6 Fun yet Unpopular Things to Do in Calgary This Summer

Tired of the same routine? Looking to create a unique memory? YYC has a few secret tricks up its sleeve...

Summer time is my favourite time of the year. I’d take warm nights, long days, and short sleeves over Santa Claus and holiday cheer any day. (Santa if you’re reading this, I’m just trying to act cool in front of my friends. Please don’t forget about the LEGO I asked for). Tons of my friends at one point or another have said that Calgary is a boring city, and that there isn’t much to do here. I find most people who say such things aren’t looking hard enough for the aspects and events that make this city fun, and are giving up and going to Cowboys for draft night for the 11th Thursday in a row. Just like with a significant other, you often have to search and dig for the qualities about them that enthrall you. It’s the very same with this city. So I’m going to let you in on my secrets of some really fun things to do in Calgary this summer that the average person doesn’t take advantage of.

**NOTE: All of these activities are 18+, unless otherwise indicated. Sorry kiddies!

Screenings at The Globe Cinema

 Admission is usually $10.

Screenings at the Globe are always a blast, so much so that I’m surprised it remains such a relatively unknown activity. I first heard about one of their screenings from a flyer at Turn It Up Records, advertising a screening of the underground 80s slasher The Mutilator. I had never heard of the film, but the poster looked gloriously cheesy and it seemed a screening would be a blast. I went with a few of the guys, and it was a great time. It was late night, but the energy from the few people attending was infectious. They did a horror themed prize draw before the film started, and my friend won a mini Nintendo Entertainment System with a copy of the original Friday The 13th game. The film was cheesy as expected, but wildly entertaining. It had trailers before just like a mainstream movie theater, but it showed upcoming screenings and events. This got us out to see independent films, cult classics, and Hollywood staples a mere few weeks later. I admit, I was skeptical going to see independent films. That was until the second screening we went to at The Globe, where I witnessed the funniest thing I have ever seen on a screen. The Night Terrors Film Society (who put on some of the screenings, as well as The Fifth Reel) have really good taste, and I always have a memory from every screening I go to there. And not all the screenings are horror and indie, there were screenings of The Princess Bride and Who Framed Roger Rabbit this year, among others. If you’re looking for a late night, $10 group activity, go to The Globe’s Facebook page and see what’s coming up. I highly doubt you will regret it.

*Depending on the film shown, age restrictions may apply

Hang The DJ at Dickens Pub

Cover is usually free before 10 PM, and $10 after.

If you’re like me, going to the club isn’t really your scene. I feel drained going out to Cowboys or Knoxville’s because it isn’t a scene I vibe with, and a scene that doesn’t vibe with me. MY DILEMMA is that I still love to dance with friends. But unless it’s 1984, I won’t have the opportunity to dance to my favourite classic hits with people who aren’t my parents’ age in this city. Hang The DJ was a blessing, because Dicken’s Pub gave me the opportunity to “put on my red shoes and dance the blues” to all my favourite retro hits, and then some. You not only have the chance to bust a move to some bumping 80s pop, but also your favourite 2000s throwbacks, and your entire emo/goth phase that you pretend didn’t happen. There’s really something for everyone, if what you’re looking for is unordinary. They’ll also throw fun theme nights sometimes, including retro prom in June. I mean, who wouldn’t want to show up in some cheesy prom attire and slow dance to “True” by Spandau Ballet like you’re in a John Hughes movie? Definitely someone I wouldn’t wanna strut with. Not only is the dancing fun, but many people attend, and they’re all extremely interesting. I’ve met so many people into the same stuff as I am, and I’ve seen many of Calgary’s diverse community from punks and metalheads to LGBTQ. Everyone is welcome, and everyone wants to Dance the Night Away.

InjaNation

The priciest on the list, at about $20 per hour.

