Calgary Stampede rookie looking for help

Apr 13th, 2012, 06:01 AM
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Calgary Stampede rookie looking for help

I am thinking about a trip to Southern Alberta (and possibly also NW Montana) this July.
In some older threads I read a few sceptical remarks about the Calgary Stampede.. too crowded, accomodation too expensive.. though I still see a good number of hotels/motels in and around Calgary within my budget (CAD 130-150 pN). And airfare from Europe is also still more or less on the normal high summer level.
My overall time budget would be 2 weeks, probably 3 weeks if I also included NW Montana).

My *strategy* is to travel thru the rest of Southern Alberta when the Stampede hasn't either started yet or is already over. As on another thread I read that the many visitors will also crowd the nearby sights and parks.

So, finally, the question:
If I wanted to stay in Calgary for the Stampede for 2-3 days, should it be the first days/weekend after my trip thru Alberta?
Or should I start in Calgary on the Stampede's last days/weekend and then start my little road trip?
Is there anything that would make one weekend *better* than the other?

Thanks a lot for any help or hints.
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Apr 13th, 2012, 09:43 PM
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Parade Day is always the first Friday of Stampede. This year it is on July 6, 2012. If you think you might like to see the floats, stagecoaches and wagons pulled by various breeds of horses from miniatures to Clydesdales, marching bands, First Nations dancers etc, then maybe you should plan for the first few days. There are always a number of celebrity sightings - last year it was Will and Kate.

There are free, early pancake breakfasts in many locations around the city, each of the 10 days, and also a few free BBQ's offering beef on a bun and Western entertainment. If you go to the pancake breakfast at Stampede Park on the Wed, you will gain free admission to the grounds - not quite sure about the time but I believe you have to be inside the park before 9 am. A person could always go to the breakfast, then return later in the day for rodeo or chuckwagon races. There are lots of interesting things to see - blacksmith competitions, mutton busting, art displays, and the barns are always open.

Some people love the midway - reduced tickets and wristbands for the rides at local grocery stores in the days prior to Parade Day. This is a BIG savings but you would have to arrive in town early.

If you want to see the Finals - rodeo, chuckwagon races, then plan to attend the events on the last weekends. IMO, the first days are lively and less $$. Try to get Infield rodeo, for a unique perspective of the competitors and stock. Because it is the 100th anniversary this year, lots of prime tickets are already gone but rush seats are usually available. Some of the more headline country bands are typically scheduled later in the week or on the final weekend.

I like the vibe of the city during Stampede.... either weekend will be as fun as you make it.
rivet is offline  
Apr 13th, 2012, 10:16 PM
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Thanks so much for your detailed infos!
Haven't read anywhere else yet about the pancake breakfasts.
I think that makes me lean towards the first weekend, as I probably don't want to see any specific events but just catch a bit of the vibe.. the parade sounds great.

And if I arrived 2wks before the Stampede, I should have 1-2 days in and around the city without the crowds to do regular sightseeing before I returned for the Stampede's first weekend and the departure after 1st weekend.

Thanks again for your thoughts. You helped me a lot.
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Apr 14th, 2012, 08:22 PM
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This year is the Stampede's Centennial, so there is lots of extra stuff planned for this year compared to previous. The official Stampede website lists many of them and has a planner which you may find useful:

The "Planner" on the website is a PDF version of a booklet that details each days' events at the grounds. It currently has the 2011 one still posted but will be updated with the 2012 when it's complete (likely near the end of May).

Personally, when I go to the Stampede, I like to view events like the sheep shearing contests, blacksmith contests, view the agriculture barns etc. which is what the Stampede is really about IMO (versus doing the midway rides and other regular carnival type of stuff).

There's also usually pretty good free music at the Coca-Cola stage througout the day (it's free with admission to the grounds). Check out who's performing on the days you attend once it's posted on the website.

