A winter urban walkabout is the perfect family outing because there is something for everyone: Christmas lights, sunrises, chickadees, wild Christmas trees, and hot chocolate endings. Let’s walk!
Christmas lights, Northern Lights, and public art
Crescent Heights, Kensington, and downtown, NW/ SW
In December, the colorful light displays on the houses throughout Crescent Heights make this area the perfect spot for a Christmas lights walk! The combination of downtown skyscrapers with the bright, compact, towering, elaborate light displays on Crescent Heights homes is dramatic and impressive. Continue your walk to the hillside trails or stairs and descend McHugh Bluffs to Sunnyside or walk farther east along the escarpment to Centre Street and continue across the Bow River to Chinatown. Keep walking along Centre Street to see the impressive Wonderland Sculpture at The Bow, followed by the TELUS Sky Northern Lights display. This 160,000 square foot, dynamic LED-based art installation is a spectacular, ever-changing explosion of color, telussky.com/public-art. Continue to City Hall and walk along 8 Avenue for more light displays or bring your skates and test the ice at Olympic Plaza. Make your way back to the Bow River Pathway and cross the tubular Peace Bridge before returning along Sunnyside side streets to a café pit stop. Climb the escarpment back to big city views.
Starting point: Crescent Road, NW. Park in Crescent Heights or at the Sunnyside LRT.
Tasty pit stop: Vendome Café on 2 Avenue in Sunnyside or walk along Kensington Road to find the Higher Ground Café or Deville Coffee. Build a picnic lunch on Kensington Road, starting with an amazing Italian sandwich at Peppino Gourmet Foods, followed by a cupcake from Crave. Or walk along 10 Street to The Roasterie and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery.
Christmas Trees, chickadees, and views
Britannia Slopes and Sandy Beach, SW
Connecting neighborhoods on foot is my favorite way to get to know a city. Begin your walkabout in Britannia Plaza and walk west toward the Britannia slopes. Take the pathway downhill to the river trails along the north side of the Elbow River. Add your decoration to the wild Christmas Trees that get lots of holiday love throughout December. Bring seeds for the friendly chickadees that enjoy landing on your hands. Walk along the Elbow River before crossing the Sandy Beach Bridge and climbing to River Park, an off-leash park with stunning views of the river valley and downtown. Loop back through River Park to Sandy Beach or continue to Sifton Boulevard and return via the pedestrian bridge at Elbow Park School. Turn off at 10 Street and follow the cut-through trail uphill to Britannia Drive. Walk along the escarpment soaking up views of the Rockies before stopping to warm up with a hot drink and tasty treat in Britannia.
Starting point: Britannia Plaza, SW. Elbow Drive and 50 Avenue SW.
Tasty pit stop: Lina’s Italian Mercato on Elbow Drive for pizza and hot drinks, Monogram Coffee, or Village Ice Cream when warm winds are blowing during a Chinook.
Folk art, free libraries, and an art gallery
Inglewood, Ramsay, and Riverwalk, SE
Eclectic neighborhoods make for the best urban hikes. Inglewood is home to old-fashioned corner stores, historic homes, buildings from the early 1900s, and surprises like folk art and Little Free libraries along with many cafés to warm up and enjoy a hot drink and some lunch. Walk along the Bow River through St. Patrick’s Island and stop at the playground or bring a crazy carpet and try the sliding hill. Or begin your walk with a climb to the top of Scotsman’s Hill, soaking up views of the Rockies and downtown before descending the staircase to the Riverwalk near Stampede Park. Loop back to the East Village, stop for a hot drink or tasty treat, or continue along 9 Avenue and head indoors to check out the Esker Art Gallery. This private, non-commercial gallery is impressive, and is free to all. Tour the latest exhibition (there are three shows each year) or register for and take part in one of the gallery’s many educational events. Free contemporary art programming, designed to make art accessible to all ages, is offered to anyone interested. Tour the birds nest boardroom or settle into the comfy couch sitting area where you can relax and enjoy the views.
Starting point: Street parking on 8 Street and 8 Avenue SE or at the Bridgeland LRT.
Tasty pit stop: Sidewalk Citizen at the Simmons Building on Riverwalk, Gravity Café in the Esker Building, Rosso Coffee or Good News Coffee; farther east along 9 Avenue.
Lori’s guidebook, Calgary’s Best Walks Expanded, has 45 walks with maps and 40 suggested detours (all perfect for families!). She leads walks, hikes, and snowshoe days with her company, Fit Frog. Connect with her and get a signed copy of her book on Instagram, Facebook, and fitfrog.ca.
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