Gay Calgary, Canada – The Ultimate Guide For a Great Time! 

Jul 21, 2023

Gay Calgary, Alberta, is a city that never ceases to surprise. Its residence embraces the great outdoors all year round, throwing on a tuque (aka beanie) to explore the stunning Rocky Mountains nearby. 

People sitting outside at a patio in downtown Calgary during Calgary Stampede.

During the summer, the city come alive with a friendly ‘yahoo!’ as we immerse ourselves in the greatest outdoor show on earth, a ten-day extravaganza, the Calgary Stampede. But there’s much more to Canada’s fourth-largest destination than meets the eye.

A view of the downtown Calgary skyline.

In Calgary, there’s an extensive urban pathway network, allowing you to navigate the city by walking, biking, or even riding e-scooters. The culinary scene is exploding with flavors from renowned celebrity chefs, and we take pride in our creative side, capturing photos of our award-winning architecture and public art. 

A horse drawn wagon carries passengers through the streets of downtown Calgary.

And let’s not forget the city’s best-kept secrets, like ice bikes, parking lot pancakes, medieval swordfights, underground speakeasies, and even the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio. 

First Nations people, in traditional clothing, riding horses in downtown Calgary during the 2023 Calgary Stampede.

Yes, Calgary has got it all!

Whether you’re a frequent visitor to Calgary or still perfecting the pronunciation of the city’s name, you are wholeheartedly welcome to experience this vibrant city.

The best things to do and see in Gay Calgary 

Calgary stands as the most progressive and inclusive city in Alberta. Here, you’ll find a multitude of queer-owned and operated businesses, ranging from cozy coffee shops and stylish boutiques to vibrant restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. We value and celebrate diversity, equality, and inclusion. To enhance your visit to Calgary, here are some notable LGBTQ things to do. 

Drag Shows and Dancing at Twisted Element 

Twisted Element is more than just a nightclub; it’s a haven that promotes equality and celebrates diversity. This iconic venue offers a safe space for historically marginalized communities, where universal rights are cherished. Each night, Twisted Element offers something different, from karaoke and drag shows to burlesque performances and electrifying dance parties. Check out their lineup and secure tickets for upcoming events.

See the lineup and get tickets for upcoming events at Twisted Element.

A drag queen performing on stage at Twisted Element gay bar in Calgary, Alberta.

Drag Brunch at The Prairie Emporium

Situated within the up-and-coming Manchester Industrial Area, The Prairie Emporium is a unique event space nestled inside the Ill-Fated Kustoms motorcycle shop. It hosts a range of exciting events, including drag shows, comedy performances, and live music. 

A drag queen performing at an outdoor drag brunch in Calgary, Alberta.

The venue is renowned for the Blue Jay Sessions, a pop-up series showcasing talented Canadian songwriters. Enjoy the lineup of events and get your tickets for The Prairie Emporium.

A drag artist performs at an outdoor drag brunch during Calgary Pride 2023 in Calgary, Alberta.

See the lineup of events and get tickets for The Prairie Emporium.

Eat and Drink in Gay Calgary 

Lunch at Orchard 

Orchard Restaurant, a prestigious name on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants List for 2022, is a hidden gem situated just south of Calgary’s bustling downtown core on 10th Avenue SW. This elegantly casual restaurant and bar offers a unique dining experience that seamlessly blends Western European hospitality, Adriatic moods, and a soothing ambiance adorned with natural tones. From the moment you step through the doors, you are enveloped in an atmosphere that exudes warmth and accessibility.

Plans hang from the ceiling at Orchard, a trendy restaurant in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

At Orchard, the culinary journey is nothing short of extraordinary. Led by Chef Jenny Kang, the food menu takes Modern Mediterranean cuisine to new heights, tantalizing taste buds with a harmonious fusion of flavors and innovative twists on classic dishes. Each carefully crafted plate showcases the culinary expertise and passion of the talented kitchen team, leaving guests with a lasting impression of culinary excellence.