Pancake breakfasts are held all over the city every day during the Stampede, big and small. Some are private/corporate affairs, but most are open to the public. Most of the shopping malls host one breakfast during the week and they're the largest often with live music. There may be schedules posted on the above site closer to the Stampede, but if not, the local papers will have them listed.
ShelliDawn is offline  
Apr 15th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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Cowboy is coming to Canada???

Well, well, well.

HOWDY, eh?

Let's solidify your intention a little bit. I can't watch this stuff without tearing up. Born and raised, left for school, now trapped in Toronto, and literally aching to return;
Aramis is offline  
Apr 15th, 2012, 10:22 AM
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Cowboy is coming to Canada???

Well, well, well.

HOWDY, eh?

Let's solidify your intention a little bit. I can't watch this stuff without tearing up. Born and raised, left for school, now trapped in Toronto, and literally aching to return;

The Stampede "Vibe"

The "Coup de Grace";

Geneissen Sie mein Freund

Hit the button too early on the first try. (I mean it - I'm crying right now)
Aramis is offline  
Apr 15th, 2012, 12:47 PM
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Shelli -- thanks a lot for sharing your tips, especially on those free music events. That pdf Planner kinda escaped me even though I had spent some time on that site. Definetely a lot of things going on this year!

Yeeeehaaww-- you sure did a fine job to solidify my intention!
Loved all the YT videos you posted!
I must admit that I had stumbled over that last "coup de grace" video on visitalberta's website last week. Hats off to that stunning production!
Guess the only challenge now is to spend the next 10 weeks on a diet and at the gym so my 31W 13MWZ will fit again like they should! I don't wanna end up as the barrel in a barrel racing contest ;-)

Thanks again.. and Cowboy Up! -- even in Toronto, which ain't the worst place on this planet to be trapped in if you asked me, pardner
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Apr 15th, 2012, 01:41 PM
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Oh there's worse, I know that.

But when you look at what I left behind....... foolish, foolish, foolish.

We get too soon old and too late smart - I actually think that might be a translation of a German idiom; my grandparents used to say it and my aunt had a plaque.

Okay, so fill me in. Where are you from? Native English speaker, loves the cowboy, living in Munich. Could it be......Texas?
Aramis is offline  
Apr 15th, 2012, 02:41 PM
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Grin.. I take that as a compliment.. not sure if the Texans would, though
Actually I grew up a bit more East.. 8,000 kms East of Dallas to be precise, in a small town in Northern Germany.
Lots of cows for sure, but little prairie.
I've spent some time in Colorado and Arizona, a bit more than just a vacation. But only a few months altogether. Most of my (adult) life I had to hang my hat in Berlin.
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Apr 15th, 2012, 03:42 PM
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You must have been an excellent English student.

Getting back to your original questions - school vacation begins at the end of June, so you are likely to find things a little less crowded if you travel around in late June, and end up in Calgary for the July 5-7th, or thereabouts. Visiting Calgary earlier and getting the lay of the land before returning to do things you have "staked out" during the Stampede makes good sense. There will be lots of information you can gather about what to do, when, on your first visit so that the Stampede portion goes smoothly.

You don't need to see the rodeo or chuckwagon races (called the Rangeland Derby) "finals" to get a good taste of the Stampede, events are held daily in the afternoon (rodeo) and nightly (chuckwagon races). You really should see each of them. The chuckwagon races are surprisingly exciting. No matter where you end up sitting, see if you can get down standing near the rail when a couple of them go off (8 heats per night). I'm not sure if it is possible to get down there anymore, but try it. The start is a stunning thing to see up close.

Are you interested in going to Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, Columbia Glacier, etc.? There are a few places off the Icefield Parkway worth stopping at; Takkakaw Falls, Moraine Lake (neither on the video). The lake with the fly fishing is called Maligne Lake, and it is near Jasper.

The horses and hoodoos you see in the video are located SE of Calgary in and around Drumheller which has a superb paleontological museum - The Tyrell.

Waterton Lakes - your probable SW Alberta/NW Montana destination is beautiful country and a little more serene that the Banff -Jasper. Of course, as I always say on the Europe board, these places only become popular for a reason.

