Extensive parklands, vast wilderness, and the convenience of city life are all here in Calgary and Edmonton. Plus, they offer distinct leisure opportunities too.
Whether you want the cosmopolitan feel of the modern city of Calgary or the relaxed, small-town charm of Edmonton, the decision is up to you. Having trouble deciding? Get to know these two cities more below and you’ll see which one fits you best!
With the energy of a big city and the charm of its cowboy heritage, Calgary has a charm like no other. Mountains and the Canadian prairie cradle this scenic wonderland. But Calgary’s urban allures still offer tons of thrilling adventures within the city.
What Makes Calgary Unique?
Your Gateway to Canada’s Famous Natural Wonders
In a city so dense with sprawling green spaces, enjoying the great outdoors is an integral part of experiencing Calgary. From picnic spots to bike paths, from wetlands to nature reserves, it’s easy to reconnect with nature here. And there’s plenty of room for everyone!
The green oasis of choice for the locals here is Prince’s Island Park. It’s said to be like New York’s Central Park, but with more geese. Enjoy a slow day on a picnic, stroll through the pathways, or head to the award-winning restaurant at the heart of the park!
Other popular parks in the city include Nose Hill Park, a scenic oasis of rough fescue grasslands. Prairie Winds Park offers more than natural beauty, as it features sports courts, skating rinks, pools, a zip line, and more. If you want to have fun with your furry friend, Sue Higgins Park has the biggest fenced off-leash area in the city!
Calgary’s wealth of lush urban spaces isn’t necessarily the great outdoors though. When you’re in a city with mountains in its backyard, endless outdoor adventures await you.
Calling you to venture further into the wilderness is the breathtaking Canadian Rockies. Calgary sits at the foothill of this majestic natural wonder. You’re only an hour or two away from experiencing the best of Canada’s natural beauty!
Your gateway to the Canadian Rockies is the world-famous Banff National park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this scenic wonderland is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. From skiers to hikers to climbers, and everyone in between, this is Canada’s best natural playground!
Don’t forget to bring your camera too, as Banff is as enchantingly picturesque as it can be. Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are famous for their striking turquoise waters. More than this, you’ll have the dense forests that cradle the lake and the mountains in the background in one jaw-dropping frame.
Get a Feel of Calgary’s Cowboy Heritage
Calgary may be Alberta’s most populated city, but it still boasts a small-town charm that many have come to love. The city has the buzz of a bustling, multicultural urban space. Yet it remains true to its roots as a cowboy country.
Calgary’s cowboy heritage started after the Europeans arrived in the area. To help in settling the area, the Europeans encouraged cattle ranching. This culture remains today, and there are tons of ways for you to experience this.
The most famous display of Calgary’s cowboy heritage is the Calgary Stampede. Nicknamed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, this is a 10-day extravaganza that has been entertaining the city for a century.
Every July, locals and tourists alike come together in their boots for hours-long fun. You can expect some rodeo events like bull riding and calf roping and even some wild horse races! You can even head to an authentic Indian village at Stampede Park where you can see some ceremonial dances, craftworks, and more.
The Calgary Stampede is an event that anyone, of any age, can enjoy. Kids will enjoy going on thrilling rides and trying some carnival games at The Midway. While adults can try their luck gambling at the Stampede Casino.
If your trip doesn’t coincide with the Calgary Stampede, don’t worry! You can bring out your inner cowboy in Calgary no matter when you visit the city.
If you want to dress the part, you can always buy leather boots from the city’s many boots specialists. Once you’re ready to show off your boots, head to a cattle ranch and a cowboy will show you the ropes!
At Reeser Ranch, cowboys of five generations will teach you how to bridle and saddle horses. You can even stay a week at a cattle ranch like La Reata Ranch to head, rope, saddle, and gallop across prairies for an immersive experience.
Dive Into Its Fascinating History
Calgary’s rich history is as fascinating as the beauty of its natural surroundings. The city is a goldmine for history lovers, as Calgary has layers and layers of history that are begging to get discovered. And it’s the plethora of historical landmarks in the city that’ll tell you Calgary’s stories through the ages.
