What’s so great about the Calgary Stampede? How about everything?

The Calgary Stampede is one of our very favourite things. It can however, be hard to describe for people who have never been. It’s not just a place, it’s a time of year and a state of being – a ten-day hiatus from the humdrum business-as-usual of everyday life. It really is The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. Experience Stampede firsthand, and you’ll find out what a great time it really is. And in so many ways, what’s great about the Stampede amplifies what’s great about Calgary.

So. What’s so great about Stampede? Everything!

Like parades? Stampede kicks off with a parade through downtown Calgary. Floats, marching bands, cowboys on horseback – the Stampede Parade is so awesome that Jack Palance, William Shatner and astronaut Chris Hadfield have all been Parade Marshals.

From the parade, to the fair grounds and all over the city, Stampede is a world-class people-watching opportunity. Cowboy hats are everywhere, with all sorts of people underneath them. And, of course, a lot of those people are wearing cowboy boots. It’s well worth the price of admission to just spend a couple hours strolling around the Stampede grounds watching people – young, old, out-of-towners, Calgarians, cowboys and urban cowboys – all having their version of a Stampede good time.

Calgary Stampede midway ride at night

Photo: maythephotobewithyou via Instagram

Your own version of a Stampede good time can take many shapes: there’s the Midway, with cool rides like Mach 3 and Crazy Mouse, and a midway just for the kids, called the Great Funtier. There’s the food, including all manner of deep-fried-food-on-sticks and our perennial favourite, the delightfully sugar-and-cinnamon coated mini-donuts. There’s world-class entertainment with international artists appearing in concert at the Scotiabank Saddledome and today’s hottest names in country music appearing at Nashville North®. On the Coca-Cola stage, you can catch great acts free as part of your admission to the grounds. There are agricultural showcases including western events, barn tours and lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with horses, cows, chickens and more.

Stampede is a celebration of Calgary’s western heritage, so yes – there’s more than just a little bit of rodeo involved. If you’re not a rodeo fan, you at least owe it to yourself to see the chuckwagon races – horses, wagons and riders moving at breakneck speed are bound to give you a new understanding of the term “thundering”. And if you are a rodeo fan, welcome to heaven – ­in the form of the richest tournament-style rodeo on earth.

You know what else is great about Stampede? If you need to take a break from the party, Calgary has a lot to offer, and Banff is just a short drive away. And should you need a break while you’re on the Stampede grounds, take a ride on our WestJet SkyRide and spend a few minutes leisurely riding above the crowds while you catch your breath, take it all in and get yourself ready for more mini-donuts.

Got a favourite Stampede story? Feel free to share it with us. Oh, and by the way, you don’t need to wear cowboy boots, or a cowboy hat. In fact, you can dress any way you want. We do recommend you bring sunscreen – and be ready for at least one big thunderstorm, another great Stampede tradition.