There are plenty of great reasons to visit Calgary for a vacation, but sometimes we find ourselves visiting a city for a conference and know very little about it. This summer Calgary is hosting many big conferences and meetings, from the Operational Excellence in Energy, Chemicals & Resources Summit and TECNOVATE in June, to the Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in July (to name just a few of the diverse meetings happening here). If that’s the case for you, and you’re arriving in Calgary with little knowledge of the city, let me first congratulate you: Being invited to a Calgary conference is a real stroke of luck.

Why? Calgary is a young, fun city with an incredible restaurant scene, surrounded by the majestic and easily accessible Rocky Mountains, and is filled with cool neighbourhoods and sprawling urban parks. It would be a crime if all you saw of the city was the inside of the conference venue, so here are five places you should be sure to escape to between sessions or when the work and schmoozing is done. (Heck, why not add on a few extra days here too, you’re going to love it here.)

For a night outRanchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall is the quintessential cowboy bar, complete with two-step classes and a mechanical bull. Come here for beers, or a steak, and watch excellent country bands playing to a full dance floor. If Ranchman’s looks familiar, you might recognize it from the movies Brokeback Mountain and Cool Runnings.

On a sunny day… Calgary really is a beautiful city, and exploring it by bike is a fabulous way to see it. Head up to Prince’s Island Park and make your way along the Bow River to get a unique view of the city. There’s an extensive network of bike paths and trails through the city, and plenty of places you can rent a bike too. If you want to get out on the river, you can rent an inflatable and drift your way down.

Get up in to the mountains… rent a car and drive up to beautiful Banff (it takes about 90 minutes), a charming mountain town with brew-pubs, art galleries, trails, dog-sledding and all manner of year-round mountain activities to enjoy. If you want to do something truly awesome, get up in a helicopter to see the mountains from above.

Go for an amazing meal (or several)… Whatever you like to eat, Calgary delivers. Head to the incredible Anju for modern Korean tapas, the innovative and seriously cool Model Milk, or a modern steakhouse such as Charcut Roast House. There are so many great restaurants in the city, plus an awesome food truck scene if you want to grab a bite and sit out in the sunshine to enjoy it.

Check out the Olympic site… If you remember back to the fantastic Calgary Winter Games of 1988 you’ll have no doubt seen this awesome park in action, and it offers a whole host of summer activities to enjoy. You can zip-line down the ski jump, go-cart down the luge track, bike the cross-country ski trails, go for a skate, and more.

If you’re heading to a Calgary conference this year, check out our luxurious, spacious, and comfortable Calgary suites in the heart of the city. We offer accommodations for one, or for groups, so contact us and see how we can make your Calgary stay amazing.