Calgary is a vibrant city located in Alberta in the west of Canada. Its skyline is undeniably iconic, with its cosmopolitan shapes and the instantly recognizable Calgary tower. But it is also abundant with greenery, with no shortage of beautiful parks. This Canadian city, steeped in First Nation and Western cowboy history, has much to offer.
But with bustling cities often comes high costs, especially if you’re planning a day out or a city break. However if you’re on a budget, or you’re simply looking to save money, here are some ways you can reduce costs, or even plan a cheap day out that costs little to nothing at all!
There is no reason that a visit to this stunning Canadian city should cost a fortune – all you need to do is look, and you’ll see that there’s no shortage of cheap and free things to do in Calgary. We introduce you to the best of those right here!
- Cheap Travel In Calgary
- Cheap Things To Do In Calgary
- Free Things To Do In Calgary
- Budget Tips for More Expensive Attractions
Cheap Travel In Calgary: Budget Tips
There are plenty of ways to get around Calgary without breaking the bank.
1. Get A Transit Day Pass
One of the cheapest and high-value ways to get around Calgary is to get a transit day pass, which allows you to catch any bus or train for a whole day.
If you are over 18 it should cost you around $11 for a day, and if you are bringing along family or friends aged 6-17, it should only cost around $8 each. You can claim that pass too if you are a student.
And here is the best part: if you have children 5 or under, it’s free!
There are also options for seniors and those on a low income.
2. Rent A Bike To See The City For Cheap
Do you fancy a little more freedom to explore Calgary? Travelling alone? Hiring a bike might be the best option for you – and it definitely is if you’re planning a visit that lasts more than one day.
There are many bike rentals to choose from, and some offer electric bikes – which are much quicker and easier to ride! – for as little as $80 for 3 days. That’ll give you enough time to check out all the free and cheap spots in Calgary, whilst being able to breathe in the fresh Canadian air and sightsee along the way.
But if you don’t want a flashy electric bike, standard bikes are even cheaper to rent. There’s a great selection of independent and friendly rental shops to choose from in Calgary.
Cheap Things To Do In Calgary: Good Times Without A Huge Price Tag
Now your travel is sorted, it’s time to start planning what you will do – and thankfully there are lots of cheap things to do in Calgary.
Here’s the best, some of which are also free depending on what day it is or who you are:
1. Visit The Military Museums
An impressive complex with sprawling displays of history: There’s no doubt that visiting this impressive museum will be a hit with families and lone travelers alike.
And you don’t need to fork out for it. For a whole family, admission is $30.
However admission is actually free if you have a child under 7; if you’re a senior visiting on a Tuesday (any other day is $5) or if you’re associated with the military in any way.
If you’re a student or a young person, it’s $5. And to top it off, parking is free!
2. Take In History At Fort Calgary
Cheap things to do in Calgary are not hard to find, and another is Fort Calgary. This is the perfect educational site and it’s nestled in a beautiful location of flowing rivers and lush trees.
General admission is $10, but if you are 17 and under, or an indigenous person, it’s free to enter. It might not be the best for large families if you’re looking for a cheap trip, but if you’re a small group, it works out as quite affordable.
Getting there by walking or biking is the best way, as you can incorporate a lovely walk along the RiverWalk into your day out. But if you must drive, parking is free.
3. Tuck Into Tasty Ice Cream At Canelo’s
While it can be hard to find cheap things to eat in Calgary, there are some hidden gems. And there’s nothing better than topping off a trip with a sweet treat. Canelo’s Ice Cream shop have just that, as well as some sweet prices!
Kids can have a serving for just $1.99, and a single scoop of homemade Mexican-inspired ice cream for an adult is just $3.99. And the cherry on top: children 2 and under eat free.
There is a wide selection of flavors from vanilla to peanut butter – and even ice-cream tacos – so be sure to check it out.
4. Walk In The Steps Of Giants At Dinosaur Provincial Park
There is nothing quite as epic as the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta (which is a 2 hour drive east from Calgary), with its wavy rock formations, and its prehistoric echoes of the past. Whether you’re travelling alone or as a group, there is something for everyone here with its galleries, walking trails and potential to find actual dinosaur fossils.
Entry to the exhibit gallery is as cheap as $2 per person, and self-guided walking trails are free to access. If you don’t want to pay for the exhibit, take a walk down the fossil trail to get a taste of the prehistoric era for free.
5. Get Musical At Studio Bell
If you’re a music fan, this one is for you. With both permanent and temporary exhibitions telling the musical story of Canada, there’s always something to come back for at Studio Bell.
General admission is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested fee of $15. This is all to support the National Music Centre’s charitable work. So, while large families may not be able to pay $15 for each person, it is possible to pay less. But if you are going alone or as a small group, this price is good value.
6. Take To The Skies At The Hangar Flight Museum
Yet another cheap thing to do in Calgary is this fun spot. From helicopters to planes, this museum is truly fascinating and great for history buffs. And for a day out, it is quite a good price.
