The best festivals in Calgary are some of the biggest celebrations in Canada. The city has over 80 celebrations covering everything from food, science, and innovation to railroads, salsa, and quilting. There are also cultural festivals from countries like Scotland, Iran, Japan, and Brazil.

    As a hub of the arts, Calgary has literary, movie, music, and theater events, plus a huge annual celebration for local artisans. Indulge your inner geek at comics and anime festivals or be wowed by feats of circus acrobatics. Get excited for your next trip with our pick of Calgary celebrations you won't find anywhere else.

    1

    High Performance Rodeo

    Avant-garde theater and movie festival without a horse in sight

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    High Performance Rodeo is a Calgary festival of theater, movie, music, and dance. Despite the name, it doesn't have anything to do with cowboys. This annual event embraces the bold and original, with performances ranging from enthralling contemporary dance to smash hit theater. Shows take place in unorthodox locations around Calgary, including pedestrian skyways, wrestling rings, and elevators.

    Take a break from sightseeing for a free lunchtime concert or a fabulous cabaret performance. Previous shows have included an experimental 1-man theater, an audience participation version of Hamlet, ballet-modern dance fusion, and pop-up tents filled with individual performers.

    Open: Late March–late May

    Phone: +1 403-294-9494

    2

    Lilac Festival

    A celebration of local crafts and craftspeople

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    Lilac Festival celebrates local crafts, fashion, food, and music in spring, when thousands of lilacs are blooming across Calgary. Things kick off in the morning with a grand parade of performers in colorful costumes. Then, it's time to head for the stalls, where hundreds of vendors sell handmade jewelry, clothing, home decorations, crafts, and ornaments.

    You can enjoy a variety of snacks and beverages at food stalls, which come from the city's best cafés and restaurants. Around 6 concert stages host music from local and regional bands, as well as dance troupes, youth choirs and martial arts displays. Street entertainers perform magic tricks or make animals out of balloons, while a bouncy castle provides hours of fun for the little ones.

    Location: 4th Street Southwest (between Elbow Drive and 14th Avenue), Calgary, AB, Canada

    Open: Late May

    Phone: +1 403-453-7424

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    photo by Qyd (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    3

    Calgary Folk Music Festival

    A rollicking display of folk and world music

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    The Calgary Folk Music Festival is a 4-day music event that features not just first-rate folk music, but also funk, indie and world music. Across 8 stages, 70 artists (both new voices and returning favorites) play funky, upbeat tunes. Previous acts have included Elvis Costello, k. d. lang, Emmylou Harris, and Kris Kristofferson.

    A highlight of the Calgary Folk Music Festival is the jamming sessions, which involve multiple acts improvising together. There's also a craft market where you can pick up handcrafted soap and stationery, plus dozens of international food stalls. Try some interactive activities in the family area, or pop by the Talk Tent to see comedians and spoken-word artists.

    Location: Prince's Island Park, 698 Eau Claire Ave SW, Calgary, AB, Canada

    Open: 4 days in late July

    Phone: +1 403-233-0904

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    4

    The Imaginarium by Wordfest

    Rousing discussions with great international writers

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    The Imaginarium by Wordfest is an inspiring literary festival that hosts writers from around the world. Speakers are a mix of debut authors and iconic names, with previous guests including Margaret Atwood, E. Annie Proulx, George Saunders, and Lemony Snicket. It’s a great event to discover new authors, learn more about Canadian literature, or get your books signed by your favorite writers.

    Events include interviews, panel discussions, workshops, spoken performances, book signings, and a spelling bee. Don't miss the Literary Death Match, in which a group of authors read their work aloud and are gradually eliminated by a panel of judges. If you're a dedicated literary buff, you'll also enjoy answering challenging questions at Wordfest's Trivia Night.

    Open: 1 week in October

    Phone: +1 403-237-9068

    5

    Beakerhead

    Fanciful and fantastic exhibits of educational science

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    Beakerhead is a festival that blends science, technology, and art to create hands-on demos, art installations and innovative performances. You might find yourself riding a MondoSpider machine, playing a piano that's connected to 30-ft Tesla coils, or enjoying dinner on a sustainably powered Ferris wheel. Past guests have included astronaut Chris Hadfield, physicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and science educator Christopher Emdin.

