Downtown Calgary Draws International Conferences
Compact, Calgary’s Downtown Convention District is a Draw for International Events
Don’t let the size of Calgary’s downtown core fool you. Surrounded by gleaming glass towers, compact, and walkable, Calgary’s convention district is chock-a-block with Canadian culture in the form of theatre, restaurants, bars, shopping, state-of-the-art meeting spaces, and unique off-site venues. Indeed, the city’s four-block radius surrounding the Calgary Telus Convention Centre is one of the biggest attractions for international conference planners choosing to meet here.
“Once in the city, visitors will find the area easy to explore and wonderfully compact,” says Dave Sclanders, executive director of Meetings + Conventions Calgary who recently provided some insights into places to network, stay, eat and play for delegates attending a conference in Calgary.
Convening in Calgary
Not every city can boast two unique conference venues, but Calgary can, and then some: the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre and BMO Centre at Stampede Park each offer planners flexibility in some combined 385,000+ sq. ft. of convention and exhibit space. Looking for something less traditional to convene in than a conference center? Organizers can wow delegates at the Art Commons, a multi-venue art center that is home to Theatre Calgary and One Yellow Rabbit Performing Theatre.
Networking in Canada’s Energy Capital
Informal networking opportunities can pop up just about anywhere, and they do! Clark Grue, president and CEO of Calgary Telus Convention Centre says after a day-long session of meetings and workshops, delegates are steps away from a whole host of attractions.
“Conference attendees can walk from hotels to meeting venues in the comfort of the indoor skywalk systems or on the historic Stephen Avenue Pedestrian Mall. After conference sessions, the can enjoy live theatre venues, art galleries, museums, restaurants and shopping in downtown Calgary. Walk five minutes to the Bow River and you are connected to 850 kilometers of pathways and 95 kilometers of trails.”
Grue also notes that Calgary’s walkability contributes to the city’s recent ranking of fourth most “livable” city in the world as designated in the Economist’s 2018 Global Livability Index survey.
Some of the best spots to nosh and network within walking distance of the Calgary Telus Convention Centre include: Blink Restaurant & Bar is a great spot for drinks and charcuterie or a dinner of traditional Italian cuisine. Next door you will find Bar Anna Belle — the cozy new bar which offers an intimate escape complete with wine, whisky, and small plates. Sky 360 provides attendees panoramic views of the city along with handcrafted cocktails. For casual late-night drinks, the Palomino Steakhouse offers a distinctive Western experience and is great for private parties and business lunches. And for an upscale night out, visit Proof Cocktail Bar, an offbeat, stylish watering hole specializing in artisanal, seasonal libations and shareable plates.
Accommodating Your Delegates
There’s a real boom going on in Calgary’s hotel scene, which will add some 1,500 rooms to its inventory by 2020. The Calgary TELUS Convention Centre is directly connected to four hotels, including the 355-room Hyatt Regency Calgary, the 384-room Calgary Marriott Downtown, the 405-room Fairmont Palliser Calgary, and the 143-room Le Germain Hotel Calgary. Today, delegates can reach 1,100 guest rooms without going outside by using the Calgary +15, an above-ground indoor walkway. The destination as a whole offers more than 14,000 guest rooms, 4,000 of which are downtown.
Before, After, In-Between Meetings
With the proximity of meeting venues to Calgary’s cultural district, attendees can easily experience the city before, after or in-between the conference sessions. Here, they may enjoy a day of shopping at The Core, the downtown shopping center, featuring Canada’s iconic department stores Hudson’s Bay and Simons. Music-lovers can experience Canadian music history at Studio Bell’s National Music Centre while history buffs can take in the Glenbow Museum with its vast collection of western Canadian art.
With some 1,200 km of pathways ribboning the entire city, Calgary is known for its urban green spaces, offering delegates plenty of treed and grassy parks to explore, including the downtown River Walk which connects two island parks: Prince’s Island Park and St. Patrick’s Island. Calgary is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies, a short 90-minute westerly drive through rolling foothills and rangeland. First time delegates especially take time before or after their conference to explore nearby Banff and Lake Louise as part of a day-trip or a more extensive pre/post vacation. Head due east of Calgary and delegates will find themselves walking amongst the dinosaur fossils, windswept hoodoos and ancient coulees in the Canadian Badlands, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Not to be overlooked when considering Calgary for meetings and events: the people who live, work and create engaging experiences for conference-goers. Grue is quick to note that, “what makes Calgary an unforgettable meeting destination begins with the warm welcome of Calgarians.” Jessica Ward, who recently hosted a national solar energy conference here, agreed, “Calgary’s hospitality has been overwhelming.”
Inspired? Learn more about what Calgary can offer your next meeting or convention.