Long before the arrival of European settlers, Calgary already had residents. For thousands of years, indigenous people had called Calgary their home. The city was once called “elbow” for the sharp bend of Elbow River that connects it to Bow River.
In honoring Calgary’s indigenous roots, the city continues to preserve the First Nation’s culture.
You can learn more about them through artifacts, quillworks, carvings, and more, at Glenbow Museum. Get a look at their history of bison hunting at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a World Heritage Site.
But for a more immersive experience, head to the Heritage Park Historical Village. It’s the largest living history museum in the country, featuring a First Nations encampment. Watch demonstrations of traditional activities, try out hunting tools, and more!
European settlers arrived in the area in 1787. But Calgary’s story starts at Fort Calgary, situated where the Bow and Elbow Rivers meet. This is the birthplace of Calgary, built in 1875, and it’s remained in the same spot today.
A trip here will help you understand how the fort played a vital role in improving the lives of the locals. Unlike other forts, Fort Calgary wasn’t built to keep invaders at bay. Instead, it helped in stamping out the whiskey trade, and it became a focal point for businesses.
Calgary only became a city after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad Line. As the city progressed, so did the cityscape. Today, you’ll still find tons of historic buildings sprinkled across the city.
One of the oldest ones includes the Lougheed House, which dates back to 1891. This was once a home that welcomes the Prince of Wales, and today, it’s a museum and a restaurant.
Loads of Exciting Ways to Get Cultured
Although Calgary remains true to its roots, it doesn’t feel bound by its storied past. The city continues to move forward through an innovative, imaginative, and vibrant art scene. Multifaceted and cultured, Calgary celebrates creativity through visual art, theatre, music, and more.
One of the top art galleries in the city is set in a building that’s a work of art in itself. Contemporary Calgary’s quest to keep visitors engaged with art is by offering the best modern pieces that art has to offer.
While there are plenty more creative spaces in Calgary, you don’t have to visit a museum to get a feel of the city’s art scene. Calgary is brimming with public art and murals, adding character and color to the city.
One of the most iconic sights in the city is Wonderland, a giant head mesh sculpture in front of the Bow Building. Family of Man is another Calgarian staple, a group of 21 feet (6.5 m) tall sculptures that form a circle.
A plethora of murals across the city paint Calgary with all colors of the rainbow. One of the tallest murals in the world, standing at 310 feet (94 m) tall, is at 123 10 Avenue SW. But the colorful East Village is the best place to see street art.
If you’re more of a theater person, head to Alberta Theatre Project to see the latest plays by Canadian playwrights. You can even catch a theatre show while eating your lunch at Lunchbox Theatre. And you don’t have to wait for a festival to watch some Shakespeare classics at The Shakespeare Company.
Is music more your thing? The city is home to one of North America’s most renowned live music ensembles, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Or if you’d rather have the drama and grandeur that live opera brings, make your way to Calgary Opera.
Calgary also celebrates the art form of dance. Watch a show or be part of the action at Alberta Dancesport, which hosts salsa parties that are open to the public! At Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, you can sway to the beat of African-rooted jazz music.
Thrilling Excursions for Animal Lovers
In experiencing the natural wonders that Calgary has to offer, you’ll be sharing the city’s green oases with wildlife of all kinds. Go wildlife spotting, visit a zoo, or go on a memorable adventure with them! Calgary offers plenty of options to indulge the animal lover in you.
You don’t have to stray too far from the city outskirts to meet some animals. Let Calgary Zoo take you on a journey across the world through its many exhibits that feature animals from various continents!
From hippos to giraffes to penguins, there are tons of animals to meet in this highly respected zoo. You can even see Canada’s animals in action here, such as grizzlies and mountain goats.
You can even hang out with some part-wolf part-dog furry friends at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary! This sanctuary takes care of abandoned or neglected wolfdogs, who now live in a happy home. On an interactive tour, you can engage with these wolfdogs, take some pictures with them, and more!
