16 FREE things to do in Calgary this December

Nov 28 2018, 11:07 pm

Celebrate the season on a budget! From Rotary Festival of Trees to New Year’s Eve, here are 16 FREE events to check out in Calgary this December.

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

See also

Explore the city

University of Calgary Students’ Union StressLess Week 2018

stressless week

University of Calgary student with a dog (U of C Students’ Union)

What: The University of Calgary Students’ Union has put together a whole host of events to help students reduce stress. Pet Therapy, yoga, cookie decorating and more.

When: Monday, December 3 to Friday, December 7, 2018

  • SU Spa Day: Monday, 11 am to 1 pm — MacHall Courtyard
  • Pet Therapy: Monday 1:30 to 3 pm, Tuesday 2:30 to 4 pm, and Friday noon to 1:30 pm — That Empty Space
  • Yoga: Tuesday and Thursday, 11:30 am to 2 pm — That Empty Space
  • Terrarium Workshop: Wednesday, 11 am to 1 pm — MacHall Courtyard
  • Workshop with Lucy Dunne: Wednesday, 1:30 to 3:30 pm — That Empty Space
  • Cookie Decorating and Card Making: Thursday, 11 am to 1 pm — MacHall Courtyard
  • “Are You Game?” Carnival: Friday, 11:30 am to 2 pm — MacHall North Courtyard

Where: University of Calgary – 2500 University Dr NW, Calgary
Admission: Free

Free First Thursday

What: Explore the Glenbow at your leisure for FREE on the first Thursday of every month. Check out current exhibitions including The Arctic: Real and Imagined Views from the Nineteenth Century, Cosmos: Gathie Falk, Margaret Nazon and Erik Olson, and more.

When: Thursday, December 6, 2018
Time: 5 pm to close
Where: Glenbow Museum – 130 9th Avenue SE
Admission: Free

Winter ice skating at Olympic Plaza

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: Open daily to mid-March 2019
Time: 10 am to 9 pm
Where: Olympic Plaza – 228 8th Avenue SE
Admission: Free. Skates are also available for rent

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

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

What: The City of Calgary and the new Central Library are hosting a free New Year’s Eve celebration for the whole family. This year’s events will be at the Central Library, Olympic Plaza, and the Municipal Atrium at City Hall. We have something planned for everyone. There will be a variety of activities like skating, story time, a children’s dance party, and much more. New this year, the ‘Rec Room’ will be hosting fun games and activities that the whole family can enjoy. The Tim Horton’s Truck will be giving away free hot beverages at the Olympic Plaza skating party. There will also be an early indoor countdown for kids that will begin at 9 p.m. in the Central Library.

When: Monday, December 31, 2018
Time: To Be Announced
Where: Central Library, Olympic Plaza, and the Municipal Atrium at City Hall
Admission: Free

Christmas Events and Holiday Lights

Rotary Festival of the Trees

Christmas Tree / Shutterstock

What: Join the Canmore Rotary Club as they celebrate their annual Festival of the Trees. Stroll through beautiful trees, decorated by local organizations and vote for your favourite one, while gaining inspiration for your own tree back at home. There will also be lots of fun festive activities happening in order to raise funds for the many programs and services that the Rotary Club of Canmore supports.

When: Friday, November 30 to Monday, December 31, 2018
Time: Various times for the various events
Where: Canmore Civic Center – 902 7th Avenue, Canmore
Admission: Free

Christmas in Kensington

What: Christmas in Kensington invites Calgarians to spread Christmas joy throughout the neighbourhood. Keep an eye out for Santa Claus and explore the community on The Annex Kensington sleigh ride while sipping on warm hot chocolate or coffee generously provided by Starbucks and Adam Helps Finish off the afternoon with a Christmas movie by donation at 3:30 p.m. at The Plaza Theatre.

When: Every Saturday from December 1 to December 22, 2018
Time: Doors open at 3 pm and the movie starts at 3:30 pm
Where: Plaza Theatre – 1133 Kensington Road NW
Admission: Free. Film by donation

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: Saturday, December 1, 2018, to Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Time: Opening day 5 pm, then 6 pm to midnight daily
Where: Confederation Park – 14th Street NW, north of 24th Avenue, Calgary
Admission: 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: Saturday, December 1 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

CP Holiday Train Calgary 2018

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

scarborokia / Instagram

What: The 20th edition of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train brings holiday cheer to 164 communities and collect donations for local food banks. Each stop features live entertainment, music, and festive activities.

When: Saturday, December 8, 2018
Where: Anderson C-Train Station – South C-train parking lot
Time: 6:45 to 7:45 pm
Price: Free! Bring non-perishable donations to support your local food bank.

Find Christmas Downtown 2018

What: The third-annual Find Christmas Downtown at the CORE Shopping Centre decorates and provides Christmas trees to local families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. Corporations, non-profit organizations, and media partners will come together to decorate 150 trees throughout the space, and the trees will remain at the mall for the holiday season until December 19. After that, they will be delivered to local families in need across the city. The CORE is also hosting a free Santa photo session from now until Christmas. Monetary donations, toys, and gifts are appreciated and will go towards The Magic of Christmas charity.

When: Now to Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Time: 4 pm to 7 pm
Where: 324 8th Avenue SW, Calgary
Admission: Free

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 holliest 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

Holiday Shopping

Calgary Expo Holiday Market

What: This market might be just perfect for you if you’re dreaming of a nerdy Christmas. Join the Expo Holiday Market and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in true geek-style, with comic books, artisan crafters, collectables, statues, and more. Costumes are definitely encouraged.

When: Saturday, December 1 and December 2, 2018
Time: 10 am to 6 pm(Saturday) and 10 am to 5 pm (Sunday)
Where: BMO Centre — 20 Roundup Way SW
Admission: $10 per day or $ 40-weekend bundle (includes a sweater, holiday ornaments and admissions for both days). Tickets are available online and children under 12 years get in for free

Century Downs Christmas Market

What: Make your way to the new tent barns at Century Downs for a traditional Weihnachtsmarkt, some mulled wine, and traditional German street food! You can also shop a variety of local artisan products and fun craft vendors.

When: Saturday, December 1 and Sunday, December 2, 2018
Time: 11 am to 3 pm
Where: Century Downs Racetrack and Casino – 260 Century Downs Drive, Rocky View Country
Tickets: Online, Free

Eat fresh at 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

Downtown Christmas Market

What: Shop for the ripest and most delicious produce from local growers, along with art, fashion and other unique gems and gifts made right here in Alberta.

When: Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Time: 10 am to 2 pm
Where: Gulf Canada Square – 401 9th Avenue SW, Calgary
Admission: Free

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