My oldest son and I recently took a trip to Calgary to welcome a brand new family member. We had an absolute blast and were able to enjoy lots of incredible things in the Calgary and surrounding area that I would highly recommend if you are headed that way any time soon and have some adventurous kids with you!
First up we went to Telus SPARK Science Centre. It was AMAZING!
They have a children's area which is ideal for kids under 8 when you first walk in. There is a climbing gym/pirate ship type area when you first get in, a neat water piano where when you play each key it sends bubbles flying up these tubes, and a guitar/drum mechanical station that plays music, a car racing ramp and the biggest, coolest water table ever with fountains and toys and tubes and boats. There are also some crawling soft block areas for the little ones, a reading corner and craft area as well as a stage and lighting area where they can have their own little dance party.
We could have honestly spent the whole day just in this area. I went with my 5 year old and he loved it and i know my 2.5 year old would have too if he had made the trip with us,
Water table awesomeness @ SPARK
Following that exhibit we went through their innovation and technology and the wind and weather exhibits as well as the upstairs human body and mechanics exhibits. All fun and perfect for kids that have an interest in those areas and a never-ending thirst for knowledge and adventure....which is my 5 year old to a T.
Besides the Children's area, our favourite part was their outdoor section of the centre which had a maze, climbing area on logs, a giant rock that you can spin, some swings and spinners and the coolest part of all which is a GIANT slide that you have to climb up this 5 level rope climber to get too. My 5 year old was scared the first time but really wanted to go so I had to climb in and help him....which I am super adventurous...but also scared of heights so my legs were a bit shakey for awhile after, just a bit nervous up there. But the second time he was good to go on his own and conquered the tower all by himself! And that's how we ended our visit and it was worth the climb, the slide is pretty slow but still a cool experience.
Travel Tip - We stopped in for lunch at their cafe, it was pricey but they had some unique and healthy options on their menu both hot and cold lunches as well as kids food. Worth checking out if you are there, but its always a good idea to pack a lunch and snacks from home too as we found the entrance for two adults and one 5 year old pretty expensive. But in the end it was a fun day for all and I would save about 3-4 hours to go through everything if you have a little one that likes you to read about pretty much all of the exhibits and try everything out. And you could do the zoo on the same day as they are basically right next to each other. Parking at SPARK was $5.00 for 24 hours. I think there may be some free parking areas farther away, which we only discovered when we left, check out their website or call ahead if parking is a concern, especially if you plan to do the zoo the same day as well so you dont end up paying twice.
Our original plan was to head to the Calgary Zoo, but the sky was looking like a storm was rolling in so we opted to go on a downtown Calgary drive through tour and check out the tower and drive by the Stampede.
We lucked out and it was not super busy downtown, so we enjoyed checking out the sites and the traffic lights were perfect so we cruised through no problem, and as we finished the day was sunny again so we decided to check out Olympic Park! BEST. DECISION.EVER!
I am a total Olympic fanatic, so we were stopping there no matter what, and I have been there before, but each time we were passing through Calgary to Banff or beyond and it was always closed when we rolled in, so I was pumped to go there with my son!
Travel Tip: Now, getting there was a bit tricky as they totally removed the highway exit to the park and now its this confusing turnoff maze that is still being built and our Google Maps had us going in all kinds of crazy circles before we could actually get in the Olympic Park, so if you plan to go this summer, check out the website and do some planning ahead of time to get there safely with the construction and confusion.
So what can you do at the park? SO MUCH!!! They have mountain biking trails, you can go ziplining or bobsledding (all for about $80ish each) and a giant 810 foot blow up waterslide down the big hill by the bobsled track (but it has height restrictions, my guy is average height and was about 2 inches too small, so probably age 6 and up). But what we were able to do was the LUGE rides down the side of the hill, which my son could do as he was tall enough to go on his own, so we all took a our own rides down the hill 3 times each. You take the ski lift up, which in itself was awesome, but then to go racing down the hill was incredible! And it was a long ride, like 10 minutes or so all the way down as the track is long and windy and super cool.
Travel Tip: if you have little guys they can ride with you, my guy went twice on his own but its hard work on the arms so the third time he ended up coming with me because his little arms couldn't pull back on the brakes anymore. They were great with safety there. i was worried sending my son down the side of the hill at top speed in these LUGE cart things but they make you test out your brakes at the top and they watch you and help you, then you take off and about 150 meters down they have a checkpoint where you have to maneuver some roadblocks and they have a staff there to ensure you can brake and pass the test before they let you go down. So I felt safe with him, I trusted him but to be honest there were still lots of idiots that would race by super fast and cut you off and nearly crash in front of you or ride down in packs where all of a sudden my son would be surrounded by a pack of people racing so fast and not caring who is around them. they do have staff that come down occasionally to check on people and prevent those idiots, but they cant be everywhere at once.
All in all in was awesome but if you have a kid that is a bit small or nervous then just go slow and go down behind them so you can help them out. Going together is also an option but it makes you go down super fast and its hard to brake with two people on there. It was lots of fun though and we will go back for sure. I appreciated their safety checks and that you save more by riding more, so we got 3 rides each and basically it was buy two rides each and get one free.
Our next adventure was supposed to be a day trip out to Banff and Lake Louise but due to the forest fires and part of Banff being closed as well as the poor air quality which was high risk in Calgary we decided to do a day trip to Fernie instead as they had clear air and no warnings. I had been once in high school, but it had been awhile so i was disappointed we couldn't take my son back to wear my parents took us hiking in Banff when I was 5 years old but still excited to be taking him to see the mountains which he was most excited about for the whole trip. Fernie was beautiful, we made some stops along the way at some walking paths and a beautiful water fall, my brother in law has been down that way many times and knew the perfect stops to make.
Lundbreck Falls....Behind a giant windmill right near the highway on the way to Fernie, so stop when you see that!
We ended up staying the night at the Stanford Hotel, which has the river to its back and the mountains to the front. And it has an awesome Tandoor Indian food restaurant and a waterslide! It was reasonably priced and pets were allowed. The river behind is a starting point to take one of the white water rafting adventures that you can book right in the hotel or where you can end your tubing/floating adventure or go fishing from, so it was a great location. We ended up going on a couple hikes nearby and then headed up to the Fernie Alpine resort to tour round and check out the shops. They had reasonably priced clothing in there for kids so my guy walked away with a cool Star Wars forest themed glow in the dark bunny hug.
Travel Tip: We also checked out the shopping strip in downtown Fernie and wow, its not to be missed if you want to look at awesome outdoor shops or adorable ladies and kids boutiques and have a drink at a beautiful outdoor patio. It was about 3 blocks long on both sides and probably 25-30 awesome little shops that we unfortunately had to window shop as we missed their open times (they close at 5:30), but were so cool to peak inside at. You can rent bikes down there or go on a tandem bike ride with a covered carriage and tour downtown. it's not as busy as Banff and Canmore etc. but its a cute little resort town that isnt super busy, yet has lots to do, so its worth checking out if you want that mountain/adventure/shopping experience and don't want the big tourist crowds that the other places have.
And then we went to Granary Park Road! If you have kids that love science and agriculture and active learning who can spend the whole day playing at parks, then this park is for you! We spent 6 hours there and can't wait to go back. It's just a short drive outside of Calgary but so worth it! We will go back and they plan on expanding the park with even more learning pods and exhibits!
The farmers market wasn't open and a few learning signs weren't up yet but they should be up and open by mid August so it's a great time to check this park out! That's all for our Calgary adventures this time around next time we will make it back to Banff and the zoo!