What do you do when your plane lands in Calgary at 2:35 p.m. and you have to be back at the airport by 8 a.m. the next morning?
Well, you Hotwire a hotel, you rent a car and you use Google Maps on your phone to play as much tourist as you can in a half an afternoon. You know, a "halfternoon."
My girlfriend Amy and I were excited to be on the inaugural WestJet Encore flight out of Brandon (common friend joke: "Too bad you had to buy a return ticket.") but we knew we couldn’t take a week off of work. This was a there-and-back experience, at least partly to write about it for the paper.
I would recommend spending more than a night in Calgary.
Even two nights would allow you to stretch out your city experience a little bit more. Take the weekend, and you could really enjoy it. Take a week, and you could head on out to the mountains, and enjoy Banff for a bit.
But we only had that halfternoon.
And we were late.
Yes, McGill Field was slammed with happy Brandonites who turned out in droves on Tuesday to wish a happy welcome to the first WestJet flight, to eat free hotdogs and to bounce in the two (count ‘em two!) bouncy castles for the kids.
There were so many people and so many first-flight bugs to iron out, that the plane took off about 40 minutes late.
When you only have a few hours in a city, every minute counts (I’m writing this FAST, by the way).
Need my hyperspeed guide to Calgary?
If you’ve never been, and despite my multiple trips here, I hadn’t, you must go up the Calgary Tower. While it doesn’t loom over the city’s downtown anymore, it’s still an icon of the skyline and there’s nothing more touristy than standing on the glass floor.
From there, if the $6-an-hour parking puts you off, you can hike over to the Eau Claire Market. There are tons of vendors for your shopping pleasure and it’s right next to Prince’s Island Park, if you’d like to buy some lunch at the market and eat it next to the Bow River (you should).
Further in the evening, head a bit south, to the semi-famous "Red Mile" of 17th Avenue SW. It is filled with restaurants, bars and pubs — there is almost certainly something to your taste here.
Overwhelmed by options? Having trouble deciding? I actually enjoyed the Craft Beer Market, which is on 10th Avenue SW and which boasts Canada’s largest selection of draught beer on tap: more than 100.
With daily flights on WestJet making Calgary about as close to Brandon as Winnipeg (OK, Regina, once you factor in the airport shenanigans), I think we might just have to come back for Oktoberfest.
And maybe some Christmas shopping.
Possibly a winter ski trip.
And Valentine’s Day?
Don’t rule it out.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 5, 2013