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Like most of Canada, Calgary's lifestyle is focused more on outdoor recreation than urban entertainment. With over 8,000 hectares of open space and parkland, this is a city that will suit expats who would rather spend their time in natural surroundings than in shopping malls; and who prefer activity to passive entertainment. It's the perfect place to raise a healthy and active family.
Outdoor sports are hugely popular in Calgary. In the warm summer months, expats can enjoy fishing on the gorgeous Bow River, golf on one of many perfectly manicured courses or go horseback riding and mountain biking. For the more extreme nature enthusiasts, canoeing and white-water rafting through nearby mountain valleys await. Camping, hiking and wildlife-watching are also celebrated summer activities in Calgary. Moreover, many of these spots are not only breathtakingly beautiful but also easily accessible from the city.
Outdoor activities in Calgary
The main attraction – and the lifeblood of Calgary's outdoor leisure scene – is the city's close proximity to the majestic Rocky Mountains. Just 50 miles (80km) from downtown Calgary, the Rockies are celebrated around the world not only for their pristine beauty but also for the wide range of activities on offer among their snowy peaks. Skiing and snowboarding are the most popular pursuits but, for those just wishing to relax and soak up the alpine atmosphere, there are numerous resort towns to explore.
Expats should be sure not to miss Lake Moraine – a spectacular, turquoise-blue, glacially fed body of water hemmed in by towering pine trees. For true winter sport enthusiasts, Canada's Olympic Park offers plenty of space and expert coaching for novices to hone their skills on the slopes.
Entertainment and eating out in Calgary
Alberta is known as the 'most American' of Canada's provinces and an important aspect of the lifestyle in Calgary is a real, continuing pride in the trappings of its frontier history – hence the plethora of rodeo shows, steakhouses and 'western wear' outlets throughout the city.
The best Calgary restaurants are generally located within easy travelling distance of the city centre, and are concentrated in three main areas: the Eau Claire district on Prince's Island; the chic 4th Street and 17th Avenue Mission district; and the downtown area that includes Chinatown, International Avenue and the Stephen Avenue pedestrian mall.
Expats should note that all restaurants in Calgary are smoke-free – even outdoor dining areas.
Shopping in Calgary
As far as shopping is concerned, there is an assortment of malls in and around Calgary, and some interesting curio shops lining International Avenue, but the highlight must be the weekly Calgary Farmers' Market, where shoppers can buy the likes of bison sausage, elk steaks, artisanal bread and a wide range of fresh dairy products.
While the lifestyle in Calgary may not be suited to shopaholics, if the need becomes too great, expat shoppers will be happy to know that the West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America, is only a three-hour drive away in the Albertan capital of Edmonton.
Weather in Calgary
During mid-winter, life in Calgary can be a little trying. It can get extremely cold in late December and early January, and expats will need to get accustomed to seeing hardly anyone out on the streets, and dividing their time between their cars and the great indoors.
Some relief comes in the form of the Chinook winds, which can bring days of warmer temperatures to the city. The Chinooks are warm, dry winds that blow down the eastern slopes of the Rockies and cause extreme temperature variations and can quickly melt the ice and snow.
Despite the extreme winter weather, expats will be pleased to know that Calgary has the reputation of being the sunniest city in Canada, experiencing the most days of sunshine of any Canadian city.