6 Tips For Enjoying The Calgary Stampede With Kids

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The wrist band from the Lost Child booth at the Calgary Stampede gave me a little extra peace of mind.

Reposted from the archives of www.mistyhamel.com July 9, 2012.

Sunday was Family Day at the Calgary Stampede and they offered free admission to anyone who arrived between 6AM and 9AM.  I can’t resist free offers.  So we set our alarms and rushed through the gates at exactly 9AM!  Whew! I know, super early right?  For our family it is very early!

Our first stop was at the Lost Child booth where we got a wrist band for Max and gave our phone number to the staff in case of the unthinkable.  Max promptly took it off and said he wouldn’t wear it so I hooked it between the bottom button of his shirt.   He wasn’t happy about it but it stayed put and gave me a little peace of mind.

I had read that the first 20,000 people to get through the gates would get a free pancake breakfast.  I assumed we would be in that number but instead we saw signs everywhere stating that the breakfast was completely sold out!  I could feel my hunger and Josh’s irritation rising by the minute.  It was like the throngs of people were all against us as we fought our way to The Grill which was apparently the only place to buy breakfast if you didn’t want to eat a deep-fried Twinkie!

We finally made it to The Grill and the line to get in was already out the door.  Josh looked at me and said, “This is my very own definition of hell!”  Great!  The morning was starting off so well!  We decided we need a coffee in order to make it through the breakfast line and headed back to the Chuckwagon Coffee we had passed.  We waited in that line for about 5 minutes before realizing that we had forgotten something very important.

Calgary Stampede Tip #1 – Bring cash!!!

Yes, there we stood in the Chuckwagon Coffee line.  Hungry, hot, desperate for coffee with a debit card in hand.  They were cash only.  Of course they were cash only, they were a chuckwagon for crying out loud!!!  We wearily looked at each other, got out of line and made our way back to the line that was even longer now at The Grill.

You may be wondering if breakfast was at least worth the wait, which brings me to tip #2.

Calgary Stampede Tip #2 – Eat breakfast before you get there!

In other words, no, it was not good.  It was almost decent but not quite.  The coffee was undrinkable but by this time we didn’t care, we drank it.  The Grill is located right in the entrance of the Agriculture Building which was a perfect place to start our day.  Score 1 for The Grill!

We went from breakfast straight on into the Agriculture Building and were greeted by the softest, most velvety little animals that I have ever petted, which brings me to tip #3.

Calgary Stampede Tip #3 – Bring hand sanitizer.

The miniature donkeys were by far our favorite animals.  Very friendly, very little and very soft!  They felt like an exquisite mohair or velvet material.  We are in love with the miniature donkeys and may have to go back just to pet them one more time!  Besides, I wasn’t able to get a good picture of them.  (Want to see a video of us and the miniature donkeys?  Click here and please ignore me gushing over them.)

Some of the horses and cows were close enough to touch as well but they were a little more skittish.  One horse decided to blow hot air, spittle (which included some juicy bits of hay he had been eating) and who knows what else all over Josh and Max.  Yes, I laughed but, seriously, bring hand sanitizer!

Max loved petting all of the animals at the Calgary Stampede!

Max loved petting all of the animals at the Calgary Stampede!

There is nothing like seeing the wonder on a child’s face when they can touch and see animals that are normally in their books about the farm.  Max said “Hello” to every animal he saw and touched every one of them that he could.  The stress of the morning melted away from us and even Josh couldn’t help but enjoy himself.  Yes, that brings me to tip #4.

Calgary Stampede Tip #4 – Relax, bring a lot of patience and a sense of humor.

Right before we left the Agriculture Building I saw a crowd of people and it looked like they were getting to interact with two cows.  Excited, I took Max over and then quickly did a 180 when I saw exposed butts and people getting powdered up.  That will scar a kid for life!  I, on the other hand, had to go back and check it out!  The UofC Veterinary students were demonstrating how a cow is checked for pregnancy.  Seriously!  The first (fake) cow that they let you check is not pregnant and the second one is.  I’m not going to lie, this is mind-blowing.  Please go try it!  I think I may have missed my calling!

Checking a fake cow for a fake pregnancy!

Checking a fake cow for a fake pregnancy!

We left the building and went out into the blazing sun.  There is not a lot of shade to be found on the grounds so I was very grateful that I remembered tip #5.

Calgary Stampede Tip #5 – Bring water and sunscreen!

We spent the rest of the day at the Kids’ Midway.  We bought 22 tickets for $22 and out of the 26 kids’ rides we found 3 where the lines were not too long for a 2 year old to wait in.  His very first ride he was allowed to go on by himself and it was so cool to see his expression when the ride started!  Josh and I each took him on one more ride and by then we were all exhausted, very hot and a little tired.  My final tip is this…

Calgary Stampede Tip #6 – Leave on a high note.

You know that time of indecision?  Should we buy some more tickets and go on a few more rides to make sure we squeeze everything we can out of this experience?  Are we too tired yet?  Too hungry?  Too hot?  Don’t push it!  It’s better to know your limits and leave before someone has a melt down.  Remember, you still have to walk the distance off the grounds and to wherever you parked before you can start the drive back home.  

We left at the perfect time.  The whole family happy and ready for a Sunday nap!  Thank you, Calgary Stampede, we’ll be back!

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 Are you looking forward to the Stampede this year?  Will you take your kids?

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