So I just may be certifiable. Not only did I just fly in to Calgary from New Jersey in the late morning after being away from home for three days I decided in my fatigued stupor that the last, most beautiful day of the long weekend was THE day I should visit the amusement park just outside the city. Did I also mention that it was opening weekend? That’s right! It was a bit of a mad idea but it was worth it. For me the season opening of Calaway Park signals the beginning of summer and fantastic weather, we should only get one or two more big snowstorms before schools are out for the summer. I kid you not! I have experienced at least one year where I can remember getting at least a skiff of snow every month. Don’t let it deter you from coming to Calgary, though. The snow doesn’t last long during summer or as drivers here refer to it as “construction season”. I am at a point in my career where I work a lot of weekends and EVERY holiday so I had little choice to go have fun at the Park it would have to be what was left of the weekend. Calaway is only open weekends until June 23rd this year. These are typical days of operation during spring and fall as most of the park’s employees are in school.
Opened in 1982 the attraction is where many Calgary families have forged happy memories. The park is pretty good for all ages. The rides are height restricted but there are rides even the tiniest of toddlers can ride with their parents, such as the Rocky Mountain Railroad or Eggs. There are also rides for those adventure seekers, like myself, the Vortex rollercoaster is one of the main adrenaline attractions as is Mind Blaster. There are 32 rides according to the Calaway Park website (www.calawaypark.com.) all included in the entrance fee but certain rides are for those taller than others and some are for children only.
Most of the people I know buy a season’s pass before the end of the opening weekend. They can be purchased at the reduced rate (a great deal. Around 50% less than during the rest of the season) at the park itself the first weekend or at a local grocery chain, Calgary Co-op. Co-op also runs a similar deal around Christmas time. The close of the holiday weekend signals when the price goes up to around $89.95 plus taxes for the season. A daily ticket is $29.00 plus tax for kids 3-6 years old and those ages 7-49 pay $35.95 plus tax for a daily admission. The under 2 set are free and there is a discount for those 50 and over. The pre-purchased seasons passes work out to just slightly over a one-time ticket, well worth it in my book. Discounted tickets during the operating season for one time visits have traditionally been available at Calgary Co-op, so do check there if you are in town looking for a deal.
The park has carnival style games with carnival style prizes which lure in parents trying to appease their children and guys trying to win a special prize for their special gals. I generally don’t spend any time at the games as I am trying to de-clutter my house and don’t have any need for stuffed animals at the moment, now if I had a carnival room that would be a different story. It seems as though many people do win the prizes as there are always a lot of people needlessly dragging around giant dolls. The practice of having to carry a life-sized plush for the entire day is lost on me. Is it to show off and say “see what I won by landing rings on bottles?” or is it just laziness of finding somewhere to put it? There are lockers available for those who get their parents to drop them and their dates off or if you were old enough to drive the family down the games are mostly near the entrance so you could run them back to the car. Personally I would hit the games and souvenirs on the way out so I wouldn’t have to cart extra stuff with me.
The park is great with allowing outside food in to the park, don’t get all crazy and bring alcohol as I am sure that would not be allowed. There are lots of benches to sit and eat as well as a covered picnic area in the middle of the park. I find I usually bring my own food as I try and keep costs down. There are deals to be had. The map at the beginning of the year often, not always, has coupons in it and sometimes some of the ice cream carts sell 50 cent ice cream sandwiches. I am not really one for the midway style treat offered anymore. I have kind of lost my taste for popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones. I guess I am getting older, unfortunately getting older and not eating treats doesn’t mean I can get any fitter.
The crowds were thick as my friends and I stood in line longer than I anticipated on Victoria Day, usually the lines aren’t that bad. Perhaps most Calgarians were also happy to herald in the gorgeous weather and summer atmosphere. We were only in the park for a couple of hours but did manage to get on a few of our favourite rides. I was alert enough to remember sunscreen this time as I am still showing the red glow I obtained in Los Angeles a few days ago.
A few of my tips for visiting Calaway Park:
-get there early. I find that on weekends most people sleep in after a hard week’s work so they usually manage to get the family ready and are at the park a couple of hours after it opens. Let’s face it when was the last time you saw a teenager get up before noon if money wasn’t involved? The bigger rides are also less busy as the teenagers haven’t been dropped off yet.
-bring some food. It doesn’t have to be a three course meal. At least a couple of snacks and water will save you time and money. The concession stands are often lined up and those lines move on island time.
-bring a jacket. It gets windy just outside the city’s edge. Calgary weather notoriously changes like the mind of a child at a candy store. Come prepared.
– buy tickets beforehand. Either a season’s pass or pre-purchased tickets at Calgary co-op will save you money you could spend on games and lockers to store your winnings.