Make the most of summer by discovering the best of Calgary! With this curated collection of parks, playgrounds, picnic spots, and nature walks, summer in the city has never looked so good! Don’t forget the water, snacks, and sunscreen so you can stay a while.
Best family photo spots
For family photos, natural settings are ideal, so kids can run around between shots.
Some of my family’s favorite places to take photos are:
Baker Park’s tree-lined pathways, archways, and riverside location make it a popular photo venue. Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds and bring discs to play disc golf after your photo shoot!
Bow Valley Ranche, in the heart of Fish Creek Provincial Park, combines natural beauty with photogenic historic buildings. For a special treat, have tea at the Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant or get ice cream at Annie’s Café.
Confederation Park has towering balsam poplars, a small pond, and cute footbridges that invite you to take your picture on them.
Lougheed House and Beaulieu Gardens is a National Historic Site featuring a Victorian mansion built in 1891 and manicured gardens. There is no fee to visit the gardens.
Reader Rock Garden is a hidden gem just south of the Calgary Stampede Grounds. Highlights include stone pathways and beautiful rock gardens, bridges, a gazebo, and the restored Reader House, which now operates as a café.
McHugh Bluff (Crescent Road and 2 Street NW) offers a spectacular view of downtown Calgary. There isn’t any shade here, so plan accordingly.
Rundle Ruins (12 Avenue and 5 Street SE) mark the location of the old General Hospital. Crumbling sandstone walls make for an interesting backdrop.
On rainy days, try indoor venues like the Devonian Gardens at the CORE Shopping Centre, the Calgary Zoo’s Conservatory (admission fee in effect), or the Central Library.
Calgary’s best playgrounds
There’s nothing like an awesome playground to keep kids active for hours!
Belmont Mounds of Fun Playground has fun bumps to run up and down and lots of structures for all ages.
Carrington has a cool playground with lots of climbers, a zipline, and adjacent skatepark.
Currie Barracks Airport Playground is a unique airplane-themed playground with an airplane bouncer, airplane climber, super tall slide, saucer swings, and more.
East Village and St Patrick’s Island playgrounds are close enough together (within walking distance) that you can visit both on the same day. East Village has a roller slide and musical elements, while St. Patrick’s Island playground is more nature-themed.
Prairie Winds North (nature) and South (accessible) playgrounds have hill slides, saucer swings, and ziplines.
Ralph Klein Park has a nature playground with a zipline, sand pit, mountain-themed climber, and stick forest.
Shouldice Park has a huge, 15,000 square-foot multi-feature accessible playground. My family likes that it has recycled rubber flooring, so the kids don’t get rocks in their shoes, and there are umbrellas for shade!
Wild nature walks
Wetlands offer excellent birding and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Visit Dale Hodges Park, Griffith Woods, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Pearce Estate Park, Prince’s Island Park’s Chevron Learning Pathway, Ralph Klein Park, or Weaselhead Flats in the morning or evening to watch birds and beavers. Download a birding app like Merlin Bird ID from Cornell University (free!) before you go, so you can identify birds you see - and bring binoculars!
Note: Be bear aware. Bears have been spotted in Griffith Woods and Weaselhead Flats.
Top picnic sites
After exploring Calgary’s parks and gardens, enjoy dinner al fresco at one of the city’s many picnic areas. If you’d like a picnic site with a fire pit (bring your own firewood) or barbecue stand, reservations are recommended on weekends to ensure you get a spot.
In the northwest, Bowness Park and Edworthy Park have spacious picnic areas with fire pits and picnic shelters.
In the northeast, Prairie Winds Park has barbecue areas and a tandoori oven.
In south Calgary, North Glenmore Park has picnic areas with barbecue stands and great views of the Glenmore Reservoir. Sandy Beach has fire pits and barbeque stands near the Elbow River.
Several day-use areas in Fish Creek Provincial Park (Shannon Terrace, Votiers Flats, Glennfield, Hull’s Wood, also have fire pits. (Bebo Grove is currently closed for construction.)
Have a wonderful time exploring Calgary this summer!
Karen is a mother and a lover of maps, mountains, and mochas. With her geography degree and experience leading hikes and backpacking trips in the Rockies, she is full of ideas on where to go and what to do. The mission of her blog, Play Outside Guide, playoutsideguide.com, is to provide everything families need to know to get outside and have fun.
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