One of North America’s youngest and most modern cities, Calgary possesses a youthful brand of energy and optimism. The Downtown area is a grid of sleek glass, chrome and granite skyscrapers, the result of an oil boom that began in the 1970s. Despite a lingering redneck turned oil baron attitude, three decades of affluence have made the town increasingly cosmopolitan and sophisticated, resulting in a wealth of interesting restaurants, bars, clubs and art galleries. Still nick-named Cow-Town, however, Calgary is overtly proud of its cattle-ranching heritage and everyone from bank managers to ski guides dons their ten-gallon hats, leather boots and chaps to embrace their inner cowboy during the famous Stampede. Symbolically, two of the best Westerns of modern times, Brokeback Mountain and The Assassination of Jesse James, were shot here. The obvious starting point for those whose primary focus is the Rockies, Calgary merits a day of discovery. Most of what’s worth seeing, including the excellent Glenbow Museum, is handily concentrated around the lively, pedestrianized Stephen Avenue Walk. With a day to spare, the fascinating Badlands and Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, 148 km to the northeast, make a recommended day trip.
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