10 festive things to do around Calgary during the holidays

Dec 9 2019, 9:31 pm

There’s no question about it, Calgary loves the holidays. With the mountains in our backyard, the mood is set perfectly for a white country Christmas in the Prairies.

If you grew up here, or know the city well, you’ll be familiar with the glistening holiday light displays, Christmas markets, and whimsical performances that are quintessential holiday traditions that Calgarians have come to know and love.

We have put together a list of the top 10 of the best holiday traditions (new and old) for you to experience and have yourself a very Calgary Christmas. Enjoy!

Go skating


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What: Calgary is home to some of the most iconic skating experiences in all of Canada (and — in our opinion — the world, though we might be a tad biased).

The first spot is in the heart of the city at Olympic Plaza. This urban skating rink is illuminated by a dazzling holiday lightscape that is brought to life beneath the bright lights of the city.

The second iconic bucket list item is to lace up and head to the mountains for a skate on the gleaming, emerald waters of Lake Louise. This snow-capped Rocky Mountains experience is one that people flock from all over the world for, and we are lucky to have it just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Anyone down for a holiday shinny?

Check out ZooLights

What: If you haven’t bundled up in a hundred layers and trekked around the zoo admiring their creative light displays with a hot chocolate in hand, then have you really experienced Christmas in Calgary properly?

This enchanting tradition is loved by Calgarians of all ages and transcends generations throughout the city. From exciting activities that your littles will love, to romantic strolls with your significant other through lovers’ lane, to warming up amidst the bonfire and placing your wish on the Wishing Tree — there is something for everyone at this annual holiday event at the Calgary Zoo!

When: Now until January 4, 2020
Time: 6 to 9 pm (gates close at 8:30 pm)
Where: The Calgary Zoo – 1300 Zoo Road NE
Tickets: Adults $19.95, kids $14.95 — available online or at the gate

Sip on cocktails at Miracle on 1st Street


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What: This is a fairly new tradition that has come alive within the last few years, but it’s one that Calgarians are already embracing. One of Calgary’s favourite watering holes, Proof, has been transformed into a pop-up holiday bar, serving up Christmas-themed cocktails and eats all season long. So grab your ugly Christmas sweater and prepare to celebrate!

When: Now until December 24
Where: Proof – 1302 1 Street SW

Volunteer or donate to a not-for-profit


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What: Calgarians have this heartfelt reputation for helping one another and banding together when the times get tough. Helping those who need a warm set of clothes, food, or some extra holiday cheer is what we are best at. You can either volunteer your time at a local charity such as the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre, or set your sights on gathering the basic necessities that places like the Mustard Seed are urgently in need of to continue successfully offering the services they do. See the full up-to-date list of items here!

See Paul Brandt perform with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra


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What: Calgary’s country music hometown hero, Paul Brandt, is Alberta-bound for the holidays for an extra special performance accompanied by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Brandt embodies a true Albertan spirit and will be sure to infuse this performance with eclectic Christmas songs and his classic hits about his home here in YYC!

When: Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Time: 7:30 pm
Where: Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts — 18 Mount Royal Circle SW, Calgary
Tickets: Available online, $100 to $150

See The Nutcracker presented by The Alberta Ballet


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What: It wouldn’t be the Christmas season without a visit from the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Mouse King. Every year without fail, the Alberta Ballet puts on a spectacular rendition of this timeless story set to a live orchestra, and this year is no exception.

When: Now until December 24
Time: Matinee and evening performances are available
here: Southern Jubilee Auditorium — 1415 14 Avenue NW
Tickets: Available online, $45 to $150

Enjoy Christmas festivities at the Calgary Farmers Market


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What: Every year Calgary’s well-known farmers market transforms into a whimsical Christmas destination. Sip on mulled wine, Christmas cocktails, or hot chocolate as you meander through the market, indulge in festive culinary bites, and shop local produce or find unique items for everyone on your Christmas list.

When: Now until December 23
Time: Thursday to Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm
Where: The Calgary Farmers Market — 520, 77 Avenue SE

Experience Heritage Park’s Once Upon a Christmas


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What: Go back in time to the days of yore during the holidays in Calgary. Every year Heritage Park puts on an impressive holiday event that allows the whole family to become immersed in an old-fashioned Christmas and Yuletide traditions. The event features wagon rides, Christmas carols, tons of holiday shopping, and a visit by Mr. Claus himself in the historical village. New to 2019 is  a 1950s Storybook Christmas experience, with classic stories, interactive crafts, and visits from iconic holiday characters from the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Grinch, Frosty, and everyone’s favourite red-nosed reindeer.

When: Weekends from Saturday, November 23 to Sunday, December 22, 2019
Time: 9:30 am to 4 pm
Where: Heritage Park – 1900 Heritage Drive SW, Calgary
Tickets: Online

Shop your favourite local makers at the Market Collective Holiday Market


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What: Market Collective has long established itself as the go-to for Calgarians to shop local throughout the year, but especially so during the holidays. This year marks their 11th anniversary and they will be returning for the 2019 holiday season for one of their largest events yet, with three weekends of live entertainment, interactive workshops, galleries, art installations, a food truck alley, and over 150 vendors. There are plenty of opportunities to shop some of your favourite local makers, artists, and small businesses, while checking out new talent debuting their work every weekend. It truly doesn’t get any more Calgarian than that!

When: December 6 to 8, December 13 to 15, December 20 to 22, 2019
Time: 4 to 9 pm (Friday), 10 am to 6 pm (Saturday and Sunday)
Where: BMO Centre Hall C – 20 Roundup Way, Calgary
Admission: $6 for the weekend, children under 12 free

Drive through the Christmas light show at Spruce Meadows


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What: Get out of the city and enjoy an illuminated Christmas experience at Spruce Meadows. The best part? You don’t have to leave your car to do so! Enjoy a two-kilometre drive through the Spruce Meadows grounds, and prepare to be blown away by this spectacular luminary work of art in the heart of the prairies.

When: December 9 to January 6  (Excluding December 25)
Where: 18011 Spruce Meadows Way SW
Admission: Free!

Kristy ArchibaldKristy Archibald

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