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The top 10 Chinook activities for family fun without spending a ton!

One of the best things about living in southern Alberta is how a Chinook can make the cold dark days of winter seem like a distant memory.

The warm winds make outdoor activities accessible again, and that means you can have fun without spending a lot of money! Here are my top 10 Chinook day activities on a dime:

  1. Ice skate on a frozen lake. Calgary is on the edge of some of the world’s most beautiful lakes and one of the best times to skate on a lake is during a Chinook because the snow melts leaving a clear path to glide on. Although any lake that is frozen enough to allow skating is great, a particular favorite of locals is Lake Minnewanka, due to the gas bubbles that are suspended in the ice.
  2. Chinook Blast. There is bound to be a Chinook during Calgary’s four-week outdoor festival. Running from February 4 to 27, Chinook Blast features various festivals, art installations, pop-up performances, community installations, and other events around the city. Some activities require a fee to get in, but many others are free! For more information, visit chinookblast.ca.
  3. Plan your garden. What better way to spend a day than planning the next season’s garden? You can begin to weed anything that you missed in the fall, and have the kids sketch out what they want to plant and where. If the ground is soft enough, you can even plant those early bulbs for your spring blooms.
  4. Catch the ice racing on Ghost Lake. Although it’s not an official course, locals have been building a racetrack on Ghost Lake as soon as the ice is thick enough to hold vehicles. This year’s track is an impressive sight to see, and if you make your way out on a Chinook weekend, you are bound to see cars of all types drifting along the swerves.
  5. Snowshoeing. When the wind blows the warm air into the Rockies, it’s the perfect time to explore the snowshoeing trails in and around the city. If your kids can walk, they can likely snowshoe, or you can pull them in a sled while you trek! If you don’t own snowshoes, don’t fret! Some public libraries around the city loan them out with your library card, or you can find a rental for around $15 per day or less.
  6. YYC Hot Chocolate Fest. Plan a day to rank the best hot chocolate in the city by participating in the annual YYC Hot Chocolate Fest. On a Chinook day, you can plan a route out between a few of the contestants and enjoy the weather in between sips. Running from February 1 to 28, a portion of proceeds from each cup sold goes to Calgary Meals on Wheels (so you can feel good about downing all that deliciousness!).
  7. Winter picnic. People think of picnics as a summer activity, but on a warm Chinook day, a picnic can give you that recharge in the sun you have missed. Pack your favorite finger foods and spend lunch outdoors!
  8. Do an ice walk. One of the coolest ways to spend an unexpectedly warm day in the winter is by taking an ice walk. Yes, it’s as slippery as it sounds, so you will need to ensure everyone in the family has a set of ice grips that attach to your shoes. You can rent them, or you can buy some for under $20 a pair. Johnston Canyon features a series of catwalks appealing for beginners and leads to an icy waterfall. Grotto Canyon is a bit more rustic as your cleats dig into the ice of a frozen river. Both are worth checking out!
  9. Go tobogganing. Sometimes it can be too cold to spend a day on the hills with the wind blowing at you. That’s why during those early Chinooks, you need to seize the moment before the snow melts. Tobogganing is not only super fun, but all that hill climbing tuckers the kids out, too! The City of Calgary has 22 official toboggan hills, which are maintained and have a long clear area at the bottom of each hill. Popular hills include Stanley Park, Confederation Park, and Prairie Winds Park. Remember, helmets on heads while sledding.
  10. Walk along the Bow. We are lucky to have a beautiful river running right through our city, and the pathways surrounding it are perfect for a family walk! While you explore the waterfront, you can make your walk more fun by finding rocks to paint later, planning a scavenger hunt, or playing I-Spy. 

Bonus Chinook activities:

  • Roast marshmallows at one of the local City parks with fire pits
  • Go geocaching
  • Find all the murals in the city and take a picture
  • at each one
  • Go stargazing one night
  • Have a snowman-building competition
  • Check out the 42nd Annual SnowMoDays. For more information, visit snowmodays.com.

Genevieve is a mom of two, works in marketing, and writes in her (very minimal) free time. Follow her funny mom alter-ego on Instagram @cryitoutmom.

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