Explore Calgary Alberta With Lori McLellen


Culturallyours Podcast Exploring Calgary Alberta With A Local

Explore Calgary Alberta With Lori McLellen

Show Details

In this episode, we explore Alberta Canada and the city of Calgary with a local Lori Mclellan. Lori lives in Calgary with her family and as a long time resident she knows some of the most epic areas to visit to experience the grandeur of Alberta. She also shares some off-the-beaten path adventures around Calgary that can help you explore this amazing city. From restaurants to outdoor spaces, Lori takes us on a beautiful adventure – right from the comfort of our homes. She also shares some beautiful images of all the places she talks about via our blog.

Show Notes

Karthika explores the beautiful province of Alberta and the city of Calgary with a local Lori Mclellan. Lori lives in Calgary with her family and she shares her love for her city – unique experiences in and around the city. She shares some off-the-beaten path adventures around Alberta that can help us explore this amazing province that famous for its national parks like Banff and Jasper. From restaurants to outdoor spaces, Lori takes us on a beautiful adventure – right from the comfort of our homes. Karthika and Lori also talk about the future of travel as seen from the eyes of a local living in a touristy location.

The Transcript

Karthika: Welcome Lori. Thank you so much for joining me on culturally ours. I’m very, very excited to have you on the podcast, and I cannot wait to chat with you. Get to know you a little bit better and get to explore your part of the way.

Lori: Thank you

Karthika: Before we get started, could you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, just to help set the stage for this school?

Lori: Sure. I live in a smaller city, just outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I’m actually on a farm property. I’m married for 26 years and have two adult children, one lives at home with us and the other one lives in the city. So everybody’s close by still, and just kind of a partially empty nest, I guess, kind of easiness. And, my husband and I are both self-employed and we both work out of the homes. So we’re here together a lot. I love photography is one of the biggest things that I love to do. And so to go with that, I like getting out into nature and shooting landscapes or just being outside. I enjoy reading and other hobbies, I like to try and crochet your quilt when I have time, but photography takes a lot of that up. So I’ve just always loved to create and use my hands for things. So that’s me.

Karthika: I have respect for you, Lori, because I’m not creative at all. Yes. I love photography. I’m a photographer, but I think that’s the start and finish of my creativity, my sister, on the other hand, quilts, crochets, knits cooks. And I’m just like, she’s an all-rounder and I’m like, oops, I guess the creative gene stopped with her.

Lori: Well, I like to create. I don’t say that I’m necessarily that good at it. I don’t know if I’d say I’m a creative person, but in a different sense, I guess when I look at my photography, I don’t feel creative, but I just always loved doing those things. I think I grew up with a grandmother who did lots of that stuff. So I think maybe she instilled that in me.

Karthika: Now you said a rural area outside Calgary, a farm. So do you guys like to grow stuff or do you guys have animals?

Lori: No, we live on what would be considered a rural property, but we are very close to the city. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds in a way. We don’t work any of the land here other than just keeping up, gardening, and the stuff around our house. The land is leased out to local farmers who grow their crops on it.

Karthika: Okay. So I’m thinking a lot like farmlands around you, a lot of greenery and of course being close to Calgary and a lot of mountains. Am I right?

Lori: There is. I always say I kind of have the best of both worlds depending on what direction I want to go. I can head West and find the mountains. I can head to the East, the North, or the South and find, varying degrees of farmland ranch, land foothills. There is quite a variety here, which you probably noticed when you were here. so most people think of our area as the mountains, but there’s a lot of, I like to say, and I have to remember it myself when I’m doing photography and stuff. I like to try and, show the other surrounding areas. the farm during certain times of the year, the farm fields are just beautiful when, the canola blooming or, the, the wheat or the barley or whatever is, is out there growing.

Karthika: You are so right. I mean, we tend to pick, I guess, the most prominent to the most popular a lot of times, and we forget all the other things that are around. And I guess that’s why I kind of love this local’s perspective because I don’t think about it that way. And it’s so interesting to hear you a native who’s been around there for so long to kind of observe and see all these things and say yes, this is also a part of the place and locale.

