To my surprise — having visited Calgary many times — I am hopscotching from one cool restaurant to another, sampling a spectrum of creative dishes from locally sourced contemporary Canadian cuisine to killer tacos, Alberta/Asian fusion and fine vegetarian fare — major inroads into Cowtown’s trademark steak and ribs menus. “Yup,” says my waitress plunking down a cocktail made with local Eau Claire’s Prickly Pear liquor that contains a cactus essence, this is Calgary 355 days of the year. Most folks come to Calgary either for the Stampede or on a stopover en route to the Rocky Mountains, whose snow-capped skyline is visible from downtown, but the city is becoming a more diverse, interesting and character-rich destination on its own, with several newly gentrified urban enclaves I plan to explore. There are kayakers on the river, and there is a lineup of surfers waiting to get on the Tenth Street Wave, a friendly, crazy-popular patch of Bow whitewater that has its own Facebook page. Back on the south shore, buskers are jiving and food trucks are feeding a crowd taking in an outdoor circus show at Eau Claire Plaza. The quickly gentrifying neighborhood’s hub is the heritage riverside Simmons Building, a brick 1912 former mattress factory with heavy beams and original wooden floors that is now home to trendy Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, Phil & Sebastian Coffee and the Charbar restaurant. Up-and-coming East Village is also the site of Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre that opened a year ago, an architecturally stunning building that spans Fourth Street SE to a second building. Solar Drones, an innovative installation in the skywalk linking the two buildings, harnesses solar power to create ambient sound in the hallway using pianos damaged in the 2013 flood. For a rock fan like me, however, the museum’s highlight is touring the second building where the Centre’s collection of 2,500 instruments and artifacts spanning centuries is housed. Collections Access Manager Jason Tawkin shows off rare vintage recording studio equipment still used by artists looking for new and different sounds. For me, the piece de resistance is the Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio, a truck where not only the Stones, but also Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Dire Straits and many others recorded albums. Sitting at the historic console playing Deep Purple from an analog tape, Jason explains: Their song ‘Smoke on the Water’ mentions this mobile studio. The “King Eddy” was — and is — part of the Music Mile, a string of live music venues along and near Ninth Avenue SE all the way into the Inglewood neighborhood. Calgary’s oldest district, Inglewood dates back to 1875, when Fort Calgary was built by the North West Mounted Police across the Elbow River where it joins the Bow. Three fine-dining restaurants operate in the area’s historic buildings — the Nash, Rouge and the new Deane House in a beautifully restored 1906 home serving contemporary Canadian cuisine. Inglewood was originally known as Brewery Flats, so I felt it fitting to finish my cycling tour with a craft beer among a welcoming local crowd at the colorful, end-of-the-road Cold Garden microbrewery. Though the aroma of grilling steaks still pervades downtown Calgary at lunchtime when I cycle there the next day, there are now dozens of creative and trendy cafes as well. Among them are the spectacular Wonderland sculpture — a giant white see-through head — and outdoor art along Stephen Avenue Walk, a pedestrian street lined in historic buildings. Since you can’t leave Calgary without sampling the city’s signature drink, I start my last day at my hotel’s Oxbow Restaurant, having Sunday brunch and a Bloody Caesar. Dreamt up by a hotel manager in 1969, they are so popular that there is now a National Caesar Day (May 18) to celebrate this spicy Canadian cocktail made with vodka; pinches of horseradish, Tobasco and Worcestershire sauces; and Clamato (clam and tomato) juice, over ice. Recipes become creative with glass rimming— in this case Montreal steak spice — and garnishes which can range from celery or beef jerky to shrimp and even mini-sliders. [...] I explore the surrounding old-soul, community-oriented Kensington neighborhood, dropping in at Naked Leaf Tea, at the Beehive for all-things-beewax, and at the new Hexagon Board Game Cafe, whose owners are successfully dragging locals away from video games with old-fashioned entertainment. To finish off the day and ease my cycle-weary muscles, I visit chic Swizzle Sticks Spa for a unique South Asian and First Nations treatment called Heaven and Earth and drift off to paradise under the hands of a Cree massage therapist named Melissa. Elegant fine dining with strong Canadian regional cuisine — as in the owner’s first restaurant, the River Cafe on Prince’s Island, www.river-cafe.com — using local products in a character-rich, recently restored heritage house in the Inglewood neighborhood. Authentic and creative Mexican street food — tacos and platters — in a cool environment with echoes of a Mexican cantina. Lively, casual barbecue spot with a great selection of pulled pork, sliced brisket and ribs as well as salads and accompaniments, and a fine cache of whiskeys. With an eclectic and innovative Argentine-flavored menu featuring a wood-fire grill, prime Alberta meats, a ceviche and raw bar, and a full vegetarian menu, Charbar is one of the city’s most popular haunts.