Calgary stands confidently on the spacious plains of southern Alberta. Blocks of mirrored skyscrapers make the city look new, which it is: Most of downtown has been built in the past few decades. The city's major businesses are in keeping with this modern image—oil, gas and high technology.
But there's still a wild, frontier side to the town. Cattle lands and farms surround it, and the Rockies rise dramatically in the west. Calgary has acquired a sophisticated demeanor while retaining a cocky, entrepreneurial spirit that stems from the independent, self-reliant cowboy culture that was the city's foundation.
This mixture of the urbane and the untamed gives the city much of its vitality. It's even reflected in the major events associated with Calgary. The same town that showed off its cosmopolitan qualities for the 1988 Winter Olympics also puts on a cowboy hat for 10 days each summer during the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, the mammoth rodeo that is by far the best-known event in Alberta.
In spite of its cool business image, the city is devoted to preserving nature. It has 19,027 acres/7,700 hectares of green space and 435 mi/700 km of recreational pathways within the city, providing an escape for residents and 180 mi/290 km of on-street bike lanes for commuters. Calgarians love to work hard and play hard, and this is reflected in the wide selection of shopping and entertainment venues. And its broad mix of international cultures is represented by the astounding diversity of restaurant fare.