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THE CALGARY TOWER – LIFE AT THE TOP

Author: Jane Usher

An inveterate traveller, Jane has worked, played and stayed in cities and countries around the world. A writer by inclination and profession, her curiosity compels her to explore new cultures and adventures, sharing her impressions with the world at large.

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I can’t remember the last time my ears popped going up an elevator but they’re popping now. Understandable, I suppose, when I’m zooming up the Calgary Tower and will reach the top of this 191 m (627 ft) structure in less than a minute.

As we rise, the display screens in the elevator compare the height to other landmarks around the world – we just passed the Eiffel Tower. Wow. When the doors open, my fellow explorers and I are facing floor to ceiling windows with a spectacular view of the city spread out before – and beneath – us. We’re looking west and I can see all the way to the Canadian Rockies on the far horizon.

It gets better – it’s a 3600 view. You can walk the circular observation deck to see the city and surrounding prairies from every direction. What a great way for a new visitor to get an instant orientation to Calgary. But it gets even better.

High Tech Tour

The device I’m wearing on a lanyard around my neck comes with the price of admission. I adjust my earbuds and begin my self-guided tour of Calgary. As I walk the entire circular deck, I stop and tune in to sections of the city and even individual buildings that are highlighted on the full-colour screen. Touching the screen activates audio and sometimes video with interesting factoids about what you are seeing. By the time I got back to my starting point, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to explore on the ground – like Canada Olympic Plaza and Stephen Avenue Walk. Very cool technology. Oh, and you can book a free guided tour, if you’d like.

Skywalking

I’d heard about this part but wasn’t sure if I’d do it or not. In 2005, they installed a glass floor on a section of the Observation Deck, overlooking the downtown core. You know that a cat won’t walk on a glass floor, right? Well, a lot of humans won’t either. But I decided to give it a try. I stepped out gingerly looking straight ahead, then gradually looked down. Impressive! The optical illusion of the concrete tower curving toward the earth was worth getting over my fear of heights. The people and cars look like toys from up here. I stayed long enough to take some photos between my feet and then scooted back to non-see-through territory

Sky High Benefits

You’re thinking it couldn’t possibly get any better but – wait for it – if you dine in the Sky 360 Restaurant and Lounge, admission to the tower is free! Make a reservation and then tell the folks at the entry and up you go. Every table is a window table and the restaurant revolves so you get to see the whole city. And the food is divine. Just don’t leave your purse on the window ledge or you won’t see it again until dessert.

Did You Know?

  • At 1,228 m (4,029 ft) above sea level, the tower’s observation deck is the highest in the world.
  • It was built in 1968 to celebrate Canada’s centennial.
  • A digital carillon chimes the hour and music is played to entertain the pedestrians below.

A natural gas-fired cauldron resembling the Olympic torch was installed at the top to help celebrate the Winter Olympic Games in 1988. It is lit for special occasions throughout the year.

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