focus yyc: unique calgary date ideas

There are tons of great dates to be had in Calgary – you just have to be creative. Forget the expensive dinners on top of the Calgary Tower, the meals at Earls or Joey Tomatoes, and the cliché bowling or a movie. Switch it up and try one of these, whether it’s a new relationship or a time-tested one.

1.        Buy a coffee/bubble tea in Eau Claire and walk down the Riverwalk to the Simmons building. The Riverwalk is a relatively new initiative and the beginning of the East Village redevelopment. The wide pathways are great for a jog, a walk, a longboard, or a bike ride, and the steps leading down to the riverbank are great for a foot paddle on a hot day. The observation decks have permanent chairs to sit and enjoy the city scenery, and the Simmons building at the end is my favourite building in Calgary. It really is a gorgeous walk, and great for all exercise levels.
2.        Park at Eau Claire, walk across the Peace Bridge to Kensington, and get a coffee at the Vendome Café. Everyone should walk across the Peace Bridge as many times as possible, because it’s a $25 million facelift to the west end of downtown. Walk down to the Vendome Cafe, a little gem of a coffee shop off the beaten track in Kensington. Almost every time I’m there, the line-up is out the door, but the coffee is great and the atmosphere even better. Take a seat by the window and people-watch.
3.        Drive out to Big Rock to star gaze. Successful star gazing in Calgary can be a challenge because of the light pollution, but luckily we are surrounded by unlimited beautiful countryside. Take a short drive out to Big Rock near Okotoks (or anywhere outside the city limits), take some blankets and a little nighttime picnic of hot chocolate or tea, and star gaze the night away.
4.        Follow East Village on Facebook/Twitter and keep an eye out for their events. This summer, they hosted a vintage market, a free Stampede breakfast, weekly outdoor movies projected on the side of the Simmons building, weekly free yoga classes (still going!), weekly free concerts by local musicians, a huge food truck celebration, a glow in the dark bike ride… the list goes on!
5.        Make your own food truck tour. Calgary is really an up-and-coming city when it comes to food, and food trucks are no exception. Follow the trucks on Twitter to find out where they are for the day, and explore the city while testing out all the awesome food. A few examples: SteakOut Truck, Naaco Truck, Jelly Modern Donuts, Red Wagon Diner, Perogy Boyz, Avatara Pizza.
6.        Make your own coffee tour. Calgary has lots of great coffee shops. If you’re a coffee fiend like I am, spend an afternoon café-hopping and trying all the local brews. A few good choices: Caffe Beano, Phil & Sebastians Coffee Roasters in Marda Loop, Bumpy’s, Higher Ground, Insomnia Coffee Company, Fratello Analog Cafe, deVille Luxury Coffee & Pastries, Caffe Artigiano, Caffe Crema… so many choices!
7.        Keep an eye out for festivals. Calgary has a huge number of great festivals. In spring, we have the Comic Expo, Lilac Fest, Funnyfest, Film Fest, Bikefest, Paddlefest and Sled Island. In summer, we have FolkFest, Taste of Calgary, Afrikadey, Sunfest, Fringe Festival, Sun & Salsa Festival, Bow River Flow, and Globalfest. In winter, we have Zoolights, Calgary Winter Festival, and the $100 Film Festival. Not sure where to look? Try, and keep an eye out in the newspaper.
8.        Forget dinner - grab breakfast. I know dates are typically at night, but why? Breakfast is the best meal of the day, and Calgary has some truly amazing breakfast spots where you can chat over a coffee and French toast while the sun streams in through the windows. I highly recommend the Holy Grill, Dairy Lane Café, The Fine Diner, Blue Star Diner, and Diner Deluxe.
9.        Catch some jazz. If you’re a jazz fan and you’ve never been to the Beat Niq (I’m informed it’s now called Wine-Ohs), you’re not really a jazz fan. A small venue in the basement of a historic building across from the Palliser, you can have an intimate conversation over a bottle of wine on one of those small round tables you always see in movies – or cuddle up on the bench seating to watch a jazz band serenade you.
10.     Eat some actually good food. For some reason, people always play it safe on dates and go to places they’ve been before, like Joey’s or Boston Pizza. Switch it up and try somewhere new and exciting. There are some truly fantastic dinner places around Calgary – my favourites being Charcut and Una Pizza + Wine (both great date venues). They are warm, inviting and lively, with food that will make you regret the moment you finished the last bite. Try the duck fat poutine or home-butchered drool-worthy meat at Charcut, and the gluten free crusts at Una (thin, crispy, and to die for). Have dietary restrictions? No matter. Most restaurants in Calgary will happily oblige – just ask! I’m celiac and have no problem whatsoever.
11.     Wander Inglewood. Start off with breakfast at the Fine Diner or a tea/coffee in one of the cafes, and wander up and down the main street. You can window shop or real shop, especially if you are a “junktique” lover – the little shops filled with antique knick-knacks are always fun to wander through. If you’re a vinyl appreciator, stop at Recordland and pick up some new tunes. If you’re there at night, do drinks and a show at the Ironwood. 

Any more ideas I haven't listed here? Let me know in a comment below!

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