This article includes links to our travel partners at Tripadvisor, where you can read traveller reviews, book tours and plan your visit to Calgary.
Though lesser known than the Canadian cities of Toronto and Vancouver, Calgary packs a ton for those stopping over. With its 333 days of sunshine a year, a buzzing entrepreneurial scene, and painting-worthy prairie landscapes—there’s a vibe here that’s hard to pin down with words.
If you’re wondering what to do in Calgary on a layover, we’ll have you covered with this guide. The fantastic news is that downtown is just 11 miles away (14 minutes by taxi)—which means the city’s attractions, nature, and vibrant atmosphere are all within easy reach for your Calgary layover vacation.
If leaving the airport during your layover isn’t an option, Calgary Airport (code: YYC) has enough to keep you fueled—and in the right places—well relaxed. The dining scene is admittedly lacklustre, and the WiFi sporadic; you can find the space to relax and get some shut eyes—whether in a paid lounge or on the comfy chairs at Banff and Kananaskis Halls. To find out more details of what you can get up to there, check out our Calgary Airport Guide.
Calgary Sightseeing Attractions
Calgary Sightseeing Bus Tour
A classic of classics: if you don’t have a stopover of 24 hours or even 12 hours—get on this bus. In 3 hours, you’ll street-glide past Calgary Tower, WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park, Calgary City Hall, Studio Bell, Chinatown, and many more famous landmarks. The tour hosts are friendly, the guides knowledgeable, and you’ll learn much more about the city than you would on your own!
- Time Required: 3 hours.
- Getting There: To get to the meeting point of Calgary Tower, take a 20-minute taxi ($40-55) or a 40-minute bus (bus 300 to City Center).
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for tours, visitor reviews, and booking options.
Lake Louise & Banff & Moraine Lake Tour
If you’ve got a long layover and want to see as many beautiful places as possible, this tour is for you. Just over 2 hours away from downtown Calgary, snow-capped mountains and turquoise-blue lakes await at Banff National Park. You’ll be guided to a historical hotel, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Banff Town, and Johnston Canyon. Just remember to bring your expensive camera & hiking shoes!
- Time Required: Plan for 8-10 hours with a single start time of 8:30 AM.
- Getting There: The tour offers pick-ups from various downtown hotels, such as Calgary Holiday Inn Airport (a 15-minute taxi ride away from Calgary Airport or a 50-minute bus ride away).
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more details, visitor reviews, and booking options for this nature tour.
Heritage Park Historical Village
If you had to wrap up Calgary’s history & landscapes in a single place, Heritage Park is what you’ll get. This 127-acre parkland packs 200 exhibits and attractions to deep-steep you in Canada’s history, the Blackfoot culture, and Calgary’s unique energy legacy. To see it all, jump on the antique steam train (or save the ride for the paddlewheel ship!). There are live museums, ranches, lakes, village shops, and a lot to do & see.
- Time Required: At least 3 hours (and very easily more). The village park opens from 10 AM to 5 PM—so if you have the layover time, plan to spend some good hours here.
- Getting There: A taxi ride from the airport would take you there in 26-32 minutes for $65-85. There’s an option to take the bus (Line 304), but expect a longer journey of 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- Plan Your Visit: Check out Tripadvisor for more details, visitor reviews, and admission tickets for Heritage Park.
Ice Hockey by NHL Calgary Flames
Say “Canada,” and you might as well say “Ice Hockey”. Calgary’s professional ice hockey team—the Calgary Flames—regularly plays in the National Hockey League and can be watched live if your stopover’s timed right. Pre-book a ticket, then get ready to hang out with real hockey fans and watch some non-stop ice hockey action.
- Time Required: A hockey game consists of three 20-minute periods, so the total game time should run 2 1/2 – 3 hours.
- Getting There: With the games held at the Scotiabank Saddledome, take a 20-minute taxi ($40-55) or bus 300 followed by bus 24 (a 1-hour journey combined).
- Plan Your Visit: For more information and to book tickets to watch a game, visit the Calgary Flames’ official site.
With Calgary Airport being just 11 miles away from city center attractions and its buzzing atmosphere, it’s easy to get there by public or private transport.
Your public transit options:
- Bus: For plentiful buses to downtown in just 40 minutes, head to one of the 2 locations for bus services (one at the Domestic Terminal and the other at the International Terminal) and get a ticket from the vending machine ($8.5)
Your private transit options:
- Taxi: The taxis outside Calgary Airport will always be regulated (so have peace of mind!). They charge based on meter rates & for a ride downtown that should take 20-25 minutes, expect to pay between $40-45.
- Car rentals: There are many car rental options at Calgary airport, but a thing to keep in mind: the cost of car rentals has surged in Calgary. To check out your options, visit Tripadvisor to compare prices.
Before You Go: Layover Tips
Now that you are motivated and excited about your mini layover vacation, check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.
- Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost, and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
- When is your next flight’s check-in time? Double-check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
- What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for extended security wait times, so research in advance and factor that into your overall time budget.
- What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, confirm whether your luggage is checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Check out our Calgary Airport Guide for information on luggage storage.
Other Useful Resources
Want to plan out your layover in Calgary in more detail? Here are a few more resources to help get you prepped:
- Calgary International Airport – Ground transportation information
- Tripadvisor – Visit Things to Do in Calgary to plan a tour or the Calgary Travel Forum to check out past threads to see what other travellers have shared about sightseeing during long layovers at Calgary Airport and post your questions.