This particular activity is for when you wanna get physical. InjaNation is an indoor obstacle course park, similar that American Ninja Warrior show. For $20 per hour (which when you start going, feels really long) you can run, jump, climb, dive, dip, flip, dodge, and do things that you physically wouldn’t have the opportunity to do anywhere else in the city. Much like Calgary hot spot Flying Squirrel, there is a trampoline park inside, along with tons of other structures to test your limits. This is a great activity to do with a group, but you need to assure everybody is prepared to tire themselves out—because the place is so much fun, that when you get going, you don’t realize until later when it all catches up to you. One of the best things about InjaNation too is that unlike most of the other places on this list, it is all ages!

The Comedy Cave

$12 for a ticket. So cheap, it's laughable. GEDDIT?

You don’t have to open up Netflix for a great stand up show! I myself was never very interested in stand-up comedy, let alone interested in underground stand up. But when my family insisted I come to The Comedy Cave with them one night, my opinion quickly changed. I discovered that there are so many funny people in this city, and The Comedy Cave brings in some high rollers from out of town many weekends to really get the place gasping for air. I’d like to single out young local comedian Jake Poirier (Instagram @jake_poirier) for really getting me going during his set of relatable early 20s life while opening up for the hilarious American Lamont Ferguson (Instagram @tvfunnyman). Lamont Ferguson had opened some big comedy shows, and his act had my cheeks and gut sore by the end of the night. The Comedy Cave is perfect for a group, as they serve drinks and food, and have usually three comedians going for two shows each night. If you were like me and didn’t give local comedy a chance, I’d highly suggest you rethink your ways. I didn’t think you could literally LMAO, but The Cave proved me wrong.

Pin Bar

All you have to do is brings your loonies. The games are $1 per play. 

When I walk into Pin Bar on 17th Ave, the staff and patrons enthusiastically greet me as “The Pinball Wizard”… I imagine in my own head. If you want to feel like any of the kids from Stranger Things for an evening, grab some loonies and head for Pin Bar. They have such a wide variety of pinball and computer arcade games, from vintage machines to new takes on our favourite licenses like Game Of Thrones, Star Wars, Aerosmith, and others. There is a bar and kitchen, so if you need a break or the silver ball isn’t your mojo, you can certainly enjoy the company and atmosphere with some great eats and drinks.

My buddy Leroy and I having too much fun at Pin Bar 

Spruce Meadows: Movies at the Meadows (August Only)

$20 to park your car, so I would suggest parking nearby and walking

If getting into the hustle and bustle of the downtown is the last thing you wanna do on your night off, you’re in luck if you hang your hat on the south side of town. For the first four Wednesdays of August, Spruce Meadows (a horse riding facility in south Calgary) shows a movie on the big screen under the stars in their biggest field. Each event is all ages, and people roll up with lawn chairs and blankets to prop themselves down in the grass at sunset. The films get voted on by the public earlier in the summer, and they always have some classics and new blockbusters to choose from. The films being shown this year (2018) are The Lion King, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Avengers Infinity War, and Jumanji (2018). Obviously perfect for a group, as I first went in 2017 with my friends to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2. The vibe is exactly how you envision a summer night: everyone in lawn chairs, cozy clothing, sitting on blankets, and green grass underneath the starry sky. If you play your cards right, you may even be able to sneak in a beverage or two (but you didn’t hear that from me). The smiles are lighting up the night here almost as much as the screen, so I would be sure to get out to a show before the leaves start to change. 

Calgary is too big a city to have "nothing to do." Just like with anything meaningful, the best activities are the ones you have to search for. Whether you wanna break a sweat at InjaNation and Hang the DJ, mellow out with some pals at The Globe Cinema and Spruce Meadows, or bust a gut at The Comedy Cave and a high score at Pin Bar, Calgary has so much to offer that will make every summer a picturesque one. 

How many of these activities have you gone to? Are there any more I should know about? Email me at [email protected]

Follow me on Instagram @mark.janz

Follow my band on Instagram @dextressband

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