Locals and visitors often ask me “what is Calgary’s coolest neighbourhood?” My reply is, “It depends on what you like to do.”
Just for fun I thought I would do a series of blogs on what makes Calgary’s City Centre neighbourhoods (Beltline, Bridgeland, East Village, Eau Claire, Downtown West, Downtown Core, Inglewood, Kensington and Mission) all cool depending on your perspective.
What makes a cool neighbourhood?
My template of what I think are the key elements of a cool neighbourhood is:
Inglewood’s boundaries are difficult to share in words as you can see by this illustration from the City of Calgary’s website. It is one of Calgary’s oldest communities and was once known as Brewery Flats as it was home to the mammoth Calgary Brewing and Malting Company site which is now closed and waiting for redevelopment. Given the rise in popularity of craft beer around the world, Inglewood might want to use Brewery Flats as part of its branding.
Inglewood is home to not one but three signature events every summer. The Inglewood Night Market will take place on June 8, July 13, August 10 and September 14 this year. The Calgary Fringe Festival takes place from Aug 3 to 11, while Sunfest happens Saturday August 24.
Inglewood has an ever-changing array of eclectic shops from exquisite Circa Vintage Art Glass to bibliophile’s Fair’s Fair Books’ with its 7,000 used books.
But wait. It gets better.
Two "must visits" are Crown Surplus store where you can find some very interesting outdoor and tactical gear (maybe even a surplus military tent) and Recordland where you can hunt for that elusive vintage record you have always wanted (one of the largest collections of used records in North America.)
Teetotallers will want to check out Tea Traders’ large selection of teas that they import directly to Calgary their world headquarters.
Foodies won’t want to miss The Silk Road either for its huge collection of spices, herbs and seasonings from around the world.
Knifewear offers Canada’s largest selection of Japanese knives - $2,500 is their most expensive knife; it is a work of art. And, Kevin Kent (aka El Presidente) is one of North America’s leading authorities on knives.
Kent of Inglewood (El Presidente’s other store) is a walk back in time, as not only is the building over 100 years old, but the products are a “blast from the past.”
This is a “man’s man” shop where their “passion is classic shaving equipment, cocktails, axes, and all things fantastic.”
It even has an in-house barbershop.
When in Inglewood you must stop in “espy” women and men’s fashion boutique. They are well known for their selection of denim jeans (1,000 jeans in stock) and for their professional denim fitting i.e. they are 100% honest about what looks good on you and what doesn’t!
The espy experience is not to be missed.
Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar, opened in 2012, has quickly established itself as the Inglewood hangout spot, not only for the espresso and wine but for its live music featuring local musicians every Friday and Saturday evening.
The new kid on the block - ROSSO Coffee Roasters, named the ATB Small Business of the Year in 2017, by Calgary Chamber of Commerce is also worth a visit.
While restaurants come and go, Rouge Restaurant in the historic 1891 Cross House has been rated one of Calgary’s top 10 restaurants since 2001.
In fact, in 2010, it was ranked #60 in the world by San Pellegrino Awards.
In 2014, Michael Noble (one of Canada’s leading chefs) opened The Nash and Off Cut Bar in the historic National Hotel (1907). And in 2016, Sal Howell (one of Calgary’s best restaurant owners) reopened the Deane House (1906) next to Fort Calgary complete with an edible garden.
If you are into dining in historical settings, Inglewood is definitely your place.
If you are looking for an authentic Calgary dining experience, you can’t do much better than Spolumbo’s family restaurant (owned by three former Calgary Stampeders players) using old world family recipes to create the perfect sausages.
No community can be cool without a “go to” pizza place. In Inglewood’s that would be Without Papers Pizza.
Inglewood is Calgary’s live music district, home to the Blues Can, Ironwood Stage & Grill (both have music 7days a week) and Festival Hall (operated by the Calgary Folk Festival).
Tim Williams, winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition for best solo/duo and best guitarist, hosts a blues jam every Saturday (no cover) at the Blues Can.
Inglewood is home to the Esker Foundation/Contemporary Art Gallery, a privately funded, non-commercial, free gallery that curates three exhibitions per year – fall, winter and spring/summer. Challenging yet accessible, they are accompanied by educational programs and publications.
