Does your family get lethargic in the winter? Wanting to stay inside, hibernating and missing the excitement that's just outside your front door? Are you looking for ways to have fun and stay active even in the cold? Here are just a few suggestions for taking advantage of Calgary's winter weather instead of hiding from it!
Location: 228 8 Ave. S.E.
Hours of operation: November - March, 10 AM - 9 PM
Nothing says "winter fun" like ice skating, especially when it's outdoors. Who doesn't want to bundle up in their favourite scarf and enjoy the crisp coolness of the air as they practice their skating moves? The good news is that the Olympic Plaza is open the entire winter season for skaters of all ages. Not only is it the only refrigerated outdoor ice rink in Calgary, but it's also completely free! You'll only need to bring some money for things like concessions and skate rentals if you don't already own a pair.
Location: 20-194001 160 Street West
Hours of operation: 4 AM – 11 PM
Located just south of Calgary, the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area turns into a winter wonderland as soon as the snow starts falling. If you're looking for somewhere to explore the wonders of nature even when it's cold outside, this is the place to do it! You can walk, hike and even snowshoe around the various trails of the conservation area. Between the rugged beauty of the landscape and the curious noses of cold-weather animals peeking through the underbrush, your family is sure to have a great time. As a bonus, this is another activity that won't cost you a dime; you'll just need to register with the front desk before you go. Since it's a conservation area and not a park, they want to be careful about their guests.
Location: University of Calgary
Hours of Operation: December 9, 1 – 6 PM
Cost: Free with a can/food donation
There are all kinds of winter festivals in Calgary, but one of the most exciting is the newly-launched Northwestival. It offers everything from marching bands to workshops centred around wreath-building and ugly-sweater-decorating, so there's a little something for everyone regardless of age, gender and skill level. Even dad might get roped into the dogsledding classes!
The very best thing about the Northwestival, however, is that it serves a good cause: Instead of paying admission, you make a donation to the Calgary Food Bank to help needy families get through the winter season.
Location: Range Road 283 and Hwy 22X East
Hours of operation: Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM - 4 PM
Cost: $15 (child), $17 (adult)
This will be a particularly delightful experience when Christmas rolls around. Your kids will love the chance to experience a sleigh ride just like Santa's! Though they use horses rather than reindeer, Horsin' Around is still committed to family-friendly fun. That's why they also offer things like petting zoos and bouncy castles in addition to the sleigh rides. When you're done letting the little ones burn off their energy, sit them down for some hot chocolate refreshments and take pictures with their favourite animals!
Ice Sculpting Competitions
Location: Lake Louise
Hours of Operation: January 16-27
Cost: $5 (child), $12.50 (adult), $30 (family)
Held every year, the Ice Magic Festival more than lives up to its name by providing two weekends of breathtaking entertainment. Ice sculptors come from all around the country to test their skills in the Canada Cup of Ice Carving, and they chisel dragons, swans, angels, castles and so much more. After the winner has been crowned, you can also hop over to Lake Louise for skiing, sleigh-riding and other exciting wintertime activities. There are classes for beginners and self-guided trails for the more advanced. It's a great way to get the adrenaline flowing!
A Taste of Culture
Location: 750 - 9th Ave SE
Hours of operation: 9 AM – 5 PM
Cost: $5 - $7 (child), $12 (adult)
It's important not to forget your roots, and a trip to Fort Calgary will teach your kids all about the formation and settlement of our city. The museum even offers something called Winterfest to encourage families to get out of the house in the heart of the cold weather months. Winterfest offers games, crafts, snacks and stories told by First Nation knowledge-keepers. It'll be fun and educational at the same time, making it perfect for parents who want to engage their children in meaningful and long-lasting ways.
Location: 210 St. George's Drive NE
Hours of operation: Daily from 9 AM - 5 PM
Cost: $19.95 (child), $29.95 (adult)
Rain or shine, the Calgary Zoo is open every day except Christmas, and it transforms into a magical place in the winter. White powder blankets the ground as penguins splash and snow leopards frolic. Heated enclosures provide relief from the cold for lizards, butterflies and fish. Best of all, there are no crowds like in the summer months!
Kids will be free to run around and explore the playgrounds and habitats without bumping into bystanders, and parents will be able to refresh themselves at cafes and restaurants without long lines. You can also watch out for special winter events like "Zoo Lights" which offer holiday light shows for the whole family.
These are just a few ways to get off the couch this winter. Whether you're looking for heart-pumping thrills or relaxing strolls through snowy landscapes, Calgary has something for you!