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, everyone!

15 Fun things to do between Christmas and New Year near Calgary

You’ll feel so much better for getting outside over the holidays. Try ice skating at Lake Minnewanka. (Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka)

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.

girls skating

Canmore also has a sweet New Years celebration at The Pond. (Photo credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis)

Something unusual and entirely do-able even if it’s -27C is to go ice fishing with Big Jim Dykstra! My teen and I spent a pleasant afternoon inside Jim’s ice fishing shack and reeled in cute a few tasty trout. Fried in butter, they tasted like candy, and we stayed toasty warm within the shack. 

I can’t tell you exactly where Jim’s ice fishing spot is located, but it’s in the Kananaskis not too far of a drive from Canmore. Check out his site here.

One of my favourite spots outside of Canmore is Mount Engadine Lodge. Their Afternoon Tea is the bomb! Served every day from 2pm to 5pm, 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!)

woman snowshoeing

There are lots of trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing at Mount Engadine Lodge. (Photo credit: Chris Amat)

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.

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Southern Alberta Holiday Events

There are 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.

Snow luge

What child wouldn’t love to slide down this? (Photo credit: Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park)

  • Elkwater Lake Lodge is an affordable resort in Cypress Hills. 
  • If you’re into hockey, there’s plenty of games with WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers at the Canalta Centre.
  • Medicine Hat has some seriously affordable family hotel packages, including one for skiing at Hidden Valley Ski Hill.
  • 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.

nikka yuko japanese garden winter

The weather’s often much warmer in Lethbridge, too!

Banff Holiday Activities

Even if you don’t ski, you can still enjoy the rush of barrelling down a mountain. Mount Norquay has reopened their tube park!

Here’s a list of all the places to go skating in Banff National Park.

And if you’ve never hiked the Johnston Canyon ice walk in winter, you’ll want to!

mountain lodge winter

You wouldn’t believe how much snow Lake Louise gets! (Photo credit: Isobel Springett)

Banff Events over Christmas Break

Have you checked out the newly renovated Banff Gondola yet? They always have a lot of great family programming going on and Sky Bistro is quite good. Even if it’s dark out, don’t write this experience off. Nightrise is a multi-sensory immersive experience that’s pretty cool. 

night sky in winter

So this pic isn’t from the Gondola, but it was taken in Banff, so you get the point. (Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/ Paul Zizka)

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 New Years Day, you can skate on the lake and ring in the New Year with their 7pm fireworks dispaly from the pier. 

What are your plans between Christmas and New Years?