Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Global Storybook

5 Unique Festivals That You Can Only Find in Calgary

Kendall O’Geil

Kendall O’Geil

Kendall O’Geil is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Canada).

Kendall is a born and raised Canadian who loves to travel, eat her way through new cultures, and write about her experiences. Her most recent adventures include Germany, Banff, and Malta. When she’s not dreaming of faraway places, you can find her hanging at a dog park or taking on new challenges, like training for mud-soaked obstacle courses. She currently lives in Calgary, Alberta.
Kendall O’Geil

A city on the gateway to the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Canada, Calgary is often overlooked as a go-to travel destination.  With a growing economy and an ever-evolving mix of new culture and neighbourhood revitalizations, Calgary is a destination that constantly surprises its residents and its visitors for those that take the time to stick around.

One way the city does this is with unique festivals and events.  No matter what time of the year you visit, there is always something innovative and fun going on in the city!  Check out these five unique events that only happen in Calgary.

Calgary Stampede

Ten days every July, Calgary hosts the world’s biggest rodeo.  The Calgary Stampede is one big all-out party and an excuse to wear plaid and cowboy boots to work and around the city.  Locals don’t get much work done, as we would much rather be out dancing, watching the chucks, and eating ourselves into an expensive food coma.

The Stampede has been around for over 100 years, and it gets bigger and better every year.  This past year Canada celebrated its 150th birthday and to commemorate that, the Stampede was giving away prizes, handing out cheap $1.50 entry, and more to bring them their largest recorded attendances numbers in history.

The celebration extends beyond the grounds—the whole city gets involved!  There are large free pancake breakfasts all around the city, special events going on at nightclubs, corporate parties, and specialty foods at restaurants.

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The grounds themselves are packed with fun – shopping showcases, chuckwagon races, theme park rides, midway games, and food trucks galore.  They pride themselves on coming up with the weirdest food you’ll ever find, like deep fried cookie dough, the world’s hottest pizza, chicken feet, and Canadian bacon pickle balls!


The kookiest event you’ll find on the northern half of the border!  Beakerhead is a collaboration between art and science, between the technical and the creative elements of innovation that will make you drop your jaw and say “wow”.  This five-day festival in September has art installations popping up in random locations around the city, wacky engineering innovation pieces, and fun events for the whole family.

The best way to explore Beakerhead in Calgary is to head downtown.  The installations and events happen all over the city, so check out Beakerhead or Tourism Calgary’s website to find route maps and the best ways to get around Calgary.  Many events and installations take place along Stephen Avenue, the Bow Riverwalk, and the neighbourhood of Kensington.   There will be astronauts, engineered culinary treats, giant mechanical snakes, buildings with tentacles, light shows, dance performances, and always expect the unexpected!  And, it changes every year, so you’ll never know what new innovations may pop up for next year’s event.

Beakerhead, Canada

Photo © Jeff Whyte /


Calgary has an excellent zoo, and one unique way to experience the city’s zoo is amongst millions of twinkling holiday lights during ZOOLIGHTS.  This is the perfect holiday activity.  The zoo shifts from animals to holiday lights once the sun sets, and their walkways are lit up by over 1.5 million lights.  The lights adorn wintry displays, Christmas trees, tunnels, and form the base for moving displays of animals, presents, candy canes and of course Santa Claus.  There are activity zones for kids and patrons of all ages, such as ice skating, freshly-poured maple on a stick, firepits, animal learning centres, and photos with Santa.

This magical event is very popular amongst locals.  Make sure to bring warm winter gear, as Calgary winters can get chilly when the sun sets early and the lights turn on at the zoo.  The event runs from 6 to 9 pm nightly from late November to early January each year.  I recommend going closer to the beginning of December, when the lights are fresh and the holiday mood has set in!  Admission to the event supports the zoo’s conservation efforts around the world.

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ZOOLIGHTS, CanadaGlobalFest

A world-class fireworks show that celebrates multiculturalism and diversity, GlobalFest is hosted each year in August over a period of about two weeks.  Countries face off head-to-head in fireworks battles—yes, they duke it out with performances in the night sky—for five nights, and one winner comes out as the pyrotechnic champion.

The 2018 event is set to play host to shows from Spain, Ukraine, China, and Philippines.  More than just fireworks, the lights dance and shimmer off the lake below while music and artistic flair is also highlighted in each piece.  It took them ten years from the fruition of the idea to find an ideal location in the city to host the pyrotechnic-heavy event, and they have been running strong ever since.

Sled Island

A music and arts festival that is about independent spirit and eclectic music.  Each June, over 250 artists and 30,000 attendees come to the city to experience music, comedy, arts, and a magical good time.  It is one of the most popular music events that takes over the city, and their focus on inner-city music, alternative rock, and highlighting local talent makes Sled Island a winner.

The acts take place in venues across the city of Calgary.  No matter what kind of music fan you are, there will be something at Sled Island that you will take an interest in!  When you participate in Sled Island, you’ll also get to enjoy both historic sites and up-and-coming hotspots in Calgary such as King Eddy, the Palomino, Studio Bell, and Commonwealth.

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5 Unique Festivals You Can Only Find in Calgary - Global Storybook

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