80 Interesting Facts About Calgary

Fun facts about Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary, nicknamed C-Town or Cowtown, is one of the largest and most well-known cities in Western Canada. So, what is Calgary famous for?  Below, you’ll find all manner of fun and interesting facts about Calgary, the “Cowtown” of Canada.

Also, learn about the province where Calgary is found, along with these interesting facts about Alberta.

General Calgary Facts 

  • With a metropolitan population of 1,581,000, Calgary is the fourth-largest city in Canada after Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.  
The city of Calgary and Bow River viewed from above
Calgary and Bow River from above, with Rocky Mountains visible in the distance
  • Calgary sits on Treaty 7 territory and was originally called Mohkínstsis in the Blackfoot language. 
  • Calgary is located on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), 115 km (72 mi) east of Banff National Park, Canada’s first and most visited national park, and about 1000 km (620 mi) east of Vancouver. The popular Calgary to Vancouver road trip takes in some of the country’s best scenery.
  • Calgary sits at the same latitude as East Sussex (England), Dresden (Germany), and Lake Baikal (Russia).  
  • Calgary is antipodal to the Kerguelen Islands, a group of islands in the sub-Antarctic owned by France. 
  • Calgary sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Elbow and Bow, at the point where the Rocky Mountain foothills meet the prairie grasslands. 
Tower with lion statue on Centre Street Bridge in Calgary, with buildings of downtown in the background.
The historical Centre Street Bridge is the geographical centre of the city.
  • Calgary is divided into quadrants (NW, NE, SE, SW).  They intersect at the north end of the historical Centre Street Bridge, at Centre Street and Memorial Drive, just north of the Bow River across from downtown.  
  • Calgary is the sunniest major city in Canada, with 2396 hours (or 333 days) of sunshine per year. It is located in a “sun belt” that covers southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, and a “rain shadow” that receives little precipitation. 
  • Calgary is famous for hosting the largest rodeo in the world, the annual Calgary Stampede, nicknamed “The Greatest Outdoor show on Earth.” The event attracts more than 1 million visitors per year and is considered the largest annual event in Canada. It has an economic impact of over half a billion dollars on the city every year. 
A bull rider being thrown off a bull at the Calgary Stampede
Bull riding at the Calgary Stampede
  • Because of the Stampede and local cowboy culture, Calgary is sometimes called “Cowtown” or “Stampede City.” The Stampede also inspired the name of the Calgary CFL (football) team, the Stampeders
  • Calgary has six twin and sister cities: Quebec City (Canada), Jaipur (India), Daqing (China), Naucalpan (Mexico), Daejeon (South Korea), and Phoenix (USA).  

