Summer 2016 is my Alberta Staycation Summer.
Out-of-province trips are great – no doubt, but I think you can do and see so much right here in Alberta, and even better – do so much in just a single weekend!
That’s what I sought out to do in Calgary this month.
Working with Tourism Calgary, Mike and I asked – what would the #BestWeekendEver in our sister city down south look like?
How much could we do in a 48-hour weekend getaway?
Answer: a whole lot.
Read on for a recap of our 48-hour best weekend getaway to Calgary!
Hopefully you get some ideas and are inspired to do your own trip this summer.
The beauty of our trip was that we didn’t have to use up any vacation days, and you shouldn’t either. You can head down from Edmonton (or surrounding area) after work on Friday and be back home and ready for the next work week by Sunday, easy.
Also a bonus: no worries about the terrible U.S./Canada exchange rate so you’re getting great value for your dollar!
We arrived at the charming Kensington Riverside Inn (1126 Memorial Drive) on Friday night.
The boutique hotel has just 19 rooms and is styled after a country bed and breakfast.
From the in-room fireplaces to the overall decor and vibe, the Kensington Riverside Inn gives off a really classy, romantic chic feel.
It’s totally cute and was the perfect home base for our weekend getaway.
Off we go!
Our Friday night outing was to the Last Best Brewing and Distilling Pub and Eatery (607 11 Ave SW).
I feel like microbreweries and brew pubs are popping up left in right in both Edmonton and Calgary, and there’s a reason for it – Alberta liquor laws that once made it difficult for new brew business to start up were relaxed a few years ago and we are now reaping the beer benefits!
Last Best is part of the Bearhill Brewing Family of Breweries which also operates the Banff, Jasper, and Wood Buffalo brewing companies.
It’s located in Calgary’s popular Beltline neighbourhood downtown and is a massive space with lots of brick and cool light fixtures, that also includes a barbershop in the basement and a market on weekends.
That Friday night, it felt like everyone was celebrating an occasion at Last Best – the room (big as it was) was packed and we saw lots of big groups and birthday balloons.
Mike tried a few drinks (check out their full beer menu here) including the Hefeweizen, a Snogroni (for Negroni Week), the Gin Re-Fashioned, and their Sampler – which included taster sizes of their speciality drinks: Show Pony Pale Ale, Last Best IPA, Dirty Bird Black Lager, Olsch Kolsch B’golsch golden ale, and a There Will Be Porter English ale with hints of coffee.
He really enjoyed the sampler (his favourite was the Dirty Bird), and I loved that the drinks came on an adorable wooden “AlBeerta” board!
We also tried their ‘AlBeerta Burger,’ a ling cod over quinoa, and their ‘Crispy Bits’ deep fried pork and chicken appetizer, which were all pretty tasty!
We loved the brewpub atmosphere at Last Best and thought it was a great spot to hit up on our first night in town!
Bonus: check out my good friend Scott’s One Year of Alberta Beer blog – where he documents drinking only Alberta beer for a year!
Couples who brunch together…
Despite a jam-packed day ahead. we woke up rather slowly and were greeted with tea and coffee service brought to our door (thanks Kensington Riverside Inn!)
Sipping our drinks in our super, comfy bed, we went over our itinerary for the day – which started with brunch at the Kensington Riverside Inn’s award-winning restaurant: Chef’s Table.
Chef’s Table is an intimate, 40-seat, fine dining restaurant.
For brunch, Mike ordered the “Steak and Eggs” (braised Alberta beef and agria potato hash with a soft poached egg, asparagus, spring onions and mushrooms).
I got their duck confit Eggs Benedict (poached eggs on house-made biscuits, agria potato hash, critus hollandaise, and pickled shallots). I loved the house-made biscuits and the eggs benedict oozed perfectly.
We were booked in for the Kensington Riverside Inn’s picnic and bike ride package later that morning.
The package included lemonades and we opted to have the drinks at brunch instead of trying to carry drinks with us on the bikes.
There was just one chef in the kitchen for brunch. The kitchen is open concept – facing the restaurant – so you can watch chef make everything! That morning, she impressively, single-handedly created dishes for about a half dozen tables including one really big group.