If you want more tips on Hotels and sights fire away. The mountains haven;t moved, and I still do get back to Cowtown now and then.

You probably know that a large part of central Texas was settled by Germans; Gruene, Boerne, Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, etc.. It ain't Franken, but tehy do upo pork real nice. That's why I guessed at a possible connection.
Aramis is offline  
Apr 16th, 2012, 08:02 AM
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Thanks for your remark re. school holidays.
I rarely travel in high season, so I usually don't think about this.
Anyway.. when I checked airfares today an earlier departure on June 20 got me a rock-bottom airfare of €450 rt to Calgary.

So now I have three solid weeks until July 10 to play around with. 17-18 days if you deduct those reserved for the Stampede.

Back to the itinerary:
I must admit that I haven't done any real homework yet, besides a bit on the Stampede (well, actually you guys did it).
As my flight back now leaves a bit later than planned, I might stay Sun-Tue for the Stampede and miss the parade, but nothing in set in stone yet.

I think I will use the next days to think of any potential loop routes, incl. most or parts of the Icefields Parkway.
From there going west into BC.
Probably not all way to Vancouver... I'd guess that the city and region are worth more attention than just a 2-3 day stopover...
Then back east along the border. A bit of Northern MT.
Until finally back to AB and Calgary, up north along the Cowboy Trail -- with a possible detour to the Tyrell Museum (which looks great!).
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Apr 16th, 2012, 03:54 PM
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You have a lot of ground to cover. Here is a link to really rough map that takes you from Calgary to Jasper, back down through BC, through Yoho Prov Park (Takakkaw Falls), down through Kananaskis country to the Cowboy Highway, into Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Parks, back up to Drumheller and back to Calgary.

2500km - 34 hours driving.

Roughly the equivalent of Munich -> Berlin -> Warsaw -> Krakow -> Graz -> Munich.

Too big?
Aramis is offline  
Apr 17th, 2012, 06:07 AM
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I'd probably not want to drive 2500kms thru Europe.. but I do love road trips (or a mix of road trip plus 3-4 bases) in North America.
Thanks for making that map. That figure of 8 covers pretty much of what I have in mind.

Thanks to you mentioning Drumheller I discovered many things I want to see and do in that area.
So I probably make that town my base for my first 2 nights. Visit Tyrell museum & historic coal mine, do some hiking in the Badlands/ along the Hoodoo trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park.. mix sightseeing with being outdoors.. so I get off the jetlag fast.

From that base, I'll probably (nothing set in stone) head South and do that loop thru Northern/SW Montana.
I did not say before because it makes no real sense when you look at the rest of my agenda, but I almost definetely want to drive all way down to Butte. There is no better reason than that its old downtown neighborhood has served as a backdrop for one of my favorite movies and stay in the historic hotel. Yeah, cheesy and impractical - but I promise I won't whine about the extra 500kms from the border.
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Apr 17th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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All the way to Butte, eh? I like your reason.

You might want to consider coming back north through Idaho - US 90 to Missoula, then Interstate 93 up through Kalispell, the Interstate 2 east all with the intention of driving "Going to the Sun" road through Glacier Nat'l Park. I have not driven it myself but I have heard great things.

You could then swing out to the Cowboy Trail and head north until you hit Kananaskis country, then head up that way.

Heading to Butte is adding some distance, you could think about cutting out the BC loop portion from my map (no real "spectacular" draws on it) and just head up and back on the Icefields Parkway after finishing with Kananaskis but branching off into Yoho Nat'l Park to see Takakkaw Falls.

You are going to visit the most magnificently named place on the earth aren't you?

"Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump"

It gives me goosebumps when I go and just imagine what happened there for centuries. Man, nature and geography all coming together like that on a massive scale.
Aramis is offline  
Jul 17th, 2012, 01:53 PM
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Welcome back Pardner. How was it?
Aramis is offline  
Jul 18th, 2012, 04:58 AM
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Howdy again..

