There are a lot of great ways to enjoy Stampede time in Calgary, starting with the parade this Friday. Here’s a checklist of some of the best options for families:

1. Stampede Parade. The official kick-off for the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth is Friday, July 8 starting with the parade through downtown at 9:00 a.m. You’ll want to get there early to ensure a good spot. Led by this year’s Grand Marshals Jan Arden and Paul Brandt.

2. Family Day and Kids Day. Families planning to visit the Stampede grounds can take advantage of special activities and free admission on Sunday, July 10, during Suncor Family Day. Get there between 6-9 .am. for the free entrance and free breakfast. Get into the action with lots of fun, interactive activities around Stampede park. There is also BMO Kids Day on Wednesday, July 13, with free admission for children 12 and under and accompanying adults between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

3. Fun ‘foods.’ For both parents and kids the Stampede offers some fun and ‘unique’ (to say the least) food choices. Famous mini donuts always a hit with the kids. For the more adventurous, virtually “anything” on a stick is available.

4. Community breakfasts. There are many throughout the city and this is always one of my favorite family activities during Stampede time. It’s a chance for neighbourhoods to come together and celebrate our western heritage. Typically lots of kids activities from face painting and balloons to jumpy castles, etc. And who doesn’t love free pancakes? Check your community websites for information on breakfasts planned for your area, like this one in Marda Loop / Altadore and this one in Killarney / Glengarry.

5. Downtown and parks activities. There is so much going on all the time – the key is to make a point to get out. Two of the hotbed downtown with lots of families virtually every day of Stampede are Olympic Plaza and, my personal favorite, the Prince’s Island / Eau Claire area. Take the train to avoid parking needs and enjoy a broad spectrum of western celebration, food and fun.

These are just a few options among many – check my Twitter and Facebook for lots of updates and tips throughout Stampede. It’s a great time of year to enjoy Calgary!