It’s no secret between my family and friends that I love the Calgary Stampede. Most people think it’s just the same thing every year and too expensive to keep going back. Not me! My favourite part of Stampede is how into it the city gets. The decorations are already up all over downtown and I am adding Stampede breakfasts and BBQs to my calendar on a daily basis.
So how do you partake in festivities like Stampede without going completely broke?
I’ve compiled a few tips to hopefully help you (and me!) keep our money in our wallets and a smile on our faces this summer!
1. Buy tickets/passes in advance for discounts.
Costco and Safeway are two places that sell Stampede Bucks or Ride & Play cards, respectively. They do sell out though, so it is important to get in early. The Costco Stampede Bucks will save you $10 ($40 for $50 in Bucks) and the Ride & Play cards can save you $20 on rides and games if that’s your thing. Look around at your local grocery stores for discounts for events near you!
2. Take advantage of discounted/free entry on Value Days.
The Stampede website has a list of Value Days that include discounted or free entry. This is definitely worth taking advantage of if you have kids! You may find that your local festivals or events offer discounted entry if you go late in the evening or early in the morning. Be sure to do some research!
3. Take Public Transit.
Parking at festivals is ridiculous. Don’t do it. Transit is cheap and can be convenient (especially if you decide to spend some of your saved money on a few beers…but you didn’t hear that from me). Some cities will offer discounted fares with your festival ticket. Calgary Transit is offering reduced day fares for adults and youths during Stampede.
4. Check out the free displays and shows instead of the pricey ones.
Going for a walk through the barns to pet the horses and check out the goats is free at Stampede. So is the SuperDogs show and everything on the Coke stage. While you may pay to get in, there’s plenty to do that doesn’t cost extra once you get through the gate. If your local events offer free entertainment that is included in your entrance fee, take advantage!
5. Buy last minute event tickets.
You may risk losing out, but often event tickets purchased at the last minute can be cheaper than those bought far in advance. Rodeo tickets, for example, can be had for about $20 on the day if you go to the box office on the Stampede grounds.
6. Don’t party with your rich friends.
One of the main reasons Stampede can be expensive is the cover charge to places like Cowboys and the cost of drinks (and the inevitable tub of mini donuts that follows). Prices are inflated during events like Stampede and if you are trying to keep up with the Joneses, you’ll be dealing with a financial hangover. If you must party with your friends, have your own backyard Stampede BBQ. Wear your hats, flip some burgers, and have a few drinks before taking transit to the grounds to catch a free concert on the Coke stage.
7. Eat lots of pancakes.
Okay, this one may only really be related to Stampede, but there is free breakfast everywhere during our ten days of western festivities. I am not too proud to stuff my face with free food at every available opportunity. Here is a website listing all of the Stampede breakfasts happening in Calgary. See you in the pancake line!
8. Rent out a spare room in your house.
If you have ever wanted to try offering your hospitality on Air B&B, doing so during festival season is a great opportunity to cash in on a temporary visitor boom in your city. You can rent out a room or your whole house if you decide to get out of town yourself!
9. Volunteer or get a temporary job for great perks.
Often event volunteers will get free entry to their events and could get additional perks like discounts on merchandise, food, and so on. A lot of places will also be looking to hire temporary staff to help with the rush brought on by events like Stampede. Check out opportunities in your city to volunteer your time (or get paid for it) and enjoy being a part of the action instead of just a spectator!
10. Don’t go.
Of course, another option is to just avoid the big, expensive events altogether. If you really don’t want to be lured into spending a bunch of money at an event like the Calgary Stampede, consider partaking in the free celebrations around your city instead. Whether it’s a local music festival instead of one in another province or a string of pancake breakfasts instead of going to the Stampede grounds, you can have a ton of fun this summer without parting with your hard-earned dough.
You can also save a few bucks by bringing your own snacks and a reusable water bottle to any big events. I’d rather save my pennies for mini donuts (yum!) than an overpriced bottle of water! Be aware that some festivals don’t allow outside food, so make sure you know what’s allowed before your bag of snacks gets chucked at the gate!
Have a great summer!