Lori: I’ve been in Calgary for well over 30 years now. And I am still learning to appreciate the area and what my city offers and the surrounding areas. And there’s still a lot of things I haven’t seen. So I’m still learning about the city itself too.

Karthika: All right. I’m sure we’re going to get to that bit as well, but for now, can you talk a little bit about how your community or your local area has handled these past few months with the pandemic and everything’s shut down and how are things reopening in?

Lori: I feel like our province has handled the pandemic well. Our government has handled the pandemic quite well. Our local government took a strong stance on testing doing lots of testing and contact tracing. We shut down mid-March like everybody else, completely. But where we’re at right now most things are open. Restaurants are back open, retail’s back open, hotels are back open. Some things are on hold. I know my daughter wasn’t able to play soccer or the soccer club didn’t continue. So, things feel somewhat normal, in a lot of ways, there are still restrictions. The restaurants can only have so many people at one table and their tables have to be a certain distance apart. The city of Calgary is mandated for masks. Everybody has to wear masks in indoor public spaces, transit offices, retail restaurants until you get to your table. I know quite a few other cities in the province have done the same thing, the little city that we live close to outside of Calgary. So I think more or less it’s been handled well personally, I know this week everyone’s back to school, our schools have gone back, K to 12 is all going back to normal with, with changes in the school. Parents can’t come in, to volunteer. They have to have masks and whatever changes the schools are making to keep things safer.

Karthika: Yeah. And it’s kind of similar here as well, in Chicago. So just like you, it’s not that obvious when I step outside my front door, but as we drive around and as we try to get some semblance of order back in our lives, we are seeing people slowly doing the same thing. And then things look very different from what they did last year. And I think it’s just going to kind of continue, but since travel also has changed so much in these past few months, do you see that impacting your area or even like in Calgary or even the state.

Lori: Being so close to the mountain parks, Banff, Lake Louise in that area, which are, known worldwide and we have, people come from all over the world, international visitors and it’s a big part of the economy out there. So that definitely, impacted the parks. so they are still getting lots and lots of day trips, people doing local trips. So the number of people coming out to visit hasn’t dropped too drastically because of that. But places like the hotels are suffering because those people are just coming out for the day. And so the hotels aren’t being used. It’s impacting even in the city of Calgary, we rely on tourism as one big part of the economy. And every year they have what’s called the Calgary Stampede, which I also think is somewhat known worldwide. That’s a 10-day festival. Usually the beginning of July or always the beginning of July, I guess. And this is the first time in over a hundred years, they’ve ever had to cancel it because they couldn’t have it. They would have up to hundreds of thousands of visitors in a day down, down at what they call the stampede grounds. And they do rodeo, they do Chuckwagons, they have the midway, they have all kinds of agricultural shows going on, with the animals and everything. And that’s a big hit to the city because that is 10 days of people coming from all over, the bars, the restaurants, the hotels, small businesses. And then a lot of times those people, who come, they spend time in the province, they’ll go out to them or out to the parks or continue out to even British Columbia, that thing. People that have come from far enough away explore other areas. So it’s impacted travel. It impacted the economy.

Karthika: Yeah. It’s never really only one thing, right. And I think that’s what this pandemic has taught. All of us. It’s never really an isolated one single industry or a single vertical. It affects so many and everything is so interconnected, even on the, not just a local scale, even on a global scale. It just, I think that’s what boggles my mind when I think about what we’ve gone through since March.

Lori: Hard to believe it’s been six months. Right. and how much we’ve learned and, and even businesses that have, even though they’ve been affected by these things, they’ve found ways. Some of them have found ways to make the pivot. Right. So even though the Calgary stampede couldn’t go on, they did a few things. That was to still kind of have something, for people like during Calgary stampede, the pancake breakfast is a big deal. All kinds of people do businesses and stuff. They do different pancake breakfasts. And so they still did a couple of those down on the stampede grounds that were driven through. So you could order your pancake breakfast, you could drive through and still go get a meal that way just to keep some of the spirits around. And they had a couple of nights where they had food trucks lined up. So you could come and get some of the, maybe the kind of food you would’ve got down the midway, during the stampede as well. So, little things like that, have helped. In Banff they’ve closed some of the main streets, where they have the most, people knowing about. And so that kind of help for people still to be able to be down there, but they are spaced apart. So, they’re still able to attract some people and things like that. So

Karthika: Yeah, definitely very creative ways to keep the local economy, kind of growing and sustainable. Now Lori, if I or somebody else were to make a trip out to where you are, where would you take us? Give me a little bit of an itinerary on, where we would go or we’d see what we would do.

