Calgary Stampede Tips and Tricks for the family!

Posted on: June 19, 2014

I have been taking my children to the Calgary Stampede for more than 15 years.
During that time I have learned a multitude of tips and tricks for everything from how to save on admission to where to find a quiet place to enjoy lunch.
After coming across a link online highlighting some of the ways to save financially I thought I would elaborate on it so that you might enjoy and benefit from some of the many ways my family saves and makes memories each year at the Calgary Stampede.

Let’s face it when it comes to the Calgary Stampede it’s easy to spend a lot and to over spend regardless of the number of children you have.
As a mother of 4 on a budget I had no choice but to get creative in order to ensure our family could take in the Stampede experience and on a level that was Stampede worthy.
This Blog post shares a multitude of tips and tricks that I have learned over the years. I hope you enjoy and share them Pardner 😉

This tip is not so much a money saver but a sanity saver. PARK OFF THE GROUNDS AND WALK!
There are many independent businesses giving up valuable parking space to Park goers at this time of year. Take advantage of this because exiting the grounds can be a challenge at times and the cost of parking off site is comparable in price. In addition local businesses could use your support after the devastation they suffered financially last year after the the floods of 2013 wreaked havoc on many downtown merchants. There are ways to save on parking but I have never sought them out because I personally feel my sanity especially after a long day on the grounds with the kids is worth it. Heading down to the grounds early and leaving early is the best way to avoid unwanted stress parking or returning home in heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Public Transit:
Public Transit is a great way to get down to the Park especially if you are going on Parade Day! Buses and trains will take you exactly where you want to go and this mode of transportation is easy on your wallet and generally stress free if planned in advance.
You can always drive to the closest station, park and then hop on transit and head into the downtown core from there.
If you have little ones I suggest taking a stroller or wagon. This way they can take a break from walking when they are tired or when you are in busier areas of the Park and you can use it to store items. You should note that a wagon is easier to get on and off a train than it would be a bus. Be sure the dimensions of whatever you plan to take can fit and are permitted on board.
We preferred to take a wagon when  the kids were younger but even now if we plan on playing games (which we always do) we take a cart. I purchased a cheap cart years ago on my way to the grounds at Canadian Tire and we have used it ever since. You can see it to the left of my son in the picnic picture below to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
I have included a link below regarding tips and tricks for Parade Day travel shared by Calgary Transit.

Admission and the Midway:
There are a number of ways to save or to earn FREE admission onto the  Park Grounds and Midway.
1. Get your hands on a copy of the Stampede HOW-TO GUIDE and review it for dates and times where the Stampede itself offers free admission.
For example in KIDS DAY there is free admission for children 12 years and under when accompanied by an adult. I do not personally recommend going on Kids Day but I will get into that more later.
2. You can also get FREE admission by purchasing tickets for the Stampede Home Lottery. Not only will you receive free admissions to the grounds the money goes to a great cause and you have a chance at winning some amazing prizes.
3. Purchase specially marked coca-cola cases of coke and clip the coupon to save $8.00 or to receive 1 FREE child admission. Be sure to get to your local supplier well before the Stampede begins in order to get your hands on these specially marked products.
4. Save over 30% on admission by taking advantage of the “2 FOR $25” admission deal available at Mac’s Convenience Stores. This deal entitles you to 2 Park admissions and any TWO 591 ml Coca-Cola products.
Again take advantage of this deal well in advance as they sell out fast.
5. You can also purchase what are called “STAMPEDE BUCKS” at Costco. This year get $50 Stampede Bucks for $39.99! Redeem Stampede Bucks anywhere on Park; Admission, Rodeo and Evening Show tickets, rides and games, food and beverage, parking and retail shopping.
6. Finally and what I consider one of the most important ways to save is to purchase your Midway wristband or tickets in advance at Safeway. This will save you over 25% equivalent to up to $20.00 in savings.
While the wristband option is exclusive to rides if you purchase tickets you can use them toward games and Midway rides.
I suggest purchasing at least one ticket option in addition to wristbands if you go the wristband route. FYI for young children I find the ticket package to be more than enough Plus with tickets anyone in the family can use them which is nice considering children often need or want an adult to accompany them on rides. Unfortunately adults are not free so I strongly advise on purchasing some tickets to help you cover all bases. Even if you don’t use all your Costco bucks or tickets you will easily be able to find a buyer for your remaining discounted tickets or Stampede Bucks or you can give them away if you are feeling generous 😉
Click the image below for more information on the Calgary Stampede and ways you can save!


