Family fun at the Calgary Stampede

Ask my daughter the best thing about the Calgary Stampede and she’ll tell you: “The SuperDogs!” Forget western culture and heritage, and cast aside that new jean jacket and pink cowgirl hat from The Children’s Place. When Avery gets excited about the midway, she has trained dogs jumping through hoops on the brain.

Grab yer pink cowgirl hat and head down to the Stampede grounds for food, rides and the SuperDogs.

As a mother who has suffered through three SuperDogs performances too many in this life (no offense SD lovers, but I just don’t get it), I am here to tell you that when the gates open for tonight’s Sneak-A-Peek (6 p.m. to midnight), there’s way more to do than watch that cheesy dogstravaganza. There’s also a whack of high-sugar, artery-clogging confections to eat, like fried mac-n-cheese-on-a-stick and cotton candy cupcakes.

Mac-n-cheese on a stick is delish (heck, anything on a stick tastes good for some reason).

If you dare to brave the crowds and the lines to share in Calgary’s once-in-100-years festival and, what’s more, if you want to add your progeny to the mix, here are some family-friendly ways to spend the next 10 days on the Stampede Grounds.

1. Heritage. Make a beeline for Weadickville, located just behind the Coca-Cola stage. Three words: real ice cream. You will see people wandering the grounds licking real ice cream cones (as opposed to those soft serve ones) and wonder where they got them. It was here, in an ice cream store located along this shady, faux, circa-1912 Calgary street.

2. Entertainment. Do you love Barney the dinosaur? Me neither; he’s annoying and I’d frankly rather sit though back-to-back performances by the Young Canadians (or, hey, even the SuperDogs) than watch Barney live in concert. But if your tot loves the purple dinosaur, you’ll want to check him out on the Coca-Cola Kids’ Stage. 

Is Barney western even? Better suffer through his performance anyway.

3. Food. If watching Barney prance around makes you feel a little queasy, it’s obviously been too long since your pancake breakfast. Time to fill your and your little one’s belly with something healthy. Oh, wait! You’re not at the Organic Vegan Festival, are you? Nope, might as well embrace midway fare such as these little mini donuts (a favourite) or something new and innovative such as deep fried pickle chips (self-explanatory) or sausage-on-a-stick (“carb-friendly”).

Mmmm … mini donuts …

4. Western-type stuff. By now you’re looking at your watch and wondering if you can pack up the kiddos and head home for a nap. Nice try. There’s a lot more to see, like actual western stuff. I would recommend the rodeo, but it’s a bit long for younger children. Instead, you can see what their life would have been life if you were raising them in Arkansas by letting them test their skill at the Kids’ Pedal Tractor Pull (ages 4-12). Or, visit Indian Village or Draft Horse Town for a taste of western life 100 years ago.

5. Rides. The Kids’ Midway (Kidway) is where your wee thrill-seekers will want you to take them. There are 26 rides, varying widely on the fun-o-metre. If they’re tall (and brave) enough, take them on Outlaw, the new roller coaster.

Now that you’re exhausted and feel sick from all the sugar and spinny rides, drive the kiddos home, drop them off with a sitter, down a nice cold beer and head back to the grounds for a night of adults-only two-stepping at Nashville North. Yahoo!

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2 responses to “Family fun at the Calgary Stampede

  1. Thanks for the details. Just took my boys to their first rodeo here in Australia. Thinking of visiting the Stampede next year. Does it work well with really little ones?

    • The Stampede is great for kids, but try and go on less-busy days (the Monday or Tuesday, for example). It also won’t be as crazy next year (this year was the 100-year anniversary).

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