I wonder how many city towers can boast an annual visit from a cowboy and his horse? Well, the Calgary Tower is probably unique in that respect. This and other quirky stories make the tower's observation deck well worth a visit, if not for the panoramic views alone.
The CN$18 admission ticket includes a hand-held audio-visual guide which visually highlights the landmarks visible from the 360° glass observation deck and provides an audio commentary. Calgary's history is brought to life with the intriguing stories and first-person narratives relayed via the guide's 'Postcard' feature. These include the participation of Jamaica's first bobsleigh team at the Winter Olypmics, hosted by Calgary, and the opening of a saloon in the city's Grand Central Hotel by the Sundance Kid, the infamous outlaw.
Standing 191m above downtown Calgary, the tower was built in 1967 by Husky Oil and Marathon Realty in celebration of the city's centennial. It stands on the site of the former Canadian-Pacific Railway station, which was dismantled in 1910.
As Calgary is one of Canada's sunniest cities, it is easy to spot the city's many iconic structures, such as the Saddledome indoor arena and the wedge-shaped, tiered City Hall, as well as areas of interest, such as the Olympic Park, where the 1988 Winter Olympics were held, and the Stampede Ground, home of the world's largest rodeo show, the Calgary Stampede.
To celebrate the start of the Stampede an Alberta rancher for the last 16 years has ridden his horse up in the lift to the observation deck, continuing a tradition of a horse and rider travelling through Calgary businesses, dating back to 1923.
As well as being open to the public, the Calgary Tower welcomes school parties and full-day educational field trips up can be arranged.
The Calgary Tower itself has a few interesting features, such as the glass floor installed on the observation deck in 2005, celebrating Alberta's centennial. Measuring 36feet wide by 4.5feet, it allows you to look straight down to 9th Ave SW – not for the faint-hearted! Apparently each glass panel can bear the weight of two hippos, so there is no danger of anyone falling through.
If you happen to enter or leave the Tower on the hour, you will hear the delightful sound of an Americana carillon chiming the hour and playing a selection of music. The original carillon bells in the tower were gifted to the city in 1973 by the Dutch Canadian Centennial committee to celebrate Calgary's centennial and to thank the city for the liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War. Renovations to the tower in 1989 required the carillon to be removed but, following public interest, it was restored and digital chimes put in place of the bells.
Twice daily LED light shows from 5am until sunrise and from dusk until midnight illuminate the roof, crown and upper and lower pods at the top of the tower, with special displays celebrating festivals, Canada Day and Remembrance Day. Millions of colours and lighting effects can be produced by this recently installed system, which uses 60% less energy than the previous one.
A natural-gas lit cauldron at the very top of the tower, constructed in 1987 and kept continuously lit throughout the 1988 Winter Olympics, can also be seen lighting the night sky on special occasions.
In you would rather see the views from the top while enjoying some fine dining, then why not try the Sky 360 restaurant located 155m above street level in the Calgary Tower? Serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the restaurant revolves once every 45minutes at lunchtime between 11am and 2pm and once every hour during the dinner service, which starts at 5pm. The views are complimentary if you order an entrée. For menus and reservations, go to the websit www.sky360.ca/.
Why? Fantastic views and a brilliant multi-media guide
When:The Calgary Tower is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day). Subject to occasional deck closures for private functions. September - June July - August 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m