Lori: Probably the first thing I would do would take people out to the mountains because obviously, that’s something we’re very well known for. so I wouldn’t necessarily maybe take them into the town of bam, but, drive around and show them some of the beautiful lakes. the BANFF gondola. I went up there for one of the first times in years this summer, and I think that’s worth taking people on and you get up there and you just have this amazing view of the whole valley, the lakes that you, I’ve been to and driven to the townsite, you can go up there. It would be a beautiful spot to go up for sunset from what I’ve heard. So I think that would be a really fun thing to do. If people were up a hike, I would find something that, again, as it depends on, people’s activity level, what they want to see, but I feel personally, like you have to do maybe a little hike just to get you away from the crowds and see what is out there. what it looks like when you, I think a lot of people just come to bounce, they tour the townsite and they don’t see what the mountains have to offer. So you could do a little hike, something from Lake Louise, you can hike up to, it’s called Lake Agnes Tea House and it’s a little hike, a few kilometers. You can sit and buy some tea and some baked goods and just enjoy the scenery around you and the views from up there. so that’s, I’d like to say that I’d like to, offer people a hike, that’s, if there’s, if that’s too much, for some people you can walk to the end of like curries, that’s, an easy hike and not a hike, that’s an easy walk and it gives you a different view and maybe get you away from the people. there’s a couple of neat places. I would maybe take people to eat. There are some breweries and distilleries that are kind of neat in Banff, and Canmore which is another neat little town. It’s just before the parks, just before bam and it’s becoming popular as well. It’s not as busy as bounce, but it’s getting there, but it’s also got nice little shops and restaurants. So there’s a brewery there that we often go and have our lunch or dinner, depending on what time of day. And bam has a neat little distillery that has some nice food. So maybe lunch at one of those places. So that’s, I mean, the mountains are obvious. If they didn’t want to go out to the mountains, in Calgary, I’d probably take them for walks through some of my favorite little neighborhoods and, cute little stores, boutique stores, independent coffee shops. We’ve got lots of great murals in downtown Calgary. I would show them probably Olympic Plaza because we hosted the 1988 winter Olympics.

Lori: That was when I first came to Calgary, those were going on. So we still have some like every city, some remnants of the Olympics after they host them. So Olympic Plaza is right downtown and it’s a little Plaza where they used to give out the metals, I believe it’s for the sports. And so in the summer, It’s a nice little wading pool with some fountains sprays from the side coming in, right close to the Calgary tower. So you can see that from there in the winter, they make a skating rink and it’s all lit up real pretty. Yeah. So you can walk through there and that just takes you on to what’s called Stephen Avenue, which is a little downtown street, mostly pedestrian or parts of it, lots of restaurants and that thing.

Lori: And you can walk through there and then it takes you over to Prince’s Island, which is right along the river. Prince’s Island is a nice little spot with a lagoon with all the ducks and geese and in green space. And then, yeah, so the river’s right there. So, and then we’ve got a beautiful bridge called the peace bridge that was built. several years ago, it’s fairly new. but it’s become quite the photo spot or that place that the kids all go when, when graduation happens, they all go there for their pictures to get them taken. And so it’s kind of one of those iconic architectural spots. and then, the Calgary tower, you can go up and you can have, it’s a good spot for the 360-degree views of what I explained before, where you could see, Calgary to the East Calgary or, to the West of Calgary, to the East, to Calgary, to the South, to the North and see how everything looks, from up there, you can just see the whole area.

Karthika: I absolutely love gondola rides and going up to towers because it just gives you such a different perspective, right? I mean, you’re always at the ground level and suddenly go up and you’re like, it just takes your breath away and you get, you get such a good perspective of everything around you.

