10 Not to miss Stampede experiences

(Credit: Calgary Stampede)

When you’re a Calgarian, you’ve got your Stampede routine down pat. When you’re a travel writer and get to go behind the scenes at the Calgary Stampede, you tend to be quite selective about the activities and events you participate in during the 10-day cowboy extravaganza. Stampede is kind of like Disneyland, there’s so much to see and do, you really have to plan your schedule careful if you want to pack it all in. Here’s a look at my favourite Stampede events that I try to hit every year.

mini donut popsicle

(Credit: Calgary Stampede)

Best Stampede Events

  1. Breakfast. Official Stampede Caravan Breakfasts serve up pancakes and sausages, in addition to live entertainment, a petting zoo and pony rides. It’s easy to get pancaked out, so I recommend keeping your eye out for the Jelly Modern Doughnut’s breakfast. (If you’ve never had a donut breakfast sandwich, you’re in for a treat!) My favourite breakfast is at Cafe Beano, a delightful coffee shop on the corner of of 9 St. and 16 Ave SW. They have a country band playing and dish out Christmas Morning Wifesaver plus fruit salad.
  2. Dog Shows. The dog bowl shows are totally fun and not just for kids. It’s just like Super Dogs, but not as SuperStore-y.
  3. Throw back a cocktail at the Stoli Lounge. Inside Nashville North is a new private VIP area. Infused with leather couches and flavoured vodka, it’s an intoxicating way to while away your afternoon (sans children).
  4. Barrel racing. The rodeo might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but lady’s barrel racing is an adrenaline rush like no other. The open ceremonies for the rodeo is pretty cool, too. I tear up whenever I see the Stampede Showriders. 
  5. Sample new midway foods. I’m hankering for a mini-donut popsicle and if I’m brave enough, a slice of cricket grilled cheese. Probably a Kit Kat fry will make it’s way into mouth and some of that new charcoal ice cream.
  6. Hang out in the Ag Zone. I have a kid who’s crazy about horses, so that’s one reason. It’s also air conditioned and a great way to escape the heat. 
  7. Stampede Showband: Even if you’re not into marching bands, you’re going to be wowed by these kids. They’ve won the world championships five times! You’ll find them roving through Stampede Park and playing in front of the Saddledome. 
  8. Cowboy Up Challenge. Bet you didn’t know one of the world’s best extreme cowboy races (yes, this is a thing!) takes place on Stampede Park. Rest your feet as horse and rider move through a series of obstacles. (Trust me, it’s way more interesting than it sounds.)
  9. Catch a band. Little known fact: the Stampede is one of Canada’s largest music festivals. I’ll be catching Sheryl Crow at the Coca Cola Stage and there’s more great acts at Nashville North. Off Stampede Park,  Stampede Round Up and the Oxford Stomp are two other music events not too miss. 
  10. Grandstand Show. Taking place in the Grandstand Area, every night after the chuckwagon races, this is Calgary’s version of the Super Bowl Halftime Show. It’s just as good, minus the major celebrities. The main performers are the Young Canadians, Canadians unofficial youth performing arts troop.

What are your favourite Stampede experiences? What are some activities visitors must do while in Calgary?