Calgary Stampede – Yee Haw!
Alberta. Canada’s Texas. Literally. Cowboys, big hair, rodeos, farming, and oil. And every July (usually the first two weeks of the year) they hold the Calgary Stampede, a collection of all of these things rolled into one.
I first learned about the Stampede when I moved to the west coast and was talking to a coworker about things to do over the fourth of July weekend that didn’t involve staying in Seattle. He suggested that I do a search for the stampede and see if any seats were still available. Seats have a tendency to sell out very, very quickly, and flights are rare. Hotels know you’re stuck, with few options, and main line hotels (such as Hyatt, Westin, and Marriott) go for upwards of $500 a night.
Notice how just 2 days after the stampede is over, the rates become slightly more palatable.
The secret to getting a good deal at a downtown hotel during Stampede is using Hyatt and redeeming Gold Passport points. Hyatt is a Chase transfer partner, and transfers are instant. So as long as you see the space available you can usually get those transferred and confirmed in less than a minute. Rates are only 12,000 a night and for me, that’s a fantastic use of points. I’m not sure I’d pay that for a non Stampede night, since the rate is pretty reasonable otherwise.
When you get tickets to a show in the grandstand you also get admission to the Stampede’s fair, which is just like most of the state fairs that you and I know and love. Fried foods, Whack-A-Mole, Quasi-dangerous rides that were assembled the night before and enough rednecks to make it truly a Texas-like experience.
We secured tickets to the evening stagecoach races at around $60CAD each, and afterwards there was an evening show including fireworks, music, song/dance numbers, and even a swearing in ceremony for immigrants who have made their pledge to become Canadian citizens. Take that USA State Fairs!
If you’re looking for daytime activities, Calgary is a very walkable city. There are breweries, distilleries, parks, and even Banff National Park if you wanted to drive a little bit outside of the city (approx. 1 hour).
If you’re going to go, don’t forget your checklist: Cowboy hat, beer, jeans, boots, and country music. With that said, get your tickets, as this year’s Stampede starts July 8!