Calgary, Alberta, Canada has always been a great family-friendly vacation destination. With its close proximity to the Rocky Mountains, a clean city, a temperate climate and friendly Canadians, what more could a family need?

With this summer marking the 100th anniversary of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede, it is just one more reason to put Calgary on the list of upcoming must-do trips.

On a recent family vacation, we missed the Calgary Stampede by just weeks, but the spirit of the exhibition and world class rodeo was still felt throughout the city. In addition to seeing the city, we also enjoyed the Calgary Zoo and its brand new Penguin Plunge and the TELUS Spark Children’s Science Museum. We visited Banff National Park and the natural Hot Springs, we ate authentic buffalo burgers at Chief Chiniki restaurant on the Stoney Indian Reserve, hit the long line at the Tim Horton’s coffee shop and even spent an afternoon in epicurean delight at an award-winning restaurant called NOtaBLE co-owned by Canada’s only Iron Chef competitor, Chef Michael Noble.

Whether you are a family or a couple, there is plenty to do in Calgary.

Calgary Zoo Opens Penguin Plunge

The non-profit Calgary Zoo has been a central part of Calgary’s history for more than 83 years. Located in the heart of the city and easily accessible, the Calgary Zoo provides a great opportunity to see wildlife, gardens and natural habitats.

Starting as a Natural History Park, the zoo is now home to hundreds of animals in more than six distinct sections of different geologic areas, designed around the habitats of the animals. In addition, six acres of Dorothy Harvie Gardens are established and worth a stroll.

The distinct sections to visit include: Destination Africa, Canadian Wilds, Eurasia-Visit Amur (Siberian) tigers and three new tiger cubs, Prehistoric Park- the unique park offers an image of Western Canada as it might have appeared when dinosaurs reigned and South Africa.

The newest attraction at the Calgary Zoo is worth the trip itself. The new $25 million state-of-the-art, Penguin Plunge is an unforgettable polar experience which begins with visitors surrounded by dozens of playful penguins perched on rocky outcroppings, plunging into chilly water, popping out of holes in the ice and walking with their trademark waddle. Visitors will meet the four species of penguins: Humboldt, Gentoo, Rockhopper and Kings as they interact, eat, play, swim and of course….plunge! The Calgary Zoo welcomes more than 1.2 million visitors each year. The gates are open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Visit

Click here for more pictures of the Calgary Zoo.

Spark’s of Imagination Fly At New Children’s Museum

The new 153,000 sq. ft. museum, TELUS Spark, located just adjacent to the Calgary Zoo, offers people of all ages and abilities to embrace the desire to explore and discover science, technology and art.

TELUS Spark is a $160 million project which offers a hands-on, kid-friendly space for exploration, learning and fun in a high-tech welcoming and encouraging environment. Families with children will love the stations and take-home crafts along with the easy-to-follow instructions for experiments.

Entering the museum, guests will find the HD Digital Dome Theatre and planetarium which offers different shows throughout the day. The 245-seat interactive planetarium offers HD movies, feature films and planetarium shows in a 360-degree surround sound, state-of-the-art theatre.

Creative Kids Museum is geared towards learning adventures for children ages birth-8 years old is separated in its own space. Four additional sections are connected across two stories and take up the majority of the building including Being Human, Energy & Innovation, Open Studio and Earth & Sky galleries.

In addition to a great day trip, TELUS Spark offers adult-only nights, star gazing and programs perfect for any event.

TELUS Spark sits on 18 acres of reclaimed land that is located at 220 St. George’s Dr. NE. Call (403) 817-6800 or visit for information.

Banff National Park, Gateway to the Canadian Rockies

Just one hour west of Calgary, sits the gateway to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park and the quaint town of Banff. The entire town is a historic rememberance of days gone by and follows strict ownership and building guidelines for those residdents fortunate enough to own. Banff offers great sightseeing, easy access to the Rockies and lots to see and do for a day, a weekend or even a week.

From whitewater rafting to hiking to stunning vistas, eating, soaking in the natural healing hot springs or just taking a gondola ride up a mountain, Banff has something for everyone.