If this isn’t enough engagement for you, why not explore Calgary’s great outdoors on a horse? Feel like a cowboy as you gallop across rolling hills and explore the foothills of the Canadian Rockies! There are loads of companies around the city that offer this memorable experience.
Perhaps you’d rather see wildlife right from their homes. If you don’t mind exploring away from the city, you’ll find tons of spaces for wildlife spotting in gorgeous parks and natural areas. See some grizzlies at Lake Louise, say hi to some bison in Waterton, or see bighorn sheep hanging out at Radium!
Alberta’s buzzing capital city has all the thrill of a big city but with the charming vibe of a small town. Experience the best of the Canadian prairies here as you go on loads of exhilarating outdoor adventures! Although it’s often overshadowed by more well-known cities, Edmonton is quite a hidden gem that’s a joy to discover.
What Makes Edmonton Unique?
A City in the Heart of Wilderness
Edmonton, being the capital of Alberta, has everything you’d expect from a big city. The skyscrapers, the shopping spots, the many restaurants, and the vibrant buzz that comes with all that’s going on in an urban center. But this is only half of what makes the city such an incredible destination.
Edmonton is a big, bustling city right at the heart of the wilderness. It’s the ultimate gateway to North Canada’s wild, scenic, and adventure-filled outdoors!
You’ll find wildlife, canyons, glacier-fed lakes, and more, right in the city’s backyard. This makes Edmonton the ideal jumping-off point to Canada’s boreal wonderland!
An outdoor adventure in Edmonton isn’t complete without the North Saskatchewan River Valley. This is North America’s largest urban parkland. The majestic river winds through Edmonton, cutting the city in half.
With a combination of canyons, lakes, rivers, wild areas, and urban green spaces, this park offers outdoor recreation of all kinds.
Explore 99 miles (160 km) worth of trails by foot or bike. Cruise through the river on a canoe, kayak, jet ski, or jet boat. Go fishing, golfing, snowshoeing, golfing, and more!
If you prefer a more calm day outdoors, Edmonton has tons of scenic and tranquil parks.
Go on a picnic by the open meadows at William Hawrelak Park. Marvel at the artwork or stroll through the flower garden at Borden Park. Or take in the beauty of Terwillergar Park’s vast fields!
Enjoying the scenic wonders that nature has to offer isn’t limited to the city though. Part of what makes Edmonton a paradise for outdoor lovers is that it’s so close to national parks!
Elk Island National Park is only under an hour away from Edmonton. This park is a sanctuary for wild bison. But you’ll also see moose, deer, bison, and other animals roaming freely here!
Other than wildlife spotting, this park is also an ideal spot for outdoor fun, such as kayaking, skating, and cycling! This park is also the ideal spot to see the aurora borealis, a natural phenomenon that lights up the sky in vibrant colors.
The famous Jasper National Park is also a few hours away from the city if you’re feeling adventurous. Turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, and massive glaciers await you here!
It’s More Than Just Canada’s Festival City
The great outdoors isn’t the only place to make some unforgettable memories in the city. Edmonton is an incredibly vibrant hub for all things entertainment. And no matter where your interests lie, Edmonton’s eclectic entertainment scene has something for you.
With events year-round, there’s always something going on here to fill your stay with fun!
Edmonton’s festivals can be uniquely Canadian, like going canoe racing in the middle of the winter. It can be as exciting as having the best improvisers in the world tickling your funny bone. Celebrating everything else in between, it’s easy to see why Edmonton is Canada’s Festival city!
Because of Edmonton’s jam-packed events calendar, your trip is likely to coincide with a festival. If not, don’t worry! The city has more thrilling entertainment to keep you busy.
Experience Edmonton’s unwavering love for sports. The city has a robust sports scene that covers football, soccer, and especially hockey. Be one with the boisterous crowd and cheer for the city’s teams at Rogers Place!
