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20 Things to Do in Calgary Under $20

By AGATHA ZARZYCKI

The Calgary Tower offers a bird's eye view of downtown. (Photo: courtesy Tourism Calgary)

The Calgary Tower offers a bird’s eye view of downtown. (Photo: courtesy Tourism Calgary)

You don’t have to break to bank to experience Calgary’s hallmark attractions! Here are 20 activities in Calgary for under $20:

Calgary Tower
The iconic Calgary Tower opened in 1968 and is a staggering 190.8 meters high (626 feet). Don’t worry, you don’t have to climb its 762 steps—two 25-passenger, high-speed elevators soar to the top in 62 seconds. Once there, stand on the glass floor observation terrace for a bird’s eye view of the Rocky Mountains and iconic Calgary landmarks. An audio guide is available in 4 different languages, and will explain interesting trivia about some of the notable art and architecture in your view. Check out the visitor information centre and souvenir shop at the tower’s base, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on the second floor, and revolving restaurant Sky 360 at the top. Admission: adult $18, senior $16, child (4-12) $9, children three and under are free. www.calgarytower.com

Glenbow 
Western Canada’s largest museum and gallery features 20 galleries with permanent exhibitions on Western and Indigenous cultures, military history, Asian artifacts, and a rotating selection of visiting exhibitions. Their current Cabinets of Curiosity interactive showcase mimics a 17th century wonder-room, with small collections of extraordinary objects from Edmonton artist Lyndal Osborne’s travels to the Australian coast and through the Alberta prairies. Admission: adult $15, senior $10, youth (7-17) $9, children six and under are free. www.glenbow.org

Loose Moose Theatre
Located on the second floor of the Crossroads Market in the historic Inglewood neighbourhood, this theatre company presents weekly improvised comedy shows. Their Maestro Improv show on Friday nights features elimination rounds, where audience members rate performers chosen at random until one performer wins the ‘maestro improviser’ title, going on to direct shows during Gorilla Theatre on Saturday nights. Every show is different, but they’re always very funny. Tickets: general admisison $15, student $12. www.loosemoose.com

TELUS Spark, Calgary’s Science Centre
The science centre houses four exhibit galleries, movies, planetarium shows in Calgary’s only HD Digital Dome Theatre, interactive activities in the Creative Kids Museum, live science demonstrations, and more. The new Brainasium outdoor park features an interactive play area where children learn momentum and teamwork on the five ton spinning rock, explore simple physics on the teeter-totter built for six, slide their hands along the musical railing and climb the netting tower to the 63 foot slide—the largest stainless steel slide in Canada. Adults and children alike will have fun visiting travelling exhibitions and building structures with real tools at the Open Studio Drop-In Workshops. The second Thursday night of every month is Adults Only Night, where the venue is open only to adults to enjoy unique programming, an open bar, workshops and presentations, and kid-free play. Admission: adult $19.95, senior $17.95, youth (13-17) $15.95, child 3-12) $12.95, children three and under are free. www.sparkscience.ca

The Plaza Theatre
The Plaza plays alternative films and functions as a first-run art house cinema. Watch timeless classics or new indie flicks in their 370 seat auditorium. Movie prices vary and usually cost under $10. Every Wednesday night the theatre hosts Late Night at the Plaza—a variety show with a selection of entertainment by talented local musicians, artists, comedians, media, dancers, performers, and more. www.theplaza.ca

Heritage Park Historical Village
This living history museum features more than 180 attractions and exhibits that re-create Western Canadian history from the 1860s to the 1950s. Interact with costumed interpreters, explore pioneer homes and businesses, ride a steam train, board a paddlewheeler on the Glenmore Reservoir, try antique rides and games, and enjoy Western Canadian cuisine at Selkirk Grille. While the park is open seasonally May through October, year-round daily attractions include dining at Selkirk Grille and Railway Café, Haskayne Mercantile Block—a collection of one-of-a-kind boutiques and an antique shop—the Big Rock Interpretive Brewery, and the Gasoline Alley Museum of vintage cars. Access to Heritage Town Square (located before the gates) is free. Park admission: adult $25.75*; senior (65+) $20.25 youth (7-14) $18.50; child ($13.25). www.heritagepark.ca (*Adult admission during the summer season is more than $20, but overall most of their offerings are under $20. And, even at $25.75, it’s still very much worth a visit.)

