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Ten of Calgary’s hidden gems

By Dianne Miranda, April 26 2023

Despite comments such as “I moved to Calgary just because it is close to the mountains” or “Calgary never comes close to being as cool as Vancouver,” Calgary is filled with hidden gems from delicious eats, one-of-a-kind record stores, local and small businesses to bookstores, often tucked away where even locals have troubles finding them. Here is a non-hierarchical list of 10 of Calgary’s hidden gems that will make you fall in love with Calgary (again).

1. I Love You Coffee Shop // 348b 14 Ave SW

The only Japanese-inspired Jazz Kissa, coffee shop and liquor store, located in the basement of a convenience store in Beltline. Open from Tuesdays to Sundays, I Love You Coffee Shop plays vinyl albums all day and hosts pop-up events. They will certainly have you leaving the shop saying “I love (you) coffee.”

2. Alumni Sandwiches // 725 17 Ave SW

Alumni Sandwiches & Liquor Bar has a vintage diner-style setting that offers delicious sandwiches and cocktails perfect for brunch or a late dinner. The “Rosemary Beef Dip” or the “Double Burger” with added mushrooms and topped with a fried egg always seem to hit the right spot no matter the time of the day.

3. Velour Clothing Exchange // #101 1812 4 St SW

Velour Clothing Exchange is Calgary’s first dedicated buy/sell/trade clothing store of carefully curated and handpicked items. The store is also arranged gender-neutrally allowing for customers to have a safe, welcoming place to explore, define and expand personal styles and expressions.

4. Recordland // 1208 9 Ave SE

Recordland is the embodiment of the image of a vintage buy/sell/trade record store. They offer a large collection of both new and used vinyls, CDs, cassette tapes and collectible music. As well, if you’ve seen a photoshoot of someone in an aisle between shelves of records, it would have been in this record store. 

5. Good Thrift // 149 5 Ave SW

Good Thrift is Calgary’s newest fundraiser thrift store for Calgary Community Fridge and Good Neighbour YYC, open from Thursday to Sunday. What is better than getting good, affordable second-hand finds while simultaneously supporting and directly giving back to the community? 

6. The Next Page // 1217A 9 Ave SE

An independent charming bookstore that buys used books and has walls with ceiling-to-floor shelves, and a coffee shop located in Calgary’s historic Inglewood district. Bonus: a cozy basement with a hidden theatre. 

7. TRUCK Contemporary Art // 2009 10 Ave SW

Calgary has many amazing art galleries from the Esker Foundation and Contemporary Calgary. TRUCK Contemporary Art is among them; it is a unique non-profit artist-run centre featuring local, national and international artists all while aiming to provide opportunities, foster innovative creative practices and include local communities in critical dialogue. 

8. Trout Beach // St. Patrick’s Island

Trout Beach is one of the less crowded areas on St. Patrick’s Island and is perfect for picnics, a stop for a breath of fresh air from a stroll and for a dip in the water on a hot summer day. 

9. Secret Heritage Walk // along and around 13 Ave SW

This hidden gem is more of a hidden eight-blocks gem that is perfect for a roughly one-hour nice stroll downtown. Despite being a fairly busy street, many Calgarians are not aware that this area is one of the interesting heritage walks. Along these eight blocks are more hidden gems such as Memorial Park, Memorial Park Library, Park by Sidewalk Citizen and the Lougheed House. 

10. Norberg Hall (NH) // 333b 36 Ave SE

Previously known as Jarvis Hall Gallery, NH is a commercial contemporary art gallery featuring prominent emerging, mid-career and established Canadian artists. In their programming and curation, their desire for a strong visual culture and passion for gender equity is evident. 

If you’ve made it this far, here is an ultimate favourite hidden gem that will not be gatekept:

11. Bù, A Vintage Shoppe // 110 3 Ave SE

Located in Chinatown, open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12-6 p.m. Bù A Vintage Shoppe always has endless rows of racks of colourful clothing where you’re bound to find a new favourite clothing item. In addition, they host events, pop-up markets and even movie nights.

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