Hospitality, history and health in Alberta

Upon arrival in Calgary, the beautiful weather was surprising. I expected to be frigid after traveling three hours northeast of the Bay Area. However, while the air was crisp, the weather was like a refreshing welcome from Canada’s autumn and I was comfortable in my lightweight jacket.

The inviting atmosphere didn’t stop at the weather. Everywhere I visited in Alberta provided experiences filled with a focus on hospitality, pride in the region’s history, people eager to share their culture and an importance on treating visitors as Alberta natives as we sat around tables enjoying authentic local fare.

 Where to Stay

outdoor space with large buildings in background
The Dorian Autograph Collection

Less than 45 minutes away from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) is the Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel. Connected to Calgary TELUS Convention Centre. The hotel offers various meeting and event spaces of various sizes and styles. I was treated to the signature smoked old-fashioned at the hotel’s ONE18 EMPIRE bar. With whiskeys, ryes, bourbons and scotches steeped in local Calgary history, ONE18 EMPIRE can arrange for groups to have a private whiskey tasting.

I then traveled a short distance to The Dorian, Autograph Collection, which is connected to Courtyard by Marriott Calgary Downtown. Combining a luxury boutique hotel with a more accessible brand such as the Courtyard is innovative and the two brands create a symbiotic relationship that benefits both meeting professionals and event attendees.

The Wilde, the hotel’s restaurant on the 40th floor, is named after author Oscar Wilde. His novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, inspired the boutique hotel’s aesthetic. With the luxury and mystery of The Dorian and the convenience and accommodations of the Courtyard, meeting professionals can plan an event at this dual-branded hotel and have something for everyone.

What to Eat

table full of foodTwo words: Alberta Beef! At almost every restaurant I was privileged to dine in, Canada’s culinary teams made it evident they were proud of their Alberta beef. I had the best beef I had ever eaten dining at Major Tom in downtown Calgary. We ordered the butcher’s cut which fed the whole table and I’m still thinking about it. Beyond the food, the epic view of the Calgary Tower lit with purple neon lights stood out as a stark contrast to the muted and subtle colors of the distant mountain range behind it.

What’s New

The Calgary Stampede is not only an annual 10-day event celebrating Alberta’s western culture and heritage but its home base in Stampede Park has hosted events of all kinds for 100 years. The Calgary Stampede is a not-for-profit event that brings the nostalgic Wild West back to life in July and honors the peaceful union between Western settlers and indigenous people. Over a million visitors come to witness The World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo and many other festivities offered by the Stampede.

With the expansion of its BMO Centre opening in spring 2024, Stampede Park will offer over 1 million sq. ft. of event space with a capacity for 33,000 people, becoming the largest convention center in western Canada.

Travel Tips

I had the pleasure and honor of getting “white-hatted” by Fraser Abbott, director of business development, Tourism Calgary, at Alberta Boot Company. The ceremony is both a recognition of outstanding individuals who uphold impeccable hospitality standards in Calgary and a way to welcome tourists, groups and professionals such as myself.

Taking the oath, which highlights the importance of hospitality, kindness and friendship, and the encouragement to demonstrate those values wherever one goes, was one of the shining moments of my trip to Calgary. Visit Alberta Boot Company to learn about the history of Alberta’s Wild West and the annual Stampede and perhaps have the privilege of receiving your very own white hat.

Enjoy Calgary before heading out of the city and up the Rocky Mountains to Kananaskis Country. Nestled in the crisp elevation and scenic settings, Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Autograph Collection provides luxury accommodations with rustic Alberta wilderness. Guests can enjoy the Nordic Spa with a plethora of wellness treatments such as full-body massages and plunge pools before enjoying fine dining at the Cedar Room or Forte on the resort’s main floor.

This article appears in the December 2023 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.