How do you get into the holiday spirit? The obvious things we do at home (making Christmas cookies, trimming the tree, etc…) can feel like a chore. The key to getting that seasonal jolt, I’ve realized, is to do things where that holiday magic is served up for you. This is why I’m all about attending Christmas events in Calgary. And if you are too, read on for a fantastic giveaway!
This post was originally published on November 29, 2018 and was updated on November 3, 2019.
Table of Contents
Calgary Christmas events
When you know the Christmas events you want to go to, you don’t have to do anything. Simply buy tickets, show up and let that special Christmasy feeling wash over you, and hey, presto! you’re no longer the Calgary Grinch.
Here’s a look at my favourite Christmas events in Calgary. No spon-con here! This is totally how I roll during the holidays.
Afternoon tea Calgary
Going for afternoon tea in Calgary with a clutch of girlfriends is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Fairmont Palliser has a delectable holiday tea that takes place in the newly renovated Hawthorne Dining Room.
During this afternoon tea you’ll tuck into delightful tea sandwiches, traditional melt-in-your-mouth scones dolloped with jam and clotted cream, and the most adorable petit fours. Think: mini yule logs, slivers of Christmas cake, macarons and caramel panna cotta.
For the holiday tea, it’s best to make a reservation as it only runs on Saturdays and Sunday, December 6 until January 6, 2020 at Fairmont Palliser.
Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker
When I was a kid my mom would drive us from High River (through every kind of inclement weather you can imagine), to see the The Nutcracker at the Jubilee Auditorium. It’s a tradition I’ve replicated with my daughter.
She’s not a huge ballet fan, but it doesn’t matter because this version of The Nutcracker performed by Alberta Ballet is so much more than dance. It’s the very best ballet to introduce children to as there’s so much going on. It’s not at all dull. (Not that I think ballet is dull, but some non-enlightened folks might.)
To start with, the set design is fantastic. Truly top notch. Then there’s the costumes. It’s hard to explain without witnessing it for yourself, but just know there are these amazing wolves, adorable mice and snowflakes sprung to life.
And the music! The ballet features live music by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra depending on which city you catch a performance in.
To get you even more into the spirit of the season, you can wear your lovely Christmas attire. Catch the Nutcracker in Calgary December 13 to 15, and again December 20 to 23. In Edmonton it’s at their Jube December 4 to 8, 2019.
If viewing two million twinkling holiday lights doesn’t install a Christmasy feeling in you, I don’t know what will. From now until early January, the Calgary Zoo morphs into a winter fairyland. On a crisp winter’s evening, there’s nothing better than strolling around the zoo, hot chocolate in hand, peaking at the animals beneath the dazzling glow.
You can go for a skate, visit Santa, plus there’s crafts for kids. ZOOLIGHTS runs from 6 to 9 p.m., November 22, 2019 – January 4, 2020, excluding December 25. For more info and to buy tickets, visit ZOOLIGHTS.
Calgary Christmas concerts
Last year, for the first time since elementary school, I went to a few Christmas concerts in Calgary. I had a feeling listening to legit, talented coral singers would give me that festive feeling. It did!
The first concert I hit up was the Calgary Carol Festival at Knox Church. This year it runs November 30 to December 2 and entry is by donation. All proceeds go to the Calgary Food Bank.
The second concert was the Calgary Men’s Chorus Christmas concert at DJD. The performance this year is Silver Balls – in celebration of the group’s 25-year anniversary. Tickets for the December 7 and 8 performances are available on their website calgarymenschorus.com.
Caving in Canmore
Yes, you read that right. This is a holiday event! Last year Eve and I went underground with Canmore Cave Tours. We squeezed our way down into Rat’s Nest Cave on the outskirts of Canmore.
Greeting us deep inside Grotto Mountain was the most wonderful music. Who would’ve expected a Christmas concert in a cave?
It’s an adventurous activity that’s fantastic for teens and anyone outdoorsy. The icing on the cake is the holiday performance (and all the little surprises I’m not supposed to tell you about).
FYI, caving is the perfect activity to do when it’s super cold outside, as the cave maintains a constant temperature of about 5 degrees. This year’s Spirit in the Mountain Festival runs December 19 to 22 and you’ll need to get your tickets fast as it sells out every year.
Once Upon a Christmas at Heritage Park
One for the kiddies (and their grandparents) Once Upon a Christmas takes you back to how the holidays were celebrated, like a 100-years ago. There’s kid’s crafts, horse-drawn wagon rides and Santa visits.
Best is the gift shop where parents aren’t allowed. Trusted volunteers take tots by the hand through a kids-only shop, where they can safely purchase gifts for their parents on the sly.
Me, I like to stock up on their baking – mincemeat tarts, gingerbread and buttery shortbread cookies are on my list. Roaming carollers and outdoor bonfires enhance the Dickens-vibe.
If you want to start your visit without anyone getting hangry, hit up the breakfast buffet in the Wainwright Hotel. Once Upon a Christmas runs Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., November 23 to December 22, 2019.
Polar Express Calgary
If you want to take your kids on a journey to the North Pole, you need to head to Aspen Crossing – about a 20-minute drive south of Calgary. This is a real, legit hour-long train ride based on The Polar Express™ book and movie.
Along the journey, you’ll meet a cast of characters from the conductor to singing chefs. Check out my full review of the experience here.
This is another one that sells out, so get your tickets ASAP. The train runs on select days from the end of November until the end of December.
As for what to do once Christmas is over, check out this fantastic winter in the Rockies guide.