Want to create a cowboy? All you need is a curious kid, a wide-brimmed hat and a handkerchief tied just right. Want to watch that kid’s jaw drop? Bring her to the Calgary Stampede.
Every July the Canadian city spends 10 days celebrating the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” Locals of every age swap business suits and school uniforms for spurred boots and cowboy hats and hit the streets to attend the ultimate rodeo and festival.
The city has been celebrating its Western culture at the Stampede for more than 100 years, and these five must-dos will ensure your family trip is one the kids will be yeehawing about for years to come.
1. Pancakes Anyone?
More than 200,000 of the fluffy delights are flipped on street corners throughout town every morning. Wander the main drag and sniff around for the telltale smell or pick your favorite spots out ahead of time using FlapjackFinder.com.
And don’t stop at pancakes: Maple-bacon doughnuts, three-foot-long sausages, “unicorn” white-chocolate drinks and Canadian-bacon pickle balls are only a few new additions to the Stampede menu. Kids will get a kick out of the weird and wacky offerings.
2. Take a Challenge From a Cowboy.
Wandering the streets of Calgary minding your own business? Chances are you’ll be approached by wandering cowboys charged with making sure you’re having as much fun as possible.
Join in the fun as actors dressed in authentic gear challenge you to a 30-second hat stomping frenzy or teach you the fine art of the stoic cowboy pose. Keep an eye out for spots throughout the city to snap a selfie. Many shops and streets are decorated for the event.
3. Get up Close with Canada’s First Inhabitants.
As long as there’s been a Stampede, there’s been an Indian Village.
Descendants of Canada’s First Peoples share their history and culture at an authentic tepee village at the new ENMAX Park. Pop over and you’ll find 26 tepees set up in a green space along the Elbow River. Local First Nations groups offer insight into their Canadian history through dances and stories that both kids and adults will learn from.
4. Join the Parade.
Cheer along as marching bands, cowgirls, Canada’s iconic mounted police and more parade through the streets of the city. The parade’s route ends right at Stampede park, making it easy to continue the fun once it’s over.
Inside the park you’ll find your favorite rodeo events, including steer wrestling and bucking broncos. If your kids want to get even closer to the animals, try the agricultural showcase, where they can try their hand at a host of interactive activities like learning to milk a cow and petting miniature donkeys.
Bonus: Admission to Stampede Park is free until 1:30 p.m. on Parade Day!
5. Hit the Kids’ Midway.
Pass the funnel cake? Absolutely! But only after taking on these pint-sized rides in the heart of Stampede action. The Great FUNtier offers the smallest attendees some of the thrills that their older siblings will find at the main midway in a smaller, less adrenaline-inducing environment.
Among the fun and games are a Mini Grandstand that features a Kids’ Pedal Tractor Pull, First Nations’ Youth Dancers and more. Your little ones will get a kick out of watching cowpokes their own size take to the ring.
Don’t miss special performances of the RCMP Musical Ride — a show-stopping performance by iconic, red-jacketed Canadian Mounties on their trusted steeds.
Pro tip: A new Super Pass ($39 plus tax) offers unlimited access for all 10 days of Stampede. Regular adult gate admission is $18.00. Seniors and children 7 to 12 are half price. Children under 7 are free. All prices Canadian.