Troy Media publisher Doug Firby and travel editor Lisa Monforton are part of a group of Canadians who call themselves ConnecTour. Starting in May in British Columbia and ending in October in Newfoundland, they hope to make an 8,000-km bicycle journey across the country, discovering how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives and our sense of community. Watch for their reports on Troy Media. More information on the cycling tour is available at ConnecTour.ca. To help them meet their goal, click here.
There are dozens of ways to explore Calgary by bike on its extensive trail system and dedicated bike lanes. You can easily turn it into a multi-day cruise from vibrant urban areas to quiet paths that feel far from the urban jungle.
Bring along your own wheels or get a sweet urban bike from Hotel Arts, available to hotel guests at no extra charge. That way, at the end of the day, you can cool off at the hotel’s contemporary courtyard-style pool with a full-service bar and food.
Here are a few of our favourite places to go and things to do when riding around the city we call home.
Calgary’s Bow River pathway system connects you to all the city has to offer. From the hotel, you’ll be a short ride west towards Kensington for photo ops at the striking Peace Bridge, designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. The eye-popping red tubular bridge spanning the Bow River is a beautiful sight connecting the near northwest neighbourhood of Kensington to the downtown core and beyond in minutes.
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Heading east along the tree-lined multi-use pathway towards Inglewood to Harvie Passage, you’re in for a surprise in this landlocked city – a chance to see kayakers and surfers. Yes, surfers! Chill by the river’s edge and be entertained by kayakers bobbing and splashing about in the whitewater playground. Occasionally, surfers show up here, too, to take advantage of the churning waves at this city-built water feature.
Hopping back on the Bow River path, head west, with Calgary’s skyline as a backdrop, until you get to Prince’s Island Park and one of the city’s favourite restaurants, River Café. (Side trip: Crossing the bridge from Inglewood into East Village, be sure to stop at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers, the place where Calgary’s traditional Blackfoot name – Moh’kins’tsis- was derived from the Blackfoot People. The Indigenous word means the meeting place of the two rivers.)
Bike friendly with stands to lock up your bikes, the restaurant’s patio overlooking the Bow River is a prime people-watching spot and a place to relax in the shade of the trees.
If you want something more al fresco, pre-order a custom picnic basket lunch from the restaurant. You’ll be spoiled for picnicking spots in the park. The deluxe lunch includes caviar and charcuterie, with a selection of local meats, Canadian cheeses and a bottle of chilled wine. Or go casual, with a selection of delicious sandwiches and locally-made non-alcoholic beverages from Annex Brewery.
Now that you’re well-fed and rested, it’s time to feast on Canada’s music scene at the architecturally bold and stunning Studio Bell National Music Centre (NMC) on the edge of the hip East Village. The 15,000-square-metre building is home to a collection of more than 2,000 musical instruments, including one of Elton John’s pianos, and musicians’ memorabilia.
The historic King Eddy Hotel attached by a sky bridge across the street is where you’ll find the Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio. If those walls could talk! The Stones and dozens of other bands, like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, used the studio over the years.
Just another short ride along the on-street bike lanes is 9th Avenue, heading into Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood, Inglewood. Consistently named one of the best neighbourhoods in Canada, you could spend the whole day poking around the eclectic shops here.
A must-visit is Moonstone Creation, an Indigenous-owned family business that carries beautifully hand-crafted Canadian clothing, jewelry and traditional goodies.
Depending on how ambitious you are, you can continue on to some of the city’s nature highlights or end your day here with a growler of beer at one of the craft breweries in the neighbourhood. Ol’ Beautiful and Cold Garden are next door to each other and both have large outdoor patios.
You’ve had your urban fix, and now it’s time to discover Calgary’s many green spaces. Heading west from downtown on the Bow River path system, continue to the Douglas Fir Trail, located in Edworthy Park on the southern bank of the Bow River.
Surprisingly, you’ll feel like you’re in the midst of an old-growth forest that seems a bit like the West Coast. Some of the massive Douglas fir trees are 500 years old. Hitch your bike at the entrance and walk up the trail to the lookout point. The views overlooking the Bow River and out at the quintessentially prairie park, Nose Hill, are amazing. Bring a picnic lunch or snack and just hang out in this spot that makes you feel as if you are many kilometres from the city.
Another one of the Calgary green space gems is Bowness Park, fashioned after New York’s Coney Island. Cycle for about 45 minutes west until you reach this 30-hectare oasis in the city’s northwest. The picturesque lagoon meanders through the park with picnic areas, fire pits and barbecue stands.
Give your legs a break and rent a kayak or canoe or paddle boat, and spend hours floating through the winding waterway with ducks, geese and other birds.
When you’re done exploring, grab a bite and a beverage at Seasons, the restaurant in Bowness Park. It has a robust menu of market-fresh takeout food, or relax on the patio for lunch or dinner.
It’s the perfect quiet way to end a day in the big city.
Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media. For interview requests, click here.
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