A place for all-around entertainment is the West Edmonton Mall. It’s one of the largest malls in the world, and it’s not only a shopping destination. This mall is part entertainment complex and part adventure park too!
If shopping is your entertainment of choice, this mall has over 800 stores for you to splurge in. It’s also home to the World Waterpark, the biggest indoor wave pool in the world. What’s more is that this mall has an amusement park, a lake with a shop, a mini golf course, a themed hotel, and more!
If you’d rather shop for more unique pieces, Edmonton is a paradise for vintage shopping. Whyte Avenue and Old Strathcona are teeming with vintage boutiques!
Immerse Yourself in Edmonton’s Wild Creativity
The beating heart of Edmonton is its vibrant, varied, and thriving art scene. With museums, art galleries, theaters, and more, Edmonton reveals its creativity in many ways. All these mirror the diversity and creative power of the city’s local art community.
When it comes to visual art, The Art Gallery of Alberta is the premier museum in Edmonton. It’s home to more than 6000 artworks, most of which showcase the talent of Alberta’s artists. From historical pieces to contemporary art to photographs, you’ll get a taste of the city’s local prowess.
Featuring artworks of various mediums, the Bearclaw Gallery focuses on indigenous art. Explore the paintings, woodwork, jewelry, and sculptures of world-renowned First Nation artists. If you want to support these artists further, you can buy some of their works at Gallery Walk district!
Visual art isn’t limited to Edmonton’s many galleries though. Discover the many colorful public art in the city! Thanks to these, you can get your art fix almost anywhere in Edmonton without even spending a dime.
The City of Edmonton Public Art Collection has over 200 artworks sprinkled across the city! Some of these are in unassuming places, giving you a pleasant surprise at every turn.
Marvel at the 400 art panels of indigenous-inspired paintings at the Tawatina Bridge. Murals paint the city’s LRT stations, bringing life to an otherwise dull place.
For a dose of Edmonton’s exciting performance art scene, head to the Old Strathcona district. This is the home to many of Edmonton’s big theaters. This includes the Walterdale Playhouse, Varscona Theatre, and ATB Financial Arts Barns.
Many more of these theaters are in the Arts District, in the eastern part of the downtown area. Take your pick between The Citadel Theater and The Winspear Centre for some dazzling shows!
Get a Taste of Its Renowned and Zinging Food Scene
Go on an exciting culinary through local bistros, upscale restaurants, mom-and-pop joints, and more! Edmonton may be famous for its natural wonders and festivals, but it’s an emerging foodie city that’s blessed with nature’s bounty and is full of skillful chefs that don’t shy away from experimentation.
The city may not have the big city buzz of Toronto, but its food scene is just as trendy and diverse. Playing with local ingredients, trying out beverage pairings, and more, are all part of the vibrant food scene here.
Edmonton is home to plenty of restaurants that have put the city on the map, such as Biera and Clementine. By serving dishes that are as local as it gets yet making them artful and interesting, it’s easy to see why they’re the face of the city’s food scene.
You don’t even have to go indoors to get a taste of Edmonton’s flavors. Food trucks are aplenty here, feeding the city with wide-ranging food options. From vegan eats to gluten-free delights to the usual sausage favorites, there’s something for everyone here.
More than this, Edmonton also offers you the flavors of the world in one place. From Indian to Italian to Japanese, the city satisfies every craving!
With a food scene that suits every palate and budget, Edmonton doesn’t let you go hungry. And if you want to start a food tour of the city, head to Whyte Avenue, 124th Street, or Downtown Edmonton. These spots are so filled with restaurants of all kinds, so you’re bound to find what you’re looking for here.
Keep the Fun Alive With Edmonton’s Exhilarating Nightlife
You’ll get to know a different side of Edmonton when you explore the city at night. Filled with exciting after-dark locations, there are tons of ways to get your thrill here, no matter where your interests lie.
For party lovers, Edmonton is an incredible and electrifying hub! Dance the night away at the city’s many vibrant nightclubs or enjoy a chill night out drinking at local bars. At Jasper Avenue, you can do both as this spot is full of nightlife spots of all kinds!