Random Interesting Facts about Calgary 

  • Calgary was the first city in Canada to host the Olympic Games, the 1988 Winter Olympics. Canada failed to win a gold medal that year.
  • The Canada Olympic Park was built on the western edge of the city, as well as other facilities in nearby Canmore and Kananaskis.
  • The Jamaican bobsleigh, featured in the Walt Disney film Cool Runnings, can still be seen at the Canada Olympic Park, as well as a shoe that belonged to Terry Fox, who tried to run across Canada with an artificial leg to raise money for cancer research. 
Ski jump towers in Calgary.
Calgary’s Olympic ski jump towers are visible from many places in Calgary. The city has plans to dismantle them.
  • The Olympic Oval is considered to have the “fastest ice in the world.” Because of Calgary’s altitude, there is less oxygen in the ice, making it denser, and thus faster to skate on.  
  • Olympic medals were given out to athletes at Olympic Plaza downtown, and many of their names are inscribed there today. 
  • The most iconic building in Calgary is the Calgary Tower. It has a rotating restaurant at the top. It was originally called Husky Tower and was built for Canada’s Centennial (1967). During the 1988 Olympics, there was a huge, 24-hour flame burning at the top. 
Calgary Tower in the background, viewed from Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary
Calgary Tower viewed from Olympic Plaza
  • Many buildings in downtown Calgary are connected by Plus 15, an 16-km network of climate-controlled overpasses, tunnels, and bridges. 
  • Calgary has had a snowstorm in every month of the year. 
  • The coldest temperature ever recorded in Calgary was -44.4°C (-47.9°F), on January 31, 1893.  
  • On Summer Solstice, Calgary receives just under 17 hours of sunlight in one day.  
  • It is possible to go surfing in Calgary, on the Bow River below the Louise (10th st NW) bridge. 
Downtown Calgary on a clear day
A typical sunny morning in Calgary
  • Calgary has some of the most easterly Douglas fir trees in Canada, which are usually found on the coast and in the Rocky Mountains. They can be seen on the Douglas Fir Trail
  • Calgary is known for its coulees, steep valleys that were formed by glacial erosion and are usually dry. The most well-known is 12 Mile Coulee. The name comes from the fact that it was about 12 miles from the original Fort Calgary. 
  • Nose Hill Park is the highest point in Calgary. The park is home to deer, porcupines, and coyotes, and has a large medicine wheel built by the Blackfoot Kainai Nation (also known as the Blood Tribe). It represents the Siksikaitsitapi logo of the Blackfoot confederacy.
  • Fish Creek Provincial Park in the city’s southwest and Nose Hill Park are the fifth and sixth largest urban parks in Canada, respectively.
Walking path on Nose Hill Park, with downtown Calgary in the background
Nose Hill Park is the highest point in Calgary.
  • Heritage Park on Glenmore Reserve, Calgary’s main water reservoir, is considered the largest (or by some means of measuring, second largest) living history museum in Canada. The park includes a half-size replica of an 1898 paddlewheeler, the SS Moyie, and a 1920s windmill.  
  • The Calgary Zoo is the second largest in Canada, after the Toronto Zoo, and is considered one of the best. 
  • The City of Calgary sometimes uses goats to clear weeds around the city. 
  • Baitun Nur Mosque in Calgary is the largest mosque in Canada, at 4,500 m2 (48,000 ft2). It has a 30 m (97 ft) steel-topped minaret, steel dome, and 99 Arabic words from the Koran written around the exterior. 
Silhouette of Baitun Nur Mosque in Calgary
Calgary is home to the largest mosque in Canada.
  • Avatamsaka Buddhist Monastery in downtown Calgary houses 10,000 Buddha statues. The resident monks and nuns begin their daily meditations at 4 a.m. 
  • The huge dome of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Calgary’s Chinatown was modeled on the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.  
  • Around 40% of Calgary’s population are “visible minorities.” 
  • Many Calgarians took issue with the Peace Bridge, which looks like a finger trap, when it was opened in 2012, but it has since become an iconic Calgary landmark. 
Calgary's Peace Bridge shot from below, with downtown Calgary in the background
The iconic Peace Bridge leads to downtown.
  • Calgarians also hated the giant (17m/56ft) Blue Ring statue called Traveling Light, installed in 2013 at a cost of half a million dollars to the city. 
  • Hundreds of historical sidewalk stamps and modern decorative manhole covers can be seen all over Calgary. 
  • After Toronto, Calgary has the highest number of corporate head offices in Canada, more than 800. 
  • Major companies that started or are now based in Calgary include Westjet, Canada Pacific Railway, Mark’s (formerly Mark’s Work Wearhouse), Sport Chek, Safeway Canada, Shaw Communications, and the oil companies Suncor, Husky Energy, BP Canada, Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, Petro-Canada, and the non-proft STARS Air Ambulances.
A manhole cover that has the word Calgary on it
Calgary is known for its many creative manhole covers.
  • Famous Canadian restaurant chains that started in Calgary include Edo Japan, Moxies, Smitty’s, and Opa! of Greece.  
  • Chinook Centre is the largest mall in Calgary, at 127,913 m2 (1,376,854 ft2), but it is less than half the size of West Edmonton Mall in the the provincial capital.
  • The Caesar cocktail was invented in Calgary in 1969 at the Calgary Inn downtown, now the Westin Hotel.
A caesar cocktail with shrimp and asparagus.
The caesar cocktail was invented in Calgary.
  • Famous musicians from Calgary include Jann Arden, Feist, Kinnie Star, Tegan and Sarah, and George Fox. 
  • Big-name bands from Calgary include Loverboy, Chixdiggit, and Belvedere. 
  • The band Nickelback comes from Hanna, a small town 2 hours northeast of Calgary, while folk singer Joni Mitchell comes from Fort McLeod, a few hours south of Calgary. 
  • The Hart family, famous for producing many pro wrestlers, is from Calgary. The family included father and wrestling legend Stu Hart, as well as his sons Bret Hart and Owen Hart. Bret Hart’s gravestone in Queen’s Park Cemetery in Calgary is a pilgrimage site for wrestling fans.  
  • John Ware, considered “Alberta’s first black cowboy,” lived in Calgary. He helped to develop the ranching system in Western Canada.  
A mosaic of famous people from Calgary
Famous Calgarians (clockwise from top left: Bret Hard, Jann Arden, Joni Mitchell, Ted Cruz, Stephen Harper, Nickelback)
  • Several important politicians come or currently reside Calgary, including Ted Cruz, R. B. Bennett, Peter Lougheed, Preston Manning, Joe Clark, Jim Prentice, Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper, and Jason Kenney. 
  • Calgary has historically been a very conservative city.  
  • Calgary has the most millionaires per capita in Canada, at 225 per 100,000 residents.  
  • For a decade, Calgary consistently made it into the top 5 in EIU’s list of most livable cities in the world. However, it slipped out of the top-10 during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Historical Facts about Calgary 