— Linda Hoang (@lindork) June 11, 2016
We really enjoyed our brunch overall and I totally want to come back to try more of their food (they also do a tasting menu – which sounds awesome).
Calgary by Bike!
After brunch, we headed out to explore downtown Calgary by bike!
Mike and I will do leisurely biking loops around our neighbourhood in the ‘burbs in the summer, and I think it’s a great way to explore cities we visit. You can’t get the same experience driving around a place (this coming from an avid driver lol).
Our stay at the KRI (and for anyone who stays there) includes complimentary use of their super cute cruiser bikes so be sure to take advantage! Just make sure you book it in advance before someone else does!
We paired the cycling trip with KRI’s picnic lunch package – which included two sandwiches, two sides/snacks each, plus those lemonades we had for brunch.
Mike and I biked for a couple of hours from Kensington to the East Village – crossing and going underneath several bridges, and stopping at Prince’s Island Park for our picnic, where Mike also made friends with a cute squirrel, lol.
We had incredible weather during our outing – and I loved how everywhere we went there was so many people milling about – so much activity on a Saturday afternoon!
I also loved the contrast between the incredible downtown Calgary skyscrapers alongside the peaceful, scenic river valley scenes.
Our roof top patio experience also involved trying delicious crab legs with a chili butter sauce.
That chili butter sauce – ohmygosh, so good! I didn’t wipe my hands properly on purpose so that they could retain the smell of the chili butter… is that weird? lol
I have to admit the bicycle ride back to the hotel was rough for me (felt like it was way more uphill and we were going against the wind!)
We definitely stopped to walk a fair bit (in conjunction with the cycling), but it was still a nice way to see more of Calgary and overall, we really enjoyed our “Calgary by Bike” experience!
Going up – Food, Drinks, and Views 191 Metres Above Ground.
Mike and I have been to a couple of revolving, tower restaurants now – the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, La Ronde in Edmonton – so were excited to visit Sky 360 at the Calgary Tower.
The restaurant does a full revolution every 45 minutes – giving you incredible views of the city, while you sip on drinks, like an extra minty mojito for me and an Old Fashioned and wine for Mike.
Have you ever had wine with a view like this?
I also loved the food at Sky 360! We only tried their appetizers because – well – we’d been eating so much already and still had more meals to come, lol.
But I absolutely recommend the beef tartare – which comes with house-made potato chips!! So good.
If you’re planning a trip to the Calgary Tower observation deck, you’re actually better off booking a meal at Sky 360 first because then your price of elevation admission is put towards the price of your meal!
It’s a great option for families that way.
We are Villagers!
Despite at this point having eaten SO much (including gelato at Sky 360), I insisted we walk over (just a few minutes away) to try Village Ice Cream.
Village Ice Cream had been on my list of places to try the last few times we’d been to Calgary but it just never happened so I was determined to make it happen this weekend.
They have a few locations in the city but we went to the Victoria Park location at 431 10 Ave SE, which was packed with people on a Saturday afternoon!
I had actually most recently been inspired to go because I saw @alanajwillerton post this awesome picture of her Village ice cream.
When we were there, there were too many kids/families crowded around the sign outside so I opted for a similar photo with a Village Ice Cream sign inside the building and I think it still turned out pretty sweet – thanks Alana for the inspiration!
Mike got a singe scoop, Maple Pecan in a waffle cone and I got their Strattiacella special single scoop in a waffle cone (basically vanilla with dark chocolate shavings).
It was totally satisfying on a really beautiful summer day and I’m so glad we managed to squeeze it in!
Unleashing our Artistry at Vin Gogh.
Next up on our Saturday itinerary was a painting and drinking party at Vin Gogh Paint Studio (7004 Macleod Trail) but *first* we went back to our hotel to nap. lol!
Recharging in between activities is very important on a whirlwind weekend getaway so always find time gaps where you could squeeze in a nap!
Vin Gogh Paint Studio is very much like a permanent Paint Nite.
