25 free things to do in Calgary this winter

Oct 24 2018, 10:54 pm

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Enjoy a winter wonderland without breaking the bank! Here are 25 free things to do in Calgary this season, from Christmas events to New Year’s Eve and more!

For more things happening around town, check out our events section.

Christmas Events and Holiday Lights

Miracle on First Street YYC

What: Inspired by quirky office Christmas parties, the halls are decked with kitschy Christmas decor. Guests are encouraged to dress in their most festive gear as they sip on seasonal cocktails, so take this opportunity to dig out your most cringe-worthy Christmas sweater and reindeer head-gear. The over-the-top atmosphere, which will be hosted at Proof Cocktail Bar, will have even the biggest Grinch feeling goofy. Whether you choose the classy Christmaspolitan or the decadent Run Run Rudolf as your drink of choice, this bar is sure to bring the holiest and jolliest of times.

When: Now to Sunday, December 23, 2018
Time: 4 pm to 1 am daily
Where: Proof Cocktail Bar – 1302 1st Street SW
Admission: Free

Calgary Christmas Market

Afternoon Tea with Mrs. Clause/Calgary Christmas Market

What: Dine with friends as live holiday entertainment fills the market and indulge in treats while you find the perfect gift. Featuring favourite market and seasonal vendors, Yuletide gifts, food, jewelry, décor and more. There will also be visits with Santa, cookie decorating, roaming Grinch, live ice carving, viewing Santa’s Reindeer, and more.

When: Now to Sunday, December 23, 2018
Time: 9 am to 5 pm
Where: Calgary Farmers’ Market – 510 77 Ave SE, Calgary
Admission: Free

Christmas in Kensington

What: Santa Clause and sleigh rides — that’s what you can expect at Christmas in Kensington. Grab the family and head down to spread Christmas cheer. Stay and catch a holiday movie at 3:30 pm as well!

When: Every Saturday to December 22, 2018
Time: 12 to 4 pm
Where: Kensington Calgary — Kensington Rd and 10th Street NW, Calgary
Tickets: By donation

Northern Reflections: A Winter Window Exhibition

What: Buds Collective has paired local businesses with YYC artists and animators to bring Calgarians a unique opportunity to participate in an immersive art experience unlike any other. Celebrate the magic of wintertime as you stroll the streets searching out painted windows with the help of the AUGLE app. Then use AUGLE to reveal the animation through Augmented Reality.

When: Now to December 31, 2018
Time: Various times
Where: Various locations in Calgary’s downtown core
Price: Free

Airdrie Festival of Lights

What: The annual Airdrie Festival of Lights is set to illuminate more than a million Christmas lights in Nose Creek Park again, starting December 1. There will be miniature train rides available for $2 and two handcrafted fire pits to gather around.  Much needed cups of hot chocolate will also be $2. Santa will also pay a few visits to the park during the festival. The festival is run by volunteers, with entry by donation. All proceeds go to the Airdrie and District Hospice Society and their Tree Of Hope Campaign. At the festival, the Tree of Hope will be illuminated every night in memory of loved ones who have passed and greetings of hope will be left for those suffering.

When: Now to Monday, December 31, 2018
Time: 6 to 9 pm
Where: Nose Creek Park – 1701 Main Street S, Airdrie
Admission: By cash donation; parking is free

Lion’s Festival of Lights 2018

What: The Lions Festival of Lights is back for their 32nd year to brighten up Calgary’s 14th Street NW with over 450,000 shining lights. The display is put together by volunteers who spend thousands of hours creating the shining assortment of Christmas figures and decked-out trees. This year’s festival is now 99% green as it is created using LED bulbs connected by nearly three kilometres of power cords.

When: Now to Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Time: 6 pm to midnight daily
Where: Confederation Park – 14th Street NW, north of 24th Avenue, Calgary
Admission: Free

Celebrate New Year’s Eve

City of Calgary and new Central Library’s 2019 New Year’s Eve Celebration

new central library

New Central Library (chelseadaily.co/Instagram)

What: The New Central Library New Year’s Eve party will include family dancing, a family-friendly theatre performance, video games, poetry readings, Indigenous beading and storytelling, and crafts for all ages. The entire event will come to a head at 9 pm when Mayor Naheed Nenshi will lead a kids’ countdown — though any adults not planning to stay up past midnight on a Monday will be able to celebrate before their bedtime as well.