Lori: You do. And I think, I think both of those, as I said, the tower and the gondola just give magnificent views of, the whole surrounding in one shot and we can kind of put it all together on some of the places you may be visited, you can pinpoint, where you were and when you’re looking down. So, those are some of the things that I think I would do.

Karthika: Sounds good. That actually, leads me to my next question very nicely. The one thing that I’m kind of seeing a lot, from just different forums and talking to people is that everybody is looking for travel, looking to travel, but they want more grassroots, off the beaten path, and maybe hyper-localized experiences. So, from purely your perspective and your lens, I would love to know the answers to some of these questions and just kind of tell me why, why do you like it? Right. So, what is kind of your favorite restaurant, and again, why do you like that?

Lori: Well, my husband and I are pretty low-key casual people. So if we’re thinking of going out somewhere, to be honest, we probably would go to one of our favorite thin crust pizza joints. That’s just kind of the way we are something where we don’t have to get too fancy. And, so we have a couple in town that we, like one, are called without papers, and it’s a neat little restaurant inside. We haven’t been inside for a while, obviously because of, because of COVID, but they have, they have an open kitchen, so you can see them tossing the pizza crest and, the pizza dough. And, they always have movies showing on the wall. So it’s kind of a fun place to go for families. they’ll have a variety of different shows, whether it’s kids shows, I guess maybe they would just read who’s there at the time and they just show it up on a blank wall and, to enjoy while you’re having your dinners.

Lori: So that’s kind of a neat spot. if we were celebrating something more special, one of the places we’d kinda like to go the last couple of years, is a restaurant called the Dean house. And it is a restaurant that’s in a historic house historic to Calgary. I believe it has something to do with the old Royal Canadian mounted police unit that would have been here right next to Fort Calgary. And, so they’ve, they’ve redone the house and its right downtown by the river and they have these beautiful gardens and outdoor patio. The weather’s good enough. You can sit outside and, cook meals that are based on the local, local food supply. and a little Canadian, I guess, is what they, they call it. So we often will go and just do what they call this Jeff’s tasting menu. So we have no idea what they bring us. And so we’ve done that twice now in the last few years for our anniversary.

Karthika: I think I liked this concept of the tasting menu because a lot of times you go somewhere, you’re like, Oh my God, what do I order? I don’t know what is good, what is not? And, you just kind of leave it to the chef and you’re like, okay, whatever you bring out, I’m sure it’s going to be great.

Lori: It’s just a different feeling. Always is. I don’t think there’s anything that I’ve gotten that I have not been able to eat or really couldn’t takedown. So, it’s a neat way to try new stuff.

Karthika: Are there any spaces since you like the outdoors so much that is considered more like a local hangout that maybe wouldn’t necessarily be on like a brochure or a guide book or something more low-key?

Lori: Well, I would say, I mean, I would say I wouldn’t, I don’t know that it’s not necessarily on a brochure, but, Prince’s Island, which is, right downtown. I mentioned it earlier. It’s right outside of downtown Calgary and along the river, that’s, that’s a place where you find a lot of people go when the weather’s good. you can go down there and, and you can walk or bike, they’ve got lots of picnic areas. people will go and just, big grassy areas. So you can just go plant your, your blankets and, play Frisbee, play ball, just hang out. They do, they do some festivals down there. I know every year, the folk festival is held down there. So, in that sense, that’s, I would say it’s a local hangout, is it not? No, probably not. It might be something that, well, I don’t know, I guess maybe not necessarily people from out of town, wouldn’t necessarily know about it, but, being right next to downtown and stuff, then I’m sure they’d come across it if they’re out in that area. So,

Karthika: Now you’ve, you’ve talked about, the hike that you did, up in the bath, which led to the tea house. And then you talked about this path that you guys just went off, went off, off the trail, and found this beautiful area. So do you find yourself doing a lot more of those sorts of exploring things in your area now that travel is a little bit more restricted and have you uncovered any other quote unquoted gems that you maybe didn’t know existed or you’re rediscovering?

