So, you've never been to the Calgary Stampede before? Here are a few things you should know:
- In 2014 the Stampede will run from Friday, July 4 through Sunday, July 13 (and in 2015, July 3-12). Tickets for visiting the Stampede Grounds are easy to purchase at the main entrances during Stampede. If you plan to see the rodeo events, chuckwagon races, the evening Grandstand show, or concerts, it's best to purchase tickets online in advance; these tickets also include admission to the Stampede Grounds. A wide variety of ticket packages are also available which include admission to other local attractions, such as Canada Olympic Park or Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. Online sales begin on October 1.
- To get a quick idea of the feel and buzz of the Stampede, check out this 3-minute video from TurnHere
- Canadian Geographic's interactive map of the Stampede Grounds gives you an idea of what to expect.
- Avoid parking hassles by taking the C-Train (Light Rail Transit) to the Stampede grounds. There are two C-Train stations that connect directly to the Stampede grounds: Victoria Park / Stampede Station at the north end (near the BMO Round-Up Centre), and Erlton / Stampede Station at the south end (near the Indian Village). The C-Train platforms can be very busy at the end of the night (from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.) because most of the Stampede shuts down at 11:00 pm. However, the C-Trains run 24 hours during Stampede. Some bus routes also have extended hours. For more information on using Calgary Transit, see Calgary: Public Transportation here on TripAdvisor.
- Be aware that Calgary's weather is variable. Even if it looks as if it will be a hot day, it would be wise to take a wind breaker jacket with you when you set out from your hotel in the morning. Calgary's temperature almost always cools off in the evening. It is especially important to take a jacket with you if you will be attending the chuckwagon races. Keep in mind that the grandstand from which you watch the chuckwagon races is open to the elements.Like a baseball game, the rodeo events, chuckwagon races, and grandstand show take place rain or shine. The Grandstand events have been cancelled due to weather just once, in over 100 Stampedes.
- Bring your jeans. One of the fun things about Stampede is dressing
Western, and jeans are a basic building block for the Western look. For
more info on how to dress Western, see Inside Calgary: Stampede: How to Dress Western here at TripAdvisor.
- Take in free stuff. During Stampede, there is free entertainment at Rope Square
(Olympic Plaza) downtown every morning, and lots of free pancake
breakfasts at a wide variety of locations, from shopping malls to radio
stations to the Stampede grounds.
- Check out other western-themed attractions in and around Calgary. Heritage Park
has a whole town's worth of historic buildings, trains, and even a
paddlewheeler, all celebrating the history of the Canadian West. The Glenbow Museum's Mavericks: An Incorrigible History gallery focuses on Alberta, while the Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life gallery focuses on the Blackfoot First Nation in Alberta, both in the past and today. Fort Calgary
tells the story of the establishment of Calgary as a NWMP (now RCMP)
post in 1875, and how it grew into a town and then a city. Further
afield, Bar U Ranch National Historic Site,
90 minutes south of Calgary, is an historic ranch that is associated
with two of the four founders of the Calgary Stampede, John Ware, and
the Sundance Kid. The Bar U Ranch is part of the scenic and historic Cowboy Trail through the Rocky Mountain foothills. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, near Fort Macleod, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Fort Museum in Fort Macleod
is also worth a look; it focusses on the history of the North-West
Mounted Police (NWMP, now RCMP) and the First Nations (2 ¼ hours south
of Calgary). Fort Macleod is also the western terminus of the historic Red Coat Trail used by the NWMP on their famous march west in 1874. Near Cardston, the Remington Carriage Museum has the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America (2 ¾ hours south of Calgary).
- Feeling especially brave? Try the prairie oysters at Buzzard's Cowboy Cuisine,
downtown. Although they are available year-round, several extra
varieties are available during Stampede Week, along with a commemorative
On the Stampede Grounds
- The Stampede Grounds open to the public at 8 am each day; but there is very little for visitors to do until 11 am. So be careful not to be over-eager and arrive too early in the day!
- Make sure to bring cash. Many of the admission booths take cash only, and many of the concessions and other vendors on the grounds also only take cash, not debit or credit cards. There are some ATMs (bank machines) on the Stampede Grounds, especially near the BMO Centre, but they usually have queues.
- If you usually drink bottled water, you may wish to bring some with you; although bottled water is sold on the grounds, it's much cheaper from a grocery store.
- Get a free program & map for each member of your group before you go through the turnstiles at the main entrance. You should be offered one before you get to the admission booths. If not, look for one of the Stampede workers wearing a red apron in the ticket plaza area before the turnstiles. The map is essential to finding your way around the grounds (which are huge), and the program lists the many free shows and other events for that day.
- If you have a mobile device such as a smartphone or iPod Touch, consider downloading the Calgary Stampede's free app. This app includes the complete program for each day, and is very useful for planning your visit. It is updated when you have an internet connection (to reflect schedule changes and corrections), but doesn't require a wireless connection to function. It's a good idea to update the app shortly before you go to the Stampede grounds, so that you have the most current information. The app also has a map of the Stampede grounds, so with the app, you don't need to pick up a daily program.
