Worth a Day Trip: Spruce Meadows

If you head south on Macleod Trail from downtown Calgary and follow the 22X highway west, you’ll reach the scenic foothills in less than half an hour. You’ll then hit Spruce Meadows if you continue down this road, which is home to Calgary’s show jumping and polo scene and a great place to spend the afternoon tailgating, taking in the views from the ranch house, or enjoying a tour of the stables.

The grounds feature over 400 acres of space, which is open 365 days of the year. Summertime is the busiest, with happenings throughout the week including Derby and Grand Prix events along with weddings and corporate parties. 

One of the coolest events this summer was the very swanky and very yellow Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, which was hosted on a sunny Sunday afternoon in August. As guests arrived, they were ushered onto the patio of the ranch house that was set up as the Veuve Clicquot lounge. The patio area was complete with yellow umbrellas to shade the spectators who were enjoying the polo match underway. Guests were dressed to the nines in summer dresses and suits with a glass of Veuve champagne in hand, many sporting yellow shades – complements of the party’s host. Ferrari and Maserati were also on hand to display some of their luxury vehicles at the end of the event.

While polo is a bit more of an uncommon sport, matches are really fun to watch. This is a game that requires speed and accuracy. Polo matches are fast-paced, generally involving four riders per side, each with their mounts or polo ponies. The object of the game is to move a wooden ball – likely plastic these days – down a 300 by 160-yard field at break-neck speeds. Each rider is equipped with a mallet and use quick strikes to push the ball through the goal posts as they gallop down the playing field. Balls are said to fly at up to 100 miles per hour. Watching from the patio area of the ranch house is certainly enjoyable, but it’s also worth trying to pull your vehicle up alongside the actual field to tail gate. When you’re standing along the sidelines, the sounds of horses and players galloping by is really exciting and offers you the chance to get closer to the action than you’d probably never experience at horse races.

Spruce Meadows hosts many events that offer something a little bit different. Throughout the summer months, there is a Stampede dinner, President’s Ball and an Italian night that offers a sampling of delicious Italian cuisine. For anyone wanting to learn the actual game of polo, there are several options. The introductory polo clinics are set up to help familiarize people with the rules and mechanics of the game. There is an option to do both private as well as group lessons. The complex also offers riding lessons, which would be highly recommended before you start swinging a mallet. For those of you who might just be out of practice, you can also check out the hitting cages for practice. 

To visit Spruce Meadows or to learn more about the facility and their events, click here.

Photo courtesy Spruce Meadows