Three different tours to try in the city

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Ever wonder how beer is made? Want to know about Calgary’s public art or who makes Calgary’s iconic white hats?

There are three tours that can answer these questions and are easy on any budget.

Downtown public art

A City of Calgary initiative, the Downtown Public Art Circuit Tour is a free self-guided tour that maps out a small walk featuring public art found in the municipal building and Plus-15 walkways. There are also a few statues situated outside.

Although you can start anywhere on the route, the city’s website recommends people begin at the south entrance of the municipal building by the parking pay stations so you can start and end at the same place.

“The Circuit Tour originated as a city initiative,” says Barbara Greendale, a city employee in the public art department.

downtown art

While people are skating outside in Olympic Plaza, five women, etched in bronze, fight for their rights, because “Women are Persons!” The Famous 5: Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Irene Parlby and Nellie Mc Clung, helped shape the lives of all Canadian Women.
Photo by: Corinne Sato

“The initiative was to get people out of their desks and to go on an hour walk during their lunch break,” she says. “The Circuit Tour allows people to walk and learn about the public art that exists in Calgary.”

Calgarians can go to the Public Art Circuit Tour website to download a map of the tour. For a paperless, eco-friendly approach, there is an app, podcast or telephone number available to serve as guides for the tour.

The tour itself takes between 40 to 50 minutes and is relatively easy to follow. People may be surprised to learn about some of the art that they pass by every day.

For more information about the public walk, click here.

Smithbilt Hats

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge each wore one, as did the Dalai Lama.

For more than 60 years, Calgary mayors have had the honour of “white hatting” some of the most famous guests who have visited our city.

The iconic white hat “was originally produced by Smithbilt in the 1940s,” states the Smithbilt Hats website. “The white hat symbolizes the spirit of Calgary.”

But the white hat is not just for dignitaries. Calgarians can buy their own white hats at the Smithbilt store in Calgary.

hat making

Once a hat is shaped, it is sent to the sewing room, where it will be lined and final details are placed around the outside of the hat.
Photo by: Corinne Sato

Located off 12th Street S.E., Smithbilt has a variety of dress, western, straw and even white hats that meet any budget ranging from $20 up to $1,500.

However, Smithbilt is not just a store. The factory – located at the back of the store – makes the wool and fur hats for customers.

The factory itself is a step back in time. Instead of new shiny equipment, Smithbilt uses 1920s machinery and methods to make present-day hats.

The friendly staff will demonstrate the steps of making a hat including forming, shaping, drying and lining. The factory not only makes hats, but also will restore old hats that need some care.

For those wanting to see the hat-making process and to learn more about hats, factory tours are available to the public or groups are $10 and $50 for an enhanced tour. It is recommended to contact the store at 403-244-9131 to book a tour.

The Smithbilt factory is located at 1103 12th St. S.E. or visit the website at

Wild Rose Brewery

Located in the old Currie Barracks – by the old Calgary Farmers’ Market – sits a large green building housing the Wild Rose Brewery and Taproom. One would think that the Farmers’ Market’s move would have affected business, but the Taproom was packed to capacity over the lunch hour on a recent Saturday afternoon.

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The large silver containers hold 12,000 litres of ale. With yeast added, the ales ferment and are kept specific temperatures to encourage the fermenting process.
Photo by: Corinne Sato

Established in 1996, the Wild Rose Brewery commenced operations in Calgary’s Foothills Industrial Park, states the brewery’s website. In 2006, the brewery moved to its current location at the Currie Barracks in order to expand the growing operation.

Every Saturday at 1 p.m., people can drop in to take a tour around the brewery and learn how Wild Rose ales are made.

For $14, the tour consists of learning about the science of brewing beer – from choosing the grains, to the fermenting process, to bottling the liquid gold found in the brown glass bottles.

The knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides share their experiences and stories about the work done at the brewery.

While listening to the tour, each person gets to sample a half pint of Wild Rose ale. On completion of the tour, each participant receives a souvenir pint glass to take home.

Afterwards, the Taproom is a great place to try more beer and food. It’s a busy place on Saturday afternoons so get there early enough to ensure a spot on the tour.

The Wild Rose Brewery is located at 4580 Quesnay Wood Drive S.W. Visit the website at for more information.

Two Seasonal Tours in Calgary

Ghost tours

For a spine-tingling tour, try a ghost tour. Commencing in May, these guided tours combine local ghost stories with historic information about communities in and around downtown Calgary, as well as in Banff. There are two non-ghost tours available in Calgary for those less inclined to look for ghosts. Tours start at $15 per person. For more information visit the Calgary Ghost Tours website.

Cemetery tours

Ever wanted to learn the history of Calgary – about the founding fathers and pioneers who started the city? Check out some of the cemeteries. Starting in the summer months, the City of Calgary offers free guided walking tours through St. Mary’s Cemetery, Union Cemetery and Burnsland Cemetery. Guides tell stories and give historic information about those buried. For more information, phone: 403-221-3660 or visit the City of Calgary’s website.

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