The Wicked Hostel on McLeod Trail was my home in Calgary for seven nights during Calgary Stampede. I liked it so much that I stayed another four nights for a total of 11.
Although I’m pretty new to the hostel scene, this place was clearly a notch or two above many hostels and a world apart from some that I’ve read about. And I’m not alone in my praise; it received an 85% approval rating from 711 reviews on Hostelworld.com. You can check out what others had to say at the link below:
To give you some idea of just who stays in hostels, here’s a highly abbreviated list of the people I met over the course of 11 days:
– Jim: 30s; from UK; designs diagnostic medical equipment; training for a triathlon in Banff
– Karolin: Early 20s; from Germany; traveling and working in Canada for a year
– Laughren (Lockie): 24, Aussie electrician; super nice guy who was saving to buy a house back home but decided to travel instead; I reassured him that he’s doing the right thing – the house can wait but he may not be able to get away for a year or two once he has settled into working life.
– Robert: 30s, Aussie, auctioneer
– Julia; 60s; retired American newspaper editor; like me, embarking on RTW but hoping to do it in one year.
– Hannah: 30s; Aussie nurse
– Jude: 30s; Aussie; singer/dancer; has performed on Broadway and cruise ships; will work next winter in Whistler; traveling around Alberta/Saskatchewan this summer… on a bike with a tent; this hostel was an upgrade for him.
– Emily: 30s; Aussie; works in cattle/beef marketing in Australia; barrel races as a hobby; her dad won a national rodeo title in Australia in the ’70s; proudly showed me a pic of her dad bull riding at Calgary Stampede in ’75.
– Adam; 30s; paramedic from Holland
– Tim; 40s; fireman from Connecticut; using up 6 weeks of holidays and riding a motorcycle from east coast to California and back with detour through Western Canada
– Anthony; 60; retired teacher from Ireland; has been traveling for 6 months “and may never stop” as he put it.
– Cam; 20s; born and raised in Australia but says he always knew he wanted to live in or near the Rockies; now here permanently and deciding where he will settle.
As you can see, Calgary’s Wicked Hostel attracts a very eclectic crowd. I could have spent many more hours sitting in the common area, talking to fellow travellers but tried to limit myself to an hour each morning over breakfast and again before bed. Some of the late evening chats stretched a little longer than an hour when beer or Bailey’s was present.
Some of the features of this particular hostel:
– great location at corner of McLeod Trail & 17th Street (about 200 feet from main entrance to the Stampede Grounds)
– key or code entry (24 hours)
– locks on dorm rooms (but no lockers)
– free international phone calls
– free wi-fi
– free computer access for the minority without laptops or tablets
– free printer / scanner
– bathrooms always had at least 3 or 4 rolls of TP
– immaculate showers
– nice towels
– doors on individual change rooms / showers
– free laundry (they even do it for you!)
– laminate floors (spotless)
– nice common room with large table, seating for about 16; 4 large leather sofas; lots of electrical outlets
– booze bins in common room (store your own liquor)
– free coffee, tea, juice, cereal, oatmeal, toast, jam, jelly, peanut butter, Vegemite, Nutella and pancake batter every morning
– free coffee and tea all day
– 3 fridges, 1 freezer (mark your name and departure date on food and it’s safe)
– free spices and condiments
– free use of dishes, pots and pans, microwave, etc.
– vending machine with relatively cheap water, candy, snacks, noodles, Kraft Dinner, electrical adapters (for foreigners), etc.
– nightly activities (pub crawl, movies in common room, trivia, etc.)
– nice bedding (new pillows distributed during my stay)
– 4 and 6 bed dorms are small but clean and “all you really need”
– 72 beds (about 60 Aussies or Kiwis on one particular night which is a bonus as they are generally very nice people and always up for a good time)
– steps to Stampede grounds, 24-hour casino, Shoppers Drug Mart; 2 or 3 blocks to Starbucks and Sunterra Market (similar to Whole Foods; lots of fresh / prepared foods for take-out)
– very friendly and helpful staff
The hostel staff didn’t always enforce the rule about “no music or loud talking” in the common room after midnight and my dorm room was just off the common room, but then I didn’t choose hostel life for complete silence. If that’s what you’re looking for, check into the Hilton and sit alone in your room every night.
If you’re traveling through Alberta and can handle a 4 or 6 bed dorm, then Wicked Hostel is a great option at about 1/5th the price of a budget hotel and 1/20th the price of a business class hotel during Stampede Week. It’s not for everyone, and most of the guests are in their 20s and 30s, but I didn’t feel out of place and in fact had some ‘street cred’ that seemed to go over well when I mentioned that I had sold a house and car and quit a job before embarking on this trip.
Overall Rating: 9 of 10. (I’d give it a 9.5 if they had lockers in each room)