In Calgary

Music at Noon : Every Wednesday at the (Anglican) Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in downtown Calgary.  Music starts at 12.10 p.m. and finishes by 1.00 p.m.  Performances vary from classical guitar to piano to barbershop quartet to a visiting choir from Africa to ???  You are welcome to eat a brown bag lunch while you're listening.  Performances are free, although donations are gratefully accepted.   The Cathedral Church of the Redeemer is at the corner of 7th Ave. and 1st St. S. E., across from Olympic Plaza. For more info, phone (403) 269-1905.

Memorial Drive : This is a pleasant, tree-lined road that hugs the north shore of the Bow River, adjacent to the neighbourhoods of Sunnyside and Hillhurst.  Calgarians planted the trees along what was then Sunnyside Boulevard between 1922 and 1928.  They were intended as a memorial to the residents of Calgary who had fallen during the Great War, which is now called the First World War.  One tree was planted for every soldier who had been lost to the war.  The shaded pedestrian path that runs between the Bow River and Memorial Drive is a favourite amongst local walks, runners, roller bladers and cyclists.  Memorial Drive also is one of two entry points for the park on Prince's Island, as there is a foot bridge that links the two.  Memorial Drive is not really "off the beaten path."  Since it is just across the Bow River from the downtown core and adjacent to the popular "urban village" area of Kensington (centred on the intersection of 10th Street and Kensington Road NW), its presence is visible to all.  However, not everyone knows the meaning of the road's name and the origin of the trees that line it.     

The Highwood at SAIT : This restaurant is run by culinary arts students at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).  Unfortunately it is closed in July and August, when most tourists visit Calgary.  However, if you should happen to be in Calgary during the academic year, when would-be chefs are in school, this restaurant falls into the "hidden gem" category.    

Bowness Park :Closed for 2014 due to flood damage.  A family-friendly park on the shores of the Bow River in a northwest neighbourhood.  It has free picnic and playground facilities.  Fees are charged for some of the activities — like renting a canoe or paddle boat on the lagoon, playing mini golf, and riding the miniature train.  In winter you can skate for free on the lagoon.         

Riley Park : A popular park located at 800 - 12 Street NW.  It has a summer wading pool, picnic sites, a large playground, and an ornamental flower garden.  Again this park does not qualify as being "off the beaten path," in the sense that it is a well loved and much used space.  As is the case with Memorial Drive, what gives it an "off the beaten path" quality is the park's history that is unfamiliar to many visitors and some newer residents of Calgary.  Ezra Riley donated this 20-acre parcel of land to the City of Calgary 1904.  He stipulated that the land should be used as a public park and that the playing of cricket should be allowed in the park.  Although cricket is a little known sport in North America, cricket has been played at Riley Park virtually every summer weekend since 1908.      

Dining with a View? For something completely different, on a fine summer day, pack a take-out lunch and a couple of folding chairs in your car. Take an unsuspecting friend, and drive to the top level of the Rockyview General Hospital's parking garage. (Don't take the first road marked "public parking", instead, continue to to the right and up the hill). Enjoy the spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains and Glenmore Lake, dotted with sailboats, canoes, and the sternwheeler SS Moyie, while you dine. Cost of admission? Your lunch, plus parking at about $3/hour. 

Chocolate Factory Tours: Calgary is the headquarters for Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut. This Calgary-based chain has about thirty Bernard Callebaut stores in Western Canada, and they make it all in their head office/production facility, located at 1313 - 1 Street SE, not far from downtown Calgary. Call ahead to arrange guided tours for groups from 2-15, or drop in between 9 am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday, for the self-guided tour (ask at the store counter for directions). Look through large windows onto their modest production floor to see all kinds of chocolates being produced; what you will see happening will depend on what they're doing that day, but don't expect the plant to be in full operation unless you're visiting close to a major chocolate holiday, such as Christmas, Easter, or Valentine's Day. All the machines are clearly labelled with their functions. On the walls, interpretive signs explain the history of chocolate, and describe how they make a variety of different  chocolates. An interesting collection of antique chocolate moulds is on display in the adjoining store.