Typical families of four can pay one fee of $38.10 to enter. If you’re going as one adult, it’s around $14, and senior adults need to pay just $10. For children and students its less than $10, and if you have a child that is 2 or under, it’s free.
7. Head Into The Clouds At Calgary Tower
As possibly one of the most iconic spots in Calgary, this one is not for the faint-hearted, but it is certainly for you if you love stunning views!
Calgary Tower allows you to have a birds eye view of the city, with a height of 158 meters and glass floors. Just make sure you plan ahead because it is cheaper to pay for tickets online than in person.
At the time of writing general admission was $19.00, and seniors could enter for $17.00. Children aged 4-12 cost only $9.00, and it’s free for under 4s – whether you book online or buy in-person.
Free Things To Do In Calgary: Fun For Free!
If you can’t stretch to any of the cheap things to do, there are just as many free things to do in Calgary too.
1. See Incredible Art At Glenbow Museum
With the largest collection of art in Western Canada, it is hard to believe that this modern and slick museum is one of the best free things to do in Calgary – but it is, just make sure you book tickets online to take advantage.
Just note that you can choose to donate or become a member to keep this vital source of education and enjoyment going.
2. Picnic At Prince’s Island Park
From hiking trails to picnic spots, this park is serene as it is lively. There are also washrooms available, meaning you could spend a good chunk of your day here. And you don’t have to spend anything.
Throughout the year the park is host to some events, so keep an eye out on the website as you may end up getting some free entertainment too.
3. Bike & Birdwatch At Fish Creek Provincial Park
Birding, boating, biking: this park is perfect for nature-lovers, and most of it is free to explore!
With over two hundred bird species, sparkling lakes, and fishing creeks, there is more than enough to fill a whole day.
Just ensure that you respect the park’s guidelines. You can check them out online.
4. Reflect At Central Memorial Park
Calgary’s oldest park is not just beautiful, but educational, with its statues and cenotaphs commemorating World War I soldiers. If you want somewhere quiet to reflect, you can do that for free here whilst taking a walk.
It probably won’t fill a whole day out, so make sure you add it to a space in your itinerary.
5. Be Impressed At Peace Bridge
This architectural masterpiece is open to everyone, including those walking or cycling. It is a must that you add this to your trip around Calgary.
Even from afar, it truly is impressive with its sheer size and modern look as it sprawls across the iconic Bow River.
6. Enjoy Calgary’s Skyline At Scotsman’s Hill
Can’t choose between the city or nature? Well, this park has both.
If you need a moment to relax during your busy travels, stop off at Scotsman’s Hill to eat your lunch or have a picnic whilst witnessing the dazzling Calgary city skyline – all as you sit amongst a lush green. And it’s a completely free thing to do in Calgary.
7. Go Hiking In Tom Campbell’s Natural Hill Park
This park not only overlooks the city, but the Bow River and Nose Creek too. It is truly remarkable with its hiking trails and 18 hectares of trees and grass.
There is also an exhibit showing off the park’s history, which happens to feature a view of Calgary’s skyline too.
8. Have A Splash Swimming & Skating In Bowness Park
Summers in Calgary are best spent in Bowness Park, with its shimmering wading pool surrounded by trees – great for kids and adults alike to have a splash, with both shallow and deep areas. Parking is free too, and there’s a massive lagoon for boating!
But Winter is fun in Bowness Park too, as outdoor skating is available on the lagoon for free. Just don’t forget your helmet! This is easily one of the best free things to do in Calgary
9. Enjoy The Beauty Of Century Gardens
Escape the hustle and bustle of downtown at Century Gardens, another of the best free things to do in Calgary.
It is beautiful to look at with water features that echo the area’s rivers and mountains, artistic statues, and a wooden amphitheater. There are also washrooms available.
10. Play In The Water At Rotary Park
Another brilliant park with a water feature: a playful spray park, which is fantastic for kids on a hot day. There are also playgrounds and picnic tables, along with seasonal water fountains and washrooms.
And at the south end of the park is Jim Fish Ridge, which is a lovely vantage point to enjoy.
11. Get Sporty At Prairie Winds Park
This northeastern park offers both wading pools and spray parks. As well as this it features a basketball court, tennis courts, fitness stations, and a playground which features a zip line!
During the winter, you can skate or take part in some sledging on its hill.
It’s a fantastic place with loads of free activities. Just make sure you do not use things like kites or drones, as airborne devices are not permitted due to the park’s closeness to the airport.
12. Go Wildlife Spotting At Nose Hill Park
Not like many other parks in Calgary, this 1129 hectares of land is for adventurers. This park is abundant with wildlife, like deer and coyotes, and features amazing hiking trails. If you keep your eyes open, there are some archaeological finds to explore, like the Siksikaitsitapi landmark of the Blackfoot people, created long before the establishment of the city.
It is quite a distance from downtown, and if you place yourself in just the right spot on its hills, you can see the grey silhouette of Calgary in the distance.