Beef carpaccio served at Orchard, a modern Calgary, Alberta restaurant.

Complementing the exceptional cuisine is Orchard’s drink program, which boasts the expertise of Shelter Cocktail Bar. Immerse yourself in a world of handcrafted cocktails, expertly mixed and artfully presented. From classic favorites to inventive creations, the drink menu at Orchard is a testament to the artistry and creativity of the talented mixologists. Whether you prefer a carefully crafted cocktail or a selection from their curated wine list, each sip is designed to enhance your dining experience.

A hamburger and salad at Orchard, a modern, downtown Calgary, Alberta restaurant.

Orchard Restaurant stands apart from the crowd, offering a distinct and unparalleled experience that cannot be found anywhere else in Calgary. From the exquisite blend of Modern Mediterranean cuisine to the expertly crafted drinks, every aspect of your visit is thoughtfully curated to ensure a memorable and delightful dining experience. Indulge in the culinary artistry, immerse yourself in the inviting ambiance, and allow Orchard to transport you on a gastronomic journey that will leave you craving for more.

A bartender making hand-crafted cocktails at Orchard, a modern restaurant in downtown Calgary.

View the menu and make a reservation at Orchard.

Dinner at Comery Block 

Nestled in the vibrant heart of 17th Avenue, this West-Tennessee barbecue and bourbon bar is a captivating destination for both dining and entertainment. As you step inside, the enticing aroma of smoked meats wafts through the air, signaling the mouth-watering delights that await. The culinary team takes pride in their craft, meticulously smoking the meats in-house until they reach a state of sublime tenderness, guaranteeing a truly melt-in-your-mouth experience. Each dish is complemented by their house-made sauces, thoughtfully crafted to perfectly accentuate the flavors.

A serving tray full of traditional barbecue fare at Comery Block, a barbecue restaurant in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

The bar at this establishment is a haven for whiskey enthusiasts and cocktail connoisseurs alike. Stocked with a wide selection of American whiskeys, the bar offers an opportunity to savor the rich and diverse flavors of this beloved spirit. Whether you prefer it neat, on the rocks, or expertly mixed into a classic cocktail, the bar staff will cater to your preferences, ensuring an unforgettable beverage experience.

A serving tray full of traditional barbecue fare at Comery Block, a barbecue restaurant in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

Adding to the allure of this exceptional establishment is the recent addition of Prickett Richard, a hidden speakeasy cocktail bar nestled in the underbelly of Comery Block. Accessible through a discreet steel door in the back alley, Prickett Richard immerses guests in an atmosphere reminiscent of a bygone era. Step into a world of sophistication and intrigue as you indulge in meticulously crafted cocktails that pay homage to the art of mixology. Every sip transports you to a time when elegance and exclusivity defined the cocktail culture.

Whether you’re seeking a culinary adventure with delectable barbecue, a remarkable selection of American whiskeys, or an immersive experience at the secret speakeasy, this West-Tennessee barbecue and bourbon bar in the heart of 17th Avenue is a destination that promises an unforgettable journey for the senses.

View the menu and make a reservation at Comery Block.

Dinner at Bridgette Bar 

Bridgette Bar is a chef-driven bar in the heart of Calgary’s Design District. Step into a space where every detail has been meticulously curated to create an atmosphere that is both inviting and inspiring.

The dining room at Bridgette Bar in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

The drink list at Bridgette Bar is a testament to the creativity and craftsmanship of the talented mixologists. From crushable cocktails that effortlessly satisfy your thirst to high-octane originals that push the boundaries of flavor, the drink menu offers a diverse range of libations to suit every palate. Craft beer enthusiasts will delight in the carefully selected offerings, while wine connoisseurs will appreciate a thoughtfully curated list that caters to both hedonists and geeks alike.

A steak dinner with red wine at a Calgary, Alberta restaurant.

