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Free Things to Do in Calgary

20 Best Free Things to Do in Calgary

A person taking a selfie with the Calgary skyline in the background 

Calgary may sound like it’s expensive to enjoy (not gonna lie – it can be), but people are definitely missing out on a lot of stuff if they think everything good here will empty their wallets. 

The truth is, a lot of activities that locals love to do are actually free. Unfortunately, my German friend who just spent a thousand dollars on tours here didn’t know that when he visited!

Luckily for you, I won’t let you make the same mistake. Whether you’re like me and love having fun without spending a lot or are just looking to save some cash for other adventures, these activities have you covered!

Sightsee plants at the Devonian Gardens

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Address: The CORE Shopping Centre, 317 7 Ave SW 4 floor, Calgary, AB T2P 0W4, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-268-2489

Operating hours: Monday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM | Sunday: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Surely, the last place you might expect to find a massive indoor garden is at a mall. And yet, that’s precisely where you’ll find this urban oasis. 

Located on the top floor of the downtown CORE shopping center, the Devonian Gardens offer one hectare of botanical gardens. The place is available for rental and booking, but it’s totally free for mall-goers to admire.

With over 500 trees, 50 types of plants, and a lush 900-square-foot living wall, it’s a sight to behold. Take a stroll, bring your book, or have lunch surrounded by greenery. 

You might even catch a music show or have a chat with an eco-friendly expert – all without any fees!

Ice skate at Olympic Plaza

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Address: 228 8 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2P 2M5, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-268-2489

Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Here’s a Calgarian secret: one of our favorite places to gather in Calgary is Olympic Plaza, which is famously known for being built for the 1988 Winter Olympic medal presentations. During the winter months, the plaza transforms into a free public skating rink.

You can hit the ice here as long as you want and as often as you like (as long as it’s cold enough for the ice to stay frozen!). The plaza is open every day 24/7, so there’s plenty of time to kill here.

To avoid spending money, bring your own equipment and food. However, if you don’t have your own equipment, rentals available next to the rink are relatively inexpensive.

Birdwatch at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

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Address: 2425 9 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 4T4, Canada

Operating hours: Monday – Sunday: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Into birdwatching? How about doing it smack dab in the city at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary? 

It’s the place to be here in Calgary as it has been providing migratory birds with a place to rest their wings since 1929.

I remember bringing a good friend here who adores birds, and we snapped tons of pics because every time you look, there’s a new bird to spot!

It’s not surprising, considering that to date, 270 species of birds, along with 21 species of mammals and 347 species of plants, have been recorded at the sanctuary. 

Trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset, and it’s free to enter. After birdwatching, grab a spot at one of the picnic tables outside and dig into your snacks.

Check out the city’s police museum


Address: 5111 47 St NE, Calgary, AB T3J 3R2, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-428-4530

Operating hours: Friday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Obsessed with police procedural shows? Become a forensics expert at the YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre and experience the whole thing yourself.

This museum dives into the history of the Calgary Police Services, boasting over 100 years of policing stories. It’s also Alberta’s largest collection of police artifacts, so there’s a lot to discover here.

Additionally, the museum features exhibits on true crime and an interactive forensics lab. But that’s another story if you’re willing to spend a bit of cash.

Just a heads up: while it’s technically free to enter the museum, they operate on a donation basis. So, consider giving a donation to support their work – I highly encourage it!

Catch a view of Calgary’s skyline from Scotsman’s Hill

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Address: Calgary, AB T2G 2Y3, Canada

Operating hours: Open 24 hours

We can’t think of a more free thing to do than admiring Calgary’s skyline. And we know Scotsman’s Hill is just the perfect spot to do that.

It’s a grassy area in the Ramsay community with comfy benches that are perfect for casual sitting.

From there, you can enjoy amazing views of the skyscrapers and landmarks in Calgary. I’m talking about the Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary Tower, skyscrapers, and Bow River – all from a different angle. 

On top of that, you can also explore the trails that start on the hill. 

Pro-tip, by the way: the best time to visit is during sunrise or sunset when you can capture amazing photos of the Calgary skyline.

Swim or skate at Bowness Park

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Address: 8900 48 Ave NW, Calgary, AB T3B 2B2, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-268-2489

Operating hours: Monday – Sunday: 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Many would agree that Bowness Park is the ultimate hangout spot in the city. And what makes it even more beloved by locals is that it won’t cost you a dime! 