The party continues at the Municipal Atrium Rumpus Room until 11 pm, where visitors will be able to partake in an indoor hockey rink, interactive games, a bouncy castle, an ENMAX photo booth, and even check out a “Fire Fountain” art installation. After 11, the party heads over to the Olympic Plaza Skating Party, which will have hot chocolate to warm you up and a perfect view of the Calgary Tower fireworks when the clock strikes 12.

When: Monday, December 31, 2018
Time: 6 to 9 pm at New Central Library, 7 to 11 pm at the Municipal Atrium Rumpus Room, and 7 pm to midnight at Olympic Plaza
Where: New Central Library — 802 3rd Street SE, Calgary
Municipal Atrium Rumpus Room — 800 Macleod Trail SE
Olympic Plaza — 228 8th Avenue SE, Calgary
Admission: Free

Olympic Plaza New Year’s Eve Skating Party 2018

What: The City of Calgary is hosting an outdoor celebration to ring in the New Year, though you may need to bundle up to attend. The party will run throughout the evening and into midnight (obviously) at Olympic Plaza, with roaming performers, a line-up of local artists, free skate rentals, fire pits, and more. Ice sculptures will line Stephen Avenue, and a firework display will end off the night as soon as the countdown hits zero. There will also be free hot chocolate provided by Tim Hortons to keep you warm late into the night, as well as food trucks so that you can head into 2019 on a full stomach.

When: Monday, December 31, 2018
Time: Throughout the day and ending at just after midnight.
Where: Olympic Plaza – 228 8th Avenue SE, Calgary
Admission: Free

Explore the city

Roasterie Tour – Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters

What: This 20-minute tour gives attendees a look at Phil & Sebastian’s vintage retro-fitted roaster and operations, plus learn about their green coffee sourcing strategies.

When: Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Time: 12:15 to 12:35 pm
Where: Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters – 618 Confluence Way Southeast, Calgary
Tickets: Online, free

Race Issues: A Comic Series Art Exhibit

What: Over the past year, artist Eman Elkadri has been working on a comic series about the experiences of racialized youth living in Canada. See 40 unique comics about microaggressions, hear from Eman about her inspiration, as well as hear from some of the youth she worked with, plus learn more about what attendees can do. Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation will also be launching the Race Issues publication (thanks to a partnership with ActionDignity Youth PLACE Program).

When: Thursday, January 3, 2019
Time: 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Where: The New Gallery – 208 Centre St. SE, Calgary
Tickets: Online, free

Visual Arts Open Lecture: Fatimah Tuggar

What: The Visual Arts Lecture Series presents talks by leading Canadian and international artists, curators and academics. Fatimah Tuggar, guest faculty for the Digital Promises program, is the featured speaker.

When: Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Time: 4 pm
Where: Banff Centre – Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Bldg, 204 – 107 Tunnel Mountain Dr, Banff
Register: Online, free

Drawn to Nature at the Banff Public Library

What: Participants of all ages and levels of experience are invited to sketch and draw at Banff Centre’s free ongoing beginner-level drawing workshops. Join esteemed Teaching Artist in Residence Janice Tanton to explore different materials and techniques for mark making in this facilitated class. All classes encourage artistic exploration and conversation about the ways in which we interact with the cultural and geological landscapes of Banff National Park. The drawings and sketches produced from these sessions are invited to display in a Community Exhibition at the end of the year.

When: Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Time: 5:30 pm
Where: Banff Public Library – 101 Bear St, Banff
Register: Online, free

Library Screening Series – Destiny at New Central Library

What: Calgary Cinematheque presents Library Screening Series, a screening of the film along with a short lecture and guided discussion of its cultural and artistic significance. Destiny by Egyptian director Youssef Chahine tells a story of political intrigue and sectarian tensions revolving around 12th-century Arab Andalusian philosopher Averröes.

When: Sunday, January 13, 2019
Time: 2 to 5 pm
Where: New Central Library — 800 3rd Street SE, Calgary
Tickets: Online, Free

Healthy Entertaining Series – Mexican Theme

What: Community Natural Foods’ Healthy Entertaining Series begins with a Mexican theme. Join Chef Shane Rutledge as he demonstrates how to cook a fabulously healthy Mexican themed dinner complete with samples and recipes including both vegan and gluten-free options.

