Once a year, people swarm into town for “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. The Calgary Stampede. This 10 day rodeo which takes place at the beginning of July has been a big event for my family ever since I can remember. I think my mom has only missed about 4 or 5 in her lifetime. She is over 50. I have only missed about 3. One of those times was because I went into labor with Jack, my son. Last year, I did the stampede when I was 34 weeks pregnant with my twins. My husband was sure I was going to deliver the girls at the Stampede grounds. I’m proud to say I didn’t. So… needless to say, Stampede is an important event in my families life. And we’re pretty good at doing it right.
Stampede can be pretty daunting as it is a GIANT carnival/rodeo. There are lots of things to do, thousands of people, and it can also get pretty expensive if you don’t plan for it properly. This was my third time doing the Stampede with kids, and I now feel like I can successfully do it with my children. So, here are some tricks for anyone who is interest in next year! This applies to anyone, but I’ll add extra stuff for you families with young children. (It’s never too early to start planning…)
Every year, the Calgary Stampede is kicked off with a giant parade. There are lots of floats, bands, horses and vintage cars to see. The parade lasts about 2 hours, but my son was completely engaged by the time he was 2. He was less interested in the parade when he was 1, but my daughters, who were almost 1 this year, were really good during the parade and seemed quite engaged. The went down for their nap almost 2 hours late because of all the fun stuff that was going on!
Most people show up super early for the parade and find seats along the parade route. We’re talking 5 or 6 am early. The parade starts at 9am. As a parent of young children, there is no way I’m finding a seat 3 hours early only to have to sit through a 2 hour parade. Not. Happening. I’m lucky to get my kids to sit for the two hours. But, never fear parents! There are options where you can book tickets to sit in select bleachers along the parade route. It’s a little more expensive, but you are guaranteed a spot and the money goes to good causes. Check out seating here. I like the one where we get breakfast 🙂
What to Bring
The parade is an outdoor event, so it’s important to bring appropriate clothing. If it’s going to rain, make sure you have umbrellas, raincoats and maybe mittens to keep your fingers warm. Hopefully you’ll have a cowboy hat so that will keep you a little drier! If it’s hot, make sure you have sun screen, also a hat, and LOTS of water. Stay hydrated. I also like to pack lots of snacks for the kids as they usually get hungry during the parade.
Pick the Right Day to Go
Going to the grounds can be crazy. There are usually lots of people, but over the years I have found that some days tend to be a little busier, or less busy than others.
Parade Day (First Friday)
Every year since having my kids, we have headed to the grounds after the parade. I have found this to be the best day to go. People seem to head to work after the parade and it seems to be less busy than the other days. If you don’t like crowds, pick this day.
Family Day (First Saturday)
I tend to avoid this day. They offer free admission in the morning for families, and the grounds just get SO busy. But. If you are on a tight budget, this is a great day to go because of the free admission and breakfast (you’ll save over $40, easy, for your family by getting in free… More money for food if you aren’t too full from the free pancakes!). It just depends on what you want out of your stampede visit.
Heritage Day (Tuesday)
I like to go on Heritage day because it’s seniors day and I found there are less children that day. There were still a lot of kids when we went this year, and the lines for rides were longer, but I think if you went in the afternoon it would be better. That way, the families who came with the seniors (who got in free) would probably have thinned out by then.
Kids Day (Wednesday)
Kids under 12 and accomining adults get in free during this morning. There is also free breakfast. Sounds great, until you are in the crowd. Once again, I avoid this day, but there is definitely something to be said about free entrance and breakfast. I leave that to you.
The grounds tend to clear out if it looks like it’s going to rain. There are lots of indoor activities to do, so it isn’t that much of a stretch to do stampede in the rain. If you don’t like crowds, I highly recommend going on a more dreary day. This year, the weather was pretty bad and the Stampede offered a bunch of times when you could get into the grounds for free! Pack rain gear, and you’ll be fine.
Plan Ahead, It’s Cheaper
When you get onto the grounds, it can get pretty expensive. But, if you plan ahead, you can do the stampede at an affordable price. Here are some things to look for before the month before you go to the grounds.
There are a couple different options for tickets if you plan ahead. Coke offers free children’s tickets to the Stampede if you buy a pack of 12 cans. The coupon is advertised on the box. You can also go to Mac’s Stores and get a deal where you buy two coke bottles (750mls and two stampede admission tickets for a reduced price than what you get at the stampede. It might not be a lot, but it is something!
The grounds can be expensive, but Costco offers Stampede Bucks the month before the stampede. You spend $40 and get a book of $50 stampede bucks which can be spent on the grounds at the stampede. It’s an extra 10 dollars you never had before, so it is worth it!
I found this one really valuable. You spend about 38 dollars for a coupon from Sobeys or Safeway, and it gives you 55 tickets or a ride all day wrist band. It was totally worth the money as the savings were pretty significant. Keep an eye out for them next year, because they go fast!
The Calgary Stampede offers a variety of lottery tickets that you can get on the grounds. There is a 50-50 raffle (worth over 1 million dollars), a dream home, and lots of different vehicles you can win. You can buy pre-packaged lottery tickets which are a better value than the ones on the grounds if you plan ahead. Plus, there is an early bird draw!
Stampede Shows Tickets
The Stampede offers tickets to a daily Rodeo and Chuckwagon/Grandstand show as well as a number of concerts you can see. You can buy tickets on the grounds for a reduced price for the rodeo and Chuckwagons, but they are usually standing room only. If you don’t mind standing for a few hours, this may be the way to go, but you probably won’t have a great view and if the weather sucks, you are going to boil or drown. I find it easier to buy your tickets ahead of time. That way, you can get great seats. If you buy tickets to any of the concerts at the Saddledome, the Rodeo or the Chuckwagon Races, they include the price of admission. They are great shows, and it is definitely worth the price of admission!
That’s it for the pre-planning portion of the Stampede, next time I’ll talk about all the fun stuff available for the Stampede goers!