What To Do In Calgary

Calgary tower in Downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada
in Downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Tower of Terror, AKA the Calgary Tower

When in Calgary, why not do the Tower of Terror?

Our zoo experience couldn’t have been better, unless, you know, the pandas danced or sang Oh Canada or re-enacted the battle of Waterloo. The weather had turned nice. The crowds were light. And the animals were mostly out and about doing animal things. We had fun.

And the day wasn’t done.

Next up, if we had time, was to see the Calgary Tower. Now, back in my day, it was the tallest building around and my Uncle Jim would take us there for ice cream for a very special treat. Today, though, it sits in the middle of downtown Calgary, nestled amongst the new buildings of glass and steel.

Now, why go here?  I mean, it’s a tower. In the middle of a city. No pandas up there. No waterslides. No pianos.

But it did have something that it didn’t have back in my day. A glass floor extension out from the observation deck. It’s the kind of terrifying thing I try to avoid in my elder years. Being petrified of heights, I can think of a lot more fun things to do like scoop my eyeballs out with a stained crack spoon or see how many fire ants I can eat while juggling flaming scimitars.

However, both The-Youngest and The-Oldest boy wanted to go. Both of them. That is like Di Vinci and Michelangelo agreeing to spray paint the Sistine Chapel. Or (to quote The-Oldest) “Like Stravinsky and Prokofiev agreeing to compose together.”

So, after finding a great area for restaurants (in a very trendy, former warehousie area of downtown Calgary that reminds me of Yaletown), we marched off to see the tower. The elevator that took us didn’t have any windows, which is like a car not having windows (which I guess is a van) but that’s what this elevator felt like.)

On the observation deck, I had to face my fears and go walk out on the glass floor that was at least 10,000 feet from the ground below. (Truth update from The-Youngest, it’s 525 feet down.) As I walked out, everything that could clench, clenched. Even a few things that normally don’t clench, clenched. Had anyone asked, I could have pooped out diamonds.

Calgary Tower glass floor
The glass floor in the Calgary Tower. In my mind, I stepped out a lot farther

But I did look down. Shaking. Dizzy. My stomach filled with angry butterflies, I did it.

Then I walked off it and went in search of a bar. Finding none, I decided to read all the plaques.

Honestly, that glass floor aside, it was an amazing view of the city and they’d done a great job on making the information about the various locations interesting.

Glass floor on the Calgary Tower
Overcoming your fears is part of growing up. I guess I am still growing up

The boyz, however, couldn’t get enough of the glass floor. The-Youngest, when he actually stood on the edge of the glass, had serious second thoughts that stepping out onto the glass floor would be a good idea. Like Oppenheimer looking at the explosion of the first nuclear bomb and thinking, “oh dear, can I take that back?”

Calgary Tower
The-Oldest is fearless when it comes to heights.

But when his brother walked out, fearless as always, being the younger brother, he had to do what his older brother did. And when he overcame his fear, he wouldn’t leave the area. He sat down on the floor, lay down on it, and even took about a hundred selfies. Only when he started jumping up and down on it did we stop him.

The real success, though, was getting The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to step out onto the extension. Like me, she was terrified, but unlike me, she is not motivated by overcoming her fear, of not being shown up by her children, or by needing to write a blog about something.

But when The-Oldest took one of her hands, and The-Youngest took the other, they were able to lead her over to the glass floor. She had that same look on her face that she had on her first date with me, that is to say, one where she wasn’t sure she was going to make it out alive.

She didn’t stand long on the glass floor, but she did try and I love her for trying.

In the end, part of any good adventure is doing stuff you simply wouldn’t do at home.

Tomorrow would hold more of those adventures.



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Why Does the Calgary Zoo Matter?

Calgary zoo alberta 2918
Calgary zoo alberta 2918
Zoos can bee punny!

The Alberta Zoo

There is a move these days to get rid of zoos. It comes from good-hearted people who have not thought through the idea. Oh, they FEEL the idea, for sure, but they miss a fundamental concept.

Zoos connect people with animals, many of which are in danger of disappearing.

Now, we’re not talking about zoos that treat animals cruelly, those should be reformed, but zoos like the Calgary Zoo allow people (kids in particular) a chance to see something real. Not something on TV. Not something on YouTube. Not a poster somewhere of something that once existed.

Too often now, we make choices that distance ourselves from the real world. In a sense, we are putting ourselves in a cage.

Think about it.

Ok, ranty-rant over.

Back to our regular programming.

After the pandas, The-oldest joked had an attack of pun-iness. “I was expecting total pandemonium. Or at least a pandemic.”

