Let’s be real - Christmas is expensive! Sure, it’s festive and magical but between presents, food, decorations, travelling expenses (the list goes on and on), it can really break the bank. The good news? It doesn’t have to. Although you can dish out big dough on a number of local holiday activities, there are also many free and reasonably-priced excursions that are sure to get you and your kiddos in the holiday spirit for $10 or less.
1. Light it up. If your family is like mine, it isn’t the holidays until we’ve seen more twinkling Christmas lights than you can possibly count.
There are a number of affordable options in Calgary and the surrounding areas for your family to get your glow on:
The Christmas Lights at Spruce Meadows are a wonderful way to brighten up the season and you don’t even have to get out of your car! The lights are up this year from December 8 to January 5, from 5 to 10pm. The grounds are decked out with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. Feel free to drive the two-kilometre route in your vehicle or head out on foot to enjoy complimentary ice skating on the pond and a bonfire.
If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, the Airdrie Festival of Lights is another great option with the payment for entrance being a donation to the local food bank (providing the added opportunity to teach your kiddos a bit about the season of giving). The event runs every evening from December 1 to 31. The festival includes kids’ activities, visits from Santa, entertainment, a miniature train that children can ride on, and more.
2. Skating. Have you always wanted to skate on the fastest ice in the world? Why not do it with the man in red himself? Olympic Oval’s Skate with Santa event takes place on December 22 from noon to 5pm and entry is only $2. Helmets are mandatory but can be rented on location. Skate rentals will also be available for $6.50.
Olympic Plaza also hosts two skating party events on December 7 and December 14 from noon to 3pm. More details will be released soon at calgarydowntown.com.
3. Sledding. There’s nothing that says holiday fun like putting on your jacket, snow pants, toque, mitts, and scarf and pulling your toboggan to your favorite hill.
Flying down a slope with your hair blowing in the breeze and your cheeks bright pink from the chill is what being a kid in winter in Canada is all about.
Safety comes before fun, so always make sure the hill is clear of any ice, that it has a gentle slope and long run-off area including a fence if it is near a road. Be sure the hill doesn’t have any bumps, holes, or obstacles such as trees, signs, and rocks. Only sled in the daytime and ensure you are dressed for the conditions. And remember, helmets on heads when tobogganing. Although us Canadians are tough, it’s a good idea to keep the kids inside if the temperature dips below -19°C.
It is also important to do your research before heading out. A local bylaw limits sledding on a number of hills, but The City of Calgary has an extensive list of their maintained hills at calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Locations/Tobogganing-and-sledding.aspx.
4. The great indoors. If being outside in the cold isn’t your idea of a good time, there are a number of indoor events you can take in, as well.
One of these events includes Find Christmas Downtown from November 28 until December 18 at the CORE Shopping Centre where you can see 150 beautiful holiday trees decorated by local corporations, not-for-profit groups, media associations and attractions. The impressive display will wow your kiddos no matter their age and the trees are donated to families in need after they are displayed.
5. Shop ‘til you drop. If you want to take in an event that will also help you cross some names off your gift list, Calgary does not disappoint. With dozens of Christmas and holiday markets around the city, you are sure to find the perfect gifts for the whole family.
The Festival of Crafts at the BMO Centre on November 7 to 10 is one of the largest shows in the city. The BMO Centre at Stampede Park features more than 250 of Canada’s most talented artists, artisans, and designers showcasing their beautiful works. Adult tickets are $7, and ages 17 and younger get in for free.
Another notable market brings us back to Spruce Meadows. Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market includes entertainment, food, and unique gift-buying opportunities. This year, there will be more than 300 vendors spreading the Christmas spirit. This year’s dates are November 15 to 17, 22 to 24, and 29 to December 1.
Stacie is a freelance writer, photographer, and mother of a delightful daughter and silly son.
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