If you’re a beer connoisseur, Craft Beer Market is a paradise. Sample over 100 different brews here, paired with some tasty local cuisine!
Edmonton’s night scene is full of entertainment, too, if you want to listen to music as you sip on some drinks. Head to The Starlite Room, a decades-long venue with shows that cover almost every music genre. If you’re into live jazz or blues, no other venue beats the legendary Blues on Whyte Pub!
Edmonton or Calgary – Which Is Better?
Because Calgary and Edmonton are different in many ways, the better destination will depend on your preferences.
Generally, Calgary is better if you’re a history buff. Rich in culture, you can explore Calgary’s cowboy and indigenous heritage with the many historical sites it has. What’s more exciting is that many of these offer interactive tours so you can immerse yourself in the city’s history!
If you’re interested in an authentic cowboy experience, visit the city during July. This is when the city celebrates The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede.
Another thing that tourists love about Calgary is that it’s the nearest major city to Banff National Park! The gateway to the Rocky Mountains, there are loads of outdoor adventures here.
Edmonton also offers thrilling excursions to the wilderness. This is the nearest major city to Jasper National Park!
But if you don’t want to go out of the city, Edmonton is home to the North Saskatchewan River Valley. This is the biggest urban parkland in Canada, and one of the biggest in North America!
Edmonton offers a more rounded experience than Calgary as it has more urban amenities. The West Edmonton Mall alone offers more than enough entertainment within the city. One of the largest in the world, this mall houses a waterpark, amusement park, and hundreds of stores!
Is Edmonton Cheaper Than Calgary?
Generally, Calgary is a slightly more expensive city to visit than Edmonton. A week-long trip to the city costs around 983 to 1632 USD for one person. Meanwhile, a solo traveler can spend around 967 to 1697 USD in Edmonton for the same length of stay.
If you’re traveling as a family of four, you’ll spend around 3104 to 5496 USD on a week-long trip to Calgary. The same trip will cost you around 3160 to 5780 in Edmonton.
Accommodation costs in Calgary are pricier as you’ll spend around 75 to 86 USD a night for a two- or three-star hotel. For the same hotel types, you’ll only spend around 68 to 84 USD in Edmonton.
Daily meals will cost around 25 USD per person in Calgary. While this will only cost around 13 USD daily in Edmonton.
Calgary is cheaper than Edmonton in other aspects though. Especially with transportation and entertainment costs.
Getting around Edmonton costs around 65 USD per person daily, while it only costs around 10 USD in Calgary. Show tickets, entrance fees, and other similar costs set you back around 75 USD a day in Edmonton. But in Calgary, this will only be around 13 USD.
Edmonton vs. Calgary Tourism
While Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, it’s not the most-visited city in the province. That distinction goes to Calgary, which is also one of the top most-visited cities in the whole country.
There are tons of reasons why Calgary is a stronger tourism scene than Edmonton.
One of these is the Calgary Stampede, an event that celebrates the city’s cowboy heritage. This week-long festival even attracts millions of tourists each year!
Other than that, Calgary is an exciting mix of the old with the new. It offers many historical landmarks set in a city filled with contemporary architecture!
But what’s most known about Calgary is its proximity to the Canadian Rockies. Calgary is only an hour away from Banff National Park, a world-famous gateway to the mountains! This makes Calgary the perfect starting point for Canada’s great outdoors.
Edmonton is also close to the Canadian Rockies through Jasper National Park. But the city is around 4 to 5 hours away from the park, making it more enticing to stay in Calgary.
Where Edmonton wins is its wealth of urban amenities, both urban and natural. Plus, Edmonton is Canada’s Festival City, so there’s always a fun event happening here!
Calgary vs. Edmonton Weather
Because they’re only a few hours apart, Edmonton and Calgary have fairly similar weather. These two cities have cold winters and comfortable summers. But their weather does differ a bit.
Generally speaking, Calgary is a warmer city than Edmonton.
