Calgary Stampede with Kids, IMG Cred: Sharlene Earnshaw

Tough Guys Hang on for Dear Life!


2012 is a big year for Calgary. The city’s annual Stampede will be celebrating its 100th year, bringing with it thousands of enthusiastic tourists eager to experience the world’s greatest rodeo.  My family headed to Calgary for the Stampede a few years ago and I was impressed by what a family friendly destination the event truly was.  Book cheap flights now to experience at least one of the 10 days (July 6-15, 2012) of “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” and then settle into explore the rest of the city for a few days.

Parking downtown can be a nightmare during the Stampede but, CTrain, the city’s light rail transportation, is easy to use and always a lot of fun for the little ones. Best of all, the CTrain let’s passengers off right at the entrance to the fairgrounds.  Once you have stepped inside the festival, it will be immediately clear that those who attend love getting in the cowboy spirit, donning cowboy hats, boots, and Wranglers.  There are several stands where you can buy cowboy hats for yourself and the kids (trust me, you will be overcome with the need to wear a cowboy hat) and plenty of places to slip your feet into a real pair of cowboy boots.

Once your family is properly attired, head on over to the grandstands to watch one biggest rodeos on the planet. The best cowboys in the world will try their hands at roping, barrel racing, saddle bronco,  and the main event, bull riding. Watching some of the toughest guys around hang on for dear life as they try to beat the clock and the rest of the competitors, is incredibly exciting.  If you ask me, the rodeo clowns are the true risk takers, distracting wild bulls with horns made for impaling while the cowboy makes a safe exit.

After the rodeo, take time to visit the Indian Village, one the Stampede’s most popular attractions.  Several teepees are set up and while First Nations people from the five nations of the Treaty 7 are living inside them during the Stampede, many are open for visitors to step inside and see what living conditions are like. The highlight of our time in the Indian Village was watching performers compete against one another in tribal dance demonstrations. My kids were entranced by the rhythmic drumming and vibrant colors of the elaborate costumes the dancers wore.  Don’t leave the village without trying bannock and jam, a traditional treat.

In many ways the Calgary Stampede reminds me of a state fair, be it a much cleaner and friendlier state fair. There are several different agricultural exhibitions, plenty of salesman hawking products you can’t live without inside of tents, and lots of great animals to encounter. The midway is popular with kids of all ages, brimming with rides and carnival games to throw your money at. Musical entertainment is a big part of the show. Last year big names like Sugarland, Katy Perry and Kenny Chesney played at the Stampede and while the official lineup hasn’t been released just yet, one can imagine that promoters will want to pull out all the stops for the big 100th anniversary celebration.


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photo: Sharlene Earnshaw

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