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Become a tourist in Calgary this winter

Calgary is beautiful in every season, but we’re lucky enough to be one of the world’s top destinations for winter sports and activities! People come from around the globe to ski, hike, fish and climb in the coldest months of the year in the nearby mountains and foothills. It’s easy to take all that winter can offer for granted (especially when you’re tired of scraping off your car every morning), but why not embrace the cold this year and make the most of it?

Look at Calgary like international tourists do and shake off your regular routine with these 20 great winter activities: 

Visit some hot springs

There’s nothing better than a dip in a hot spring in the coldest months of the winter! Cultures around the world have believed in the restorative power of hot spring water for thousands of years. Banff, Radium and Fairmont are all within a few hours of Calgary and all feature public hot springs which are well worth a weekend trip!  

Try ice fishing 

Once the ice is thick on the ponds and lakes near Calgary, ice fishing opens up for the season! If you’ve never been before, hire an ice fishing guide for a few hours who can provide all the tackle and equipment you’ll need to get started. Ask around your friends and family; you’d be surprised how many anglers are happy to help newbies get started! Popular places to ice fish near Calgary include Ghost Reservoir and Eagle Lake, but there are lots of options to explore.

Ice racing on Ghost Lake

Locals build a racetrack on the famous lake as soon as the ice is thick enough to hold vehicles. Photos of the 2.4-kilometre track went viral on Instagram this year and it’s easy to see why. This is a great way to quench your need for speed!

Check out winter festivals

Calgary has no shortage of festivals during the cold months. Glow YYC takes place in the holiday season, as does the ever-popular ZOOLIGHTS. Other holiday events include Once Upon A Christmas at Heritage Park and Lions Festival of Lights. YYC Hot Chocolate Fest, Chinook Blast and SnoMo Days are up and running in February to break up the seasonal blues. A quick Google search will help you find even more festival fun throughout the winter.

Visit the Calgary Central Library

Did you know that the Calgary Central Library is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world? It’s won tons of architecture awards and was listed in Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 Greatest Places of 2019. This incredible library branch is a destination all on its own, offering hours of free fun. With registered and drop-in classes, an incredible play place and children’s library and a tasty cafe, you can easily pass a day within the library’s four walls.

Stroll through a museum 

There is no shortage of cozy museums to stay warm in this season. Fort Calgary, TELUS Spark, Studio Bell, the Military Museums... the list goes on and on. There are even some lesser-known ones like The Hangar Flight Museum and YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre. Many are interactive and some even provide classes and/or tours. Make sure to check out the website of your favorite museum for details on pricing, hours, parking and more.

Shop at an indoor market

Calgary is home to a large number of pop-up artist and craft markets which occur throughout the year, as well as the two indoor year-round locations of the Calgary Farmers’ Market. Supporting these markets not only helps small businesses, but you can get unique groceries and gifts, drinks, treats and more. From fresh flowers to decadent donuts, these indoor markets have it all and you can spend a good chunk of a day taking them in. 

Go tubing

Servus Tube Park at Winsport opens in mid-December and features eight lanes of fun, a magic carpet, and more. The park offers downhill excitement and winter fun, for any skill level and ability, all without leaving the city. It is one of the largest parks of its kind in western Canada.

Hop on a fat bike or ice bike

Winter fat biking is a great way to stay active this season. The trails around Calgary are plowed after a snowfall as are the bike lanes. Or for something a little different, you can try out the ice bikes at Bowness Park. Picture a bicycle, where the front wheel has been replaced with skates and the back wheel is surrounded by skates. With a wide base, you don't even have to balance. Just pedal and steer as if you're riding a normal bike. Rent them at the skate shop. 

Go dog sledding

This one requires a bit of a drive, but it is worth it! Imagine the cold air on your face as you dog sled through the pristine wilderness of the Canadian Rockies just outside Canmore near the Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country. This is an experience you will never forget! For a list companies that offer dog sledding, visit:

Have a winter picnic

While many people think of a picnic as a summer adventure, there is no reason you can’t pack your basket and venture out on a nice winter day. Many local parks have picnic tables all year round, so wipe the snow off and enjoy a portable feast! 

Walk with the penguins at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo

Birds of a feather walk together, and you can too! Check out the Penguin Walk at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, which usually starts in January. During the winter months (weather dependent), the King Penguin colony heads out on zoo grounds for a daily enrichment walk to keep their brains and bodies healthy and visitors get to experience the fun! 

Discover outdoor art exhibits and murals 

Calgary has dozens of interesting murals and other outdoor art pieces that you can enjoy from the comfort of your car in the winter months. Some examples include Colourful Human by Troy Lovegates at 591 17 Avenue SW, Cougar by Faith 47 at 735 12 Avenue SW and Bees by Natalie Nehlawi at 10 Avenue & 12 Street SW.

Take in the theatre

There is nothing like “taking in a show,” and Calgary is home to a wide variety of professional and amateaur theatre companies! Alberta Theatre Projects, Vertigo, Morpheus, Theatre Calgary, StoryBook Theatre, Loose Moose, Stage West, Jubilations, Front Row Centre, Imagine Performing Arts, Workshop Theatre, Lunchbox Theatre and many, many more put on dozens of productions for all ages and interests every year. 

Climb the Calgary Tower

A trip up the Calgary Tower can make for a fun day. When was the last time you were up there to take in the views? Have your children ever gone? It might be worth it for a bird’s eye  view from the observation deck with nothing but a glass floor under your feet!

Walk along the river

Speaking of downtown – why not take a stroll by the Bow River? This might be something on your spring or summer to-do list, but have you ever tried it in the winter? The snow-covered views of the frosty river are beautiful and there is still tons of wildlife to see in the colder months. Make sure to dress warmly and never walk on ice on the river.

Go mall hopping 

Whether you have something you want to buy or just want or stretch your legs indoors, Calgary’s malls are a great place to stay warm and get everyone moving. Family favorites include CrossIron Mills, CF Market Mall, Southcentre Mall and CF Chinook Centre. Treat yourselves to a little “souvenir” while you’re there! 

Try a snow sport

Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snow blading, cross-country, ski biking and more – we’re in the heartland of snow sports and there are tons to try! Take a class for beginners at Winsport or make an expedition out to one of the many ski resorts in the mountains nearby. CCM 


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