19 things you might not know about Calgary

Image: Calgary via Shutterstock

Calgary has seen its fair share of history.

From its humble beginnings as a rail outpost, to its role as the host of the 1988 Winter Olympics, there’s plenty of history to this great city. But while many people know the landmark events, there’s a few weird and wonderful things that you might not know about Calgary.

So, to help fill in the gaps, here’s a rundown of 19 things you might not know about Calgary.

1. It’s got a namesake on a Scottish isle

Calgary was named for a town on Scotland’s Isle of Mull. It can be translated from Old Norse as “cold garden” or Gaelic as “clear running water” or “bay barn.”

Calgary, Scotland / Shutterstock

Calgary, Scotland / Shutterstock

2. It was once a part of the Blackfoot Confederacy

Prior to colonization, the area that would become Calgary was inhabited by Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan and the Tsuu T’ina First Nations, who were all a part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. The Confederacy’s territories extended across parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan.

3. A fire lead to a change in style

In 1886, 14 buildings in Calgary were destroyed in a fire, with damages upwards of $100,000 of the day’s currency. Following the fire, a law was drafted that all large downtown buildings were to be constructed of Paskapoo sandstone to prevent another event.

4. Many of which are still standing today

Many of Calgary’s sandstone buildings still stand, including Old City Hall and and the Palliser Hotel.

Image: Palliser Hotel / Shutterstock

Image: Palliser Hotel / Shutterstock

5. There’s a pretty weird law still on the books

In Calgary, when you’re released from jail, technically they have to provide you with a gun and a horse, so you can safely make your way out of town.

6. You can also be fined for spitting

You can also be fined up to $300 for spitting in public, as well as separate fines for putting your feet up on “tables, benches, planters, or sculptures” in public spaces.

7. The Calgary Stampede is really big

During the Stampede, the grounds hold more than 120,000 people per day. This makes it more populated than Red Deer, the third largest city in Alberta.

Chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede

Chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede / Image: Buzz Bishop

8. And a popular spot for lovers

The birth rate in Calgary spikes every year around April – nine months after the Stampede.

9. It gets a lot of sun

At roughly 2,300 hours of sun per year, Calgary is the sunniest major city in Canada.

Image: Calgary skyline / Shutterstock

Image: Calgary skyline / Shutterstock

10. It attracts people from all over the world

Over 120 languages are spoken in Calgary, and 25% of the population is born outside of Canada.

11. It’s as big as New York, but not quite as large

The sprawl of Calgary covers roughly the same area as New York City, but only has about 10% of the population.

12. It has the largest pedestrian skywalk network in the world

The plus 15 pedestrian skywalk network is the largest of its kind on Earth, with over 18 of tunnels and 62 bridges.

13. The mayor’s election made history – twice

Calgary Mayor Naheed Neshi is the first person of colour to become mayor of a Canadian city with over 100,000 people, and the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city.

14. It’s home to a weird amount of wrestlers

Twelve professional wrestlers hail from Calgary, including the Hart wrestling family, of which Brett and Owen Hart are a part.

15. And the hometown of a U.S. Presidential hopeful

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, making him the only person born in the city to run for President of the United States.

Image: Ted Cruz / Facebook

16. As well as a tech legend

James Gosling, father of the Java computer programming language, was born in Calgary. Java was first released 21 years ago and is now used by over nine million developers.

17. Ginger Beef was invented here

What most Westerners call Ginger Beef is a westernized version of a popular Chinese dish. It was first produced by chef George Wong at the Silver Inn, which still sells it today.

18. So was the Caesar

The Caesar, a distinctly Canadian cocktail, was first created by restaurateur Walter Chell at the Calgary Inn (now the Westin Hotel). It’s now sold by businesses across the country, and in other places around the world.

Caesar / Shutterstock

Caesar / Shutterstock

19. It was the inspiration for a comedy classic

The classic movie Cool Runnings, following the story of Jamaica’s first bobsled team. It was based on the real life debut of Jamaica’s bobsled team at the 1988 Winter Olympics, hosted in Calgary.


Editor’s Note: One of the items listed has been removed due to being factually incorrect. Contrary to what was originally published, throwing a snowball in Calgary is not illegal.

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Shawn O'Hara 

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  • Blaarg

    You state Calgary gets 23,000 hours of sunshine a year. That works out to over 63 hours per day. Pretty amazing!!!

    • Jen

      Oh! Haha, you beat me to it.

    • Ron

      I don’t know if it was edited after you read it but it says 2300 not 23000

      • Blaarg

        Yes, it was edited. They corrected their error. But many places on the prairies get more sunshine than Calgary, such as Yorkton, Brandon, Estevan, Medicine Hat. It’s just that they aren’t considered MAJOR cities

        The weather fact they don’t brag about in this article is Calgary is the only MAJOR city in Canada to have recorded snow in July

        • M. Doreen Powell

          IN CALGARY, IT SNOWS ALL YEAR! That’s what makes it interesting. Don’t like it ~ don’t come!

  • Emilija

    How did our chinook winds get missed???