In case you're reading this and you're not from Calgary, let me explain to you about the Calgary Stampede. It's called the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and it's been happening for over 100 years. It's not only a great time to party with friends and family (and the whole city), or a time to attend concerts and shows, but also a time to learn about and remember the rich culture of the West, past, present, and future.
As someone who didn't grow up here, my first time experiencing Stampede was so cool, because the whole city gets in on it. Businesses everywhere decorate for it, employees are encouraged to dress in Western-wear (jeans are allowed!), and there are free pancake breakfast events all over the city, you can find one every day.
THE STAMPEDE PARADE
The parade this year begins at 8:55 a.m, this Friday! You can easily find the parade route online to pick out where you want to watch from. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the parade that kicks off the 10 days of Stampede, and people arrive either the night before or as early as 6 a.m. to save spots to watch it. Almost all of downtown shuts down for the Friday morning, most offices are closed until after the parade ends, which is great because it means Curtis can come with us to watch. My Dad is amazing and heads down super early that morning to save us all a spot.
I've never really been a parade person, but we finally decided to go with the kids a few years ago, and I loved it! Georgia looks forward to it all year, and probably talks more about Stampede and the parade than she does about Christmas. Going has created some lasting memories for her, and that makes it all worth it.
If you want to attend, you can drive your car in (although roads shut down around 7:30 a.m. when the pre-show starts, so get in before that) or you can take the train. As someone who has gotten on the train with kids and a double stroller a few times, it can be incredibly packed, but it's still our preferred way of getting there. We usually hang around downtown afterwards, getting lunch and hitting a splash park (at Eau Claire) until the train has emptied out.
You can get into Stampede for free immediately following the parade if you arrive between 11 a.m. and 1:30 at the grounds, so that's a great option as well. If you want to get in for free with your kids, there are also family day and kids day, so look into those.
CHECK OUT THE INDIAN VILLAGE AT IT'S NEW LOCATION
The Indian Village has been a part of the Stampede since it's beginning in 1912, and it moved a few years ago to Enmax Park. It's such a beautiful new location and a peaceful haven from a bit of the crazier areas on the grounds, and the kids love checking out the tipi's and watching the cultural dances and other events. They can learn so much about the rich history of our province here, as well as participate in culture by watching and joining in the dances. Georgia loves the dancing especially.
TRY SOME NEW TREATS, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD
Since we are a family who loves food, that's certainly one of our favourite parts about Stampede. Our favourite treats last year included the Family Freezed popsicles, lemonade, and especially cookie dough. We tried a few different flavours of the perogie poutine, and it was incredible! I hope they have that truck again this year.
Every year there are crazy new eats created, some that look delicious and some that look outrageous. Check out this list to pick what you want to try, and let me know what you like so I can choose for when we go!
For cheaper food on the grounds, be sure to check out Weadickville, located back behind the Coca Cola stage, or hunt down the milk and cookies stand (usually near the Agriculture Building) for a carton of white or chocolate milk and a pack of wagon wheels or something similar for only $2.
AMAZING CONCERTS AT THE COCA-COLA STAGE, FOR FREE
Since my first time attending the Stampede 9 years ago, I've always planned my trip around what musician is performing on the Coca-Cola stage that night. These concerts are standing room only and are free with the purchase of your entrance to the grounds. There are usually big name artists playing on stage, and I've seen a lot of musicians I love this way. Check out the line-up this year if you love music as much as I do. There aren't many concerts cheaper than these!
ENDING THE NIGHT UNDER THE LIGHTS
My first Stampede I attended was with Curtis, just after we had started dating on Canada Day. We watched a concert at the Coca-Cola stage, it rained and cleared out all of the lines on the midway so we grabbed bags of mini-donuts and wandered around under the lights, finding ourselves right by the fireworks when they began to close out the Grandstand Show. We watched them while holding hands and it was one of those moments of pure joy, there with my summer (and forever) love.
Since then it has always been our thing to wait until it gets dark before we leave so we can walk around the Midway when it's all lit up, find a place to watch the fireworks, and eat a bag of mini-donuts on the train ride home.