Can I do Calgary Stampede on the cheap?
Now that the 2015 edition of the Calgary Stampede has come to a close, I’m going to recap how I can help you get the most entertainment for you dollars.
For those of you who don’t know, the Calgary Stampede is a 10 day summer festival held in early July in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Most towns and cities have summer festivals that honor a prominent member of their community that helped shape it into what you see today. The Calgary Stampede is just like that, only honoring everything that could be related to cowboys/ranching; which were the foundation of life in Alberta. Although I’m sure stampede started off as mostly a rodeo and agricultural event, it has since swelled to encompass almost every facet of life. The Stampede now includes the rodeo events, x-games type events, a market place for selling mostly as seen on TV type products, a showcase for local Alberta visual artists, a talent search competition, several different musical performances at every level from beginning to professionals and a giant midway with rides, games and the largest variety of food you’ll ever see including for some reason the world’s most expensive hotdog and scorpion pizza…I know right, it got a little lost from its cowboy roots.
With over a 1.2 million attendees over the 10 days and dozens of concerts, and millions of dollars in rodeo prize money the cost of attending isn’t like most summertime festivals. Downtown hotels which are closest to the Stampede grounds have an average nightly rate close to 300 dollars which is a 69% premium over the usual pricing according to Trivago.com. A bottle of water or a pop at most vendors on the grounds will cost 4 dollars. Needless to say food is also grossly inflated.
Basically the “Greatest outdoors show on earth” can also one of the most expensive outdoor shows on earth. But don’t worry! I’m here to help!
Where do I stay at Calgary Stampede?
This is probably the hardest part to do cheaply if you’re from out of town and don’t have friends or relatives with a spare room or some floor space to crash. As I mentioned above the hotels nearby are averaging $300/night so your best bet for a hotel would be to find one close to the furthest LRT stations. They should be quite a bit cheaper and the LRT has two stations right next to the stampede grounds.
Airbnb.com is also another option for your stampede accommodations that will certainly be cheaper than a hotel and possibly nearby the grounds as well. Or if you don’t mind hostels, there are two located very close to the stampede grounds, Wicked Hostels and Hi Hostel are both within walking distance.
How can I go to Stampede for cheap?
Well I don’t know if cheap is the right word considering just getting on the grounds is going to cost $18/adult and if you want to do as much as possible you’ll have to get on the grounds at least once. The good news, all of the grandstand events; the Rodeo and Grandstand Evening Show include entry to the grounds with the price of your ticket.
The Rodeo is definitely a must see event but if you want the best bang for your buck, you’ll want to go on the last Sunday for the finals. I bought my tickets a few weeks in advance and there were plenty of seats to choose from. I managed to get great seats in the 500 level, first row for $39/person and the view was fantastic. Not only are the sightlines great and the price reasonable, during the finals the Rodeo lasted almost 5 hours. That’s only $4.2/hour of entertainment (if you don’t count the cost of admission)! Not to mention you’ll still have an entire day to check out the grounds.
If you can handle it, I’d say make a long day out of it to see everything. Here’s a list of some free things to check out once you paid for access to the grounds:
- The Coke Stage – The Coke Stage is an outdoor concert stage that holds nightly concerts with some really talented acts. You get some up and comers along with some pretty well-known names. This year a few of the better known acts to me were Lights, Ok Go, The Arkells and July Talk. Throughout the day you can see various kids’ shows there from Dora the Explorer to Thomas the Tank Engine.
- Bell Adrenaline Ranch – I won’t lie, it’s a dumb name because it has almost nothing to do with a ranch other than I guess being enclosed but this is another great free show with an X-games vibe. This year along with the usual motorbikes and sleds performing tricks there was a canon lady, who is the only female cannonball performer in the world being shot over 75 feet in the air.
- People watching – Stampede is notorious for day drinking and with over 1.2 million attendees, you’re bound to see some pretty entertaining stuff if you just sit down somewhere in the park and wait. You can also see people spend an unbelievable amount of money trying to win a giant stuffed animal at the midway games.
- The livestock – You can wander through a lot of the buildings where the competitors keep some of their livestock, you can interact with a lot of them as well. It’s pretty cool seeing some of these animals up close if you’re a city person and haven’t seen horses or farm animals up close before.
- Fireworks – The fireworks happen nightly as part of the closing of the Grandstand Evening Show, but you can see them anywhere on the grounds. We actually found a pretty nice patch of grass to sit in on the far NE section of the grounds; it had a pretty great view of the show.
That’s not an all-inclusive list by any means; it’s just some of the things I’d prefer to check out while I’m on the grounds.
Is there still fun stuff off the grounds during Calgary Stampede for cheap?
There is also a ton of events that companies and promoters plan around stampede but they’re usually even not under the stampede for cheap category. There are a few things you’ll want to check out though. I mentioned the fireworks each night above, well the best view of them outside of the grandstand is just to the east on the hill overlooking the stampede grounds in the neighbourhood called Ramsey. It has a completely uninterrupted view of the fireworks.
If you’re in town for the first Friday of stampede there’s a free parade downtown. Well it’s mostly free, some seats can be reserved but that’s only about 20% of the total seating so there’s plenty of free seats if you get there early enough. The parade starts on 6th Ave SW at 3rd St SE and travels west and comes back east along 9th Ave SW and starts up around 9am.
Of course the one thing you’ll have no trouble finding is the numerous Stampede breakfasts that are hosted daily around the city during Stampede. Lots of businesses (including most major malls) host pretty big free breakfast events; there’s always at least one public one each day of Stampede. This is definitely the way to start your day if you’re looking to save money.
Or if you`re completely against Stampede, you can probably join the protest like these guys.
Have you ever been to the Calgary Stampede? Are you planning on going sometime? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!