During the summer, you can hop on a paddleboat and cruise around the shallow lagoon. And when winter comes, the lagoon freezes over, turning into a giant skating rink. 

But that’s not all – there are also playgrounds to explore and plenty of picnic spots complete with BBQ pits. There’s even a mini train that’s great for the kids (and let’s be real, for adults too),

Plus, you can chill by the Bow River and take in the beautiful view. Free? More like priceless!

Hang out at the library

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Address: 800 3 St SE, Calgary, AB T2G 2E7, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-260-2600

Operating hours: Monday – Thursday: 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM | Friday: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM | Saturday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM | Sunday: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Let’s talk about why you should chill at Calgary’s Central Library. First off, you can simply enjoy its awesome design. Plus, there are loads of books to check out, and you don’t have to pay to browse. 

You can do your usual thing here – grab a cozy spot, flip through magazines, or get lost in a good read. On top of that, the library often has free programs and events, so you might even get lucky when you drop by. 

And if that’s not enough, you can also take a free hour-long tour of the library, which is available every day. Grab your bookish friends like I did and you’re in for a treat!

Hop on the CTrain

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Operating hours: Monday – Sunday: 5:00 AM – 2:00 AM

Kids who love trains (and parents with tired toddlers) will have a blast riding Calgary’s light rail transit service. It’s super convenient too as it’s just a quick two-minute walk from HI Calgary. 

While there’s a cost for the ride, here’s the sweet part: if your stop happens to be along 7 Avenue between City Hall and West/Kerby Stations, it’s completely free! 

That means you can easily reach awesome spots like the Central Library, Olympic Plaza, the Calgary Tower, and more, without spending a penny.

Dig into a free pancake breakfast at the Stampede

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Who doesn’t love pancakes, especially when they’re free? Actually, you can find them all over the city during the Calgary Stampede!

This legendary event spans 10 days every July, and if you’re in town during Stampede time and eager to soak up the festivities, why not kickstart your day with a hearty breakfast? 

Now while the pancakes are on the house, keep in mind that everything else at the Stampede will cost you, including admission. But hey, if you can find a friend willing to cover that fee, the pancakes will cost nothing!

Enjoy some fantastic theater

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Address: 698 Eau Claire Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 5N4, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-268-2489

Operating hours: Monday – Sunday: 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Nothing beats enjoying the outdoors in the summer. In Calgary, you can kick it up a notch by checking out Shakespeare by the Bow. It’s an event put on by theater grads every summer that you can enjoy for free.

They do it at Prince’s Island Park, right by the Bow River. You can just relax, watch the show, and if you feel like it, throw a couple of bucks in the donation box to support these up-and-coming artists. 

Quick tip: don’t forget to bring a blanket and some snacks for the ultimate theater-under-the-stars experience!

Join Float the Bow

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Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Floating the Bow is this awesome tradition in Calgary where anyone can join in, whether you’re a local or just passing through. 

Here’s how it goes: Every summer, people grab dinghies, rafts, or kayaks and peacefully float down the Bow River. It’s totally free to join Float the Bow since it’s more like a must-do thing here rather than some organized activity. 

Just a heads up, though: you might need to rent equipment if you don’t have your own, including a life jacket which is required!

Explore the +15 Skywalk

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Address: 8 St SW, Calgary, AB, Canada

Operating hours: Monday – Friday: 6:00 AM – 9:00 PM | Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Cities all around the world have their own ways of getting around –  from subways to bike lanes. And in Calgary, we have the +15 Skywalk. 

And as a Calgarian, let met tell you: we love showing off our +15 Skywalk!

If you haven’t been here yet, the +15 sits a bit above street level, letting you see the city from a different angle and explore without stepping outside. 

Trust me, it’s a lifesaver on those snowy winter days when you’re itching to explore. Plus, it’s filled with cool shops, cafes, and eateries.

There’s no admission fee to stroll through this elevated walkway network, but be ready to spend if you decide to grab a bite.

Do yoga in the park


Address: Calgary, AB T2Z 0T5, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-408-6576

Outdoor Yoga Calgary offers free yoga classes every Sunday at 1:00 PM in Stanley Park from May to October. The instructor gives plenty of options for all body types and abilities, so everyone can join in. 

If you ask me, summer in Calgary arrives as quickly as it disappears, so I always make sure to make the most of my time outdoors. And practicing yoga outdoors? That’s the way to go!