    You can also enjoy live music at Beakerhead. Previous performers have included American rapper GZA and CompressorHead, an animatronic robot band from Berlin. Don't miss the wrap-up party, which features circus performances, dance, and laser displays. Many events are outdoors and don't stop for rain, so come prepared for Calgary's changeable weather.

    Open: Late September

    Phone: +1 587-351-7787

    photo by Neal Sanche (CC BY 2.0) modified

    6

    GlobalFest

    Celebrate Calgary's multicultural community with fireworks

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    GlobalFest is a cultural festival that honors the many international influences that have shaped Calgary. Cultural pavilions serve up food from around the world, with booths dedicated to Indonesian, Caribbean, and Ukrainian cuisine, plus spots for empanadas, bubble tea and poutine. There’s also a night market offering clothes, handmade jewelry, and crafty gifts.

    Local artists perform traditional dance, contemporary music, and martial arts on several stages during GlobalFest. You can also enjoy 5 nights of fireworks displays, designed by pyrotechnicians from all over the world. Glittering shows of colorful fireworks burst above the reflective lake of Elliston Park.

    Location: Elliston Park, 1827 68 St SE, Calgary, AB, Canada

    Open: Late August

    Phone: +1 403-569-9679

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    7

    Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo

    A fun festival celebrating pop culture

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    The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo is a colossal pop culture party that rejoices in all things geeky. The expo is famous for reuniting the full cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it has also hosted the actors from The Lord of the Rings, the cast of The Karate Kid, and the stars of the long-running TV show Physician Who.

    At the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, you can attend Q&A sessions with actors, artists or writers to hear about their upcoming projects, or join hands-on workshops. The autograph sessions offer a golden opportunity to meet your favorite actors. There are costume contests for kids and adults, a red carpet for cosplayers, and a thousands-strong cosplay parade through Downtown Calgary.

    Location: Stampede Park, 650 25 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 4K8, Canada

    Open: Late April

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    photo by Kyla Duhamel (CC BY 2.0) modified

    8

    Calgary International Beerfest

    Discover your new favorite brew

    The Calgary International Beerfest is a massive tasting session that takes place in May. It hosts over 200 Canadian breweries offering at least 700 types of beers. Sample a caramelly pale ale from Two Pillars Brewery, a tropical IPA from Belching Beaver, or a nutty brown ale from Olds College Brewery. There's also a substantial range of artisan ciders and meads to try.

    The Brew Master seminars are a great way to learn about the beer-making process, while the Cooking with Beer seminars explore all the multiple delicious uses for beer. Local pop-up restaurants serve juicy burgers, barbeque, deli sandwiches, and cakes to go with your choice of beer. You can also check out live entertainment throughout the festival.

    Location: BMO Center, 20 Roundup Way SE, Calgary, AB T2G 2W1, Canada

    Open: Early May

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    9

    Calgary International Movie Festival

    The best of the year's movie theater, hand-picked by industry experts

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    The Calgary International Movie Festival screens a diverse array of new movies by mostly emerging Canadian filmmakers. The festival curates some of the most inventive new thrillers, sci-fi flicks and comedies, and even international movies. You can also watch documentaries covering topics like classical music and climate science.

    The Special Presentations are the most popular screenings during the Calgary International Movie Festival. Another fascinating section is Generation Next, chosen by local teenagers to reflect their perspective on the world. Visit the Behind the Screen sessions to see panels of actors and directors talking about the process behind their movies.

    Open: Late September–early October

    Phone: +1 587-393-3730

    10

    Circle Carnival

    A vibrant festival of acrobatics and dance

    • Families
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    The Circle Carnival brings breathtaking acrobatic performances to Calgary, along with good food and great music. Circus performers pull off gravity-defying feats while magicians dazzle the crowds with their magic tricks. There's a circus school where kids can burn off some energy, a miniature Legoland, and a huge ball pit for kids and adults alike.

    Two stages host live music by local DJs and touring bands, starting with upbeat and folksy during the day and progressing to dance music as the sun goes down. Food trucks serve tasty goodies like pierogis and gelato while several pop-up bars offer craft beers and cocktails. Amble around the Carnival Market for jewelry, homeware, or crafts from local artisans.

    Location: Shaw Millennium Park, 1220 9 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 2C4, Canada

    Open: September

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    Victoria Hughes | Contributing Writer

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