It is on the third floor of the Atlantic Avenue Art Block, an architectural work of art in itself with its wavy roof and how it integrates the historic red brick warehouse architecture with contemporary urban design.
Other art galleries in the neighbourhood include Galleria, Van Ginkel Art Gallery, Inglewood Fine Arts and Collector’s Gallery. And, just a short walk up 12th St SE under the rail tracks lies the Artpoint Gallery and Studios Society with its three galleries and 23 studios.
History buffs will love walking along Inglewood’s New Street and you will discover a charming mix of heritage and contemporary homes. One of the reasons Calgary’s City Center neighbourhoods are so vibrant is the hundreds of new infill homes being built every year.
With the northern boundary of Inglewood being the Bow River, Inglewood has a lovely walking and cycling pathway to downtown, St. Patrick’s Island, the Calgary Zoo, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Harvie Passage.
Inglewood is also home to Calgary’s original Main Street, aka 9th Avenue (as it is now called) aka Atlantic Avenue (its original name). The three blocks from 11th St to 14th St SE is a charming collection of early 20th century red brick buildings that house an eclectic array of shops today.
Inglewood is also home to Bow Passage Overlook artwork by Lorna Jordan located along the Bow River pathway at the Harvie Passage where the Bow River takes a sharp turn south. This large artwork looks like a typical log jam along the shore of the Bow River, except it has been carefully constructed so you can walk up to the outlook viewing platform or explore and sit amongst the rocks and rectangular man-made logs.
For those looking for adventurous water sports you can float, canoe or kayak on the Bow River. Harvie Passage is currently closed but will reopen in this summer (it was severely damaged in the 2013 flood) is one of the best urban kayaking spots in North America with channels for beginners and experts.
Lawn bowling in Calgary dates back to the late 1800s and is enjoying a resurgence today. The patch of grass at the corner of 8th Ave and 12th St. SE has been home to the Inglewood Lawn Bowling Club since 1946. Don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of hipsters lawn bowling as you walk by. And yes you can work up a thirst lawn bowling.
Heads Up: Watch out for cyclists as 8th Ave SE can be a busy cycling street.
In addition, the Blues Can and Ironwood, Inglewood is home to one of Calgary’s best pubs - The Hose & Hound Neighbourhood Pub located in a 1906 firehouse.
Inglewood is also home to two of Calgary’s best craft breweries. Cold Garden Beverage Company Tasting Room since January 2017 has become a popular place for locals to chill, as has High Line Brewery that opened in December 2016. .
The Nest is a funky, 500-square foot meeting space that not only looks like a nest but it is suspended from the roof in the middle of the main gallery space of the Esker Contemporary Art Gallery. Very cool!
Not only is Nerd Roller Skates a quirky niche shop that specializes in roller derby skates and equipment, is also the hub for Calgary’s roller derby community.
And the long standing Friday Night Circles of Rhythm drum circle at the Inglewood Community Hall regularly attracts over 100 participants (no experience needed, they supply the drums, perfect for everyone from 5 to 95). Drop-in are welcome.
If you have a chance you must experience Carly’s Angels the riotous drag show in the quaint Lolita’s Lounge that has been entertaining Calgarians and visitors for 10 years. Some shows sell out 4 to 8 weeks in advance and no minors allowed as it can get more than a little raunchy.
Inglewood has just the right mix of old and new, highbrow and lowbrow things to see and do. No wonder Inglewood was crowned “Canada’s Greatest Neighbourhood” by the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2014 - and it has only gotten better since then.
The ultra chic new AVLI on Atlantic condo (currently under construction) designed by Calgary’s own Jeremy Sturgess could be just what makes Inglewood not only one of Calgary’s coolest neighbourhoods, but North America’s.
Note: This is the first in a series of blogs examining Calgary’s City Centre Neighbourhoods.
Note: My apologies to Calgary’s 200+ other neighbourhoods. While you may have a cool park or playground, a great recreation centre, maybe even a lake with a beach, or a few special shops, you don’t have the history and diversity of walkable things to see and do that makes for a cool urban neighbourhood from a tourist’s perspective. And after all, this is an every day tourist blog. That being said, I am open to changing my mind. So feel free to contact me and tell me why you think another neighbourhood(s) should be on my list of cool Calgary Neighbourhoods.