Here's where you can find the best benches to watch the sunset in Calgary

When there’s a good sunset in Calgary, it’s a shared experience. People post about the colours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — it dots every feed or timeline. 

Parks data a window for exploring new views

The City of Calgary's Open Data Portal includes a dataset of all the west and southwest-facing benches to watch sunsets from in the city. (City of Calgary, Helen Pike/CBC)

There's something about them — the fiery warm hues adorning the skyline — marking the end of a short wintry day. 

When there's a good sunset in Calgary, it's a shared experience. People post about the colours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — it dots every feed or timeline. 

Most people you ask in Calgary will tell you where the primo vantage point to see a sunset is. There are listicles already online about where to go. 

Here are just a few recommendations:

But another tool you may not have come across is in an unexpected corner of the City of Calgary's website: the Open Data Portal. 

The dataset, titled "West-facing wooden benches to watch the sunset," was created during the 2018 hackathon as an example of what's possible with the city's data.

Kiyoshi Robson is the leader of intellectual property and data access with the City of Calgary 

He said parks gathers data on all their assets, like benches. And the city's data team was able to use that information. 

The sun sets over the Peace Bridge in Calgary. (Helen Pike/CBC)

"It's a map, a visual representation of all the city park benches that are there and you can just manipulate it and put some filters on it," Robson said. "And what you see is you see the lovely west-facing wooden benches, where you might want to watch a sunset."

But with all this information on hand, there's no guarantee all of the benches facing west will give you the best view. 

"One thing it doesn't tell you, it doesn't tell you if there's a wall in front of one of these benches," Robson said.

The city has a total of 10,475 objects the parks department calls "seating" and out of that total, 1,138 of those face west and 1,127 face southwest. 

For the map, the data is filtered into park benches in lacquered or natural wood finish — so you don't have to watch a sunset from a bleacher or picnic table. There are more than 376 west-facing and 475 southwest-facing benches that meet the more-specific criteria. 

And, of course, for early risers you can toggle the directional information to give you the east-side vantage. But Robson says this information could be made better by citizens — say by adding a topographical layer to the mix.

Heading to a popular sunset spot in town, atop the McHugh Bluffs, most of the benches are a little chilly to sit on. But there are people heading up and down the lookout, some for exercise and others as a daily commute.

Jenna Benson says she often walks along the pathways up there and feels lucky when she sees a good sunset.

"Well, I love that they're always a little bit different," Benson said. "And from moment to moment, they change and with the mountains behind. I think ours are the best. Definitely."

Robson says where data and sunsets collide is just an example of what can happen when the city shares information. 

"What this really is, is it's an example of what happens when you open up data," Robson said. "And as we strive to be more transparent, this is just data that's created from city operations and everyday businesses."