West of Calgary

Ice cream from Mackay's : It is worth the 40 km (25 mile) drive northwest from Calgary to Cochrane on a Sunday afternoon to buy an ice cream from Mackay's. You can take the TransCanada Highway (Highway 1) west, and then take Exit 161 to Hwy 22 North to get to and from Cochrane quickly. Or, to make this into an interesting and more leisurely  scenic circle drive, take Crowchild Trail N westbound out of the city, where it becomes the Hwy 1A to Cochrane, winding through farms, ranches, and acreages. Enjoy your ice cream at the Cochrane Ranche historic site, as you stroll through the interpretive displays, and then take the Hwy 22 south to leave Cochrane. Continue south over the Hwy 1 overpass, and take the first left onto Springbank Road. Follow Springbank Road east, through more rolling ranchlands and sloughs (ponds) and remember to slow for the playground zone around the rural school. The road continues east into the city, past the new Cougar Ridge development, and at the city limits its name changes to Old Banf Coach Road. Old Banff Coach road makes a wide bend south once it's inside the suburbs; turn left at the major intersection with Bow Trail to continue east along Bow Trail into the downtown core, or, from Bow Trail, join up with Sarcee Trail to go north or south back to your accommodations. You can, of course, do this loop in reverse, which will give you a lovely view of the mountains as you go down a long hill just a few kilometres west of Cougar Ridge and the city limits.

Bragg Creek : The hamlet of Bragg Creek, 40 km (25 miles) southwest of Calgary, is the gateway to Kananaskis Country , and it's also a stop along the Cowboy Trail .  It's fun to browse through the arts and crafts stores that feature the work of local residents.  It's pleasant to visit Bragg Creek in its own right or in conjunction with a circuit that includes nearby small towns like Turner Valley , Black Diamond and Longview

North of Calgary

Pasu Restaurant : It's located on a sheep farm, 45 minutes' drive northwest of Calgary.  There also is a gift shop that sells woolen and sheepskin products – blankets, slippers, moccasins and the like.  The place is an example of "build it and they will come."  Although it takes a certain amount of effort to drive 45 minutes out of the city for lunch or dinner, the quality of the food and the attentiveness of the service are such that Calgarians gladly do it.  PaSu Farm is a contraction of the owners' names – Patrick and Sue.  

Airdrie, only 15 min north of Calgary, has many hidden gems. It is best known, perhaps, for the Bert Church Theatre, which hosts a surprisingly broad array of top-notch performers such as Michelle Wright, the Barra Macneils, and the Arrogant Worms. 

East of Calgary

Canadian Badlands Passion Play  : Takes place in Drumheller, between 1.5 hours and 2 hours' drive northeast of Calgary.  Portrayal of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in an outdoor amphitheatre.  Many of the people involved in the production, including the actors, are volunteers.  Play lasts 3 hours with a 20-minute intermission.  It is repeated on 6 days in July.  Afternoon performances start at 3.00 p.m. and evening performances start at 6.00 p.m.

South of Calgary

Millarville Farmer's Market  : Fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, arts and crafts.  Saturday mornings from mid-June through early October.  Located 30 minutes southwest of Calgary. 

Okotoks Big Rock: A little-known geological wonder can be found south of Calgary, near the town of Okotoks (rhymes with "go slow folks"). More than 10,000 years ago, a huge continental ice sheet covered Alberta. A massive rock rode on top of the ice sheet all the way from the Athabasca Glacier, north of Lake Louise, Alberta, to the area near the town of Okotoks, where it now rests. It is the largest known glacial erratic, and sits in the middle of a large flat field. The Big Rock is the size of a small apartment building; it is 40 meters by 19m, stands 9m high (130 ft X 60 ft X 30 ft high), and weighs 18,000 tons. Take Hwy 2 (Macleod Trail) south to the junction of the Hwy 2 and Hwy 2A; exit onto the Hwy 2A to the town of Okotoks, and drive south through Okotoks until you reach the intersection of Hwy 2A with Hwy 7, on the south end of the town; turn west onto the Hwy 7, drive about 10 km, and  watch for the Big Rock on the north side of the road. There is a small parking area, and you can get out and walk to the rock. Later, you may wish to commemorate your outing with a Big Rock beer.

Various Locations

Small town rodeos : Yes, Calgary is proud to be the home of the Stampede, but you can have a tremendous amount of fun if you visit a small town rodeo, which is more "up close and personal" than the Stampede is.