Well, the trip was (almost) too good to put it in words.

As one major rain front was hovering over the Western US states and BC, I changed my itinerary "slightly" and simply followed the Rocky Mountains from Alberta to the Colorado/ New Mexico stateline. And back. Just a bit more than 7,500 kms.
Temperatures ranging from cool 6-8C in Glacier to 42C in Denver.
I drove my car as "low" as on 900 metres altitude in BC, and "high" as 4,310 meters or 14,130 feet up on Mount Evans.

I had no real itinerary... I drove as much as I wanted, stopped or did not stop, and usually did not make up my mind where to go except for the very next day/night.

In a nutshell:

I went south from Calgary (stops at Bar U Ranch on the Cowboy Trail, excellent, and, of course: Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump!) to Fort MacLeod.
Across the border to the Eastern edge of Glacier, Going-to-the-sun-road to Kalispell. South to Missoula (National Bison Range, pretty nice heard and also couple antelopes hopping around), Butte (Mining, Historic Uptown, Elkhorn ghost town nearby).
Then a bit more driving than sightseeing till I got to Buffalo, WY. Stopped at Little Big Horn, by "accident" on that day of the annual celebrations".
Further south on I-25 via Cheyenne to Denver.

I had lived in the city for a while ages ago, so it was fun to stay there for couple days to revisit the old and see the new. Also used it as a base for more trips into the Rockies, esp. across the old gravel pass roads (and more ghost towns) around South Park/ Leadville/ Breckenridge. Unfortunately, this was the time when the wildfires raged around Colo Springs, Boulder, and further inland. So many locals had better things to do than to enjoy the hot and dry summer weather while the flames got nearer to their homes.

Further South to visit an old friend who lives near the NM stateline for 2 days, which also was the turning point to go North again.
Thru Central/Western Colorado, cutting thru the NE bit of Utah into Idaho. After hundred miles of potatoes I was pretty happy to get back into Montana. Bannack State Park/Ghost town near Dillon, and then to Helena.

From Northern Montana back into Canada.
Waterton. So different than Glacier that it was hard to believe. Pretty busy on a sunny Saturday, but it would have been foolish to expect otherwise. Fortunately, the bear was also there in time for a picture (from inside my car, not getting out).
From Waterton via Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Hwy (and that massive landslide/ mining accident at Frank) to Cranbrook (Railway/ Train Museum).
And north along the Kootenay and Columbia River to Radium Hot Springs. Big Horn sheep grazing in town on the lawns near to the sidewalks.
Next day thru Kootenay NP (more bear), Banff NP (Moraine Lake, and yes, it is picture perfect), until I finally got back to Calgary.

As expected, after 19 days on the road, the Stampede was the icing on the cake, but almost "too much".
Except for Denver, I had spent my time only in small towns, lonesome 2-lane highways or empty interstates, so getting back on busy freeways and wide city streets and among highrise buildings was almost a shock.

So I saw bears, bisons, lotsa deer, some antelopes, bighorn sheep, prairie dog towns, greedy squirrels and chipmunks, no snakes (thanks heavens).., and drove a heard of Black Angus, resting on the asphalt of the Peace Hwy between Glacier and Waterton, back into the prairie (as my trusted Paint was just not available I had to use my SUV).

I met tons of the friendliest people along the road.
And gathered almost more impressions of that beautiful part of the world than one can handle.

So,.. thanks again for your advice. And as you could read, I think I did almost all if not all you recommended for AB and eastern BC and northern MT.

Next summer: Due North.. From Calgary to Whitehorse and back.
And in 2014: From Whitehorse to Alaska.. to a place where I can see Russia ;-)
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Jul 18th, 2012, 02:57 PM
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Holy Cow! You should change your nickname to Road Warrior or something. When you say you enjoy driving, you mean it. Glad you had a good time. I guess the Tyrell and the Badlands will be up next year?
Aramis is offline  
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