Edmonton has an average annual temperature that ranges from 6 to 75 F (-14.4 to 23.9 C). This temperature range rarely dips below -16 F (-26.7 C) and rises over 84 F (28.9 C).
The warmer months in Edmonton are from May to September. During this season, the average daily high is over 64 F (17.8 C). The cooler months here are from November to March, with a daily average high of under 31 F (-0.6 C).
Meanwhile, the average yearly temperature in Calgary is between 12 to 75 F (-11.1 to 23.9 C). The weather here seldom goes below -13 F (-25 C) or over 86 F (30 C).
Calgary’s warmer months last from June to September. And the average daily high during these months is over 66 F (18.9). The city’s cold season is from November to March, with an average daily high of under 38 F (3.3 C).
Is Calgary Colder Than Edmonton?
Calgary isn’t colder than Edmonton as it’s the other way around. Edmonton’s yearly annual temperature varies from 6 to 75 F (-14.4 to 23.9 C). Calgary is a slightly warmer city with an annual temperature that ranges from 12 to 75 F (-11.1 to 23.9 C).
This difference in weather is due to the location of these two cities.
First of all, Edmonton is the most northern major city in the country. Northern cities in the Northern Hemisphere, of which Edmonton is a part, are colder. This is because the city is farther away from the sun, receiving less sunlight. So it doesn’t receive much warmth from the sun as Calgary does.
Another reason why Edmonton is Colder than Calgary is that the latter receives Chinook winds. These are warm, dry winds that come from the Rocky Mountains, which are to the west of Calgary. Because of these winds, Calgary is not only warmer, the city’s colder days are shorter.
Calgary vs. Edmonton for Nightlife
The nightlife of Calgary and Edmonton is electrifying, varied, and spoils you with a ton of options. But comparing them head to head, Calgary has a better night scene than Edmonton.
Calgary’s nightlife wins for its diversity alone. Chill with some cocktails, hang out at a sports bar, dance in a nightclub, and more!
The best spot in the city for some nighttime fun is Beltline District. This area of the city is teeming with bars and clubs, so it’s easy to go barhopping or shift from casual drinking to dancing in one night!
Plus, you can party like a cowboy in Calgary. Put on your boots and head to Cowboys Dance Hall, the biggest nightclub in the city! Set in the Cowboys Casino, this is an all-in-one spot for late-night entertainment and casino games!
Edmonton is a vibrant nightlife city in its own right too. Like Calgary, it offers a variety of late-night spots, though it’s less diverse.
You’ll find more pubs and bars in Edmonton than nightclubs. This is great if you’re a casual drinker who prefers a chill night out. But it’s a bit harder to find a spot here to dance the night away.
Calgary Zoo vs. Edmonton Zoo
Calgary Zoo and Edmonton Valley Zoo are among Canada’s most visited zoos. Locals would suggest visiting both as they’re only a few hours away!
Calgary Zoo is the bigger zoo of the two. It’s home to over 1000 different animals across more than 270 species! The zoo has several exhibits that showcase animals from around the world!
At Destination Africa, you’ll find a land of lemurs. You’ll find Canadian wildlife, such as bears and wolves, at Canadian Wilds. Then at Exploration Asia, you can see some red pandas and Amur tigers!
Edmonton Valley Zoo is smaller, housing over 350 exotic and native animals across 100 different species. Located near the North Saskatchewan River, this zoo primarily focuses on animal conservation. They offer interactive programs for you to engage with their resident animals!
The animals here live in habitats that mimic their natural ones. The biggest stars here include red pandas and an Asian elephant called Lucy. But the animals of the Arctic Shores, such as fur seals and Arctic ground squirrels, are also popular!
Edmonton Valley Zoo may not have big attractions like Calgary Zoo. But visitors love this zoo for its laid-back and casual vibe that emphasizes the animals.
What Province Are Calgary and Edmonton in?
Calgary and Edmonton are in the province of Alberta. Alberta is a part of Western Canada, and it’s one of the country’s three prairie provinces, the others being Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Edmonton is Alberta’s capital, but Calgary is the largest city in the province.
