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Alberta encompasses a vast swath of the province that includes the Red Deer River Valley, the foothills, the Rocky Mountains Forest Reserve and the heartland. A region that holds an inestimable amount of natural resources, forestry, farming and oil drive the economy of this area, as does tourism helped along tremendously by the occasional discovery of a dinosaur bone or two. Edmonton, the capital of the province, is easily accessible from anywhere in Central Alberta and has an unusually sophisticated atmosphere, with fine restaurants and a thriving arts community. Second major city of the Province, Calgary is a thriving metropolis of concrete and steel, and a western city through and through; it is set between the Rocky Mountains to the west and prairie ranchlands to the east. When leaving Calgary, it is difficult to resist the pull of the Rocky Mountains and head south. However, southern Alberta boasts some of the best sights and scenery of the whole province, from Waterton Lakes National Park and the mining towns of Crowsnest Pass to the historic native gathering place at Head-Smashed-In, and the edge of the endless prairies.
This young, prosperous city flourished during the oil booms of the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s, but its nickname, Cowtown, tells a different story. Before the oil, there were cowboys and gentlemen, and Calgary originally grew thanks to a handful of wealthy ranching families. The city has a lot to offer its residents, and the residents give back as much. In 1988, they were both rewarded when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympic Games. After suffering through the drop in oil prices, the city flourished once again. The Olympics contributed something very special to the heritage of this friendly city; a heritage that is felt by Calgarians and visitors alike in the genuinely warm attitude that prevails.
We recommend starting your tour of Calgary at the 190m, 762-step, 55 storey Calgary Tower (101 9th Ave. SW, 266-7171, 266-7230). The city's most famous landmark not only offers a breathtaking view of the city, including the ski-jump towers at Canada Olympic Park, the Saddledome and the Canadian Rockies through high-power telescopes, but also houses the city's tourist information centre, a revolving restaurant and a bar. Photographers should take note that the specially tinted windows on the observation deck make for great photos.
Across the street at the corner of First Street SE is the stunning Glenbow Museum (130 9th Ave. SE, 268-4100). Three floors of permanent and travelling exhibits chronicle the exciting history of Western Canada. The displays include contemporary and native art, and an overview of the various stages of the settling of the West, from the native peoples to the first pioneers, the fur trade, the North West Mounted Police, ranching, oil and agriculture.
The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede is deservedly called the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth." It began in 1912, at a time when many people expected that the wheat industry would eventually supercede the cattle industry, and was intended to be a one-time showcase for traditional cowboy skills. Of course, the cattle industry thrived, and the show has been a huge success ever since. Every July, around 100,000 people descend on Stampede Park for the extravaganza. The main attraction is, of course, the rodeo where cowboys and cowgirls show off their skills.
The aptly named
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