Food and Beverage:
This side of Stampede can run you a pretty penny in a hurry. Still my feeling is that it is important to take in that side of the Stampede in order to take in the entire experience as well as to support the vendors there.
My children always preferred games over food so we decided that we would bring our own lunch (which is permitted) and purchase a treat or two to enjoy as we make our way off the grounds.
I typically pack the same lunch every year as it has become somewhat of a tradition but you can pack whatever you like. We tend to take fresh healthier foods along with some treats. Fresh deli bun style sandwiches, fruit, granola bars, chips, treats and of course our Coca-Cola products we purchased in advance to save on admission are what we fill our cooler with. Don’t forget water and lot’s of it because water is quite expensive on the grounds.
When we are ready to eat we set up a picnic style lunch at the same special spot every year. As you approach the kids midway you will pass by the steps to the Saddledome. It is there that we climb the hill and take a seat for lunch. It is relatively quiet there is shade if you need it and often entertainment to take in from on high including marching bands, comedians and magic shows. We even watched a gent get shot out of a cannon one year.

Sitting outside the Saddledome breaking for lunch.

Sitting outside the Saddledome breaking for lunch.

stampede lunch 1

No Stampede experience is complete without some form of western attire. Go all out or simply don a pair of jeans and a t shirt.
Anyone who knows me knows I go all out at least where my kids are concerned but my favourite costumes to date are the Rodeo Clowns we did one year.
As a former face painter I was able to do this easily for my kids but you can too. Just keep the outfits and face paint simple and you are set. Kids are easy to please and will love whatever you do. You can purchase the same brand of face paints I used here at and Michael’s Arts and Craft Store. The brand name is snazaroo. Click the link below to go to my business pinterest page for loads of fun tips on face painting, glitter tattoos, birthday parties and more!

Activities off the Midway:
There are far too many activities to list but I wanted to share two of our favourites.
We always, always ALWAYS make a point of going to BUCKAROOS! BUCKAROOS is located in the BMO Centre and is a great opportunity to cool off indoors yet still enjoy some quality fun.
There is a play structure, inflatables and plasma cars. There are also various fun activities including button making and speed stacking PLUS the kids can get their faces painted all at no additional charge. There are even fun little shows to take in while you are taking a break from the midway.
SUPERDOGS is also a must see if you can fit it in! The kids will love to cheer on these canine superstars as they run through obstacles and race against each other to with the informal title of top dog!
You can find more information on BUCKAROOS and SUPERDOGS in the Stampede HOW-TO GUIDE which is mailed out locally in June. It is also handed out on the grounds but it’s nice to plan in advance. You can also visit the link shared above under “Admission and the Midway” for more information to assist you in planning the best Stampede experience possible.

Best day to go:
Many people including myself get sucked into going on KIDS DAY. While it sounds appealing it is always one of the busiest days on the grounds especially on the kids Midway.
Years ago I discovered completely by accident the best day to go at least for us.
We took in the parade for the first time about 5 years ago. As we were going to be downtown already I decided to kill two birds with one stone and hit the grounds right after the parade was over. It turned out to be a great decision. After the parade most people and families just want to go home because of this the grounds are relatively quite. Kids need not wait in lines for rides and there are no crowds to haul your wagon/cart through.
As an added bonus the kids tucker out faster getting you home sooner to enjoy that well deserved cold beer or glass of wine 😉

I hope you have enjoyed reading my tips and tricks for enjoying the Calgary Stampede.
From my family to yours have a wonderful time enjoying the greatest outdoor show on earth!





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  • mel strinholm: fantastic tips! who knew to freeze a cake before decorating! and letting the color in the icing sit for awhile to let it darken is great to know as we
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