If you’re at a crossroads and tired of scouring every nook and cranny of the internet just to get a straight answer on whether you should visit Ottawa or Calgary, you’re in luck! We did all the hard work so that by the end of this, you’re already packing up your stuff!
If you’re looking to save on your trip, Ottawa is better to visit due to being cheaper than Calgary in terms of the average daily cost per person per day.
But if you prefer somewhere less jam-packed and has great recreational opportunities, Calgary is the way to go.
We laid out all the important things you need to know about each city so that by the end of this article, you can make the decision for yourself which is the best of the best!
Costs in Ottawa vs. Calgary
The costs in Ottawa are 20.75% lower than Calgary’s, with the average daily cost per person per day being $168 and $212, respectively. These costs include accommodations, food, transportation, and entertainment.
Ottawa is particularly cheaper when it comes to transport, food, and accommodations.
Take a look at the table below with data sourced from budgetyourtrip.com on the average costs in Ottawa and Calgary to know how we came up with our calculations.
|Local Transportation (taxi, buses, subway, etc.)
|Food (Meal for a day)
|Entertainment (Entrance tickets, shows, etc.)
|Accommodations (Hotel/hostel per person)
Based on the data presented, while Ottawa is generally much cheaper for travelers, Calgary has it beat when it comes to the prices of its entertainment. That makes Calgary the better city to visit for travelers who prioritize entertainment in their travels.
Safety in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Based on data from Statistics Canada, Ottawa is safer than Calgary. The latter had a higher number of incidents reported compared to Ottawa in 2021.
Several factors must be considered when observing the differences between each city’s safety situation. These include socioeconomic factors and efforts from local law enforcement, to name a few.
As of the latest annual crime statistics in 2021, Ottawa has 48.58% fewer reported incidents than Calgary. Take a look at the table below for a detailed view of Ottawa and Calgary’s total incident reports.
|Total Criminal Code Violations of Calgary and Ottawa
|Actual incidents Total
|Total persons charged
Weather in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Depending on the season, Ottawa’s weather typically varies from 6°F to 80°F and is rarely below -13°F or above 88°F. While Calgary’s temperatures can range from 12°F to 75°F and rarely get below -13°F or above 86°F.
In summary, Ottawa and Calgary both experience warm summers and freezing winters, so both cities generally have similar temperatures throughout the year.
Lifestyle in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Ottawa is a great place to visit if you’re fond of outdoor activities, mingling with nature, and revisiting the country’s colorful past.
In contrast, Calgary is the perfect place if you like sports, culture, exciting yearly events, and beautiful outdoor recreational activities.
Each city has its own pros and cons that are solely dependent on the needs and preferences of each visitor. So, to get a closer look at the kind of lifestyle you can expect from both cities, we covered several factors below.
Attractions in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Ottawa and Calgary are cities with unique attractions of their own, and depending on what kind of sights you want to see, there’s no objective way to tell which city is better.
Some of Ottawa’s most well-known attractions are Parliament Hill, Rideau Canal, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, and Rideau Hall. There’s also Byward Market, Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, and the Canadian Museum of History.
Calgary’s top landmarks are the Calgary Zoo, Heritage Park, Calgary Tower, Prince’s Island Park, Calgary Stampede, Glenbow Museum, Fort Calgary, and Nose Hill Park. Additionally, there’s the Fish Creek Provincial Park and the Gasoline Alley Museum.
Cultural Experiences in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Both Ottawa and Calgary have various opportunities to bask in their respective cultures, from tours around landmarks to events throughout the year.
Depending on your own personal preference for the kinds of cultural experiences you want, there’s no objective way to tell which city is better.
Ottawa is a city that hosts various music festivals and events celebrating other cultures. Additionally, it’s home to many museums, historical monuments, and there are countless available tours that can help you discover each and every one.
As for Calgary, it showcases its diverse culture through art, food, fashion, dance, film, festivals, cultural celebrations, literary programs, powwows, and more. It also hosts many music, food, cultural, arts, and community festivals throughout the year.
All in all, you’ll just have to check out what sort of cultural activities each city has to offer to find out for yourself which one fits your tastes more.
Outdoor Activities in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Both Ottawa and Calgary offer visitors tons of outdoor activities to try, and all within the city’s borders or other locations close by. So it’s a tie between both cities when it comes to outdoor activities.