Mike and I have done Paint Nite several times now (in fact, our works of art hang in various locations in our house, lol) so we were familiar with the format and excited to create for the next couple of hours.
Vin Gogh opened in 2013 and has since been offering couples, girlfriends, mom/daughters, class groups/teams a great venue to sip on wine and paint under the instruction of professional artists.
Artist Rebecca was leading our class that night – as we painted purple cherry blossom trees.
Well, I stuck with purple, Mike went with red, and a few people went with pink (there was even a blue tree!)
The beauty about this type of event is that you can follow along with the artist (really, no painting experience is necessary to do something like this) or you can deviate and create whatever your hand brush strokes create!
Late Dinner at Pigeonhole!
Vin Gogh did offer some snacks and desserts along with drinks but Mike and I decided against food so we could save room for a late dinner at Pigeonhole, a pretty hip wine and snack bar at 306 17th Ave SW.
Weekend getaways (for me anyway) is all about maximizing the number of meals you can eat in a day!
Late (or ‘second’) dinners are a must.
Pigeonhole came highly recommended from a bunch of my food lovin’, Calgary-visitin’ friends.
Their food is primarily small portions / small plates (think tapas) and on the pricier side – but so damn good.
My favourite dish of the night (surprising even me because it didn’t involve meat!) was their cheesy, charred cabbage. Mike and I both loved this dish so much that we ordered it twice and joked that the second order was us having cabbage for dessert.
How do you get a picky vegetable eater (Mike) to eat cabbage? Char it and top it with lots and lots of cheese!
Mike’s other favourite dish at Pigeonhole was their Angus beef steak with tomato jam and roasted shallot aioli. He was practically salivating as he ate it was so tender and juicy.
Pigeonhole is also well-known for its carefully crafted cocktails, which we let our awesome server select for us after sharing the types of drinks we typically like to try.
Service at Pigeonhole was fantastic – as was the food. I can see why it’s a popular spot to hit up in downtown Calgary and it made for a perfect final place to visit before calling it a (busy) day and heading back to our hotel.
Some Calgary Coffee!
We are early risers so we got up pretty early on our final day in Calgary and before heading to the Farmer’s Market for our Calgary Food Tour, we decided to stop and try a local coffee spot.
There was a Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters at Chinook Mall not far from the market. We had noticed this place in the Simmons Building on Saturday and it looked pretty cool, so we were excited to give it a try.
It’s a really cool space (very hipster, lol if you’re into that).
And we had a really nice morning just sipping on some lattes and cappuccinos before our market breakfast! I am not a coffee drinker but I’ve slowly been finding drinks (tea-based, usually) at cafes that I can enjoy while Mike downs the coffee, lol.
Calgary Food Tour.
After Phil & Seb, we headed over to the Calgary Farmer’s Market for breakfast!
The light breakfast, featuring food from market vendors Yum Bakery and Cherry Pit, was part of the Calgary Food Tour.
The Calgary Food Tour began in 2006 and now offers a variety of tours Wednesday through Sunday. Their goal is introduce and educate people to the world’s best food producers, markets, artisans, chefs, and restaurants in a fun way.
Their tours are for people who love food, fun, and adventure, and founder Karen Anderson likes to focus on storytelling – sharing ‘aha’ moments, food epiphanies, and adventures.
On our tour, there was a couple from Los Angeles, along with a food/travel writer from Vancouver.
That Sunday, we visited several vendors/farmers/suppliers at the market including:
- Innisfail Growers where we learned about how a group of 5 farming families in the Innisfail area came together to grow and sell together. Beck Farms, Edgar Farms, Upper Green Farms, The Jungle Farm, and Hillside Greenhouses work under a truly collaborative approach that has helped them find success in the industry. (We’re lucky in Edmonton – we get Edgar Farms asparagus at our markets too!)
- Gull Valley Greenhouses where we learned about their 12 varieties of naturally ripened on the vine tomatoes. Another grower we’re lucky to have access to in Edmonton! Also, did you know: you shouldn’t refrigerate tomatoes because it affects the ripeness/makes it taste worse?