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
Located at Canada Olympic Park, this attraction showcases the stories and memorabilia of Canada’s sporting legends. Interactive exhibits include shadow boxing with world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, 3D hockey and baseball, simulated rowing, wheelchair racing, and more. Admission: general $12, seniors $10, youth (4-18) $8, children three and under are free. www.sportshall.ca

Olympic Oval
The world-class, high performance atmosphere of the Olympic Oval skating rink is not just for professional athletes. Located at the University of Calgary, the 450 meter oval ice surface is open to the public, with equipment rentals available at the Skate Shop. The facility also houses artwork that fosters a connection between artists and athletes—it’s worth checking out. Admission: adult $6.75, child/youth/senior (55+) $4.50, family $18, special needs (with assistant) $5. www.oval.ucalgary.ca

Rothney Astrophysical Observatory
Located on a hilltop in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, The University of Calgary hosts public events and open houses that offer perfect occasions to star gaze. These outdoor gatherings provide opportunities to look through the telescopes to see constellations and other celestial events, and the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory has one of the three largest telescopes in Canada. Admission: $10 per person. www.ucalgary.ca/rao

Lougheed House
The former home of senator James Lougheed and his family is a public heritage centre that features permanent and temporary art and historic exhibits, and is a designated National and Provincial Historic Site. Explore this 1891 Victorian sandstone mansion on your own or with an interpreter for a guided tour. Relax in the Beaulieu Gardens, pick up an antique souvenir in the Lougheed House Museum Shop, or go for tea and a light meal in The Restaurant at Lougheed House. Admission: adult $8.50, senior/student $6.50, child (six-12) $5, children under six are free.  www.lougheedhouse.com

The Military Museum of Calgary
Uncover the triumphs, misfortunes and sacrifices of the Canadian Forces at the second largest military museum in Canada. Their eight museums and galleries include the Army, Naval, and Air Force Museums of Alberta. Walk through a World War I trench, enter the wheelhouse of a World War II ship model, and visit exhibits at The Founders’ Gallery. Their new exhibit The Maple Leaf and the Tulip: The Liberation of Holland in the Second World War opens in May, 2015. Admission: adult $10, senior $5, student and youth $4, children 7 and under free. www.themilitarymuseums.ca

City of Calgary Leisure Centres
Get active at The City of Calgary’s two leisure centres. Admission includes access to the wave pool and slides, fitness centre, gymnasiums, exercise and aquafit classes, as well as scheduled public skating and shinny hockey. The recreation areas also each have their own unique qualities—the 5.5 acre Village Square Leisure Centre, located in the northeast, boasts its own safari-themed waterpark, while the Southland Leisure Centre, located in the southwest, spans 227, 000 square feet and its pool features a rope swing. Admission: adult $11.95, child/youth (age 7-17) $6, preschooler (age 2-6) $3, under two free. www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Recreation/Pages/Leisure-centres/Home.aspx

Aerospace Museum of Calgary
Originally used as a drill hall for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in 1941, the space later turned into the first aviation museum in Calgary. Visit over 20 exhibits that commemorate Canadian flight history, from the first jet combat aircraft to the world’s first certified helicopter. Their ASMAC Movie Nights feature aerospace-themed films the second Thursday of each month from October to May. Admission: adult $10, senior (60+)/youth/students $7, child (age 6-11) $5, children 5 and under are free. www.asmac.ab.ca

