How to Plan a Stay-and-Play Getaway Right Here and Now

January 21, 2020 by University District

Dig These NW Calgary Gems for a Staycation to Cherish


While the holiday flurry and bustle is only just in the rear view, many of us may already be casting glances at the calendar, eyeing the next vacation. If you are thinking ahead to your future weekend or week-long holiday, keep it simple and look no further than just beyond your front door! 


Don’t let the neighbours’ talk of Maui luaus or Vegas jackpots sway you! The saying that “there is no place like home for the holidays” rings true right here in NW Calgary, now and well into the new year. This is especially true when we live in and around University District where exploration yields rewards in spades, in hearts and in aces of a different kind. 


Let’s explore the idea of a NW Calgary staycation!



It’s no secret that Calgary is emerging as a tourism destination with visitors flocking to enjoy the stunning scenery and noteworthy landmarks. Whether you taxi or transit, walk or wheel, our city and quadrant is a trove of unique experiences, fun shopping adventures, delicious culinary treats and sights.

Once you commit to keep your vacay days for exploration near home, the next step is to choose where to stay. We suggest booking a room for a night, weekend or longer!


Where to Stay in NW Calgary


Visitors to NW Calgary stay in style. You can too! One of the keys to a great staycation is to pack an overnighter or suitcase and roll up into a local hotel.


Known as the gateway to the Rockies and for our great sports options and proximity to the city centre, the NW is home to oodles of charming motels and inns, including Hotel Alma & Seasonal Residence at the University of Calgary and ALoft. For a guide to great stays, the U/D way click here!


On the horizon, did you know the award winning Canadian boutique hotelier Germain Hotels is opening its second Alt hotel in Calgary right here in University District in 2021?


Before we dive into our favourite hidden NW gems to see, do, try and buy, let’s hear from Germain Hotel’s Director of Development Hugo Germain about Alt Hotels’ plans for U/D, especially with construction already under way.


Photo Credit: Alt Hotel


Alt Hotel Brings its Chic and Trendy Allure to the Northwest


Formal news has yet to be released as plans develop for University District’s upcoming Alt Hotel. But we sat down with the man behind the popular brand to let us in on some of what’s to come and why they chose to open in NW Calgary.


”Germain Hotels is very excited to work on its first-ever hotel in such close proximity to a University campus,” says Hugo. “From day one, when the opportunity came across our desk to open in U/D, we saw a unique chance to create something different. The dynamism around a university campus is the perfect setting. Our intent is to create a space that will encourage the community to make it its own, not just our guests. A stimulating environment for living, sharing, working and having fun.”


Inspired by its surroundings, Alt Hotel will integrate concepts of sustainability and efficiency, while maintaining its modern design guidelines.


Photo Credit: Alt Hotel


“We like to work with our architects and designers to create something that fits well in the community around us.  We also like to work with local artists to integrate images of Calgary as seen on past projects. You should expect the same type of integration in University District.”


“The interesting aspect of the location is also its proximity to the hospitals and sports facilities. To that extent, we also adapted our design and room mix to fit the needs of longer stay guests but also create an environment that will help those people to unwind as some will be dealing with difficult times.”


From large bookshelves and dark wood panelling to a high-tech lobby, shared workspaces and a stimulating environment, Alt Hotel and its designers at Lemay Michaud Architecture Design have come up with a space in which visitors would clearly have the look and feel of a university vibe.


“We created two spaces on each side of the lobby to host a full-service restaurant and a café that will be owned and run by local talent and whose concept will also be inspired by the University of Calgary.”



What Are Your Favourite Hidden  Local Gems Where the U/D Aura Shines?


Staycations are about taking the time to breathe, look around, break with routine and vagabond in our own backyard. Sharing some of our favorite ideas, ways and places to peruse for pleasure close to home can make any break better.  Let’s take a look at these top tips for local travel!


Haven’t made your plans for February, the month of love? Here are some fun ways to celebrate with your loved one close to home, in true staycation spirit! 


1. Check in to check out?


Ask and answer yourself: check into a local hotel or stay at home?  We recommend a true break from the day-to-day by opting for a hotel stay where the sheets are crisp, the coffee’s warm, the views are fresh and you can truly unwind without the natural, practical distractions of home.


2. Plan to unplug


Make a staycation a device-free getaway with tips on how to unplug without causing stress. Instead, pack a book and commit to at least the first three chapters.  Did you digest any of our recommended books from last summer? Take a look here for some inspiration.


3. Step out of your comfort zone


Commit to being curious and trying new things. Just like on vacations away, let down your hair, up your courage and go boldly into the Northwest.


4. Film everything


This is the day for documenting your life and now you have an awesome excuse to post! Bring out the video camera or GoPro, play with your lenses and snap happy!


5. Be Your own concierge


Prepare all you need in advance: make reservations and keep them, organize your clothing (although it’s nice to forget sometimes and have an excuse to shop!), and bring a family member or friend with you to join your activities.