Within town, explore the oldest natural history museum in Western Canada. This 1903 landmark building is an outstanding example of the rustic Banff Style of architecture. A “museum of a museum” that allows visitors to step back in time and learn about an early approach to natural history interpretation.

The museum was founded by the old Natural History Branch of the Geological Survey of Canada. In February 1895, a shipment of mounted and labeled wildlife specimens arrived in Banff which kicked-off the museum.

In addition to Banff and area history, shopping, sightseeing, award-winning restaurants, mountain vista hotels and resorts along with world-class spas await.

Soak Stress Away At Banff Upper Hot Springs 

Located in the town of Banff, the Banff Upper Hot Springs is a historic spa and bathhouse – situated against a backdrop of breath-taking alpine scenery.

The Banff Upper Hot Springs were discivered in 1884 and is one of Banff’s most famous attractions and featured on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

The water within the gigantic hot tub is 100% natural mineral water with a temperature between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius or 98 and 104 Fahrenheit.

The minerals found in the springs are Sulfate, Calcium, Bicarbonate, Magnesium and Sodium.

During our visit, it was raining outside but entering the hot pools from heated tile floors with a zero-entry ramp from within the building made for an enjoyable soak. In addition, the rainfall didn’t deter from the stunning views.

The springs sit at an elevation of 1,585 meters or 5,200 feet, making them the highest in Canada. The thermal waters are driven vertically over 2,000 meters, through a big crack in the layers of rock, called the Sulfur Mountain Thrust Fault.

The province of Alberta boasts five of Canada’s 13 World Heritage sites including: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Banff-Jasper National Parks, Wood Buffalo National Park and Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Take ‘Note’ Of Great Dining Options in Calgary 

There is no shortage of award-winning dining options in Calgary and being near the Alberta prairies, the province is known for its Alberta beef. While in Calgary for this visit, we wanted to try something a little different, a little special and a little more local since we are all focused on bringing our shopping and spending options back to the community.

NOtaBLE Restaurant offers intimate dining with local artisan fare and a great atmosphere. In fact, right on its website, it lists the local vendors including cheese, meats and vegetables that it partners with for its menus.

The chef, Michael Noble is award-winning and the first Canadian chef to compete on Iron Chef Japan vs. Morimoto. So, off we went for a meal at NOtaBLE and it has become a permanent part of the must-do list for every Calgary vacation. The restaurant is located in the NW quadrant of the city in a community called Bowness. It is situated within a busy business sector and offers complimentary covered parking.

The first impression when walking into the restaurant and seeing the full bar and open fire rotisserie…is welcoming, warm and enticing. The restaurant is a partnership between the chef and long-time business partner David Singleton. “We wanted this restaurant to be a place where customers feel welcome.” Included in the cozy atmosphere is an open kitchen and a committment to community. The restaurant supports local causes with special events, signature dinners and the staff even volunteers its time for community service.

But, it is the food that keeps customers coming back. With its unique menu items, including the Stilton cheesecake, a signature recipe you won’t find anywhere else, completes the experience. As the chef says, “Don’t think fine dining, think great food.”

Chef Noble is a competator and ambassador for Canada at international culinary competitions including the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Competition in Lyon, France and the World Culinary Olympics in Berlin.

“We have built many relationships with amazing producers in Western Canada that allow us to bring the best quality food to your table,” says Noble.

Signature menu items to note include melt-in-your-mouth Teriyaki glazed salmon belly served with pickled daikon, carrot & cucumber, 12 hour-braised & rotisserie finished brisket sandwich,  burger inspirations served on house made buns and the AAA Flatiron steak grilled to perfection and much more.

For our meal, the salmon belly, custom burger and flatiron steak with a slice of Stilton Cheesecake and a french-press coffee was the perfect match for a perfect meal.

NOtaBLE is located at 4611 Bowness Road NW Calgary. Call  403.288.4372 or visit

From great food, Rocky Mountains, soothing natural hot springs and friendly natives, think of Calgary for your next family vacation destination, for travel planning information, visit

Click here to see more pictures from the NOtaBLE restaurant.


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Marie is the Managing Editor at the Osprey Observer. She covers news, transportation, education and likes to make a positive impact on the community and be 'in the know'!