When: Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Time: 7 to 8:30 pm
Where: Community Natural Foods – 1304 10 Avenue Southwest, Calgary
Tickets: Online, Free

Banff Musicians in Residence Open Concert Featuring Brendan Canning

What: Join Brendan Canning and participants from the Banff Musicians in Residence program for an evening of musical exploration.

When: Friday, January 25, 2019
Time: 7:30 pm
Where: The Club at The Banff Centre – St Julien Way, Banff
Tickets: Online, Free

Body Weather Workshop Presentation

What: This workshop will gather together ten First Nations creators in a process of dialogue, exchange and physical practice. Body Weather cultivates a conscious relation to states of change, porous and permeating. Body Weather considers the body as a constantly changing environment within a greater environment – always in flux.

When: Friday, February 8, 2019
Time: 7 pm
Where: Banff Centre – Laszlo Funtek Room 224
Tickets: Online, Free

Parks Canada Presents: A Beary, Berry Good Day

What: Join illustrator, Stéfanie Gignac, and author, Laurie Schwartz, to see Banff National Park’s storybook, “A Beary, Berry Good Day” brought to life in a puppet show. Then, stick around to discover amazing bear facts with Laurie.

When: Monday, February 18, 2019
Time: 9:30 am and 2 pm
Where: Banff Centre – Max Bell 253
Tickets: Online, Free

Pitch Night YYC

Gear to Give

Shutterstock

What: Volition Events’ Pitch Nights provide a comfortable space for entrepreneurs to gain practical experience and feedback on their three-minute pitch, in front of a live audience and industry panel. The audience votes on the top three companies to receive valuable prizes from sponsors and partners.

When: Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Time: 5 to 8 pm
Where: Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking – 402 Collegiate Blvd NW, Calgary
Tickets: Online, Free

Art Acoustic Sunday Series

What: Hang out with a few of Art on 9th’s favourite art instructors for an informal discussion and hands-on activity that explores the basic elements of art and design.

When: Every Sunday to December 23, 2018
Time: 10 am to 12 pm
Where: Art On 9th – 1211 9 Ave SE, Calgary
Admission: Free

Winter ice skating at Olympic Plaza

December

Olympic Plaza skating / Shutterstock

What: Built in 1988 for the Olympic Winter Games, Olympic Plaza has the only refrigerated outdoor ice surface in the city. You can rent skates down at the plaza if you don’t have a pair of your own. Helmets are strongly encouraged.

When: Now to mid-March
Time: 10 am to 9 pm, Weather dependent
Where: Olympic Plaza – 228 8th Avenue SE
Admission: Free. Skates are also available for rent – $12 for adults

Free First Thursday

What: Explore the Glenbow Museum at your leisure for FREE on the first Thursday of every month.

When: The first Thursday of every month
Time: 5 pm to close
Where: Glenbow Museum – 130 9th Avenue SE
Admission: Free

Esker Foundation

What: Esker Foundation connects the public to contemporary art through relevant, accessible, and educational exhibitions, programs, and publications. The gallery reflects on current developments in local, regional, and international culture; creates opportunities for public dialogue; and supports the production of groundbreaking new work, ideas, and research. Admission is free.

When: Open Tuesdays to Sundays. Closed Mondays
Time: Various times
Where: Esker Foundation – 4th Floor – 1011 9th Ave SE, Calgary
Admission: Free

Eat fresh with farmers’ markets

Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market

What: Grab your weekly haul of delicious produce, eggs, baked goods, meats, preserves, florals, and more, all grown and produced on farms right here in Alberta. You can enjoy live entertainment and other fun activities happening at this quaint community farmers’ market. The market will go on rain or shine, so come prepared.

When: Every Wednesday
Time: 3 to 7 pm
Where: 1320 5th Avenue NW, Calgary
Admission: Free

Crossroads Market

What: Enjoy farm-fresh produce and tasty treats plus lost of unique finds from the large variety of vendors.

When: Fridays to Sundays
Time: 9 am to 5 pm
Where: Crossroads Market – 1235 26 Ave SE, Calgary
Admission: Free

The Mercantile at Symons Valley Ranch

What: The Mercantile at Symons Valley Ranch features over 35 vendors under one roof over one counter. Crafts, food vendors, and more.

When: Fridays to Sundays
Time: 10 am to 6 pm (Fridays), 10 am to 5 pm (Saturday to Sunday)
Where: Symons Valley Ranch – 14555 Symons Valley Road
Admission: Free

See also

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