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Billing itself as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", the Calgary stampede attracts over a million people each year. With one of the world's largest rodeos as well as parades, stage shows, "chuckwagon" racing and cultural exhibitions – there's no shortage of things to see.
The Stampede is so important to the local community that Calgary's social and cultural identity is tied to this unique event. Known as "Stampede City" (also nicknamed "Cowtown"), the city takes on a festival atmosphere during stampede season. Storefronts are festooned with flags, residents don cowboy gear, and community breakfasts and barbecues take place throughout the town.
If you're planning a Canadian getaway and want to experience the Calgary Stampede, here's everything you need to know.
Quick find guide
What is the Calgary Stampede?
So, first things first. What exactly is the Calgary Stampede?
Quite simply, it's one of Canada's most famous festivals that attracts local and international visitors annually. The rodeo show is one of the main attractions, which pits the fiercest competitors and their animals in a furious display of grit and skill.
Every afternoon, cowgirls and cowboys (alongside their horses, bulls and steers) compete to make it through to "Showdown Sunday" at the end of each week. Some more traditional events include barrel racing, bareback riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, saddle bronc and bull riding.
During the ten days, organisers hand out a staggering $1.5 million in prize money. As well as the rodeo, expect music concerts, firework displays, agricultural exhibitions, amusement parks, shopping, eating and more…
When is the Calgary Stampede?
The Calgary Stampede takes place every year over ten days in July. For 2023, festivities kick off on 7 July and end on 16 July.
If you're planning a trip, check the official website for the latest times and dates.
While many people schedule just a day in Calgary, if you want to experience everything this cowboy extravaganza offers, we'd recommend spending at least a couple of days at the Stampede and Calgary itself.
Calgary is also a fantastic starting point for other attractions in the local area, not least the majestic Canadian Rockies just 50 kilometres to the West.
Where is the Calgary Stampede held?
The Calgary Stampede takes place in the city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.
"Stampede Park" and the Saddledome stadium are located southeast of Downtown Calgary in the Beltline District. It's well-serviced by Calgary Transit's light rail system, and there's plenty of parking at the grounds.
The site itself spans over 200 acres. As well as the Saddledome, you'll find the Big Four Roadhouse, the BMO Conference Centre and the Stampede Grandstand within its grounds.
The park remains in its original location, despite several attempts to relocate over the years.
When did the Calgary Stampede start?
The origins of the Calgary Stampede go back to 1886. The city launched an agricultural fair this year, which proved a steady success.
It was only in 1912 that promoter Guy Weadick added a rodeo and carnival to the event – which he termed "the Stampede". From the 1920s onwards, the Calgary Stampede became an annual occurrence.
New traditions and events appeared each year, transforming the humble agricultural fair into the million-dollar enterprise we see today. The Calgary Stampede continues celebrating Old Western heritage and culture despite its expansion, epitomising the region's rodeo spirit.
How much does the Calgary Stampede cost?
There's no getting around it; tickets to the Calgary Stampede are pricey. But as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we think it's worth the investment.
The Calgary Stampede website has all the information you need on ticket prices and how to book.
To give an idea, tickets to the afternoon rodeo start from $66 and go up to $321 (approx. £55-£267) for the best seats. This includes admission to the park as a whole.
The evening show (which starts with chuckwagon races and continues with acrobatics and music before culminating in a spectacular fireworks finale) costs between $84 and $142 (approx. £70-£118). Evening show tickets include admission to Stampede Park during the day as well.
If you're parking at the Stampede, this costs around $15 (approx. £12). Remember to budget for food and drinks while at the ground too.
What happens at the Calgary Stampede?
It's hard to know where to start when there's so much to experience! Here are just some of the highlights:
- The Calgary Rodeo: The thrilling central attraction of the festival – with crowds of over 200,000 cheering riders on.
- Music and live shows: High-energy music and entertainment shows, which are included with park admission. From rock royalty to country legends, dance and light shows, there's something for everyone.
- The Midway: Another opportunity for thrill-seeking with rollercoaster rides, traditional carnival games, and plenty of live entertainment.
- Food and Drink: Fancy a pancake breakfast? Well, you've come to the right place. As well as this iconic cowboy morning meal, you'll find market stalls offering every taste experience under the sun. Juicy burgers and decadent doughnuts are a particular speciality.
- Exhibits and Attractions: A four-kilometre-long parade kicks off the ten-day Calgary Stampede each year. With marching bands, horses, performers and floats – it's a sight to behold in itself. While you're at the ground, expect over 1,000 events and stalls to immerse yourself in the area's agricultural and cultural traditions.
Planning your own Canadian adventure to take in the cowboy thrills of the Calgary Stampede? With Alan Rogers escorted and independent motorhome tours, you'll discover the best that Canada has to offer.
Our Canadian Rockies, Road to the Rockies and The Best of the Canadian and American Rockies holidays all feature stops at Calgary – perfect for attending the Stampede. So, what are you waiting for?
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📸 All image credits calgarystampede.com
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