Calgary and Edmonton Location
Calgary is located in the southern part of Alberta, while Edmonton is in northern Alberta.
Calgary is where the Bow River and the Elbow River meet, both of which are in the south of the province. The city sits where the Canadian Rockies transitions into the Canadian Prairies. Thus, the city offers views of rugged peaks and rolling prairies.
Like Calgary, Edmonton also sits near a body of water. It’s located on the North Saskatchewan River. Within and surrounding the city are ravines, rolling prairies, and river valleys.
Calgary sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. While the mountains sit 140 miles (220 km) west of Edmonton.
How Far Between Calgary and Edmonton?
The straight line distance between Calgary and Edmonton is around 174 miles (281 km). Although this is the shortest distance between the two, this doesn’t give you an accurate estimate of your travel distance.
If you’re traveling between the two, you need to look at the driving distance. And the total driving distance between Calgary and Edmonton will depend on your chosen route.
The shortest route is driving through Highway 2 North. This route has a distance of 186 miles (300 km). And it has an estimated driving distance of around 3 hours.
The other route is via Highway 2 N and Alberta Highway 20 North. On this route, you’ll cover a distance of 238 miles (383 km). It has an estimated driving time of around 4 hours.
Which City Is Bigger – Calgary or Edmonton?
By all measures, Calgary is a bigger city than Edmonton, even if the latter is Alberta’s capital.
Calgary has a land area of 317 square miles (825 square km). While Edmonton has a land area of 264 square miles (684 square km).
Calgary’s population is also bigger. It’s home to over 1.3 million people. Meanwhile, the capital city of Edmonton is home to around 1.0 million people.
Altitude of Edmonton vs. Calgary
Calgary has a higher altitude than Edmonton. The city has an elevation of around 1042 meters (3420 ft) above sea level. Meanwhile, Edmonton sits at around 671 meters (2201 ft) above sea level.
Edmonton vs. Calgary Population
Calgary is the most populated city in the province of Alberta, with a population of over 1.3 million. The capital city of Edmonton has a population of a little over 1.0 million people.
Why Is Edmonton the Capital of Alberta and Not Calgary?
There’s no one specific reason why Edmonton became Alberta’s capital city instead of Calgary. But historians say that Edmonton’s economy and ties to the Liberals are what made it the capital.
In the distant past, Calgary had already established itself as a regional agricultural hub. The economy of Calgary centered around livestock and grain farming.
Meanwhile, Edmonton had colder winters and a longer growing season. This pushed the city to work with mixed farming, with a focus on civic development.
Edmonton was the jumping-off point for workers to the Yukon gold fields. But the major factor that made it an economic powerhouse was the discovery of oil in Northern Alberta and the general area around Edmonton. Edmonton then had a big oil production, and the attention was on the city and not Calgary.
Along with this boom came a massive influx of immigration in Edmonton and its surrounding areas. Edmonton then became one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. And it also became quite liberal.
This worked well in the city’s favor as the Liberal government in Ottawa declared Edmonton as the capital city of Alberta. This was at the same time Alberta became a province too.
The Calgary–Edmonton Corridor is a geographical region defined by Statistics Canada. This region connects Calgary and Edmonton, including the areas between the two cities.
Calgary sits at the south end of the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor. Meanwhile, Edmonton is on the north end of the corridor.
This region not only includes two of Alberta’s largest cities but also consists of the most densely populated census divisions in the province. This includes the cities of Red Deer and Wetaskiwin.
Not only is the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor the most urbanized region in Alberta, but it’s also among the country’s most urbanized areas.
Because of this, the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor is the buzzing tourist hotspot of Alberta. The Queen Elizabeth II Highway runs through the region, connecting Calgary and Edmonton. Thus, it’s easy to experience the best that the corridor has to offer!
Of course, going on a trip to the region’s biggest cities, Edmonton and Calgary are obvious choices. But there’s still much to discover between the two cities.
