The Calgary Stampede is nothing if not a spectacle. Ten days of pancake breakfasts, mini doughnuts, cowboy boots and country music all taking place in my hometown of Calgary, AB. While some may eschew Stampede, my family and I love it. We fill up the ten days with trips to the Stampede grounds, band gigs (for Dewey), neighborhood parties and more pancakes than anyone should ingest. It is AWESOME. While many people believe that it is all downtown boozing, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Much of the Calgary Stampede is family friendly if you know where to look.
Here are my top family picks and tips for an enjoyable 2013 Calgary Stampede.
- First and foremost, if you want to go to the rodeo or the grandstand show….buy tickets now. Don’t do what I do and wait until the bitter end and be left without tickets.
- Check out the deals and days for the Stampede – Yes, they save you money but be warned they are often the BUSIEST days of an already busy event.
- Other Deals – At Mac’s buy 2 Coke products and 2 general admission tickets for $25 (save $11). At Safeway pre-buy Midway tickets and Ride All Day cards. Get a free child’s (7-12) admission on specially marked 12-packs of Coke. Save 20% by buying Stampede bucks at Costco. Remember though, pre-buying is only a good deal if you are DEFINITELY going to attend.
- Many of your kid’s favorite characters are visiting the Stampede including (at the BMO Kid’s Zone): Dora the Explorer (July 5, 10, 12 ), Olivia and Jess(July 6), Thomas the Train (July 9, 13, 14), Sponge Bob (July 7), Angelina Ballerina (July 8), Mike the Knight (July 8, 14), Wonder Pets (July 11) and Bob the Builder (July 8). Check out the Stampede planner for full details. Edited to note: The previous link leads you to a page where you can download the planner app or read the paper planner electronically.
- Don’t miss all the animals. I know it is easy to focus on your child’s favorite characters but don’t forget about the animals. With tons of horses, cows, chicks, pigs, etc there are LOTS of things for kids to see. It helps them learn where the food they eat comes from. The kid’s ag activities are on the Northeast side of the Agriculture building.
- Bring a backpack packed with: water (include a sippy cup or bottle if your kids need it), sunscreen, emergency snacks, breakfast and/or lunch for your kids. It gets HOT on the grounds. Water and food are expensive. I love trying new foods at the Stampede but, honestly, kids would rather have their tried and true PB&J. May as well save the money and bring it.
- Wear a hat….kids too. Cowboys aren’t dumb. Standing outside in the hot sun in July is much more comfortable if you are wearing a hat.
- Skip the Grandstand Show if you brought your young kids. I know, I know…it is part of the experience but it goes entirely too late. By that time of night kids just want to be home in bed. Do yourself a favor and skip it because after the show you still have to find your car and drive home. Just don’t do it.
- The Stampede Parade – If you decide to go to the Calgary Stampede parade, know that you need to buy a ticket (Sells out super early) or get their EARLY to hold a spot. I’m talking pre 7am. We have never done it because it is just too much of a logistical nightmare.
- The Bowness Stampede parade (Saturday, July 6, 9 – 10:30am) – I know I just burst your bubble about the Stampede parade. I’m sorry. However, I heartily encourage you to go to the smaller Bowness parade. It is much, much smaller but just as much fun. In fact, they even throw candy!
- Bring a stroller or wagon if your kids are little. It is crowded so it can sometimes be a pain but there is no getting past a TON of walking at the Stampede. Parking is FAR the grounds are BIG and it is HOT. That is the trifecta for cranky, tired kids. You will not regret it.
- Don’t forget the cash. There are ATMs on the grounds but they generally charge more than normal ATMs. Cut down the hassle by stopping at the bank on your way to the grounds.
- Pancakes – I almost forgot about pancakes! Make sure to head out for some free pancakes during the Stampede. Calgarians come out in full force to celebrate with a few pancakes and a bit of bacon. It’s a great time to see what the Calgary community is all about (though usually we wear normal clothes instead of western wear). Check out this great website for finding all the free Stampede pancake breakfasts.
Read all about our trip to the Stampede last year. I’m sure we will be down on the grounds more than once this year.
One last thing, I have entered a contest to take over the Calgary Stampede Instagram account for one of the days of Stampede. The contest is decided partly on the quality of photos and how they fit in with the Stampede and party on how many likes/comments the pictures receive on Instagram. If you are on Instagram, I would love it if you could like or comment on any of my posts labeled #InstaStampede. My instagram user name is @Merry120.