I love the holidays, but once the feasting and presents are over with, I occasionally find myself desperately wishing to get out of dodge. Cabin fever is a serious ailment during Christmas break. In that lull between Christmas and New Years, I try to plan a few fun outings so I don’t become the Grinch. I think it’s a total waste to take days off work if you’re not going to use them well, so I did some searching and found several affordable activities close to Calgary to liven up our winter break. Happy holidays, y’all!
What to do near Canmore over Christmas Break
We hole up in Canmore for pretty much the entire holidays. We avoid the ski hills and do a ton of skating over winter break. Our favourite spots are The Pond in Canmore (just off downtown), Spray Lakes and Carrot Creek. This year I’m stoked because we’re going to go ice fishing with Big Jim Dykstra! (More on that in January.)
One of my favourite spots outside of Canmore is Mount Engadine Lodge. (Fun fact: I was in Switzerland’s Mount Engadine Valley last week!). Their Afternoon Tea is the bomb! Served every day from 2pm to 5pm (only $17.50 per person) the spread is impressive with freshly baked goodies, a decadent charcuterie and cheese board, plus coffee roasted by my neighbour, Jenn! (Canmore’s Mountain Blends Coffee Roasters, yo!)
If you go on a Sunday, you can add a traditional Swiss Strudel to the mix. You can strudel solo or add a hot buttered rum.
Southern Alberta Holiday Events
There aare loads of winter activities to try in Cypress Hills. There’s a purpose built-outdoor hockey rink, plus a snow luge and toboggan hills. You’ll also find fat bike, snowshoe, skating and cross country ski trails. Get your inner Scandinavian on and kick-sled your way across the Prairie.
- Elkwater Lake Lodge is an affordable resort in Cypress Hills. They have a fun Gala Event going on December 27.
- You’ve heard of the Nutcracker ballet, but have you ever witnessed The Muttcracker? It’s a SuperDogs show with a yuletide twist, and takes place December 28 at Medicine Hat’s Canalta Centre.
- Medicine Hat has some seriously affordable family hotel packages, including one for skiing at Hidden Valley Ski Hill.
- Every Thursday evening in Medicine Hat, you can check out the Market at Medalta.
- On your way to the Hat, make a slight detour at Dinosaur Provincial Park, where the Visitor Centre is open Monday-Friday (except holidays).
Affordable Holiday Activities in Lethbridge
South is the new west. Seriously, with all the tourists flocking to Banff, it makes sense to explore other hidden gems in our province. Theatre buffs will want to check out the New West Theatre in Lethbridge.
The cure to being cooped up in house with annoying relatives is to get some fresh air. In Lethbridge you’ll want to stroll around Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. It’s a serene spot, and you’ll feel like you’re walking through a winter wonderland when visiting at night during their Winter Light Festival, which goes on until February 2, 2017.
Lake Louise Holiday Activities
You’d be hard pressed to find a more authentically Albertan experience than the cowboy Christmas dinner and dance. Brewster Adventures hosts a shindig at their Barbecue and Dance Barn in Lake Louise on Dec. 23, 26, 28 and 30. The event begins with a horse-drawn sleigh ride to the barn from Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, then you’ll be served roast beef (by a pitchfork!) and other yummy fixings. A live country-and-western band gets going and that’s when the real fun begins. This family-friendly event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Call 403-762-5454 for reservations.
Instead of driving home, treat yourself to a night at nearby Deer Lodge. From December 27th to 30th, they’re offering a movie night – at 6pm a family movie will be shown, and at 8pm a classic holiday movie will be featured.
Banff Events over Christmas Break
Have you checked out the newly renovated Banff Gondola yet? If not, bookmark Friday December 30 for star gazing. Starting at 6:00 p.m., two members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada will guide you through the galaxies as you take in the starry sky from the rooftop observation deck.
Christmas at the Castle is always special, but you don’t need to book into Fairmont Banff Springs to appreciate it’s grandeur (though if you can swing it, it’s a memorable experience). Day trippers can book into their luxe Christmas Tea in the Rundle Lounge. Available only December 24, 25 and 26, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, reservations are strongly recommended.
Check out more events happening in Banff over the holidays here.
What to Do Near Red Deer Over the Holidays
Canyon Ski Resort, Alberta’s largest non-mountain downhill ski resort is super family friendly. It’s less costly than the bigger resorts, and is way less crowded. Canyon sports all you want in a ski hill – good terrain, equipment rentals, lessons and a snow tubing park. Kids 5-years-old and under ski free with a paying adult anytime. On Sundays, if you buy a family pass (only $130 for four immediate family members – one must be a parent), you get a free family ski or snowboard lesson included.
New Year’s Eve is hard for families to celebrate in a big way, but if you head to Sylvan Lake on January 1, you can skate on the lake and take in the Sylvan Lake Fireworks display at 7 p.m.
What are your plans between Christmas and New Years?