Watch an exciting hockey game at Westerner Park Centrium in Red Deer. Gallop through the great outdoors at Flying Cross Ranch in Lacombe. Go skiing at the Gwynne Valley Ski Area near Wetaskiwin, and more!
Calgary to Edmonton by Train
Unfortunately, no train services will take you from Calgary to Edmonton and vice versa. While Calgary has train services, none of them will take you outside of the city.
Calgary and Edmonton were once connected by a passenger train called the Calgary-South Edmonton train. But it has not been in operation since 1985.
With this, you have to look at other options when traveling from Calgary to Edmonton. You have three options here, such as a bus, plane, or car ride.
If you want to get to Edmonton right away, go on a plane ride. This option only has a travel time of around an hour.
If you’re traveling on a budget, you can take the bus instead. Several direct buses travel between Calgary and Edmonton daily. On average, a bus has a travel time of around 3 hours and 22 minutes.
Calgary to Edmonton Train Price
At the time of writing, traveling from Calgary to Edmonton isn’t possible. There was once a passenger train that runs between the two, the Calgary-South Edmonton train. But it’s discontinued, and there are no trains that’ll take you outside Calgary.
This train got replaced by a motorcoach bus service back in 1985. So you may want to take a direct bus from Calgary to Edmonton instead. Bus tickets cost around 35 to 57 USD.
A popular option on this route includes eBus, a standard motorcoach that costs 53 USD per ticket. If you want a more comfortable bus, go for Red Arrow’s luxury motorcoach. It costs around 75 USD.
If not, you can always travel via plane from Calgary to Edmonton. Plane ticket prices are quite affordable, and they range from 74 to 479 USD.
Edmonton to Calgary by Bus
A bus ride is one of the most popular ways to travel from Edmonton to Calgary. Over 60 buses travel between the two cities daily, so you’ll have no trouble catching one for your trip!
On this journey, you’ll be covering a distance of 174 miles (280 km). On average, this trip takes around 3 hours and 40 minutes to complete. But the bus ride can be as short as 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The average bus ticket price on this route is around 25 USD. But you can get tickets for as low as 15 USD, especially if you book in advance.
Most bus companies will charge you more if you book your bus tickets closer to your travel date. By booking at least 20 days in advance, you may save around 4 USD on your tickets.
If you plan to travel on a Saturday, you should buy tickets ahead of time. This is the busiest day for bus travel between the two cities, so you may run out of tickets.
The earliest bus on this route leaves at around 8:15 AM. While the last bus on this trip departs from Edmonton for Calgary at around 11:45 PM.
Calgary to Edmonton Drive
Driving from Calgary to Edmonton follows a simple, relatively straight drive north through Highway 2. The route covers a distance of 186 miles (300 km). And this only takes around 3 hours of driving time.
This drive takes you through several charming small towns along the way. The city of Red Deer is the midpoint between the two cities. This is where you can stop for gas and everything else you’d need for the rest of your trip!
Edmonton to Calgary Scenic Drive
The fastest route from Edmonton to Calgary, via Highway 2, isn’t the most scenic route. But driving between the two cities can be more exciting if you have more time. For a more scenic route to Calgary, you’ll have to take the secondary highways nearby!
The first option takes you through stops like Camrose, Stettler, and Drumheller. This route covers a distance of around 372 miles (599 km). This adds a few more hours to your trip, taking around 6 hours of driving time.
A beautiful stop on this trip includes Big Knife Provincial Park, a perfect spot to stretch your legs and go on a short hike. There’s also Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, which is quite a hidden gem. This spot offers stunning views of the Red Deer Valley.
Stop by Horseshoe Canyon, too, before you reach Drumheller. The viewpoint here offers breathtaking views of the Canadian Badlands!
If you have even more time, you can drive to Banff National Park first. Then drive on Highway 2 after passing by Mountain house, or you can drive to Icefields Parkway. From there, you’ll reach Jasper and stop by the national park if you want before heading to Edmonton!