cream fix, no admission is needed to enjoy the café.
5. Keep an Eye on Future Programming
This summer, Telus Spark is bringing in a few very cool, interactive exhibits while continuing to plan some great programming.
June 21, 24 & 25 – In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day and the summer solstice, head to TELUS Spark for campfire chats, flint knapping, an Indigenous Art Market, a Round Dance, hip hop performances by Many Nations, One Voice for Wellness and to listen to the Young Warriors Drum group. Check out the full schedule of programming here.
July 1–August 1 – Walk inside at kaleidoscope at Luminarium. This art installation combines light, colour and shapes in an otherworldly way.
August 1 – Celebrate the “Dog Days of Summer” with TELUS Spark’s canine robot dog ambassador Flint with some unique food features and fun simple science activities.
RELATED READ: Top 10 Things To Do in Cranbrook, British Columbia
Where to Stay in Calgary
Book in at the historic landmark luxury hotel Fairmont Palliser to take advantage of all the sites and activities within walking distance in downtown Calgary in the summer.
Built in 1914, the hotel was originally one of the Canadian Pacific Railway resort hotels. Guest rooms and suites have been recently renovated and updated while retaining their distinctive elegant styling.
The main entrance of the hotel is only steps away from Stephen Avenue Walk. This pedestrian mall located on 8th Avenue South has some of the best clubs, bars and cafes in the city.
Facilities include a full-service spa, indoor pool, steam room and gym (including a Peloton). The lavish, marble-detailed and chandelier-lit grand lobby connects to the Hawthorn Dining Room & Bar where guests can dine on curated dishes sourced from local farmers and producers. Or opt for the in-room dining service to enjoy the king-size bed a little longer before checkout.
Tip: East-facing rooms not only get a gorgeous view of sunrise over downtown Calgary but have an impressive front-and-centre view of the 158-metre-tall Calgary Tower.
Heritage Park, TELUS Spark and the Fairmont Palliser are all located on the Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuut’ina, Îyârhe Nakoda, and Metis peoples.
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