There is something that I do like about Calgary downtown and I must admit when I realized the only house we could afford was well out of the downtown range I was devastated. In the 5 years since leaving the Red Mile (17th Ave) and moving out to the outer limit burbs (by the airport) I have settled in quite nicely to my suburbian ways but whenever the opportunity arises, I find myself back downtown in the heart of…well..it’s not really action; but it is something special.
There are 4 key areas that make up my Calgary downtown: Kensington, Inglewood, The Red Mile and The Core (which includes Prince’s Island and Chinatown).
So let me start with Kensington, this is a community on the other side of the river. Housing prices are so expensive that I can’t even afford to look at the listings but I would give my first born to live there. It is quaint, bustling (as much as Calgary bustles and that really isn’t much), walking distance to The Core, serene and peaceful. Kensington is leading edge, dotted with cool boutique shops that you won’t find anywhere else including the cupcake epicenter in the form of a bakery called Crave. Now well I push the limitations of my gluten intolerance there are some things that are just too risky – baked goods being one – so I can only tell you that line up snakes down the street on a regular basis and everyone I have ever heard speak about Crave does so with a look of pure pleasure and joy! I would say it is a must eat on any trip to Calgary. http://www.cravecupcakes.ca
One place I do love eating at in Kensington is Delicious Thai. It is a super small Thai restaurant and you definitely need to have reservations on the weekend. They do make the best coconut rice in the world and they are very sweet people. The curry’s are all out of this world as is the Pad Thai- oh man I am getting hungry for the taste! http://www.delicious-thai.com
The other place that I love in Kensington is Pulcinella, this is an authentic Italian pizzeria designated authentic by the Naples Pizza Association. Expect a familial atmosphere, unbelievable pies, incredible drinks and a football (soccer) match on the TV every now and then. I haven’t ventured there since my gluten intrusion, so not sure if they can accommodate, my guess would be no as they are an authentic Pizzeria. If I get to the point that I can indulge again – you will find me there every Saturday!!! http://www.pulcinella.ca
You can definitely spend a full afternoon in Kensington meandering in and out of shops. There are some fairly unique clothing boutiques and main stream housewares shops. One of my very favourite shops is Purr. It is a funky, not too expensive women’s clothing that is distinctive and will give your closet the edge! http://www.purrclothing.ca
When you are lacking in energy grab an incredible frozen yoghurt at Spoon Me! My favourite is Green Tea with strawberries and chocolate chips – YUM!! It’s a funky place that is relaxing and comfortable to hang out at and the napkins and T-shirts are adorable. http://spoonme.com/
Finally, the best place for sushi in the whole city of Calgary can be found in Kensington at Sushi Club. Going mid week is your best bet as that is when the fresh fish comes in. They have loads of contemporary and exciting rolls and the presentation is lovely. I am a huge salmon lover and I have never had Salmon that fresh and tasty this side of Nanaimo until eating at the Sushi Club. I am now spoiled and I simply won’t eat sushi anywhere else. Do be aware as it is a small place so if you go on a weekend I would say reservations are key.
After eating and shopping yourself to oblivion, cross the street over to that path that runs along the river and enjoy a long walk along the Bow River. You can either head into the downtown or get a bit of an escape heading out of past Kensington along the Bow and feel a bit of countryside in the city!
Another favourite spot of mine is the Red Mile or 17th Avenue. Years ago it was known as Electric Avenue a strip of the most happening night clubs and bars in the city, its reputation became a mere dying legacy until the Calgary Flames marched toward the Stanley cup taking the city into a state of euphoria that spilled out all along 17th Avenue. The Avenue was renamed the Red Mile due to the sea of red (the Calgary Flames team colour) that would fill the length of 17th Avenue after the games. The Flames failed to grab the Cup but 17th Avenue has been regenerated.
Morgan’s Pub is a great place to hang out in a pair of jeans and T- shirt while listening to local bands and drinking with friends. There are 3 restaurants that I love; The Coup, Farm an Una Pizza. The Coup is a vegetarian restaurant that can cater to any assortment of eating nightmares. The food is local, organic and distinctively hippy. http://www.thecoup.ca
Farm is all about cheese. Yep- cheese is wrong on just about every level and that is what makes it so darn delicious! It is also about local, organic and tasteful. http://farm-restaurant.com
Una Pizza, is contemporary, upbeat, has a great wine list and make a killer gluten free pie. Una is also dedicated to local, organic, fresh and tasty ingredients while keeping an upscale feel and look. http://www.unapizzeria.com
There are a couple of European bakeries and a number of boutique shops that sport knick knacks, funky home furnishings and cool accessories. There are a couple of high end second hand shops, a killer hat shop and a few clothing shops that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. The best shop in all of Calgary is Blame Betty http://www.blamebetty.ca a super cute 50’s inspired shop with loads of cute and spunky tops, bottoms, shoes and to die for dresses!
So enjoy an afternoon stroll, a jammed packed day of shopping or a great weekend of eating and take advantage of the cool neighbourhoods in the Calgary downtown.