Calgary Tower

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The Calgary Tower is impossible to miss on the city skyline, and it’s just as difficult to pass up a trip to the top of the observation tower.  As night fell on the city during Day 1 of my trip, I decided to invest $13 CAD in a ticket that would allow me to look down on Calgary.  I’m normally pretty thrifty when I travel, but I’m glad I spent the money on the trip to the observation deck.

The Calgary Tower first opened to the public in 1968.  At the time, it was called the Husky Tower, named after the Husky Oil Company.  The name changed to Calgary Tower in 1971.  It was the tallest tower in Calgary for 15 years. 

After buying my ticket, there was a quick elevator ride up to the observation deck level.  A lighted diagram inside the elevator tells you where you are…

… as does a digital readout.  Oddly, it measures the distance in feet, instead of meters.  The observation deck is at 525 feet, or 160 meters.  The tower tops out at 626 feet, or 191 meters.

The observation deck is enclosed, and surrounded entirely with windows.  And the view…

… is spectacular.  This is the view looking northwest.  The street near the bottom of the picture is Stephen Avenue, and at the right is Centre Street.  The tall building is the Petro Canada Centre, currently the tallest building in Calgary.  Just to the right, at the edge of the picture, is The Bow, a new building that, by 2011, will be Calgary’s tallest.

While looking out at the city, I heard another visitor, a young girl, exclaim, “I can see everything up here! I can see Regina!”

Hehehe.  Regina.

The windows are nice, but the Calgary Tower has another feature that will blow you away (or at least, leave you weak in the knees).  On two sides, the observation deck has been expanded, and thanks to a glass floor that extends out 4 1/2 feet into mid-air, you can experience what it’s like to hover 525 feet above the city.

At this point, I should explain the awkward situation I experienced, during my visit.  When I stepped out of the elevator, I quickly discovered that I was walking into some sort of corporate party.  Champagne glasses were everywhere, and almost everyone was wearing suits or dresses.  I, on the other hand, was wearing shorts and a t-shirt (I had, after all, just gotten off the plane from Florida).  I was feeling a bit awkward, and trying to go unnoticed as I worked my way through the upper-class crowd.  At least, until I stepped out onto the glass floor.  Then, I instantly forgot all my social skills.

Standing in mid-air, 525 feet above the street, I discovered all kinds of things to do.  For instance, I took pictures of my feet…

… and other people’s feet…

… and even tried my luck at standing on top of a building.

The best pictures I took, though, employed the simplest of all methods.  I simply set my camera lens-down on the glass floor, and took a time-lapse shot of the tower, 9th Avenue, and Centre Street (which dead-ends at the foot of the tower).  My hotel, the Marriott, is on the left — proving that I had lucked out with a room at the most conveniently located hotel in Calgary.

The Calgary Tower is open every day of the year except Christmas, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (except June-August, when it stays open an extra hour at night).  Admission is $12.95 CAD for adults, and children are as cheap as $5 CAD, depending on their age.  Check out the Calgary Tower website for a complete schedule of prices.  You can also catch a free ride to the top, if you’re eating at the fancy Sky 360 revolving restaurant — but of course, dinner will be pricey, with entrees in the $30-$42 range.

During the 1988 Winter Olympics, the Olympic flame burned at the top of the Calgary Tower, making it the tallest torch of any Olympic games.  The torch is still lit on special occasions.

My half-day in Calgary had come to an end, and it was time to catch a little sleep before heading towards the main attraction on this trip — the Rocky Mountains, which are only about an hour’s drive west of the city.

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