To be fair, considering his usual puns take 3 mins to set up, (“so if I was a lion and it was telling me a story, and I didn’t believe the story because it wasn’t very truthful, then, you could say it was lion), those panda puns were good puns. As was his remark about Himalayan Deer ‘they must be very valuable because they’re dear.”

His favourite animal, though, was the markhor deer. It had curlie horns and looked like it was about to shed about 40lbs of fluff. I think the Taliban ride them into battle. He tried to talk to it. A lot. But it didn’t respond so we moved on.

alpakas in the calgary zoo 2018
Alpacas! Perhaps the most cuddly of the camel family.

The-Youngest hated that all the food stands were closed, and he didn’t get any cotton candy, however, he did get to see the alpaca that looks a lot like our spazadoodle. He, too, tried to talk to it, but it wasn’t in the mood for a conversation and simply pooped.

For The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, her best time was at the panda exhibit. She loved how the pandas snuggled, but I think she enjoyed watching the baby gorilla explore his world, play with his food and look for things to play with.

lions at the calgary zoo 2018
The Lion does not sleep tonight! I am not lying. They were not lion around.

Me? I liked hearing the lions roar and watching them stalk about the cage. I haven’t seen lions move much (they mostly pull a panda and nap most of the time), but they were magnificent creatures this day, powerful but not as elegant as a leopard.

The highlight for all of us, though, was our time in the lemur cage.

See, this is where my whole zoo-is-good thing comes to fruition.

The zoo had set up an enclosure with nets overhead and Fort-Knox-like gates that allowed people to BE WITH the lemurs, you know, those cute little things that appear in Disney movies.

We were told not to move too fast or touch them or feed them or talk to them about Liszt, but we could watch them as they watched us, get close enough to them to touch them (but not, you know, actually touch them) and have a chance to see real live animals up close, no bars, no windows, no metal mesh separating them from us.

It was fantastic, even if one idiot did try to touch them.

One lemur even took a liking to The-Youngest, and if you want to see how he reacted, check out the video.

Hippos at the Calgary zoo, alberta 2018
Hippos! They taught the pandas what to do

But we all loved seeing the animals (though no one seemed to appreciate me singing “Walk with the animals.”)

We scouted out the tigers. We waved at the giraffes. We shook our head at hippos that looked suspiciously like me after a turkey dinner. We watched momma gorilla look after her little one.

And then I think the family pranked me with the idea that porcupines shoot quills. They were so convincing that I had to load up wiki-thing to show them otherwise, and then they all just smiled at me and giggled.

So, go see a zoo some time. Spend time with the animals. Make a conscious decision to experience an amazing part of our world instead of watching a documentary about our friend the lion or leaving it up to Disney to show us what animals are like.


And hey, thanks for reading this!  

If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 



Traveling With Kids – San Diego 2014 – Top 10 list #1

10 things I thought I would never say on this trip

This may not come as a shock to anyone who has kids, but you end up saying some of the oddest things. Things you probably wouldn’t say at work, at church or over a cup of tea with your grandma.

That’s part of the joy of kids. You just never know what they’ll inspire you to say…
1)      The pooing will start now. Who’s first?

2)      Let go off your wiener, please, I know you have to go to the bathroom.

3)      Stop hugging the ketchup bottle.

IMG_36914)      Ok, go kill some ants, just don’t whack each other with the sticks.

5)      After the youngest said, “I just peed all over myself.” You wouldn’t be the first.

6)      Stop twerking your brother.

7)      Complaining about it will not make it go any faster.

IMG_02738)      Stop making faces at the gorillas.

9)      No zerbering your brother in the security line

10)   No, Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, I’m exhausted, I just want to sleep.

Next up, the 10 things everyone should bring on a vacation to make it the most awesome, epic, stress-less vacation of all time.

What things have you said to your kids or said on a vacation with kids?


Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Balboa Park

Our Secret Spy

bondTruth time. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had a spy down in San Diego. To protect his identity, let’s call him Schmennis. He‘d gave us advice on where to look for a good Mexican restaurant. He’d given us advice on driving times and things to see, things to do, and things to avoid. He given advice on the weather, clothes to wear and a place the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world could do some shopping.

IMG_0282IMG_0286So, after we had visited the gorillas again, (no sign of the baby), after we had done the gorilla stance, after we had eaten terrible hamburgers while the red-eyed bird kept its eye on the oldest, after we had fed a few ducks, bought a few souvenirs, tried to find popsicles and failed, after we’d bought gorilla t-shirts for the boys, it was on his advice that we went to our next destination.

balboa park mapBalboa park. The park of about a billion museums. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but the park is HUGE!  It has the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Automotive Museum, the San Diego Hall of Champions, the Centro Cultural de la Raza (whatever the heck that is), the Museum of the Living Arts, the San Diego Museum of Man, (not to be confused with the San Diego Natural History Museum), the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (oh my, the geek in me got all tinglie inside), the Mingei (What?) International Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (for little kids), the Timken Museum of Art, the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, the George W. Marston House and the San Diego History Center.

