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Voted as one of the most fun outdoor sites in the country, Calgary Zoo features more than 1,100 animals from around the world and an ever-growing portfolio of innovative exhibitions. The fascinating programs put on by the zoo, allow guests to get up close and personal with its less ferocious animals through the Creature Features Program. Life-sized dinosaur models lurk in the badlands of the Prehistoric Park, and the more genteel setting of the Botanical Park includes a butterfly garden that is sure to delight visitors of all ages.
Heritage Park Historical Village, one of Canada's largest historical villages, is divided into a pioneer Northwest Mounted Police outpost and a Main Street from 1910. The latter has a working antique amusement park, with rides that are safe even for small children. Other attractions include a working full-scale locomotive thundering through the park, and on the nearby Glenmore Reservoir, a vintage double-decker sternwheeler ship that takes visitors on lake cruises. Shops and restaurants are plentiful in the park, including a turn-of-the-century bakery. All park staff work in costume and character. Entertaining events for the whole family are scheduled year-round, including September's Fall Fair. The opening timing may vary for different experiences at the park.
Fish Creek Provincial Park is Canada's largest urban park, covering much of the south side of the city and dividing established and newer suburbs. The park features no organized recreational grounds, with daily usage intended for walking, cycling, and picnics, although tobogganing is popular in the winter. At the far east and south end are the man-made Lake Sikome beach and swimming area. The Fish Creek Environmental Learning Center, at the west end of the park, is intended primarily for school groups. At the east end, the Bow Valley Ranch Visitor Center, a small bakery cafe, and a more upscale sit-down restaurant, dubbed The Ranch, greet visitors.
Statistics say that Prince's Island is one of the most used urban parks in North Canada. Come here on a sunny day and you will not doubt it. Originally, the island was used to catch felled trees floating down the Bow River from logging projects upstream. Now this bit of serenity in downtown serves as a favorite venue for joggers, football tossers, family picnics, flocks of Canadian Geese, buskers, Shakespearean actors and nearly every major festival that Calgary hosts. This is also a great place for a quiet paddle down the river.
During the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Olympic Plaza was the focal point of much of the event, including most of the medal ceremonies, laser, and fireworks displays. Tens of thousands of people jammed into the square on any given evening during the games. The square looks much as it did then and is now the focal point for many civic events, particularly for welcoming successful athletes home from the recent Olympic Games. The large area in front of the stage is now a wading pool in the summer and flooded for ice skating in the winter.
Although some of downtown Calgary's office towers are actually taller, the Calgary Tower remains the city's most distinctive landmark. Officially opened in 1968, it remains a popular visitor attraction, providing a panoramic view of the mountains to the west and the surrounding foothills and prairie. On the observation deck, there are binoculars, multimedia information kiosks, and the thrilling Glass Floor Experience. The dining room rotates, allowing visitors the chance to relax with a meal while viewing the entire city from their window-side tables at the Panorama Dining Room.
Winding its way from the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Alberta foothills, Bow River is an expansive waterway. Along its route, the river passes through Calgary and the river banks are a popular outdoor recreation spot for the city dwellers. Many walking paths and scenic vistas can be found along the river. Outdoor sports enthusiasts can find kayak rentals, fly fishing options, cycling tracks and much more. Deer, great horned owls, and beavers have been spotted along Bow River.
The sandstone buildings along downtown's Stephen Avenue Walk were constructed after a fire destroyed much of the neighborhood. Several of those historic buildings fell victim to developers wrecking balls, but the few that remain are worthy of an afternoon stroll during which you can revel in their architecture. Along the way, you can indulge in the diversions offered by many popular shops and restaurants.
Fort Calgary gives visitors a hands-on look at early Calgary life. Fort Calgary lies on 16 hectares (40 acres) of the riverside parks. The interpretive center reconstructs the original 1875 fort, a facility North-West Mounted Police built after being dispatched from the settled east to establish law and order among pioneers, and to stop the culturally devastating whiskey trade. Children will love trying on the officer's uniforms that have been laid out and exploring the interiors of the old prison. Visitors can grab a bite, or indeed a shot of whiskey at The Deane House, the on-site restaurant.