The alternative guide to the 2017 Calgary Stampede

July 3, 2017

By Sarah Sussman

Love it or hate it, the Calgary Stampede takes over the city every single year for 10 days of cowboy culture and Cowtown festivities. But if you still want to get out during Stampede without having anything to do with Stampede, you can still enjoy counter-culture nightlife, comedic outdoor theatre, adventurous eating or inner-city escapism. [Photo credit: Emily Dallas and Praneet Akilla in As You Like It. Photo by Trudie Lee]

The alternative guide to the 2017 Calgary Stampede

Two steps away from the two-step

While clubs like Cowboys and Knoxville’s Tavern hit their peak around the Stampede season, there are several well-loved Calgary clubs in the city’s core that offer a refreshing alternative to Stampede tents and country music.

One of Calgary’s finest counter-culture clubs, Dickens Pub is located on the outskirts of the downtown area in a covert, underground location that offers relief from Cowtown craziness. On July 8, Dickens hosts its Hang The DJ night, featuring the usual line-up of retro, new wave, goth and industrial music. And on both July 14 and 15, punk-pop group MXPX performs two back-to-back shows.

Another hidden gem in the downtown area, Habitat Living Sound is a staple for Calgary’s electronic and dance community. Open Thursday through Saturday, Habitat is the place to go when you just want to dance, not two-step. It’s got an unpretentious vibe and a killer line-up of local DJs performing regularly. It is, after all, a dance club owned and operated by DJs.

And for those who really, really, really despise Stampede, Broken City is hosting True Colors’ first annual Anti Stampede Queer Dance + BBQ on July 14. Providing a safe space for the queer community (as well as anyone who hates Stampede), this event features 10 full hours of local DJs, BBQ, drink specials, and fun on Broken City’s gorgeous rooftop patio.

Take a break from pancakes

A welcome alternative to the hordes of Stampede pancake breakfasts, Chinatown is a hub for affordable early morning dim sum. Most restaurants open at early as 9 or 10 a.m. so you can bypass the flapjack festivities in favour of a much less hectic sit-down breakfast.

Check out Regency Palace, U & Me or Silver Dragon Restaurant for some of the most loved dim sum options in town. Start your day off right with a cozy bowl of congee or get adventurous with something you’ve never tried before like chicken feet, turnip cakes, beef stomach or fish balls. To get the most out of your dim sum experience, go with a large group of people so you can order more plates to taste and share.

As You Like It

A classic Calgary summer pastime, Theatre Calgary’s annual Shakespeare by the Bow theatre production is a great way to spend an evening away from the Stampede scene. This year’s production of As You Like It is presented at 7 p.m. from Tuesday through Sunday in Prince’s Island Park, with additional 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.


Discover more things to do in Calgary this July:


Save a horse, ride a bicycle

If you can’t get out of the city during Stampede, take some time to enjoy nature from within city limits by exploring the city’s pathways and bikeways. Fish Creek Provincial Park is a gorgeous park filled with wildlife, walking paths, cycling paths, picnic sites and more. Take a dip in the nearby Lake Sikome, or treat yourself to some fine dining Canadian cuisine at the Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant.

Also located in the south quadrant of the city, Glenmore Reservoir offers a scenic 16-kilometre path that loops into the Weaselhead Natural Area. It’s far enough away from downtown that you’ll forget all about Stampede.

As the 10 days of Stampede wind down, Calgary’s annual Cyclepalooza festival kicks off with a killer lineup of events for cyclists from July 14 to 22. Start the day off at a #CoffeeOutside meet up to discuss all things bike-related, or join in on an evening social ride around Bankview. On July 15, the Brewery Bike Tour takes attendees on a brew hop between Village Brewery, Banded Peak Brewery, and Annex Ale Project. It kicks off at noon and the only cost is the beer (non-alcoholic options will also be available).

Get out of town

If you have no tolerance at all for Stampede, get out of town and spend some time hiking or camping in the great outdoors. To mark Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all Parks Canada sites for the 2017 year (camping fees still apply).

Head out to Waterton Lakes National Park to enjoy the scenic mountainous views or Banff National Park for lush forested areas and picturesque turquoise lakes. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, trek out to Wood Buffalo National Park, where you might find yourself face-to-face with the park’s free roaming wood bison herds.

With so much to see and do during the 10 days of Stampede, you can still enjoy yourself in the city without actually having to do anything Stampede-related. Spend some time exploring Calgary’s pathways and bikeways, head to the club or explore the dim sum offerings in Chinatown. And if all else fails, you can always get of town and go camping.

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