It’s the peak of winter in Calgary, which also means it’s about that time where kids and parents alike go just a little bit stir crazy. Add that to the hit that your wallets took during the holiday season, and you’ll be grateful for the budget-friendly tips and family fun ideas in this edition of Calgary on the Cheap! We’ve also got a special treat in store, with guest tips by Julie Van Rosendaal!
1. Skiing is a great activity that keeps you active and having fun, but it can also get pretty pricey. Cross-country skiing is a fantastic alternative – not only is it perfect for the whole family, but it’s significantly less expensive. At the Canmore Nordic Centre, (about 45 minutes west of Calgary), children under six ski for free, for kids six to 11, the cost is $6, and 12 to 17 year olds only pay $7.50. There is a rental shop on site, and, you guessed it, rentals also cost way less than the downhill variety. Take advantage of the long winter nights and try night skiing with your family; the trails are lit up, creating an awe inspiring skiing experience. Visit www.canmorenordiccentre.ca for trail maps, rates and more information.
2. After a long day out in the cold, warm up with a movie night in! Get the whole family together, pick a couple of movies, and snuggle up together with a ton of blankets and pillows – the cozier the better. Choose a few movies that your kids have yet to see, like Annie, Alice in Wonderland (the original), Beetlejuice, Home Alone, Jumanji or Hook. Serve up an assortment of snacks, sticking with the movies’ themes.
3. It’s called “Family Day” for a reason, so be sure to spend Monday, February 21 with your loved ones. From February 17 to 21, Heritage Park will be celebrating this unique holiday with ‘Family Quest’ – an event that allows your whole family to take part in hands-on fun. Activities take place on all five days from 9:30am to 4pm. For more information, visit www.heritagepark.ca. There are other great Family Day events happening throughout the city. Make sure to check out calgaryschild.com and click on ‘Calendar of Events’ for a complete list of family-friendly events.
4. Tobogganing is a great way to stay active and have fun for kids of all ages. Plus, it’s free. What more could you ask for? Stay close to home with smaller hills throughout the city, or go on a bit of a road trip of some pretty impressive hills. www.travelalberta.com has some great suggestions for sledding areas throughout the province. Just click on ‘Things to Do’ on the left side of the homepage, then choose ‘Skiing and Winter Fun’ and then click on ‘Sledding.’ There are enough suggestions there to keep your family busy until the snow melts.
5. Want to kick it up a notch? Try tubing at Mt. Norquay (www.banffnorquay.com). It’s a bit higher octane than regular sledding, and certainly provides an experience to remember. Children’s tickets cost $17 (ages six to 12) for a full day, youth $20 (ages 13 to 17), and adults $24. If you plan to bring the whole family, it’s $74 for a full day (two-hour options are also available). An added bonus for Ski Big 4 and Norquay season pass holders: 10 per cent off the regular price for tubing!
6. Splash around with the whole family at Village Square Leisure Centre! On Wednesday nights from 6 to 8pm, admission is 30 per cent off, and use of tubes and life jackets is free while quantities last! Friday nights at the leisure are just for teens (ages 12 to 17), and offer a safe, fun environment for your teens to hang out in. Admission (regular youth admission) covers access to the Youth Rooms, pool, and Sport Hall and your kids will be entertained by a DJ or live music! For more information, call 403-366-3900.
7. Winter meals usually involve comfort food of some sort: think soups, stews and casseroles. They’re perfect for keeping your little ones warm and their bellies full, but unfortunately most of those comfort meals can take an awfully long time to prepare. When you have a free day, get cooking! Make an assortment of comfort dishes, like lasagna, beef and vegetable stew, or turkey chili. Divide into individual (or single meal) sized portions and freeze. The individual sized meals are great for school lunches (just pop ‘em in the microwave!), and the single meal sized ones are great for nights when there is no time to cook.
Our last two tips have been provided by Julie Van Rosendaal of One Smart Cookie Inc. and Dinner With Julie (www.dinnerwithjulie.com). She’s a fabulous writer, cook and author, and has some great suggestions for Calgary on the Cheap!
8. Potlucks are back in! Rather than take on the task (and expense) of providing the entire menu, ask everyone to bring something to the party. People are happy to contribute (they’ll bring something, anyway) and you wind up with a wonderful feast. To expand on the idea, start a dinner club; choose a group you’d like to dine with regularly and rotate houses and themes. Get creative; the Internet has taken away the challenge of simply assigning a country’s cuisine! Try movies, decades… you get the idea.
9. Start a babysitting co-op. Round up a group of friends or families in your community to share the task of babysitting by swapping time with each other rather than charging money. Some co-ops have a rotating secretary; if a member requires sitting, the secretary is contacted, who then makes arrangements. Points are swapped (say one point per hour, or more depending on the number of kids) for babysitting time spent and cashed in. It’s a great way to save money on childcare while ensuring your kids have a familiar place to go that they’re comfortable with.
Stephanie is a freelance writer specializing in travel and food writing. For more information, visit www.stephaniearsenault.ca.
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