- Cherry Pit where we learned about their efforts to reduce food waste while offering delicious fruit/vegetable juices. They’ve also started a ‘Vegetable Butcher’ concept – where you can buy vegetables from them then drop the veggies off to get cut, so you can later pick up and bring home. The service is really meant to address how busy everyone is and hopefully this service makes it easier for you to eat healthy.
- Bauer Meats where we learned that bison are indigenous to Alberta, and when bison is on land, it improves the health of all the land here (because this is the land where bison belong!) Apparently a few years ago buying/eating bison got very popular, so Whole Foods came to Alberta to seek bison farmers. Those farmers could just sell to Whole Foods and didn’t need the farmers markets anymore, but Annette and Mike Bauer still wanted to be able to offer bison to Albertans at these markets. We tried their delicious bison salamis and pepperonis and are basically bison converts now.
- Field Stone Fruit Wines where I finally had wine that I actually liked! lol. Mike is the big beer and wine connoisseur in our house and I still haven’t quite acquired my ‘wine’ tastes but the Saskatoon Berry (which is also native to Alberta) Dessert Wine from Field Stone Fruit Wines is really damn good. It’s funny because I don’t really like sweet food but I love sweet drinks, lol. Field Stone was actually instrumental in changing Alberta laws so fruit wines could be sold at Alberta farmer markets!
- Silver Sage Beef where we learned about this 100-year-old farm family’s no hormones, no antibiotics, no animal by-products, all natural Alberta beef. I only recently learned that ‘Alberta beef’ can actually be beef from all over, as long as it’s final processing is done in Alberta. I have great respect for places like Silver Sage, which is truly Alberta beef from calf birth to the product you end up eating
- Sylvan Star Cheese where we learned about the Schalkwyk family’s award-winning cheese!! We’re lucky to have access to this in Edmonton as well – their gouda, extra aged gouda, and smoked gouda have won #1 Canadian cheese awards over the years. Our cheese samples were to die for.
- Spragg’s Meat Shop where we learned that this family started the business with just three little pigs 12 years ago – now they have about 2,000 hogs per year. This meat shop not only raises their pigs but also processes and markets their meat too. Calgary Co-Op recently committed to selling Spragg’s meats, and it’s moves like that (whether from big corporations or from you) that help support the Alberta farming industry. “You create the food industry we have,” Karen told us on the tour. “Spending your money on small, local places will change the industry.”
- Lund’s Organic Farm where we learned that this particular farm was one of the very first organic farms in the province – and the importance of ‘organic’ is not necessarily because it tastes better (a lot of people say they can’t tell the taste difference), rather the importance of organic is due ot the care the farmer takes in the land. Keeping the land (the soil, the 10 billion micro organisms in life forms in organic soil) alive, while growing your produce.
The Calgary Food Tour is a really engaging, interesting experience (with lots of great samples), that left us with a bigger desire to purchase and support local farmers/growers.
Karen really is a master storyteller and presents everything in an entertaining and educational way.
What a wonderful way to learn about a city and its surrounding areas, local business/farmers and the food industry.
This particular tour is $45/per person while some of the other tours are more in the $100-$145 range (involves much more food!)
Another great thing about the Calgary Food Tour? It’s expanding!
Under the Alberta Food Tours brand, it’s coming to both Canmore and Edmonton (yay!) later this summer. I can’t wait to do it in Edmonton!
Our last major activity of this whirlwind weekend was a visit to Winsport Canada to try out their summer bobsleigh!
Mike and I tried the Skyline Luge here last year and had such a blast, we were eager to try the other ‘extreme’ sports here (still haven’t tried the zipline either!)
The summer bobsleigh puts you inside a bobsleigh with an expert (Olympic-trained) pilot, rushing down a 1500m track with 10 turns, at 80-100 km/h, feeling forces of over 2Gs.
They actually used to start the luge at the very top of the hill but scaled it back to start lower because going from the top of the hill was just too intense for people, lol.
It’s funny how something can be exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Mike and I were stoked for this unique (really, a cross-off-the-bucket-list) adventure.
