With the spring sun warming the brick and concrete of the downtown landscape it’s easy to forget under the grimy, melting snow shoots of grass are starting to peek out. The weather is starting to turn and Calgarians should take this early chance to head outside into the melting city. Warm, sunny days don’t last long in this part of the world so get out while you can, even if there is still a spring chill to the air.
The Centre City boasts many nice parks and green spaces for all to enjoy. If you’re lunching, running, people watching or just checking out of the office for a few blissful minutes of natural light, here are a few beautiful places to just be outside in the downtown.
James Short Park
A popular place for Calgarians to relax during the lunch hour, James Short Park at 115 4the Ave SW is right in the heart of it all. A cupola with a hand-winding clock, a seating area and a small playground if you are so inclined make up the amenities in this park. The park was finished in 1991 and was named for the James Short School which once stood here. For those interested in sustainable infrastructure, this park is one of a number of green roofs in the centre City.
Tucked away in the centre of the Beltline area is Beaulieu Gardens. In the shadow of the historic Lougheed House, which dates from 1891, this terraced formal garden just cries out to be enjoyed. Even without flowers, the architecture of the space gives visitors much to see even during the cooler months.
Christened by the Lougheed family as Beaulieu, or “beautiful place” is located at 707 13th Avenue SW.
Another popular lunch spot in downtown Calgary is Century Gardens. Located on the block surrounded by 7th Avenue, 7th Street, 8th Avenue and 8th Street SW.
In 1975, the Devonian Group donated the space to the City in celebration of Calgary’s Centennial. Boasting waterfalls, a pond, benches, a grassy area, sculpture and its proximity to the LRT line, it is no surprise Century Park is a popular destination for many looking for a little lunchtime respite.
Sien Lok Park
You’d be hard pressed to miss Sien Lok Park if you are coming from the south. The entrance at Riverfront Ave and 1st Street SW is flanked by two Chinese Lions and borders the Bow River pathway to the north.
In the centre of the park sits the massive sculpture “In Search of Gold Mountain” by Chu Honsun. The sculpture is made from 15 tonnes of granite from the Hopei Province in China and was made to honour Canadian-Chinese history.
Sien Lok Park, named for the motto “happiness comes through good works” and the society by the same name was built in 1982. The park also holds a pagoda, a concrete tai chi area, benches and a small playground and is a lovely way to access the Bow River from the downtown.
Central Memorial Park
At 1221 2nd Street SW sits Calgary’s oldest park. Also known as Memorial Park, it is home to the Memorial Public Library, the Boer War Memorial equestrian statue, a statue of a World War I soldier and a Cenotaph. It is no wonder then that Remembrance Day ceremonies are held here annually. Central Memorial Park is also the home to the Boxwood Café, the casual dining offshoot of the River Café.
Shaw Millennium Park
North America’s largest free outdoor, 24 hour skatepark is at 1220 9th Avenue SW. With a stage and amphitheatre, a waterfall, clock tower, laser lights, basketball courts and washroom, Shaw Millennium Park is a progressive concept that has proved immensely popular.
Established in 2000, the park features 75,000 square feet of skate-able surface. It was designed as a family activity park and sees more than 35,000 visitors per year.
But let's not forget Olympic Plaza! Touted as one of the most frequently accessed parks in Calgary’s downtown, the Plaza offers year-round enjoyment as a skating rink, a special events venue and as simply a lovely place to enjoy the outdoor cityscape. Built in 1988 for the Olympic Winter Games, it is located at 228 8th Avenue SE on the west side of City Hall.
The City of Calgary also has additional parks to enjoy like Prince’s Island Park where numerous music festivals are held each year and Tompkins Park which stretches a block along 17 Avenue and is home to many eclectic shops and restaurants.
Also, St. Patrick’s Island, an all-but-forgotten treasure at the city’s centre is poised to regain its former glory…and then some! As part of the rejuvenation of the Rivers District, St. Patrick’s Island has a master plan to steer its development as an amenity-rich, family-friendly park space for all Calgarians to enjoy. Development of the island amenities began on March 12, 2013, and the revitalized St. Patrick’s Island is expected to open to the public in the fall of 2014. During construction, the island park will be closed to the public.