If you thought Alberta was all about adventure sports and outdoor activities, think again! This snow-shy, city-lover explored all the cool ways you can keep warm in Calgary during the colder months and couldn’t have been more chuffed with her discoveries.
1. Simmons Building East Village
An unexpected snow storm blew through Calgary on my first morning in the city and when the taxi deposited me in the newly developed East Village it wasn’t immediately obvious where I should head to. (For a spec-wearing girl like myself the visibility was low to say the least!) Luckily, I used my inordinate coffee-sourcing abilities to sniff out the Simmons Building in which resides Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. In short, I’d hit the jackpot.
Phil & Sebastian supply beans to numerous cafes across Calgary (one of which is below) but they are roasted here in the Simmons Building where you can see the process and smell the temptation. The 103-year-old building used to be a mattress factory and with original features like the exposed brick and metal framed windows retained, you get a tasty coffee experience with a funky energy.
Also calling the Simmons Building home are Sidewalk Citizen Bakery who bake a dazzling array of artisan breads, cakes and pastries including this really, really sticky bun that I just had to get my grubby mitts on. More foodie delights can be found at Charbar, who serve Argentinian inspired grilled meats and pizzas at their restaurant and rooftop patio (best saved for summer, obviously).
Find the Simmons Building at 618 Confluence Way, East Village, Calgary
2. Ten Foot Henry
Visiting on a Sunday when the restaurant was packed full of family and friends tucking into hearty share plates, it was obvious I was lucky to have a table at Ten Foot Henry. This vegetable-forward restaurant serves up the most splendid platters of healthy, comfort food such as the marinated beets, pickled pepper, hummus and dukkah I ordered for starters.
As I was dining alone the restaurant were kind enough to serve me smaller portions so I could sample a good spread. Choosing the chargrilled hangar steak with truffle Dijon and fried potatoes with jalapeno, I enjoyed a Sunday lunch for one that came with a kick.
The name, in case you are wondering, comes from a 1930 comic strip character (that’s Henry) who is a bit of an icon in Calgary. His 10-foot replica is at the back of the restaurant so remember to say hi before leaving.
Find 10 Foot Henry at 1209 1st Street SW, Calgary
3. Regal Cat Café
What could be cosier than cuddling kittens and tucking into kitty-themed treats? Regal Cat Café in Kensington is one of the chicest cat cafes I’ve ever come across, and it’s not just their cat-faced macarons by Ollia that made me fall in love with the place.
The Regal Cat Café has 10-12 cats bouncing around at a time and, as part of their partnership with Meow Foundation, visitors can opt to adopt one of them at the end of their play time. So far, they have a 100% adoption rate with over 60 cats placed in happy homes after meeting their new owners over coffee.
You can also purchase kitty-themed décor and gifts in the café and join a number of fun events including paint nights and yoga.
Find Regal Cat Café at 303 10th Street NW, Calgary
4. SwizzleSticks Salon Spa
The most indulgent way to escape the cold in Calgary is by cocooning yourself in a dark room and sinking into an aromatic bath. Massage treatments at Kensington’s award-winning SwizzleSticks Salon Spa begin with a soak in their Chroma-Color Ultra-Tub™ where you unwind to the sound of silence and scent of the aromatherapy oil.
This relaxing ritual leaves you primed for your treatment such as the Aroma Wellness Massage I indulged in just before leaving Calgary – the regular spritzes of soothing scents made a fantastic massage even better.
In fact, all your wellness and beauty needs are addressed in one place thanks to the SwizzleSticks hair salon and boutique Stör, which offers make up services and products by brands including AVEDA and Kevin Murphy.
Find SwizzleSticks Salon Spa at 301 1211 Kensington Road NW, Calgary
A delectable new addition to the Calgary food scene is Cardinale – a classy Italian eatery located in the historical Dafoe Building. I devour Italian dishes on a regular basis and the pasta at Carindale, made fresh in-house daily, is some of the best I’ve tasted outside of Italy.
The plates are big enough to share but you probably won’t want to. The Mezze Maniche (an egg yolk carbonara with roasted bone marrow) is simply spectacular, as are the Polpette (brisket and short rib meatballs), Tortiglioni (cingchiale meatballs, Pomodoro and buffalo mozzarella) and meat-filled sandwiches. Everything is delicious really; order ALL the dishes!
Complimenting this fine Italian food is an elegant décor of exposed brick walls and green velvet banquettes and an extraordinary cocktail list with uncommon ingredients like peas – don’t overthink it, just drink.
Find Cardinale Restaurant at 401 12 Avenue SE, Calgary
6. Calgary Tower
The great thing about the Calgary Tower is it offers 360 views of Calgary, 525 feet in the air, without any exposure to the elements. The tower’s indoor Observation Deck offers panoramic views of the city and surrounds as far as the snow-capped Rocky Mountains.
Visiting the Observation Deck is a great way to get acquainted with the layout of the city (I spied a lot of places to eat at later) and, if you’re brave, you can feel like you’re walking (or lying) on air courtesy of the glass-bottom viewing platform.
(Full marks if you get as creative as the families I saw lying on it in star shapes!)
You can also dine in the tower at the revolving Sky 360 restaurant, which completes a full rotation every 45 minutes during lunch and every 60 minutes during dinner. I didn’t get a chance to dine there (you saw what I ate at Cardinale!) but I spied the brunch menu and think the waffles, pork belly benny and Alberta beef burger all sound like brilliant options. Even better, the $18 tower elevation fee is waived if you order an Entrée or equivalent.
Find the entrance to the Calgary Tower on 101 9th Avenue SW, Calgary
7. Boxcar Board Game Café
And finally, somewhere I peered wistfully through the windows off while battling the aforementioned snow shower was the Boxcar Board Game Café on 1st Street. Just as the name suggests, this is a café dedicated to the Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly lovers of the world – forget free Wi-Fi and social media this is old school socialising.
With local favourites Phil & Sebastian coffee on the menu and a wall full of games to choose from (over 350 would you believe?), I can’t think of a cosier place to bed down in on a winter’s afternoon in Calgary. (A geek chic Aran knit sweater is not required but personally I think this will only enhance the experience!)
It costs just $3/hr to play and there are game experts on hand to help you select a game or give you a rule refresher. (It’s always best to have an impartial adjudicator on these kind of disputes, isn’t it?). Browse the list of games here for some instant nostalgia.
Find the Boxcar Board Game Café at 1215 1st Street SW, Calgary
You may also like: