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10 best places to eat, drink and check out this Calgary Stampede

Get the most out of this great Canadian outdoor festival with our 2012 guide to the event's best headlines, shows and things to do in the city

cowboy hat, calgary stampede

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1. Ox and Angela
One of the city’s coziest spots, is offering an upscale take on Stampede. Sit back and watch the Running of the Bulls festival live from Pamplona, Spain – which happens to coincide with Stampede – as you sip on one of the resto-bar’s delicious Spanish-themed cocktails.

2. FlapJack Finder
One of the best things about The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth is the free pancake breakfasts, which pop up all over the city. How to find them? Easy. Check out the FlapJack Finder, a site and iPhone app with a “promise that all your breakfasts will be free and flat.”

3. Stampede Park
Spend an afternoon wandering Stampede Park, which typically entails ingesting deep-fried, well, everything, playing games to win teddy bears and riding rollercoasters. It’s all part of the experience. Looking for more excitement? Ride the latest addition: a temporary zip-line traversing 850 feet of the park.

4. TransAlta Grandstand Show
Be sure to check out the TransAlta Grandstand Show, running every night at Stampede Park. This year, the show is called Century – it’s the centennial year, after all – and will feature tunes you know and love from the past 100 years. Our fave part? Country singer Paul Brandt will headline the show.

5. Stampede Parade
Speaking of famous cowboys, Canadian country singer Ian Tyson has been named Parade Marshal for the annual Stampede Parade, which winds its way through downtown Calgary and is a great way to kick off 10 days of fun. The parade begins at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 6.

6. Hotel Arts
It’s one of the hippest boutique hotels in town and offers a tantalizing retreat in the heart of the city: an open-air pool with lounge service. Grab a seat in the sun, order a cocktail and give those feet a well-deserved rest after a night of two-stepping.

7. The Stampede Roundup
The Stampede Roundup is one of the city’s hottest outdoor parties. Held at Fort Calgary in the afternoon of July 11, this year’s Roundup will feature The Tragically Hip, Matthew Good and 54-40. You’ll also dine on Stampede’s unofficial entrée: beef on a bun.

8. Shuck-off
Even if you bypass Roundup, chances are good that you’ll eat plenty of beef during your Stampede-going. If that’s not your thing—or you just need a break—check out the “Shuck-Off” event at Catch and The Oyster Bar, where local celebs, chefs and seafood will collide.

9. West Restaurant and Bar
West Restaurant and Bar has a killer rooftop patio. It’s big, plush and always buzzing with the corporate crowd. Located on Stephen Avenue—downtown Calgary’s busiest strip—it’s an ideal spot to step above the fray and into a very Los Angeles-like vibe.

10. Blue Star Diner
After a late night, head to Blue Star Diner for a breakfast re-charge. Fill your belly with blueberry banana pancakes or pork eggs benedict and get set to tackle another day of Stampeding. An added bonus: if there’s a line, they’ll serve you coffee as you wait.