With a dropping loonie, here are 23 winter break staycation ideas in Alberta

Dec 19 2017, 10:59 am

The Canadian dollar is in free fall. With the loonie sinking to decade plus lows, it’s time to re-think your spring break and winter travel plans.

Here’s a list of great staycation ideas in Alberta where you can explore near home and keep the costs down.


Banff National Park is the reason so many visitors come to Alberta each year. The planes land in Calgary and the buses head west.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has a locals’ rate where Alberta residents can save 30% on their room stay. That’s a huge deal. While you’re in Banff, go for a walk or skate on Lake Minnewanka (free), or head across the road to Mount Norquay to celebrate their 90th Anniversary and pay just 90 cents for a lift ticket. Heading up the road to Lake Louise for a daytrip could mean a wander and skate at Lake Louise (free) or a trek into Johnston Canyon to see the amazing frozen falls (free).

Other things to do? Go for a swim in the hot spring, have pizza at Bear St Tavern, double back to Canmore Nordic Centre and go for a fat bike ride, snowshoe, or cross country ski. Carve some turns at Lake Louise or Sunshine. Go tobogganing and skating behind the Banff Springs at the Waldhaus.


I know. It’s cold, winter is long, the last place you want to go is “to Edmonton,” but stick with me here. A trip to Edmonton is *almost* like a trip to Vegas. There is a long list of fun things to do in West Edmonton Mall (from mini golf to amusement park to ropes course), there’s a casino right next door, and they have a fun row of restaurants and bars. If you’re really craving sand and sun and surf, a day at the World Waterpark can calm that urge.

Summer in the Artic | World Water Park #worldwaterpark

A photo posted by Steven Johnson (@steven_p_johnson) on

Image: Ice Castles YEG / Facebook

The slides are a blast, there are lots of waves, a few palm trees, and spending your day in a bathing suit can chase away the winter blahs. Winter will still be raging outside, and while you’re up north you might as well put your boots and coats to work by wandering over to the spectacular ice castle the capital is hosting this year. 10,000 icicles are grown onto the castle each day and lit with colourful LED lights to make for a spectacular sight. The Edmoton Ice Castle is in Hawrelak park until March (weather permitting).

Medicine Hat

If you haven’t spent a weekend in the Gas City, you’re missing one of the true gems of Alberta. Medicine Hat has a wonderful collection of classic old neon signs dotting the town, I found half a dozen on my trip. See if you can spot more.

The Medalta Clay District is a wonderful place to spend the day exploring the steampunk past of Alberta. Medicine Hat was the heart of Canada’s pottery industry for a time, and the old kilns and gear are hear for you to explore.

Machinery in the Medalta Clay District

Machinery in the Medalta Clay District

You can go for a walk or toboggan in Kin Coulee Park, see the teepee and then eat. Eat. Eat. Eat.

lunch at skinny's

Lunch at Skinny’s Smokehouse

Medicine Hat’s food scene is bursting from Skinny’s Smoke House barbecue to boutique coffee shops like Station Coffee Co to hippy salads at Zucchini Blossom.


You can cut the hotel and a lot of the food costs right out by having a tried and true staycation by just staying at home. With gas down below 80 cents per litre, daytrips are really affordable.

So head out to Drumheller and see the Royal Tyrrell Museum and wander the Drumheller Valley for other activities. Yes, a few things are closed for the winter, but you can still walk through downtown Drumheller, see the hoodoos, take the Bleriot Ferry, go geocaching, and the Last Chance Saloon in Wayne, Alberta is open!

last chance saloon

Last Chance Saloon in Wayne. Image by Buzz Bishop

The Nanton Ice Cream Store might be closed for the winter, but the Candy Shop is still open, and so is the Bomber Command Museum (Friday to Sunday). It’s worth a trip to see the wonderful Lancaster aircraft and the other pieces in the collection.

You might have already gone cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking in K Country, but have you been dog sledding or ice climbing yet?

If you truly want to just stay home and not go anywhere, you can be entertained for free at the Glenbow Museum with their new First Thursdays promotion. Free admission on the first Thursday of the month from 5 to 9 p.m.

Skating or shopping today? #OlympicPlaza #YYCNow Photo: @mynameisskylaaar ・・・

A photo posted by Calgary YYC (@yycnow) on

Bring along your skates and take a few turns at Olympic Plaza beforehand and then wander Stephen Avenue for a drink or dessert after, and you’ve got a great afternoon/evening in the city. For almost nothing.

DH Calgary StaffDH Calgary Staff

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