Whew, right?

Plus there were gardens and green parks and merry-go-rounds and the San Diego Zoo and dogs.

It’s the neat thing about not having a hard and fast schedule. We could do a whole ton of things with our free time. So, we’d researched some options the night before and presented the incredible findings to the boys. The Air and Space Museum had a Ripley’s Believe it Or Not exhibition!!!!

Unlike the epic fail of Universal Studios, this suggestion made the younger one hoot, and the older one smile, just a bit at first, but then he couldn’t contain himself and got all bouncy and excited like his younger brother.

Now you have to understand. The boys, the oldest in particular, has a bookcase full of books about odd things, weird things, smelly things, dead things, and sharks.

johnny depp chocSeeing a real life exhibit by Ripley would pretty much hit most of those things. It would so awesome, like the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world eating chocolate with Johnny Depp or me having the abs of one of those 300 Spartan guys.

So, off we drove.

But our guru had not told us what to expect when we arrived there. It was way better than we even imagined.

Traveling With Kids – San Diego Zoo Safari – Fate

Is There Such a Thing as Fate?

Here’s the thing. When we arrived at the Safari park, I managed to leave first my phone and the jackets in the car. Don’t ask me how, I’d had my cups of coffee. But as I stood in line, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had to go back for them.

The line took a while. Now it wasn’t a long line, but the people in the booth were very helpful. I’d even say massively helpful, which is awesome when you need information, but not so awesome when you’re trying to get into the park before sunset.

We’d arrived at about 11:30, and, when I got to the window, sure enough, the tours were all booked. Dammit, I should have thought to book one online. Blah.

IMG_2123But they said if we rushed, we may be able to see the baby gorilla. So I booked a tour for the next day and we all hoofed it over to the gorilla area. As Dora would say, past the bamboo forest, over the bridge, along the lake, through the tunnel and then you’ll find the gorillas.

See, there’s the safari part, where all the animals get to roam around on the grasslands and interact with each other and play tennis and stuff, and then there’s the zoo portion where the animals are held in traditional (but pretty expansive) pens.

IMG_3446Such was the case with the gorillas. As we passed through the tunnel to reach them, the oldest one observed something deep and profound.

“Animals stink.”

Yes. Yes they do.

As we approached the gorilla exhibit, we saw there was a pretty big crowd. We heard the zoo attendant say the mother and her baby were out. We couldn’t see them as they were far in the back. The mom was protecting her child or at least keeping him away from us human types. The young gorilla scavenged and played on walls of the moat. Cute as hell. Others sat in trees, a couple wandered around and one gigantic silver back sat on a rock outside the group’s cave keeping an eye on things.

IMG_0277The silverback was magnificent. The oldest boy watched him in fascination. I couldn’t blame him. The youngest marched around like he was in a cage, like he wanted to go in there and play with them. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world kept her eye on the mom, concerned. She hated that the mom had so many people staring at her. She felt like we were invading her privacy.

I watched the expressions on all the gorillas. Unlike giraffes or rhinos, they have emotions, expressions, eyes like us. I wondered what the silverback was thinking on top of that rock. Look at the picture. What do you think? I watched the young gorilla play and watch us as much as we watched him. I watched another female gorilla get a serious expression on her face, then take a banana over to the new mother.

I know some people don’t agree with zoos, but this is how we connect to animals. It’s not enough to look at them on youtube. To see them, to observe them, to hear them, to even smell them makes us realize how related we are to them, how important it is that we make sure they’re not made extinct.

As we watched, the mother came down from her faraway perch. The crowd got all excited.

[wpvideo 30bsDmvu] Then we saw the mother and the baby. She held him close to her chest at first, then flipped him on her back like I would a backpack.

We watched her for as long as she would let us before she went inside. It was amazing to me how the other gorillas reacted. So .. like us. The younger one wanted mom’s attention so badly. The mother so determined to protect her newborn. It was an honest moment.

[wpvideo Gu3CT2LY]It was a magical moment for us. A rare moment for the zoo to have a new born. A truly rare moment for us to be that the right place at the right time. A professional camera crew was even there on the off-chance they baby would come out. There’s a better blog about it.

The boys were stoked they saw the baby. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, a little mixed. She loved seeing the new mom, but this felt a little invasive for her.

Had we gone on the tour, we would have missed that moment.

Fate had intervened.


Anyone who’s been to the Safari Zoo have a similarly magical experience?

And if you ever are bored and need to reblog this, or share it, or tell your friends about it, please do. I love to be read.