When it comes to food, Bridgette Bar prides itself on a menu that goes beyond the ordinary. With a focus on elevating old favorites, Chef JP Pedhirney brings a playful twist to familiar dishes, infusing them with his unique culinary vision. The menu is prepared on a savoury wood-burning grill, imparting a rich and distinctive flavor to each dish. Locally sourced and fresh ingredients are the norm at Bridgette Bar, so much so that menu descriptors like “seasonal” and “locally-sourced” are considered a given.

A large wall of liquor bottles at the bar of Bridgette Bar in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

Immerse yourself in the historic, mid-century inspired setting of Bridgette Bar, where every visit promises a captivating and memorable experience. The blend of exceptional cuisine, expertly crafted drinks, and a captivating atmosphere creates a harmonious fusion of flavors and aesthetics, setting the stage for a truly remarkable dining experience.

View the menu and make a reservation at Bridgette Bar.

Cocktails at Sweet Loretta Bar 

Continuing the rich legacy of Calgary’s iconic music venues, Sweet Loretta emerges as a unique establishment that seamlessly blends the elements of a snack and cocktail bar, a disco club, and a lounge. Step into a space where the art of entertainment takes center stage, curated with care to offer a diverse range of musical experiences. Resident DJs and emerging artists grace the decks, spanning an eclectic array of genres that include disco, soul, funk, afro-beat, jazz, and new wave. With each visit, expect a captivating journey through sound that transcends boundaries and captivates the senses.

Cocktails by candlelight at Sweet Loretta Bar in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

For those seeking a change of ambiance, a trip downstairs leads to the vibrant tiki bar known as Otto. Indulge in creative cocktails that artfully combine flavors while savoring delectable Hawaiian-style cuisine. The fusion of tantalizing libations and island-inspired dishes creates a truly distinctive experience that transports you to a tropical paradise.

Inside the fun, retro bar, Sweet Loretta, in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

Beyond its remarkable entertainment and culinary offerings, Sweet Loretta proudly embraces its identity as an LGBTQ+-friendly venue and a safe space for all. The establishment fosters an environment of inclusivity, welcoming individuals from all walks of life to come together and celebrate the power of music, community, and diversity.

Step into Sweet Loretta, where the lines between snack bar, cocktail haven, disco club, and lounge blur, creating a multifaceted experience that leaves an indelible impression. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, dance to the rhythm of eclectic beats, and savor the delightful creations that await within this exclusive and inclusive establishment.

View the cocktail menu and make a reservation at Sweet Loretta Bar

Attend Pride Day at the Calgary Stampede

Ten years ago, a grassroots community event was launched by Charles MacMichael, and since then, it has grown exponentially year after year, attracting an impressive attendance of over 2,000 individuals in 2022. This vibrant gathering celebrates diversity, inclusivity, and the LGBTQ2+ community, and it is known as Pride Day at Nashville North during the Calgary Stampede. 

A gay couple wearing cowboy hats kiss at the 2023 Calgary Stampede 10th Annual Pride Day.

During Pride Day at the Calgary Stampede, attendees can look forward to an array of exciting features that have become synonymous with the celebration, including cheeky name tags, CS rainbow boot stickers, drag performances, awards, and bands. 

A group of gay men attending the 10th annual Pride Day at the 2023 Calgary Stampede.

Read more about Pride Day at the Calgary Stampede.

Stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Downtown

Positioned as a magnificent addition to Calgary’s vibrant Design District, The Residence Inn stands tall, offering breathtaking views of the bustling downtown skyline. Situated on the hallowed grounds once occupied by the Alberta Boot Company, this remarkable 33-storey hotel surpasses expectations, providing guests with an elevated experience and a wealth of amenities that foster a sense of well-being and fulfillment while traveling.