Lori: We have our national parks, but we have lots of provincial parks as well. And so we did discover one this year. That’s just Calgary in the foothills. and it’s called Sheep River provincial park. And we found it’s just a little quieter park with fewer people. There’s another river that runs through it. So there are some waterfalls and some hikes that, the first one we did out there was basically through cow pastures. A lot of them are kind of, I’m not going to see a cow pasture, I guess that’s not the right word, but ranching is big in Alberta. And so in the summer, they let the cows just go out and roam in these larger areas. And so some of these trails are in those same areas where ranchers let their cattle roam.

Lori: And so, there’s a beautiful waterfall there that we found last time we were out and it’s close to a couple of smaller towns where you can go and just grab a meal and wander through their town. Calgary has a really good web of bike paths. I can get on a pathway out here where I live and get into the city. And then you can just do the whole city on these paths. You can go all over the place. So it’s kind of a fun way to just get on your bike and go and see what you can find and start in one neighborhood and just follow the signs that say bike path this way and see where you get. Right.

Karthika: And sometimes you’re even biking on the street and you’re just, that’s, that’s just what it is. And, people also kind of know that a lot more people are out and about on bikes and even walking and stuff like that. So it’s not abnormal now before it was, you would hardly see anybody on a bike. Everybody’s going to congregate and doing the same, big touristy thing, but now people are kind of thinking outside the box. So where do you think travel is headed in the future, just even based on how you guys are thinking about exploring and getting out. I would love to kind of hear your thoughts.

Lori: It’s a tough question, I guess. I mean, we don’t have any plans to go very far. Maybe people will stay closer to home, I guess explore the same way things are being done now, explore their state, their own country. I know there are lots of places I still would like to visit in Canada. And that might be, this might be the push that is needed when things settle out a little bit, to be able to travel within our own country and go see the things we haven’t seen

Karthika: Sometimes it’s the choice that is taken away from you. And like, we can’t like I can’t go back home. I have to have a really good reason to go back home. And not that I want to sit on a 22-hour flight, given this current situations, but, sometimes it’s just, it’s just, you just go, especially if you’re used to being out and about, it’s just, you just start to feel so claustrophobic and you’re like, I just need to go somewhere and it might be just jumping in the car and going for a two-hour drive and coming back. And sometimes that’s all it takes. Right.

Lori: And that’s fine. Right. Like just going for a drive and seeing something different. I think I’m not sure why we’re like that now. Like, I don’t know if 40 years ago, I mean, I know my parents never did a lot of traveling growing up when we were kids. We didn’t, we didn’t go super far. We never did, vacations to Hawaii or everything was usually very local. And just, I don’t think I took a plane ride until I was an adult. So it was not something we ever did. When we were kids, we didn’t fly to Disneyland or anything. We did go to Disneyland once, but we drove, I remember that very clear. So different now that we do feel so claustrophobic or so cooped up for that, that itch to take somewhere. And I mean, my husband and we’re homebodies, we like being at home, but you do need a change of scenery, I think, where you just go kind of stir crazy.

Karthika: Yeah. I think having your expectations and maybe to some extent, the sense of entitlement as well, reset is, is a feeling that you might not accept, but at the end of the day, that’s, there’s nothing you can do about it. And I think you, you just learn to live with it and you just learn to make the most of it. We’ve always been Roadtrippers. And so for us, driving 14 hours is not the end of the world, but I know some of my friends are like, Oh my God, we just drove for the first time. In like 10 years, we drove like six hours and how do you do it? And I’m like, well, you do it. If you want to do what you do and you make the most of it because there’s nothing else you can do.

Lori: You see different things that way. There are things you miss when you fly.

Karthika: Yeah, for sure. For sure. Well, thank you so much, Laurie. This has been amazing. As I told you earlier, I did visit Calgary last year and I loved everything that I saw. so out of the country. So thank you for sharing your perspective and a little bit of your part of the world and getting a local’s perspective for me at least. And I know my audience likes it too. There’s always something you learn and you learn to look at a place from the eyes of somebody who’s been there. And I think that’s a very different way of looking at it, then reading it from a guide book or seeing it from tourists eyes. So this definitely for me was very enlightening. So thank you.

Lori: Oh, good. I’m glad I appreciate that. And thank you for having me.

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