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How to get through Stampede in one piece

By Maggie Hsu, July 5 2024—

The Calgary Stampede is an iconic event that promises to bring out everyone’s inner cowboy with rodeos, concerts, midway rides, and deep-fried anything you can think of. But as thrilling as it is, surviving the Stampede requires some strategic planning. Here are five essential tips to ensure your ten days at “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” do not wear you out:

1. Plan your days: navigate the park like a pro

The Calgary Stampede takes up the entire footprint of the Stampede park filled with endless activities to do and things to see. Start by checking the schedule for specific times of rodeo events, concerts, and shows. Make a list of events and prioritize them. Arriving early can help you beat the crowds and grab prime seats for popular events. If you find gaps in between this schedule, you can wander the midway to hop on some rides and sample foods from the different stands. A well-thought-out plan will make your Stampede experience smoother and more enjoyable. The Stampede also has an app that can help you create your personalized schedule to tailor your experience to what you want.

2. Sunscreen: your best friend through the Calgary Sun

The Alberta sun can be a cruel mistress during the summer. While we’ve all been heavily anticipating the heat of summer through the extensive winter, spending all this extra time outside and under the sun leaves you vulnerable to the harmful UV rays of Mr. Sun. Whether you’re watching the rodeo, traipsing your way through the fairgrounds, or inevitably waiting in line to get into Nashville North, you’ll spend a lot of time under the big blue sky. Slather on a high-SPF sunscreen, keep it in your bag and reapply it throughout the day. A cowboy hat can be a fashion statement but also adds extra protection when paired with some sunglasses. We’re trying to make memories, not painful ones like a sunburn.

3. Check out indoor exhibitions: hide from the elements

The most seasoned Calgarians struggle to predict the weather on the best days. With Stampede being an all-day and multiple-day activity, we will likely see every weather phenomenon possible. Whether the sun is beating out on you, a thunderstorm forms out of nowhere, or if you need a break from the crowds, head to one of the many indoor exhibitions. The newly renovated BMO Centre and other indoor venues offer displays on Western heritage, art and agriculture. These air-conditioned spaces are perfect for soaking in the Stampede spirit while hiding from whatever Mother Nature decides to deal us. 

4. Comfortable shoes: your feet will thank you

It may be tempting to wear those new cowboy boots to go with your Western cosplay but unless those babies have been thoroughly broken in, it might be best to shelf those until next year. You will be on your feet for hours and doing laps around the Stampede grounds so opt for comfortable, supportive shoes that can handle long walks and standing in lines. When you’re not thinking about how sore your feet are and how the blisters are forming with every step you take, you will have more energy to enjoy everything you have planned for your day.

5. Don’t go

I get it. The Stampede isn’t for everyone. Whether you don’t agree with the Stampede for any reason or don’t enjoy the idea of massive crowds, loud noises, and general chaos, it might be best to sit it out. There are plenty of other things to do during the Stampede and the huge plus about seeking these out is that the Stampede is a big enough distraction for these alternatives to be less crowded. You’ll probably save a lot of money by not going as well and in this economy, this might be the best tip of all.

The Stampede is an amazing celebration of Alberta’s culture. Whether you’re a first-time Stampeder or this is your “nth” rodeo, these tips will help you easily navigate these ten days. Plan, protect yourself from the elements, wear comfy shoes and remember that there’s no shame in going anti-Stampede if it’s not your scene.

Happy Stampeding!

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