Alberta’s biggest city is known for the annual Calgary Stampede, the birthplace of the Caesar cocktail and the booming energy sector but it's an eclectic city with even more to offer visitors.

For instance, for a city 675 kilometres from the nearest ocean, it might surprise you to see folks in wetsuits strolling through city parks with surfboards under their arms. But the glacier-fed Bow River has rapids that make it the perfect spot for city surfing, which because of the static wave (compared to the ocean) makes it even harder to stand up on your board but it's fun to try. Judging by the line-up of young and older would-be surfers on summer days it's a popular pastime. Give it a go yourself on the South Channel only at Harvie passage, open from May to October where the waves are perfect for beginners.

River surfing isn't the only unexpected activity you can try out in Calgary. “Cowtown” has more to meet the eye than big steaks and cowboy hats, check out these fun and totally unexpected Calgary activities for your next trip.

Feed a Wolfdog 

Feed a wolfdogCochrane Tourism/Lost CoordinatesTravel Alberta/Colin WayTravel Alberta/Colin Way

Book an interactive tour and you’ll hear from a wolfdog expert before touring the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, less than 45 minutes from Calgary, which educates the public on these beautiful animals. You might even get to hand-feed or tentatively pet a wolfdog but remember the animals determine the level of interaction. The sanctuary is home to over 30 wolfdogs and provides fascinating insights into their behaviour and what makes them different from both domestic dogs and wild wolves.

Drive the city, in style

Rocky Mountain Sidecar AdventuresRocky Mountain Sidecar Adventures

Tour the city as a passenger in a vintage-style motorcycle sidecar, with Rocky Mountain Sidecar Adventures. Your comfortable ride includes plenty of stops for photos from some of the best vantage points in the city and full narration from your guide through a communication system in your helmet. This allows you to ask questions during the informative and interesting tour of the city with the wind in your hair. 

Take an Indigenous-led tour 

Roam CreativePainted Warriors | Roam CreativeRoam CreativePainted Warriors | Roam Creative

Indigenous-owned and operated Painted Warriors is just over an hour from the city centre, and gives visitors a chance to practice the traditional skill of archery with owners, Tracey Klettl and Tim Mearn who were also Team Canada archers, so you know you’re truly learning from the best! 

You’ll first get some tips and guidance at the practice range before venturing into the 80 acres of woods to take aim at foam animal targets. Although it's great fun learning how to aim and shoot, you’ll also benefit from the deeper experience of learning more about how hunting with a bow and arrow was central to Indigenous people.

Mahikan TrailsMahikan Trails | Travel Alberta

You can also learn more about Indigenous culture and traditional practices of knowing the land with Mahikan Trails, by taking a medicine and plant walk. You’ll hear fascinating stories and learn the amazing features of a range of plants including the aspen tree which has similar properties to aspirin and the bark of which was used to set broken bones by Indigenous people in years past. 

Whether you decide to river surf, tour the city in the sidecar of a vintage motorcycle, learn more about the natural features of the area from Indigenous people who know it best or spend the day feeding and viewing wolfdogs, try a different side of Calgary and the surrounding areas and be amazed at just how much the region has to offer.