In Ottawa, you’ll discover a playground of adventure with activities to suit every thrill-seeker. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the scenic trails of Gatineau Park, where breathtaking vistas and tranquil forests await to captivate your senses.
For water enthusiasts, go paddling along the historic Rideau Canal or the Ottawa River. Depending on the season, you can also go biking, running, walking, snowshoeing, skiing, bird-watching, paddling, ATVing, and skating in Ottawa.
In Calgary, outdoor enthusiasts will find themselves in a paradise of possibilities, especially adrenaline-pumping experiences. There, you’ll get to hit the slopes at world-class ski resorts like Banff and Lake Louise.
And when the warmer months arrive, go on an unforgettable rafting adventure down the Bow River. There you can find rushing rapids and stunning landscapes that combine to deliver an unforgettable thrill.
Food Scene in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Both Ottawa and Calgary have more than enough food spots to suit every palate. It all depends on your own tastes to tell which city’s food is better.
In Ottawa, delicious delights await at every corner, showcasing a fusion of international flavors and local flavors. Indulge in a culinary adventure at restaurants like Atelier, where innovative dishes and artistic presentations take center stage.
Or, immerse yourself in the farm-to-table movement at restaurants like Murray Street Kitchen, where fresh, local ingredients are transformed into mouthwatering creations.
Meanwhile, in Calgary, the city’s food scene is a tantalizing blend of modern culinary trends and traditional Western fare. Sink your teeth into a succulent steak at the iconic Caesar’s Steak House with its perfect sear and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
And for those seeking a taste of Alberta’s rich culinary heritage, a visit to Heritage Park’s Wainwright Hotel. It happily offers visitors a journey back in time with its hearty, homestyle dishes that pay homage to the region’s cowboy roots.
But it’s not just about fine dining in these cities, as Ottawa and Calgary also have vibrant food markets and local eateries that celebrate their unique flavors.
Ottawa’s ByWard Market tantalizes your senses with its array of fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and multicultural street food. Meanwhile, Calgary has the Calgary Farmers’ Market, with its abundance of local delicacies and artisanal treats.
Now, if there’s one food that Ottawa’s well-known for, then it can only be its famous BeaverTails! If you’re not sure what that is, it’s a Canadian pastry delight topped with various sweet and savory toppings that’ll satisfy any craving.
In Calgary, the local honey, beef, and bison meat are a must-try, especially since Alberta houses about half of Canada’s beef supply, and bison is one of its indigenous foods. It’s also the fifth-largest honey-producing region in the world!
Nightlife in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Ottawa and Calgary are tied when it comes to the nightlife, as both offer various options, regardless of how you’re planning on enjoying your night.
In Ottawa, the Byward Market district transforms into a bustling hub of entertainment. It’s got lively pubs, stylish bars, and energetic nightclubs lining the streets where you can immerse yourself in the electric atmosphere.
Try out establishments like the Whiskey Bar, with live music and a vast selection of spirits to taste.
For those seeking a more intimate setting, try the Moonroom, a speakeasy-style bar tucked away in the heart of the city. Enjoy expertly crafted cocktails with nice company.
As for Calgary, the city’s nightlife scene boasts a dynamic mix of trendy lounges, pulsating clubs, and hidden gems. Step into the vibrant neighborhood of 17th Avenue SW, affectionately known as the “Red Mile.”
There you’ll find an eclectic mix of bars and pubs, like National on 17th, a multi-level venue with an impressive beer selection. You can also dance the night away at Commonwealth Bar & Stage, a hotspot for live music and amazing DJ sets.
Ottawa and Calgary also offer a diverse range of cultural and entertainment experiences after dark. In Ottawa, you may indulge in an evening of laughter at the Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club.
As for Calgary, you can catch a captivating live theater production at the historic Theatre Calgary. Watch talented actors bring stories to life on stage, creating an immersive and unforgettable experience.
Shopping in Ottawa vs. Calgary
Ottawa and Calgary are tied when it comes to shopping because both of these major Canadian cities have big shopping centers to small farmers’ markets. You can buy branded items to hand-crafted goods in either city.
In Ottawa, you’ll find yourself immersed in a shopping paradise with numerous malls and centers catering to all your needs. Ride the shopping wave at the Rideau Centre, where popular brands like H&M, Zara, and Sephora await to elevate your style game.
And don’t miss the ByWward Market, a bustling hub of local artisans, offering unique souvenirs that’ll forever remind you of your Ottawa escapades.
