The Calgary Stampede is the greatest outdoor show in the world and the wild west of parties. For how huge and fun this event is I am always surprised of how many people don’t know about it. Everyone knows about Oktober but no one from outside of Canada seems to know about the Calgary Stampede. However, within Canada, this event is legendary. So trade in your lederhosen for some blue jeans and a cowboy hat.
The Calgary Stampede is held in Calgary a.k.a Cowtown for ten days each July. The event originally started out as a small fair with a rodeo. Now it is celebrated across the city, has become the world’s richest rodeo, and attracts over a million people a year. The rodeo is held at the Stampede grounds where there are derby’s, exhibitions, carnival games, rides, casinos, food stalls, shows and concerts. The list is never ending and the party’s don’t stop.
Born in Calgary, I have been going to the Stampede since before I could even walk- I even have baby cowboy boots to prove it. As a little girl I loved the children rides, mini donuts and the huge opening day parade. Through the years the attractions that draw me to the Stampede have changed- although my love for mini donuts will never fade. The following is a list of my favourite things to do at the Stampede to help you to Stampede like a local. Yeehaw!
Go to a Concert
The Calgary Stampede brings in some of the biggest names in country music from Keith Urban to Taylor Swift. The concerts are held at different venues throughout the city. If you miss out on these tickets or don’t want to pay the big bucks there are smaller country stars that you can see too. If you really don’t want to pay anything, you can visit the Coca-Cola stage on the Stampede grounds to watch a free concert! These performances feature more mainstream music and there is a new performace happening every night.
My favourite concert event to go to is the Oxford Stomp-which is located a short distance from the Stampede grounds.. The outdoor concert starts at 3 p.m. and has artists performing until 10 p.m. In previous years they have had artists such as Cheryl Crow, George Thorogood, Sam Roberts Band, Our Lady Peace, and Lifehouse. It’s an epic day in the sun with great live music. The party doesn’t stop there- your ticket also includes transportation and free entrance to the after party.
Boot Scootin’ Boogie
In case you haven’t caught on by now, the Calgary Stampede festivities are happening all around town. For all ten days, every club in Calgary will have a party but there are some that are better than others. Read my list of Top 5 places to Party at the Calgary Stampede to find out where the locals go.
Eat a Free Pancake Breakfast
There is nothing more Canadian than pancakes. Just in case you weren’t already planning on eating pancakes for breakfast you might like to know that during the Stampede you can get your pancakes for free. All around cow town different neighbourhoods host free pancake breakfasts. You usually get a couple of pancakes, sausages and a coffee. The events often have a live band playing for you to listen to as you scarf down your food. For a listing of dates and locations visit the Pancake Calendar. (Yes, we have a pancake calendar – Canadian’s take their pancakes very seriously.)
Watch A Cowboy Ride a Bucking Bronco!
With all the fun things to do at the Stampede and the wild partying, it is easy to forget what the whole point of the Stampedes is in the first place – the rodeo! The rodeo is so much fun to watch with bucking broncos, wheel barrow races and calf roping. You can also watch derby races.
The last day is the best day to go because that’s the finals and when the contestants win all the money- more money than they could ever win anywhere else. There is over 2 million dollars up for grabs!
You can buy tickets to watch in advance online or you can buy them at the ticket office on the Stampede grounds. The tickets on that you buy on the grounds are just standing seats but they are a lot cheaper and you might be lucky enough to spot some empty seats.
Visit the Indian Village
Whenever I tell people about the Stampede they are always to surprised that Canada has cowboys and Indians, people just think of them being American. In fact, I have heard people refer to them as ‘American Indians’ but we have Indians too! Natives (the more politically correct term) are a huge part of Canadian culture. In fact, even the word Canada is derived from a native word meaning village.
So while on the Stampede Grounds take a break from partying and take some time to educate yourself about the history and culture of Native Canadians at the Indian Village. If you time it right you can even watch some amazing pow-wows.
See a Free Show in the Big 4
The Calgary Stampede is a very expensive event. Luckily, as a local I know where to spot all the free things. Once you are in the Stampede grounds, head to the Big Four building where they put on free shows. My favourite has always been Super Dogs – I just find them hilarious! There are also more impressive shows that don’t include dogs jumping through hoops. Last year I got to see a Cirque Do Soleil perfomers – for free!
Eat Mini Donuts
I dare you not to. Once you smell mini donuts they are impossible to resist. As a Stampede classic I treat myself to some every time. Starbucks even comes out with a mini donut frappuccino during the ten day event. Among other fatty, sugary, delicious food, you can try deep-fried Oreos and cockroach pizza. But don’t worry – not all the food is weird. It is all pretty greasy though so if you want to eat clean I would recommend bringing your own food for the day.
Attend the Grandstand Show
The Grandstand show is on every evening during the festival featuring students from the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts. The show is more than just singing and dancing, it also involves using fire and water to create amazing stage effects. If that isn’t exciting enough there are also motorcycle stunts and extreme acrobats. Last year they even had a tightrope that was lit on fire!
To be honest, I can’t really tell you too much about the show because it is always a surprise. The one thing that you can be sure of though is that it will all end with a bang – a bang of fireworks exploding in the wide Alberta sky.
The Grandstand Show is by far the best spot in town to watch the fireworks from, but if you want to watch them for free there are many viewpoints that you can go to in the city to watch them. You can catch them every night at about 11:15 p.m.
Feel the Adrenaline Rush on the Rides
The Stampede also features a lot of fun rides. They range from small ones for children to crazy ones like the Drop of Fear and the Sling Shot. If you want something more in the middle the Zipper and Log Ride have always been my favourites – and the fun houses always make for a good laugh.
6 Stampede survival Tips:
- Bring water- they overcharge for water like crazy on the grounds
- Bring healthy snacks
- Wear cowboy outfit- you will look lame if you don’t
- Bring cash
- Book concert and event tickets early
- Don’t drive a car to the grounds- take a taxi or public transportation