We were going down the Green Machine 88 with Olympian bobsleigh athlete Cristiano from Brazil.
Cristiano trains in Calgary (on this very track) and hopes to compete in one more Olympic competition.
You can’t hold a camera or your phone when going down the bobsleigh because literally you need to grip your hands on bars inside the sleigh and do your best not to shake right out, lol.
If you have a Go-Pro, I think you could strap it to the helmet, but we didn’t so we just took some quick pictures before.
The bobsleigh is quite possibly the longest minute ever – lol.
You go down so fast and yet while you’re experiencing it, you have time to wonder when it will be over. Does that make sense? lol. Mike said I kept leaning back (due to the G forces) and blocking his view (oops) lol but I really thought I was holding my own pretty well.
Overall, heading down the summer bob sleigh was fun but very quick (and it can be pretty pricy for such a quick experience).
I’d actually recommend you purchase an adventure pass that combines a few different activities at Winsport (especially the luge! along with the zipline – if it’s not too windy) to make the most of an afternoon there and get the most value for your money!
Final dinner in Calgary: NOtaBLE.
We wrapped up our 48 hours in Calgary with a final (early) dinner at a restaurant called NOtaBLE, a popular restaurant in the Bowness neighbourhood (actually not too far from Winsport).
Mike and I had actually been to NOtaBLE once before (the same trip where we did the Skyline Luge, so it really feels likes Winsport and NOtaBLE go hand-in-hand lol). It’s a really nice space with an open kitchen and a big rotisserie.
Because we went at an awkward before dinner, after lunch, time, we ordered off of their lunch menu but got to sample some of their popular dinner items too, including these potato rolls (below) which is basically rotisserie pork wrapped in potato chips (omg!) with tomatoes, avocados, cheese and salsa verde.
We also had their delicious from-scratch chicken confit ravioli with roasted mushrooms, Boursin cheese, truffle and vegetables. So good.
NOtaBLE was a really cozy, nice end to our busy Calgary weekend.
So was it the best Best Weekend Ever?
Mike and I were pretty pleased with how much we were able to do in 48 hours.
Our weekend was definitely more food-themed (obviously!) and really jam-packed (which might not be everyone’s preference) but really, depending on your interests, there’s really something for everyone, at a pace for everyone.
And be sure to check out another recent trip we had done to Calgary – with some of my recommendations on where to eat!
For the skimming folks, here’s a list of the different places we visited during our 48 hours in Calgary:
- Kensington Riverside Inn (our awesome hotel)
- Last Best Brewing & Distillery (Friday night fun)
- Chef’s Table – at the KRI (Saturday brunch)
- Prince’s Island Park (bike ride + picnic)
- Charbar/Roof Top Bar at Simmons Building (late rooftop patio lunch)
- Calgary Tower and Sky 360 Restaurant (food, drinks, and views!)
- Village Ice Cream (sweet treat)
- Vin Gogh Paint Studio (artistic date night)
- Pigeonhole (late dinner/drinks and snacks)
- Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters (Sunday morning coffee)
- Calgary Farmer’s Market (Sunday morning market)
- Calgary/Alberta Food Tours (entertaining + educational outing)
- Bobsleigh at Winsport (the most adventurous activity of the weekend)
- NOtaBLE (last dinner in YYC!)
I always feel like we are able to accomplish so much and yet there’s still so much we did not do.
Check out my live-tweets from the weekend too:
And get some great deals on recreating some of our 48-hour adventures by heading here!
So, how did we do?
What did we miss?
What would you do with 48 hours in Calgary?! Leave a comment below (or tweet me)
Thank you Tourism Calgary for a fantastic weekend.
I feel like we were truly able to #CaptureCalgary and I fall more in love with this city every time we visit.
Can’t wait for the next adventure!
Disclaimer: I will always provide my 100% honest opinion on this blog. I partnered with Tourism Calgary to experience a 48-hour weekend getaway and share the trip on social media. Our accommodations and meals were covered. Everything we did and the places we visited were things we would normally do when visiting Calgary. The partnership has no impact on opinions stated in this post (I’m always honest!)