Chinese Cultural Centre
The largest stand-alone cultural centre in Canada at 70, 000 square feet, its central dome, the Dr. Henry Fok Cultural Hall, contains four hand-decorated columns with genuine gold and a 70 foot high ceiling patterned after the Temple of Heaven complex in Beijing. Admire beautiful blue tiles imported from China and the 561 hand painted dragons and 40 phoenixes. The Chinese Artifacts Museum holds an award-winning exhibition hall: Our Chosen Land: 100 years of development of the Chinese community in Calgary. Read books about Chinese culture at the Orrin & Clara Christie Might Library, browse the Chinese arts and crafts store, and dine at the Chinese restaurant. Cultural Centre: free. Museum: adult $5, senior/student/child $3, children 5 and under are free. www.culturalcentre.ca

Art Classes
The community-based Grasby Art Studio, located in the Northwest, offers more than just art supplies—they also teach art classes and paint night events, as well as host several art shows a year. Their drop-in open studio offers instructed art classes from 10 am to 4 pm daily. Whether you’re a novice newbie or an advanced artist, choose your medium or genre and work closely with an art connoisseur. All students learn a five-step drawing strategy and the six fundamental principles for professional art production. $15/hour includes instruction and supplies. www.grasbyartstudio.com

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
This archaeological UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved buffalo jumps in the world. Learn the traditional ways of the Plains People, who relied on the buffalo hunt, at the interpretive centre. Watch drumming and dancing demonstrations every Wednesday in July and August and hike to the drive lanes with Blackfoot guides on the first Saturday of every month from May to October. While it’s not in Calgary, this historical site is well worth the drive. Admission: adult $11, senior $9, youth (seven-17) $5, children 6 and under are free. www.history.alberta.ca/headsmashedin

Fish Creek Provincial Park
One of the largest urban parks in North America, and the largest in Canada, Fish Creek features the Bow Valley Ranch Visitor Centre, Environmental Learning Centre, and a seasonal interpretive program and Sikome Aquatic Facility—the manmade beach and lake make for the perfect summer spot. Bird watch, fish, bike, and hike through trails in the riverine forest location. Afterwards, take a break to dine at the casual Annie’s Café, the upscale Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant, or pack your own meal and take advantage of the picnic tables and shelters complete with a fire ring and charcoal grill. Whether it’s winter or summer, Fish Creek’s beautiful scenic environment is free and enjoyable year-round. www.albertaparks.ca/fish-creek

Fort Calgary
The North West Mounted Police built this National Historic Site in 1875. Located on a 40 acre riverside park where the Bow and Elbow Rivers meet, Fort Calgary features exhibits, an interpretive centre, and recreations of the fort’s 1875 palisade and 1888 barracks. Learn stories about Calgary’s past, try on an authentic RCMP uniform, stand behind bars in the jail cell, treat yourself to vintage goodies at the Museum Shop, and visit their Community Garden. Admission: adult $12, senior/post-secondary students $11, youth (ages 7-17) $7, child (ages 3-6) $5, children 2 and under are free. www.fortcalgary.com

Dance Classes
Put on your dancing shoes and join Alberta Dancesport for a beginner dance class and party every Friday. Their professional instructors, many who have represented Canada at world championship dance events and starred on film and television, lead the one-hour class at 8:15 pm. Each week features a different dance, workshops range from salsa and the waltz to polka, two-step and the East Coast swing. Afterwards, dance to your heart’s content at their dance party, complete with a DJ until midnight. Tickets: $8 per person, no partner or registration required. Looking for something more advanced? Drop in to the first class of any session (expert level included) for free. www.albertadancesport.com

Butterfield Acres
Enjoy an authentic farm experience from April to October at Butterfield Acres, located on Rocky Ridge Road. Toddlers can play at the Nursery Rhyme Park, while children can enjoy public pony rides and tractor pulled wagon rides through woodlands and over hilltops. Pet and feed old farm friends and new baby arrivals at the Farm Corral, from chicks and bunnies to piglets and donkeys—you can even learn how to milk a goat! Admission: adult $13.99, senior $12.99, child $10.99. www.butterfieldacres.com

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