I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Calgary’s Beltline is where you want to be. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or local, this happening hood is an ideal base. At the heart of it, Victoria Park has quietly undergone a metamorphosis in the past few years. Along 1st SW lies a trove of indy boutiques, not to mention inventive dining and drinking options. Here’s a look my favourite not to miss spots.
Where to Eat in Victoria Park
It used to be the hottest new restaurants were always opening on 17 Avenue. Happily, this is no longer the case. For lunch or dinner, swing by Foreign Concept. They dish out Pan-Asian cuisine and play with colonial Vietnamese flavours in a scrumptious, surprising way. For our anniversary dinner, I’m going to order the house-made tofu and lemongrass smoked chicken.
Ten Foot Henry isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, but its family-style veggie focus dishes bridge that gap between what you want to eat and what you should be eating. I love, love, love their tomatoes with whipped feta. Little Henry, the attached cafe offers fast and healthy daytime options if you need to grab and go.
If joy comes to you by way of quality ice cream, it’s worth waiting in line for the small batch, handcrafted flavours served up at Village Ice Cream. Salted Caramel (in a waffle cone) is the go-to favourite, but foodies also adore Cardamon and Two Hills Earl Grey. I’m a fan of Guide’s Mint, especially when transformed into a sundae with house-made hot fudge sauce.
Heath and Wellness
The main reason I’m in Victoria Park so much is because of HotShop, one of the city’s most popular hot yoga studios. Besides your typical Birkam yoga type classes, they amp it up with yoga sculpt, a killer workout with light hand weights. Lovely Lana is my favourite instructor (hit her Wednesday nooner), but tough Amber is a close second. Try their $5 charity drop-in classes on Friday and Sunday nights. And right around the block is Anytime Fitness, a 24-hour gym for those who prefer weights and such.
Need a bit of pampering? XO Treatment Room is a technology-based medi-spa with an ethos to nix it, fix it or zap it. Sounds painful, but I promise you it isn’t. You can make your peepers pop at Lola Lash Bar. Personally, I’m not into those super long lashes, but I feel I’m the only one in Calgary who isn’t. Both Headkandi and The Ginger Group are top notch hair studios both situated in Victoria Park. I’ve been to both and had excellent results. Though they don’t advertise being blowout studios, you can get a quick coif at either.
Memorial Park, Calgary’s oldest park is a little pocket of paradise within the dense downtown core. Admire the lovely landscaping and monuments honouring the soldiers who fought in WWI, by wandering along the park’s pathways. A fountain and separate water feature make this a happy spot for families to frolic, and Memorial Public Library is also situated within the park. Food trucks anchor the park in summer, and you won’t regret refuelling at Provision.
If playground equipment is what your brood is after, head across the street to Haultain Park Playground. Its western-themed equipment amuses everyone from tots to teens. This park also includes a massive green space, soccer pitch and public tennis courts. Meter parking flanks the green space, and is free after 6pm and on Sundays.
Shopping in Victoria Park
Gents find their casual uniform at Understudy, a contemporary menswear boutique that stocks premium labels from around the World.
Need to spruce up your walls? Browse through hundreds of fine art posters at Prints Charming, a shop that also offers custom picture frame mouldings.
Chocoholics go nuts at Calgary’s premier chocolatier Bernard Callebaut. This is the spot to snag souvenirs, not to mention satisfy your sweet tooth. I’m partial to their massive bars of baking chocolate and cocoa.
Calgary’s Hippest Hotel
Within easy bag carrying distance lies Hotel Arts. I’m a huge fan of this pet-friendly boutique property. Not only does it offer complimentary Brooklyn Cruiser city bikes, but they’ll pack up a fancy picnic lunch for you, too. Check out my review on that here. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their bathroom amenities. They stock Skoah, a Vancouver skincare line you’ll probably want to stash in your suitcase for use at home.
I’m pretty sure this is the only hotel in Calgary with an outdoor pool, and while not large, it does the job. The vibe come summertime is Vegas pool party with all the beautiful people swanning about the outdoor patio. Come summer Saturday mornings, there’s poolside yoga courtesy of Hot Shop – even for non guests. Afterwards you can feel even more virtuous by plunging into the pool.
Within the hotel, Yellow Door Bistro is one of the best breakfast spots in the city. (Everyone gets a complimentary smoothy the minute you walk in the door!) You can order a la carte or go for their buffet. Go for their buffet! Colourful Le Creuset pots line the bar and within them are specialty dishes such as pork belly hash and pimped out pancakes. Not too many hotel restaurants win awards, but Raw Bar, their other restaurant has. Head here for Viet-Modern and a righteous cocktail program. (I’m partial to their punchbowls the very best hot toddy in the city).
And if you want to keep the good times rolling, hit up Proof, a quirky watering hole that pairs hipster artisanal cocktails with good old fashioned service. For locally sourced spirits, tonics and beer, look no further than Vine Arts, one of those creative wine shops that’s fun and unpretentious.
Have you ever wandered through Victoria Park? What do you think of this neighbourhood?