In Calgary, get ready to indulge in retail therapy at the renowned Chinook Centre, a shopaholic’s dreamland housing a fabulous array of international brands. You can find Apple, Coach, Tiffany & Co., and many more!
And if you’re seeking a taste of the authentic Calgary spirit, explore the historic Stephen Avenue Walk. Check out charming boutiques and art galleries that proudly display local craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind treasures, making for perfect keepsakes to cherish.
When it comes to souvenirs, Ottawa beckons you to embrace its Canadian heritage. Look no further than maple syrup, maple syrup-infused treats, from candies to cookies, that’ll satisfy your cravings and make delightful gifts for your loved ones back home.
Meanwhile, Calgary invites you to embrace its cowboy spirit by snagging some authentic Western gear. Stetson hats, leather boots, or even a stylish belt buckle will have you strutting with true Calgary flair and serve as unique mementos.
So, whether you’re searching for high-end fashion, local craftsmanship, or iconic Canadian souvenirs, both Ottawa and Calgary offer delightful shopping experiences!
Events and Festivals in Ottawa vs. Calgary
It’s a tie between Ottawa and Calgary when it comes to which one has better events and festivals because the answer depends on individual preferences. Especially as both places have many different festivities throughout the year.
In Ottawa, one of the most anticipated events is Canada Day on July 1st, where the city comes alive with festivities, fireworks, and the iconic Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The Canadian Tulip Festival in May is another highlight, transforming the city into a colorful wonderland with over a million blooming tulips.
And let’s not forget Winterlude, a winter extravaganza that features ice sculptures, skating on the frozen Rideau Canal, and the world’s largest snow playground.
Meanwhile, in Calgary, the Calgary Stampede is undoubtedly the crown jewel of events, drawing visitors worldwide to experience the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”
This 10-day extravaganza in July showcases rodeo competitions, chuckwagon races, live music, and exhilarating midway rides. It’s a true celebration of the city’s Western heritage and cowboy culture.
Another must-see event is the Calgary Folk Music Festival, a four-day music extravaganza. It features an eclectic lineup of artists from various genres, set against the stunning backdrop of Prince’s Island Park.
Ottawa also hosts the Ottawa International Jazz Festival, attracting world-renowned jazz musicians with soulful melodies and toe-tapping rhythms. For art enthusiasts, the Ottawa Fringe Festival showcases the best of independent theatre and performing arts.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Museum of History hosts the mesmerizing Sound and Light Show, bringing history to life through a spectacular multimedia experience.
You also can’t miss the vibrant celebrations of GlobalFest, a multicultural festival featuring international fireworks, cultural pavilions, and live performances in Calgary.
And for film lovers, the Calgary International Film Festival offers a diverse selection of captivating films from both local and international filmmakers.
So whether you choose Ottawa or Calgary, rest assured that these cities will keep you entertained with their exciting lineup of events and festivals throughout the year.
Family Friendliness of Ottawa vs. Calgary
Ottawa is more family-friendly than Calgary in terms of safety, with around 39,412 crimes reported in 2021. In comparison, Calgary had 76,652 crimes in the same year.
However, Calgary is more family-friendly when it comes to recreational spaces, with over 5,600 parks and open spaces available.
If safety for your family is your top priority when visiting, Ottawa is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for plenty of spaces for the kids to run around during your trip, Calgary is the better option.
Conclusion — Ottawa vs. Calgary: Which is better to visit?
Overall, each city has its own unique charms and attractions that make it a compelling destination to visit.
Whether you’re drawn to Ottawa’s rich history and cultural experiences or Calgary’s outdoor adventures and vibrant atmosphere, both cities offer memorable experiences.
The better city to visit ultimately depends on your preferences, interests, and the type of vacation you’re seeking.
To review everything we’ve explored, let’s take a closer look at the factors we’ve discussed. We’ll also provide some suggestions on which city might be better suited for your visit depending on the factor.
By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your personal tastes and desires. Regardless of which city you end up visiting, we only hope that we managed to help you come to your final decision!
|The Better City
|The average daily cost per person per day is 20.75% lower than in Calgary.
|Ottawa has an officially reported crime rate that’s 48.58% lower than Calgary.
|Ottawa and Calgary have similar climates.
|Tied (depends on the kind of lifestyle you prefer)
|Both cities offer various attractions, cultural experiences, outdoor activities, dining & shopping options, and nightlife experiences. Additionally, Ottawa offers families more safety, while Calgary has more recreational spots for families.