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A Love Letter to Calgary

By Emma Swanson, September 6 2023—

It’s hard for me to choose my favourite place in Calgary.

I’ll tell you, Calgary’s hidden gems include: Reader’s Rock Garden, Purple Gorilla Comics and Pappy the Fortune Teller. 

Flowers and history compose Reader’s Rock Garden. The garden hides behind trees and watches over the city from a hilltop. 

The owner of Purple Gorilla Comics, Michael Pavlic, who you can catch at the shop every weekend, intends on working there until the day he dies. 

“On a Sunday at 5:01 P.M., I’ll expire, and that’ll be that,” said Pavlic. 

Lastly, Pappy the Fortune Teller is a speaking machine that might dispense you eerily accurate information about your life while clad in Western wear. 

It could not get more niche than that.

But if you’re bored and looking for a good, fun and relatively cheap time, a-less-hidden recommendation, but a gem nonetheless, is the Canyon Meadows Theatre.

This fantastically not-recently-renovated theatre plays the Harry Potter series throughout the summer. In addition, their menu features a “dirty soda” called The Princess Bride. This soda is my go-to, not only because of the tribute- but because it is genuinely good (being a concoction of Dr Pepper, Raspberry, and Cream. Yum). 

(See Pretty in Pink, Die Hard, and The Breakfast Club also on their menu).

Other notable establishments for guaranteed good times include Tattoos For Now, an airbrush tattoo booth at the Calgary Stampede, the Pin Bar, and I Love You Coffee Shop.

Tattoos For Now is an annual pleasure. The booth advertises an array of 90s and Y2K-inspired designs customers can pair with any colour, my favourites being: cherries, fairies, or phrases like “princess” to get plastered on your collarbone. 

The Pin Bar also has a Simpson’s arcade game with artwork reminiscent of the show’s earlier seasons, and I Love You Coffee Shop has pink walls. Need I say more? 

But if I had to choose one, my favourite place in Calgary is probably the 7-Eleven my dad would take me and my brother to after visiting his dad’s grave. 

To get hot dogs and pop, of course. 

Or the obscure soap shop, like a dark hole in the wall, my Fight Club-inspired, soap-making mom took me to when I was 5. 

The dimly lit shop stacked its shelves with bubblegum-scented oils. 

Calgary’s hidden gem may even be under the large, mushroom-shaped water fountain at the Southland Leisure Center, where the water pouring down becomes an all-encompassing curtain you can hide behind or sit under. 

Finally, the Beddington Square Towne Centre. Because it has a great view of the city and is where my sister and I bought Peek-a-Poohs or mini stationary supplies in the early 2000s. 

With 7-Eleven being an average chain and Peek-a-Pooh’s long gone, these locations might seem lacklustre. 

Importantly, places you call gems may not be gems to anyone but yourself. They may exist only during certain hours, with certain people, or in your mind’s eye. 

Your favourite places may not be traditionally “cool” or enjoyable; despite this, your feelings and memories associated with them arguably, transform them into gems- rendering them even more special than the joint opening down the street. 

These are the places in Calgary that I hold close to my heart. Hopefully, these words have inspired you to visit them or to reflect on what your gems entail.

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