Call out | While we are sharing our tips, we would love to hear yours! Drop us a line or tag us in your social posts at your favourite gems.



Ready to Hit the Road… Just up the Road?


The essentials of any great guide are: what to eat, what to drink, where to shop and what to do. There are iconic NW Calgary highlights not to be missed from Nose Hill hikes to Notable noshing. But today we want to suggest the curious, the quirky and the only-in-the-NW ideas.


What to eat, remembering we are on holiday!


In NW Calgary there is goodness around every corner, from fresh sushi and salads to pizzas and proteins. So for this guide — since we are on holiday after all — we are on the hunt for sweet treats. 


Photo Credit: Purdy’s Chocolate


Wiener Schnitzel Haus


Our top must-try is reminiscent of a trip to Austria to indulge in the cultural tradition of “kafee and kuchen” at the Wiener Schnitzel Haus. Its house-made desserts follow traditional European craftsmanship.  Try the apfel strudel, served with vanilla sauce or Heisse Liebe (“hot love”) which is chocolate ice cream topped with hot berries in schnapps. Their Einspänner coffee is named for the famous single horse drawn carriages in Vienna and topped with thick cream to keep the coffee warm on cold days out and about.


Purdy’s Chocolate


Also in NW, tucked away in Market Mall, look for the unique purple triangular boxes at Purdy’s Chocolate to discover delicious little hazelnut filled hedgehogs. These are a Canadian original coveted by visitors as a true taste of Canadian creativity and cuteness in chocolate.


Photo Credit: British Pantry


British Pantry


For more chocolate and yummy uncommon edibles, a trip to the British Pantry is like a trip across the Atlantic! This NW Calgary institution has been open since 1997 with an incredible range of  British confectionery. Visit this delightful shop for our favorites like Curly-Wurlys, Mini-Moos (vegan and organic), Walnut Whips, Twirls and Starbars.


Wiener Schnitzel Haus: 4703 Bowness Rd NW | 403-288-2230 | wienerschnitzel.ca

Purdy’s Chocolate: 3625 Shaganappi Trail NW | 403-286-1122

British Pantry: 125-4820 Northland Drive NW | (403) 220-1406 | britishpantry.ca


Photo Credit: Chatime


Stay Hydrated


Make time for tea! Our top-pick spot for tea is Chatime.  Not your ordinary cuppa, we suggest their classic Brown Sugar Roasted Milk Tea. Enjoy roasted tea leaves with the added sweetness of rich brown sugar. If you have yet to try bubble tea, give it a go this staycation! For a touch of added intrigues and sweetness toppings include aloe vera, coconut jelly, grass jelly or pearls. Be adventurous and don’t be shy to ask about their most popular concoctions and options.

Chatime: 10 Brentwood Common NW #120 | 587-356-0966


Photo Credit: University of Calgary Bookstore


Look Like a Local Because, Well, You Are!


There is no better way to show your Calgary pride than on your chest, head and guitar picks! We are talking about all that is in store at the University of Calgary Bookstore and the McMahon Stadium Gift Shop. Both are fun spots to find quality branded apparel and gifts. We are huge fans of the Dinos hoodies, toques and track pants….perfect for gadding about U/D.


University of Calgary Bookstore: 2500 University Dr NW | 1 877-220-5937 | calgarybookstore.ca


One of the benefits of travel is that it gets us and moving outside of our comfort zone! Counting steps comes easy when you are in exploration mode. In the spirit of wellness for the new year, check out these stay-active adventures that may surprise you while planning to enjoy your staycation. 



Time Travel with Adventures in 3D printing


Living near the University is a boon for creativity, engineering, arts, wellness and more. One way you can tap into the excitement and progress that the people who live and work here are stirring up. One hidden “photo lab of the future” is located at the Alastair Ross Technology Centre where you can have yourself photographed and turned into a mini statue in plastic or ceramic for a fun way to learn about the science and art of 3D printing from a friendly team at Super 3D Plus. 

Super 3D Plus Inc.: #140 3553 31 ST NW | 403-452-2200 | super3dplus.com


Be a guinea pig!


Beyond the University of Calgary, there are other learning facilities that provide opportunities for students to test their newly acquired talents on members of the public! Remember, we are in our most adventurous mindset during a staycation. Our top pick is the Canadian Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Massage School where you can call to inquire about reservations for practice massage sessions and more. 


Canadian Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Massage School: Two Executive Place, 1824 Crowchild Trail NW Unit 300 | (403) 520-5258 | citcm.com



Staycations equate to time and money savings, restorative time without the hassles and headaches travel can present and the joy that comes from appreciating what we have when viewed through a fresh lens! When locals embrace local, it supports our community’s sustainability — culturally and economically. Staycations are in and a U/D win-win!



Have a suggestion to take a staycation from mediocre to extraordinary or a hidden gem we missed from our list? Share your thoughts with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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