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The Spring Break Challenge

Last year, I created a ‘Spring Break Challenge’ for my family with the goal of trying at least a couple of new things. We continued our mission into the month of April and by May, we had visited several new places around Calgary. What new activity could you try with your kids during Spring Break? (And it could be as simple as visiting a new playground or trying a new hiking trail.)

Here are 10 suggestions to get the ideas flowing:

1. Try tubing at a local ski hill. There’s not usually much snow left on our local sledding hills come Spring but, fortunately, ski hills still have plenty of snow at their tube parks. Tubing is easy, gentle on the body, and requires no athletic ability. To try the closest one, visit WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park and spend an afternoon at the Acura Tube Park. (New this season, there’s a snack bar at the bottom of the park with a sunny patio for those warm Spring days!)

2. Go hiking in Bow Valley Provincial Park. Our favorite trail in this Park is the Many Springs Interpretive Trail located in the Bow Valley Campground. The campground (and its roads) don’t open until the end of April; until then, this 1.3-kilometre loop is best approached by bike. Enjoy a short ride on the paved campground roads from the Middle Lake Day-Use Area, walk around the Many Springs Loop, and then bike back, stopping to rest at the playground in the Elk Flats Group-Use Area. Total outing is approximately 5 kilometres long.

Alternately, for a shorter outing, try the Flowing Water Interpretive Trail located inside the Willow Rock Campground across the road from the Bow Valley Campground. This 2-kilometre loop trail follows boardwalk sections through a wetland environment complete with beaver lodges and dams. There is one steep section with stairs, but the rest of the trail is Chariot-friendly, should you wish to carry your stroller up that one section.

3. Explore Fish Creek Provincial Park. It’s rare to find a provincial park within city limits; luckily, we have one and it’s called Fish Creek Provincial Park located in south Calgary! The park has over 80 kilometres of pathways (30 kilometres of which are paved). Many of the other trails are a hard-packed shale and easy for walking with young kids. Follow the trails along Fish Creek, crossing multiple bridges, and bring out your bikes to explore farther if the pathways are dry. This Park is also a great place to go looking for birds and wildlife with over 200 bird species observed here.

And for those living in north Calgary, consider visiting Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, located between Calgary and Cochrane off Highway 1A. This park also has more than 25 kilometres of pathways for walking, hiking, and biking (including a large section of paved trail).

4. Learn to climb as a family. Learning to rock climb is a little bit less scary when you’re climbing a wall with happy faces that light up every step that you climb. Visit the Calgary Climbing Centre’s Hanger location and spend an hour in the family-friendly climb park. The park uses an auto belay system on all walls and features (meaning you don’t need any experience to climb) and children can climb on their own, without a partner.

And when you’re ready for the next step, visit The Crux Climbing & Bouldering, one of the tallest gyms in North America! The Crux also offers introductory courses to ‘learn the ropes’ so you can learn to belay your children on future visits.

5. Visit a new playground. There is no shortage of cool playgrounds around the city. Grab a few friends, and head out to a new park that you’ve never visited! The Calgary Playground Review website is a great resource to help you find that new favorite playground.

6. Try downhill skiing or snowboarding at a local hill. If you meant to put the kids in a ski or snowboard lesson this winter and it never happened, there’s no need to put it off again until next winter. Spring sun makes for warm ski days, and it’s a lot easier to learn to ski when you aren’t freezing cold.

All area hills offer group and private lessons, and I also think it would be fun to sign the kids up for a snowboarding lesson (if they already ski) just to try something new.

7. Try cross-country skiing for a day in Canmore. Spring sun isn’t especially good for ski trails, but you can extend the season with a day at the Canmore Nordic Centre where the trails get groomed and freshly track set daily. I’ve skied here as late as April before and still had good snow for skiing.

Visit the Trail Sports website for information on ski rentals at the Nordic Centre. You can also rent sleds for pulling younger kids. And if you’re new to cross-country skiing, I recommend the short outing to the meadow warming hut and back on the main Banff Trail, an easy 6-kilometre return ski on a relatively flat trail.

8. Spend a day at Kananaskis Village. Depending on conditions, you can either take a short walk around the Delta Lodge, go skating on the pond, rent snowshoes from Kananaskis Outfitters and try a short loop, or take a lovely hike to nearby Troll Falls. If you’re new to the area and would like to ensure you don’t get lost on the Village trails, guided family hikes can also be arranged through Kananaskis Outfitters.

Whichever option(s) you choose, make sure you warm up after at the new coffee shop inside the Delta Lodge, which also carries a wide variety of lunch options.

9. Take a day trip out to Bragg Creek and Elbow Valley. Follow Highway 22 down the Cowboy Trail to the Hamlet of Bragg Creek. From there, continue into Kananaskis Country and drive as far as the highway permits. If you’re visiting before May 15, the road is open as far as the Elbow Falls Day-Use Area.

Visit the waterfalls and then continue along the closed highway on foot (or on bike if the highway is clear of snow) until you reach the Beaver Lodge Day-Use Area and trailhead for the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail (less than 500 metres down the highway). Hike the short trail along a creek where you will pass by several beaver ponds that the kids will have fun playing in. The short trail is a 3-kilometre round trip, but you can go as far as you want and return to the highway.

10. Visit Calgarys first indoor bike park. B-Line Indoor Bike Park recently opened in northeast Calgary, and it’s a great place to take the kids before local trails are ready to ride. The park combines elements of a skateboard park, a BMX track, and a mountain bike skills park (complete with pump track.)

The park rents BMX bikes if you don’t have a suitable bike to use, and it has features for all levels of riders from tots on balance bikes all the way up to teens or adults looking to catch big air. All features are clearly marked as beginner, intermediate, or advanced as well to make sure your children stay safe. For more information, visit the B-Line Indoor Bike Park website.

With all these options, I should have your family trying new activities, and visiting new places well into June. Happy exploring!

Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.

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