Mounties, Native Americans, railroads, and cowboys - all the elements of the Canadian Wild West - converged to create a city with a 21st-century sensibility and a steadfastly traditional soul. On the one hand, you can browse through trendy boutiques and galleries and enjoy the élan of a little dinner theater. On the other hand you can immerse yourself in First Nations culture and learn directly from Native Americans how they sustain their ancient, mystical culture in a modern Anglo world. Situated on the Elbow and Bow rivers where the Canadian Prairie meets the eastern front of the Rockies, this city probably best known as the site of the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day summer festival celebrating cowboy culture with concerts, agricultural shows, and a huge, fantastic rodeo. The memories of the Winter Olympics of 1988 live on at Canada Olympic Park, a popular tourist spot with "be an Olympian for a day" activities like the bobsled and luge rides.
Beyond the modern city skyline, the Rockies loom invitingly and within just about an hour's driving time you can reach a variety of stunning parks, including the icy peaks and green valleys of Banff National Park, one of western Canada's most beautiful regions. The name Calgary is thought to have come from the Gaelic phrase meaning "bay farm," though this town was officially founded in 1875 as a North West Mounted Police post. When the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in 1883, ranchers established major spreads on the plains surrounding the town, many of which now operate as "dude ranches," welcoming overnight and day guests to live for a spell like the pioneers of yore.