13. Watch Horses In Action At Rocky Mountain Show Jumping
Witness some epic sports for free, with competing horse riders in action during the tournament season in front of a backdrop of tree-covered hills.
It’s the perfect place to stroll around whilst also ensuring younger family members stay entertained. Restaurants are also available or just bring your own food. Parking is free too.
14. Be Mesmerized At The Esker Foundation
It is difficult to believe that this gallery is another one of the best free things to do in Calgary, but it’s true – it’s free to enter!
This contemporary space is fascinating as it is fun to explore, and there are many exhibitions taking place throughout the year. Its permanent installations are weird and wonderful, from canvas art to physical creations.
Admission is free but check their website in case of any closures for the preparation of certain exhibits.
15. Become A Forensics Expert At YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre
With free admission and free parking, this niche museum is a great place to visit as a family.
The exhibits explore the role of the police and their history in Calgary. There are also hands-on activities that take place to teach young people about aspects of the policing career, like forensics, as well as presentations on safety.
But your admission ticket must be booked online, and it only lasts 60 minutes. A recommended donation of $5 is suggested.
16. Enjoy Peace At Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
With 270 bird species, 21 species of mammals, and 347 species of plants: the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is the ultimate nature reserve to visit and admire.
There are picnic tables and seasonal washrooms, and the TD Outdoor Learning Centre is perfect for kids. Events take place throughout the year and exhibitions of Indigenous art rotate every few months.
It is free to experience this park’s peaceful trails but remember that bikes and dogs are not allowed here.
17. See Flowers At Reader Rock Garden
Calgary’s amazing parks just keep coming, with this one being no exception. What makes it original are its flower and rock gardens, along with benches, bridges, and serene walkways.
Parking is free and there is also a lovely café there too. Just make sure to stay on the trails so you don’t disturb the wonderful flora and fauna in this park. Dogs are not allowed here either.
18. Skate & Play Ball At Shaw Millennium Park
This is downtown Calgary’s urban paradise: a free-to-access and huge 75,000 sq. ft. skatepark.
There are also basketball and volleyball courts – along with a sparkling waterfall – all in front of a city backdrop. This is the park for skating and sports enthusiasts living or travelling through Calgary.
19. Chinatown Street Festival
Taking place every summer for one day only, this street party has everything from live performances and food to kids’ zones and cultural tents.
Entry is free but you might want to take some cash for all the wonderful food stalls available.
20. Look Out For Alberta Open Farm Days
Throughout Alberta, including close to and around Calgary, open farm days take place every summer, so families and tourists can experience a day out in Alberta’s rural areas.
Closest to Calgary is the Long Grass Studio and Honey Bee Apiarios Estrella, where you can learn about beekeeping and their stoneware studio. You can also pick up some fresh honey.
Or why not visit Your Local Ranch Ltd or the Seba Beach Farmers’ Market? There are so many farms around Calgary offering a free experience for a couple of days a year.
21. Look For Fossils At Dinosaur Provincial Park
As we mentioned before, entrance to Dinosaur Provincial Park is free and there you can go hunting for fossils!
The park is named due to the abundance of dinosaur fossils that have found there, and to this day people continue to find new and exciting remnants of dinosaur life. It’s a great place to spend an exciting day being active.
Budget Tips for More Expensive Attractions
Equally brilliant Calgary attractions like Calgary Zoo, the TELUS Spark Museum and the Heritage Park have not yet been mentioned because they are not among the list of free things to do in Calgary. They’re not particularly cheap either.
However, there are some tips to consider to bring the price down or increase value for money.
If you visit Calgary often, you might want to buy a membership for Calgary Zoo, the TELUS Spark Science Museum and Heritage Park.
The membership often pays for itself in 2 or 3 visits, and there are lots of perks included, like food discounts, guest ticket discounts, gift store discounts, and free parking.
2. TELUS Spark Science Museum
The TELUS Spark Science Museum offers free or reduced admission to other science centers and children’s museums with membership, as well as all of the above perks listed.
If you are a large family with kids, you might want to fill up weekends with this museum and other science museums for $268 a year per family. There are cheaper options for individual students, adults, seniors, and children too. Under 2s get free tickets.
3. Calgary Zoo
Maybe you or your family are not into science, but love nature. If so, a Calgary Zoo membership is definitely something to consider.
There are many different types of membership, but all of them include free admission to the zoo for a year. Some memberships include free parking and lots of discounts. Under 3s have free admission.
Large families might find membership pricey as there is no family membership option, but for individuals or smaller families, the membership pays for itself within a few visits.
4. Heritage Park
One of the top Calgary attractions, Heritage Park, has great membership options. There are family memberships available, but the cheaper of the two does not include free parking.
However, if you or your family love the Canadian West and Western history, the more expensive membership pays for itself with regular visits.
5. Calgary Attractions
Visit the Calgary Attractions website for regular deals that could reduce the cost of your trip. This includes deals for previously mentioned cheap things to do in Calgary, such as Fort Calgary and Calgary Tower. Or you might want to check out deals for Calaway Park if you’re the thrill-seeking type.