Albertan Cowboy Culture: Where’s the Real Old West These Days?

The second week in July means different things to everyone. To me, it’s the time when the city I live in is overrun with tourists and locals alike donning cowboy hats clumsily two-stepping their way around town. To visitors, the Calgary Stampede is the real deal: a place where the old west meets consumer culture and the result is non-stop fun. To us locals, Stampede is a time when gals have an excuse to wear barely-there mini jean skirts (aka Skankpede), when everything’s more expensive (aka Scampede) and when the rich executives wander through the midday streets more drunk and obnoxious than usual (aka drunkpede).Sure, it’s usually a good time, but it’s so commercialized. When did we get away from what Stampede is really about: agriculture, rodeo, chuckwagons and good old-fashioned square dances?

Fortunately, Southern Alberta offers many more authentic (and affordable) ways to get in touch with your inner cowboy, like:

  • Bar U Ranch: Once important ranch-turns-National Historic Site
  • Glenbow Museum: Yeah, it’s a museum, but it’s a cool one, especially their Western exhibits.
  • Fort MacLeod : The birthplace of ranching in Alberta; a place full of small-town charm
  • The Great Canadian Barn Dance : Three words: Kunkel Family Band. Yee haw!
  • The Cowboy Trail: Also known as highway 22 — the convergence of mountain foothills and prairie makes this one of the most scenic drives around. Now, imagine doing it on a horse.

Check out Travel Alberta for more cowboy inspiration.