Officially opened on June 30, 1968, and originally known as the Husky Tower, the Calgary Tower was built for $3.5 million, as a joint venture between Husky Oil and Marathon Realty Company, who were moving their head offices to Calgary. At 190.8 meters (626 feet for you out there who use the imperial system) tall, at the time it was the tallest structure in the city of Calgary. It has since been topped by the Petro Canada Center (210 meters), and Bankers Hall East and West (Both 196 meters). The name of the tower was renamed to the Calgary Tower in 1971, officially as “a tribute to the citizens of Calgary”.
It is one of those places that you have to go to at least once, if you’re in Calgary. I haven’t been there myself for about a year, but I do enjoy myself when I do go. I suggest stopping by, checking out the Observation Terrace, and then heading up to Tops Grill for lunch and a few drinks. Directions on how to get there are at the bottom.
The tower consists of a cylindrical concrete shell that gradually tapers off in thickness as you get higher, up till the top, which supports a steel superstructure. It looks a bit like a pod or an acorn, and is coloured red and white. There are three levels on the pod that are accessible to the public, the Panorama Dining Room, and the Observation Terrace, and Tops Grill.
Many of you may remember the Calgary Tower from the 1988 Winter Olympics. For the Olympics, a natural gas torch was installed at the top of the tower. The flame, which can be seen for up to 15 kilometres when lit, causes the tower to look remarkably like a torch, and the torches used to relay the flame to Calgary were modeled to look like it. The flame was kept lit 24 hours a day throughout the entire Olympic games. It is still sometimes lit up for special occasions, such as Canada Day and New Year's Eve.
The tower has two 25 person elevators that whisk you up to the top of the tower in a bit over a minute. It also has two staircases, usually only used for emergencies. Once a year, however, they are opened up for a charity event, the Stairclimb For Wilderness, where crazy people with stronger hearts and legs than myself climb all 802 steps to raise money for the Alberta Wilderness Association, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the World Wildlife Fund. It has been going for 8 years now, and has raised over half a million dollars.
The Panorama Dining Room:
This is the Calgary Tower’s rotating restaurant. It seats 181, and offers fine dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Two half horsepower motors power it, and it can be set to rotate either once per hour, or once every 45 minutes. The food is supposedly good, however it is quite expensive, so I myself have not had the chance to eat there.
The Observation Terrace:
One flight above the Panorama Dining Room, the Observation Terrace houses the gift shop, where you can purchase Calgary Tower and Canadiana souvenirs, as well as postcards, film, batteries, and other tourist accessories. Most importantly, however, is the view. The terrace offers a 360 degree view of the city and outlaying areas. You can use the pay telescopes to zoom in on the city. I can see my house from here. The best view is off to the west, the panoramic splendour of the Rocky Mountains at their best.
If you get hungry there is also a snack bar, with chips, pop, nachos, hot dogs, coffee, doughnuts, etc.
The observation terrace can also be booked out for catered events. You can host a party for up to 400 people in there, for what I would expect would be an exorbitant amount of money. It’s the kind of place that would kick ass for a wedding reception, if you were extremely rich.
The highest part of the tower accessible to the public (hence the name), Tops Grill offers lunch and snack foods. From my experience, it’s quite tasty, and a lot more affordable than the Panorama Dining Room. There isn’t a single item on the menu that is over $10. And of course, you also can’t argue with the view, although Tops doesn’t offer a full 360 degree view of the city. The last time I was there I had the Prime Rib Sandwich. Mmmmm… beef on a bun. It was good.
Stuff that's useful to know if going to the tower:
Children (under 3 years) free
Children (3 to 12 years) $3.00
Youth (13 to18 years) $5.00
Adult (19 to 64 years) $7.95
Mature Adult (65 year and over) $5.00
The Tower is open from 8 to 11 from October to mid May, and from 7:30 to midnight the rest of the time.
It is located at 101 - 9th Avenue SW, Calgary Alberta. This is at the intersection of 9th Avenue South and Centre Street. If you are visiting the city, the best way to get there is to take the C-train. You will want to get off at either the Olympic Plaza station, if coming from the south or northeast of the city, or the Centre Street station if headed from the west or the northwest. From Olympic Plaza, walk 1.5 blocks west (the direction the train was going), and then 2 blocks south, and you’ll be there. From the Centre Street stop, walk half a block east (again the direction the train was going), and then two blocks south.
If you are driving from the west, get onto Bow Trail, headed east. You can get to Bow Trail from either Crowchild Trail, or Sarcee Trail. Bow Trail will turn into 9th Avenue. Keep driving until 1st Street SE. The Palliser Hotel is on the corner of 1st Street and 9Th Avenue SE. Turn right into the alley immediately after the hotel, and you’ll be able to access the Tower Center parkade.
From the north, get onto Centre Street, headed south. Once you get to 9th Avenue, take a left, and then a right onto 1st Street SE, and then a right onto 10th Avenue. From here you will be able to take a right into the Tower Center parkade.
From the east, head west on memorial trail, until the flyover to 5th Avenue. Take a left onto 1st Avenue SE, headed south. Take a right onto 10th Avenue SE, from which you will be able to turn into the Tower Center parkade.
From the South, take McLeod Trail up to 10th Avenue SE. From there, do the same damned thing that is listed above, turn into the parkade just past 1st Street SE.