Marriott Residence Inn Calgary Downtown Serves Comfort and Luxury

The Residence Inn prides itself on offering upscale accommodations that go beyond the ordinary. Spacious and thoughtfully designed living spaces create an atmosphere of comfort and tranquility, allowing guests to relax and rejuvenate amidst the urban excitement. The hotel’s commitment to excellence is reflected in the array of amenities provided, ensuring a seamless and memorable stay for every visitor.

A queen size bed in a guest room at the Marriott Residence Inn Calgary Downtown.

In June 2023, The Residence Inn unveiled a vibrant mural on its patio, an artistic tribute to Pride Month and the hotel’s Rainbow Registered status. Created by Canadian muralists Jo Van Young and Miranda Van Young, the mural serves as a visual celebration of inclusivity and diversity. It showcases the radiant beauty of different identities coming together, spreading a message of acceptance and unity to all who encounter it. The mural serves as a testament to The Residence Inn’s unwavering commitment to creating a welcoming space for all guests, regardless of their backgrounds or orientations.

A guest room kitchenette at the Marriott Residence Inn Calgary Downtown.

Indulge in the remarkable experience offered by The Residence Inn, where each moment is imbued with a sense of luxury and an appreciation for the beauty of Calgary’s Design District. Whether it’s admiring the stunning views, relishing the upscale accommodations, or witnessing the vibrant mural that celebrates diversity, The Residence Inn invites guests to embrace a stay that exceeds expectations and leaves an indelible mark on their journey.

Make your reservation now at the Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Downtown now. 

Plan your trip with Tourism Calgary 

Nestled in the province of Alberta, Calgary stands as a cosmopolitan Canadian city that boasts a striking skyline adorned with numerous skyscrapers. Its rapid growth and prominence can be attributed to its position as the epicenter of Canada’s thriving oil industry. 

The Calgary Tower in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

However, beyond its economic prowess, Calgary is deeply rooted in western culture, earning it the endearing nickname “Cowtown.” This heritage is vividly showcased through the Calgary Stampede, a grandiose rodeo and festival held in July, which evolved from humble farming exhibitions into a spectacle that captures the spirit of the region.

Downtown Calgary during the 2023 Calgary Stampede.

Calgary beckons visitors with an abundance of attractions, ranging from award-winning restaurants that tantalize taste buds with their culinary prowess, to picturesque parks that invite leisurely strolls amidst nature’s embraces. Quirky neighborhoods dot the cityscape, each offering a unique character and charm waiting to be discovered. 

A horse and buggy riding across the Pride crosswalk in downtown Calgary, Alberta, during the 2023 Calgary Stampede.

A perfect starting point for exploration is the vibrant Beltline neighborhood, renowned for its expansive collection of exceptional local restaurants that cater to diverse palates. This lively district is also home to eclectic shops that cater to the discerning shopper, while stunning public art installations adorn its streets, further enhancing its allure. Moreover, nestled within the heart of the Beltline lies Twisted Element nightclub, a pulsating hub that serves as the beating heart of Calgary’s LGBTQ+ community, fostering inclusivity, celebration, and vibrant nightlife.

Amusement rides at the 2023 Calgary Stampede.

Immerse yourself in the captivating blend of urban sophistication and western heritage that defines Calgary. From its towering skyscrapers to its enchanting parks, and from its diverse culinary scene to its vibrant neighborhoods, the city invites exploration and promises an unforgettable experience.

Start planning your ultimate gaycation to Calgary with Tourism Calgary.

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Brian Webb

Brian Webb

Author

Brian Webb is the founder and editor-in-chief of HomoCulture, a celebrated content creator, and winner of the prestigious Mr. Gay Canada – People’s Choice award. An avid traveler, Brian attends Pride events, festivals, street fairs, and LGBTQ friendly destinations through the HomoCulture Tour. He has developed a passion for discovering and sharing authentic lived experiences, educating about the LGBTQ community, and using both his photography and storytelling to produce inspiring content. Originally from the beautiful Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, Brian now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. His personal interests include travel, photography, physical fitness, mixology, drag shows.

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