Climb the Memorial stairs

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Address: Memorial Drive NW Calgary, AB

Operating hours: Open 24 hours

For a real challenge, join locals on the Memorial Drive stair climb. There are 167 steps divided into 11 flights, making for a great workout whether you walk or run up and down the stairs.

Not challenging enough for you? Maybe try the “10 Laps Stair” challenge, starting at the bottom and finishing at the top. Do it in under 17 minutes, and you’re practically an Olympic athlete. 

Supposedly, 28 to 35 minutes is average, but if you can’t finish the entire thing, you’re still in decent company – a lot of us locals can’t finish it.

Stroll the Bow River Promenade

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Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Here’s a little insider tip: the ultimate Calgary experience involves taking a leisurely stroll along the 3 km path from the 14th Street Bridge to Fort Calgary. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the majestic Bow River and discover the charming attractions that call Calgary home.

There’s the Nat Christie Sculpture Park and The Wave (for river surfing). At the 10th Street Bridge, you’ll find the iconic Peace Bridge by Santiago Calatrava, Barclay Plaza with its wading pool, and the Jaipur Bridge leading to Prince’s Island. 

You can also catch a glimpse of the beautiful Chinatown Cultural Centre and Sien Lok Park. Keep walking, and you’ll arrive at your final destination: Fort Calgary, where the Elbow River flows into the Bow River. 

Celebrate Canada Day on 17th Avenue

Address: 17th Avenue SW, Calgary

Sure, the whole country celebrates Canada Day, but the party on 17th Avenue is something else! 

Here, the summer fun doesn’t stop just because it’s Canada Day. Head over and enjoy a day filled with live music, performances, and loads of other activities free for everyone. 

And as a bonus, you’ll find plenty of great food and drink options along 17th Ave to keep the festivities going all day long. Isn’t it the perfect excuse to splurge just a bit?

Visit the Glenbow Museum


Address: 130 9 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0P3, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-268-4100

If you’re into Western Canadian art and culture, then a visit to the Glenbow Museum should be on your Calgary to-do list. It’s pocket-friendly, especially on the first Thursday of every month from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM when admission is free for everyone.

As one of the biggest museums in Western Canada, there’s a ton to see here—over a million objects, documents, photos, and artworks. 

What’s even better is that the Glenbow Museum offers more than just amazing art. Its exhibits also showcase the history of Calgary and Alberta. 

You’ll discover fascinating displays of the traditions, values, and history of the Indigenous people who have inhabited the Northwestern plains of Alberta for thousands of years.

Take a guided walking tour of the city


Address: 352133 229 Ave W, Bragg Creek, AB T0L 0K0, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-835-6149

Operating hours: Open 24 hours

One of the best ways to explore any city is by taking a walk with a local, and in Calgary, that means joining Walk the YYC. 

It’s Calgary’s only pay-what-you-want walking tour company. This means the tours are technically free, but you can choose to tip your guide according to your budget. 

The tours they offer are family-friendly and pet-friendly, and what’s even better is that they cover a variety of themes: Downtown North and South tours, Historic Stephen Avenue, Sports History, and more. 

What I love about them is that the tours run rain, shine, or snow – the weather doesn’t stop them! The daily guided walking tours typically last anywhere from two to three hours, depending on the group.

Explore Nose Hill Park on foot or bike

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Address: 6465 14 St NW, Calgary, AB T3K 2P6, Canada

Contact details: +1 403-268-2489

Operating hours: Monday – Sunday: 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Check out Nose Hill Park, one of North America’s biggest urban parks at 11 square kilometers. Fun fact: Nose Hill Park is three times the size of New York City’s Central Park!

Anyway, it offers breathtaking views of the downtown area and the Rocky Mountains, making it the perfect spot for an inner-city hike or bike ride. And trust me, you won’t want to miss it! 

This natural grassland is not only home to deer, coyotes, and other wildlife, but it also houses The Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel, an ancient First Nations artifact. Needless to say, there’s plenty to explore here.

Find street art

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And last but not the least, one of the most beautiful free things to do in Calgary is to hunt for street art. Keep in mind that street art here can range from small painted benches to larger murals, sculptures, or installations, so you’re sure to find something that speaks to you.

Where exactly can you find such treasures in the city? Downtown Calgary is a prime spot to explore a variety of art installations. You can also do it along Stephen Avenue or in Prince’s Island Park. 

P.S.: Don’t forget to snap that Instagram-worthy shot when you stumble upon one to showcase Calgary’s vibrant street art scene!

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