It’s that time of year again – the 10 days when cowboy boots, hats and Wrangler jeans fill the streets, and Yahoo and Yehaw can be heard from miles away. The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth runs from Friday, July 5 until Sunday, July 14, and we’ve got some handy tips for visiting the grounds when you’ve got little cowpokes in tow.
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How To Get In The Gates Without Spending A Fortune
With regular admission to the Calgary Stampede, kids under 7 are free, seniors and kids 7-12 are $9, and general admission for anyone between 13 and 64 is $18. There are actually plenty of ways to get in for less, though!
Purchase Stampede Bucks at Costco. For $39.99, you can get $50 in Stampede Bucks, which can be spent on admission, rides, the rodeo, evening shows and more.
Get the Coca-Cola 2 for $27 deal at Circle K. For $27, get 2 general admissions and two 500 mL Coca-Cola or Dasani products.
At Co-Op, save $9 on Stampede Admission when you spend $5 on any Coca-Cola products.
Purchase Ride All Day Cards at Safeway, Sobeys and IGA (only available until July 4th). For $37.85, a Ride All Day Card can be purchased and exchanged for 60 coupons or a Ride All Day wristband, valid on all Midway rides, games and the WestJet Skyride.
Visit during Sneak-A-Peek (Thursday, July 4th). From 5 pm until midnight, where General Admission to the Stampede is $9 entry and kids 6 and under are free! Regular Midway prices apply.
Visit on Parade Day. The Stampede Parade begins at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 5th, and visitors who decide to head to the grounds anytime between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. get in for free!
Visit on Cenovus Family Day (Sunday, July 7). Enjoy free entry and food from 7:30 am – 11 am.
Visit on McDonald’s Community Day (Tuesday, July 9). From 10 am until 2 pm, where General Admission is only $2, and seniors (Ages 65+) are free all day. There is also free coffee and doughnuts in the morning while supplies last.
Visit on BMO Kids’ Day (Wednesday, July 10). From 7 am to 9 am admission is free for kids 12 and under and accompanying adults. For the rest of the day, entry is only $2 for kids 12 and under. There’s also a free breakfast in the Grandstand Courtyard from 8 until 9:30 am in addition to free variety shows on the Grandstand stage from 8 to 10 am.
How To Get To The Grounds
Last year, because we had two kids under three, we bit the bullet and decided to pay for parking at the grounds. After a long day in the heat, we were glad to be able to walk a short distance to our car and head home. However, this year, I think I’d like to try to save the $25 cost for Public Parking (available at lots 15, 18, 14, 20, 10 and 11) and take public transit. The CTrain and Bus both stop at the Stampede Station right at the grounds. Discounted transit passes are available during Stampede, making this the way more affordable option for getting to the Stampede (Adult day passes are $7 and youth passes are $5). If you’re worried about getting to the grounds in your vehicle and finding that there’s nowhere to park, you can try to reserve your parking online ahead of time with ParkWhiz for $30. There are also paid lots around the Stampede Grounds at varying rates.
What To Do When You Get There
One of the first things you’ll see as you come through any entrance on the grounds is a booth for the ATCO Lost Kids Program. Here, you can get your kiddo tagged so that if you become separated, the Lost Kids Patrol will take them to the ATCO Lost Kids Centre across from the south end of the Big Four building where you can be reunited.
Pro Parenting Tip: It’s a great idea to take a photo of your kids the day you head to the Stampede so that you’ll have an up-to-date photo of them in the outfit they’re wearing that day in case you need to provide a description of their appearance to anyone.
Head to the BMO Kid’s Zone (located near the Grandstand), where there are tons of fun activities for kids of all ages, including complimentary face painting, daily wall murals to colour, PAW Patrol character meet ‘n greets, Thomas and Friends Live Shows and more! Times vary by day, so be sure to check the website for more information.
For young kids, visit The Great FUNtier, near the Agriculture building, which has a mini-midway with games and kid-sized rides like the Dizzy Dragon, Merry Go Round, the Wacky Worm and more!
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The Dog Bowl and Agriculture Showcases will keep animal lovers entertained, while the Monster Energy Compound will wow everyone in the family as they watch freestyle motocross riders fly through the air 3 times a day, with an encore performance during the fireworks.
This year, there are two brand new entertainment acts to check out – The Light Balance and DUNDU – The Giants of Light. The Light Balance is a hi-tech neon and LED acrobatics and dance show, and DUNDU is a giant, illuminated puppet show, where enormous human-like creatures glide between audience members to original live music. You won’t want to miss either of these, so check the Stampede website for showtimes!
General Stampede Survival Tips
Bring lots of snacks and water! We always try to pack our own food (think sandwiches, fruit, veggies, granola bars – you know, healthyish stuff) so we can feed our kiddos on demand without having to worry about long lineups for food. This also allows us to be a little more purposeful about the midway snacks we really want to try out (Butter Beer Ice Cream and pickle pizza, anyone?) and reduces the risk of leaving the Stampede with a deep-fried tummy ache.
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Hats, sunscreen, and plenty of fluid are essential. The Midway gets really hot on sunny days, and our young kids had a hard time dealing with the heat. We like crossing the bridge over to the Elbow River Camp where we can spend time immersed in the cultures of the Siksika, Piikani, Kainai, Tsuut’ina, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations while resting on the grass and cooling off in the shade. The beautiful teepees, local vendors selling jewelry and art, and mouthwatering bannock burgers make this location of the grounds a must-visit.
Go early when admission prices are often lower. Also, leave during the heat of the day, and come back in the evening (bonus points if you can get your kids to nap in between!) Just make sure to get a stamp before you leave, and keep in mind that hand stamps are not available during free admission times.
Bring a stroller. Traversing through the crowds with a stroller can be tough, but it’s definitely doable. The pros of bringing along a stroller are having a place for tired little legs to rest and somewhere to store all of your snacks, sunscreen, water bottles, and all the things you’d otherwise have to carry in a bag or backpack. Strollers are perfect for makeshift shade and impromptu naps as well. The main con of bringing a stroller to the Stampede grounds is trying to maneuver your way through the crowds – so if you can bring an umbrella stroller or something more compact, you’ll probably be in better shape.
Feed your babes wherever you want. There are areas available for breastfeeding mothers in the washroom south of the WestJet Skyride and Lost Kids Centre if you want a more private place to do so.
Have a pancake breakfast. If free pancakes and fun family-friendly activities are your things, don’t miss the many amazing pancake breakfasts happening around the city during Stampede. This handy calendar has a list of many of the events taking place between July 5-14.
A visit to the Calgary Stampede is definitely a great way to kick off the summer. What are your tried-and-true tips for visiting the grounds? We’d love to hear them in the comments!