  • Humans have inhabited the area around Calgary for at least 11,000 years, going back to the end of the last Ice Age. At that time, much of the area was covered by an enormous lake called Glacial Lake Calgary. 
  • In 1787, David Thompson, a map-maker working for Hudson’s Bay Company, was the first European to visit the area of Calgary. He was 17 at the time. 
Exterior of Fort Calgary at night
Fort Calgary is a National Historic Site today.
  • The name Calgary was adopted a year later, after a hamlet on the Isle of Mull in Scotland.  
  • In 1881, the government of Canada began offering lands around Calgary to cattle ranchers for $0.01 per acre to encourage settlement in the west. 
  • Calgary became incorporated as a town and Calgarians elected their first mayor, George Murdoch, in 1884. 
The entrance to a sandstone office building in Calgary.
All the oldest buildings in Calgary were made of sandstone.
  • In the city’s early days, all downtown buildings were required to be built of sandstone, mined by CPR nearby, giving Calgary the nickname “Sandstone City.” 
  • In 1892, a Chinese resident of Calgary was found to have small pox, leading to riots against local Chinese.  
Label of Calgary Export Lager
Calgary’s first beer
  • Calgary became an official city in 1894. When Alberta became a province in 1905, Calgary lost the bid for capital to Edmonton, in a 16–8 vote. Calgary also lost the big to host the provincial university.  
  • The first Calgary Stampede was held in 1912, but similar fairs and rodeos had been held since 1886. The 1912 Calgary Stamped took place over six days, attracting over 100,000 people.  
  • In 1914, large amounts of natural gas and oil were discovered southwest of Calgary, marking the start of the oil era. Even after more oil deposits were discovered later near Edmonton and Fort McMurray, many of the oil companies remained based in Calgary. 
An oil drill in a rural area near Calgary
An oil drill near Calgary
  • In 1916, after a flood destroyed the original MacArthur Bridge, the Centre Street Bridge was built across the Bow River, with a lion sculpture at each corner, modeled on the bronze lions at the base of Nelson`s Column in Trafalgar Square, London, UK.  
  • Calgary underwent an oil, construction, and population boom from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, but this was followed by an economic downturn due to decreasing demand for oil.  
  • Calgary’s light rail transit system, the C-Train, began running in 1981. 
A C-train crossing a bridge in Calgary in winter
The C-Train
  • On January 11, 1983, a chinook (warm arm drift caused when air descends the eastern slopes of the Rockies) caused the temperature in Calgary to rise 30°C in only 4 hours. 
  • Big Rock Brewery, often considered Alberta’s first craft brewery, was opened in 1985. 
  • Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988, putting the city in the global spotlight and attracting significant tourism and income.  
  • The Calgary Flames hockey team won their only Stanley Cup ever in 1989. 
  • In September, 1991, a hailstorm caused $400 million in damage in Calgary. Another, in 2020, caused $1.2 billion in damage, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in Canadian history. 
Calgary Saddledome and cityscape at night
The Scotiabank Saddledome hosted many events of the 1988 Winter Olympics.
  • In 1996, Canada Pacific Railway (CPR) moved its headquarters from Montreal to Calgary. 
  • In 2013, flooding of the Bow and Elbow rivers forced 75,000 Calgary residents to evacuate. The flood also heavily damaged Harvie Passage, Inglewood Sanctuary, and the Scotiabank Saddledome.  
  • In 2020, vandals added the word “transition” to Calgary signs all over the city, changing the city’s slogan to “Be part of the energy TRANSITION”, urging the city to acknowledge the need to diversify the economy away from oil.   
  • In late 2022, the Calgary Flames played against the Edmonton Oilers to advance to the NHL playoffs. The game was dubbed the “Battle of Alberta” (part of a longstanding rivalry between the cities), and Edmonton took the win.

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