- If you have children in your group, you will also see a stand just inside the entrance for the ATCO Gas Lost Kids program. You and your children will be given bracelet tags and instructions on what to do if you become separated. (There is a Lost Kids centre on the grounds.) For decades, the Stampede has been reuniting visitors with their children, and they have it down to a system. Video.
- Enjoy the "Exhibition" part of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede by visiting the BMO Round-Up Centre on the Stampede grounds. Make sure to visit the Western Showcase art exhibit and sale in the BMO Round-Up Centre; it can be easily overlooked. The Western Showcase also has two indoor stages (a kitchen theatre and a music stage) with seating, which can be great places to rest a while when it's too hot or too wet outside.
- Have your meals early on the Stampede grounds to avoid the rush: 11:30 a.m. for lunch, 4:30 for supper. The lower level of the Big 4 Building (called "The Range" during Stampede) has the largest variety of food on the grounds, plus tables to sit at; it's like a mall's food court. The upper level of the Big 4 houses the Stampede casino.
- Sometimes people find themselvs in a long line for the toilets, especially if it's the height of a Stampede weekend. If you find a queue for the washrooms that are located just inside of the main entrance to the Big Four building, keep going toward the wall opposite the main entrance, where you will find more bathrooms. In the BMO Centre, there are bathrooms near to the main entrances for the trade show area, and more washrooms a bit further away in the Western Oasis area, where the art show and kitchen theatre are located. The Agriculture Building, too, has washrooms near the main entrance - and more washrooms in the center of the building, near the animal wash bays. The areas away from the main entrances will also be cooler on a hot day.
- Don't overlook the agricultural side of the fair, even if you're a city slicker. There are all kinds of free demonstrations and competitions: blacksmiths, stock dogs, working cow horses, cowboy poets, heavy horses, trick riders, and more all show off their skills in and around the agriculture buildings.
- See the rodeo in the afternoon or the chuckwagon races followed by the grandstand show in the evening. If you have grandstand show tickets, then you'll have the best seat in the city for the fireworks, at about 11:00 each night.
- If you will be spreading your visit to the Stampede over two days, consider attending the chuckwagon races on the evening of your first day and the rodeo events on the afternoon of your second day. The reason is that the chuckwagon races make for a late evening. When you depart Calgary for the next point in your travels, it would be nice to have had a good sleep and not be recovering from a late night.
Getting ready for a family show at the Coca-Cola Stage
- The free entertainment at the Coca-Cola Stage is very good during the day, and outstanding in the evening. The free country entertainment in Nashville North is comparable, but because it is a club atmosphere (drinking) children under 18 are not allowed inside. In 2007, Nashville North became completely non-smoking.
- Weadickville, located behind the Coca-Cola Stage, is a little oasis of trees, picnic tables, free entertainment, and less-expensive food. It's a great place for families and seniors to have a meal and relax in the shade.
- Very popular free indoor shows such as the Superdogs and 2012's Tails dramatic horse show may offer free tickets once you're on the grounds so that you don't need to queue for a seat well in advance of the show.
- A red flare rocket from the Grandstand area around 11 pm signals that the fireworks will begin in 5-10 minutes. If you see the flare when you're on the grounds, it's your reminder to find a good spot to watch the fireworks from. Many of the fireworks at the start of the show are ground-level and only visible from the Grandstand seats. But the finale is always a spectacular high-altitude show.
- The Calgary Stampede ceases operations at 11 pm each night (when the fireworks begin), and the grounds are closed at midnight. During Stampede Week, C-Trains run 24 hours a day, and selected bus routes also have extended hours. Check Calgary Transit's website during Stampede (and shortly before Stampede Week starts) for full Stampede transit schedule information. Calgary Transit also has a free mobile app with their schedules.
The ten-day festival starts off with a parade through the streets of downtown Calgary. In 2013, the Stampede Parade will take place on the morning of Friday, July 5. Check out this website to find out about the parade route, seating along the route, and other practical information about the parade. On parade day, much downtown Calgary is closed to vehicles from 7:30 a.m. until around 1:00 pm, with the exception of 4 Ave S and 5 Ave S. For that reason, if you're going to see the parade, you should take the C-Train to get downtown. (The C-Train continues running during the parade.) And if you're staying in a downtown hotel affected by the parade closures (such as Calgary Marriott, Fairmon Palliser, Hyatt Regency, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, Ramada Hotel Calgary Downtown), you won't be able to get your car into or out of the hotel parking.
See Inside Calgary : Hotel Districts here at TripAdvisor for an explanation of the districts that are most convenient to use as a base for visiting the Calgary Stampede. Or go to Festivalspecials for available hotels near Calgary Stampede Festival.
Calgary Stampede: How to Dress Western
Calgary Stampede: On a Budget
Calgary Stampede: Pancake Breakfasts and More