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 – when and if of course, it’s safe to do so.
This post was originally published on November 29, 2018 and was updated on November 30, 2020. Please stay up to date with the latest government recommendations and public health measures and do not attend events if it’s not safe to do so.
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Calgary Christmas Events
When you know which Calgary 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 Grinch.
Here’s a look at my favourite Christmas events in Calgary. No spon-con here! This is totally how I like to 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 Festive Afternoon Tea that takes place in the 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.
Fairmont Palliser’s Festive Afternoon Tea runs on weekends, November 26-January 1 and costs $85/person. It’s best to make a reservation to ensure you get seated. You could also partake in the Hawthorn Yuletide, a 3-course menu that runs December 1-26. For lunch it’s $50/person running Monday – Friday. For dinner it’s $70/person.
If viewing two million twinkling holiday lights doesn’t install a Christmasy feeling in you, I don’t know what will. From the end of November until early January, the Calgary Zoo transforms 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 indoors (masks on), plus there’s lots of bonfires to sip mulled wine around. Yes, they have warm alcoholic beverages to put a little cheer into your date night. Speaking of date night, consider ZOOLIGHTS Adults Night Out on November 23.
ZOOLIGHTS runs from 5 to 9 p.m., November 18 – January 8, excluding December 25. There’s fun themed areas and plenty of activities including the Nutcracker in the ENMAX Conservatory, a “Tunnel of Light”, a tribute to Canada’s wetland, a holiday Zoo Market and a fun “Dinos in the Dark” experience will take you into Prehistoric Park — a ZOOLIGHTS first!
For more info and to buy tickets, visit ZOOLIGHTS.
Caving in Canmore
Yes, you read that right. This is a holiday event! A few years ago my daughter and I went underground with Canmore Cave Tours. We squeezed our way down into Rat’s Nest Cave on the outskirts of Canmore.
Caving is an adventurous activity that’s fantastic for teens and anyone outdoorsy. It’s also the perfect activity to do when it’s super cold outside, as the cave maintains a constant temperature of about 5 degrees.
On non-COVID years, you can cave your way into a Christmas concert deep in the heart of Grotto Mountain. To listen to carols in a cave is one of the coolest, Canadian things you can do. Finger’s crossed these concerts return next year. In the meantime, you can still cave with your cohort group – depending on the last government restrictions.
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 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting November 26 and the first 3 weekends in December.
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.
Decorating our outdoor pine tree on my sons birthday – dec 10. He got the tiny seedling in grade 1 – 20 years later it is a glorious beautiful large tree. We decorated it that first year on his birthday many years ( and ornaments ) later – this family ritual marks the beginning of the Christmas season for our family.
We would love to go see the zoo lights
I get excited by seeing others too excited about Christmas
My birthday is December 4th and it signals the start of all things Christmas for me. The tree goes up and all the decorations are pulled out. We play Christmas carols and then watch the Sound of Music. Then there is the Santa Parade in High River aroud this time as well. I have never been to Heritage Park at Christmas so I think I might prefer those tickets but the Calgary Zoo is amazing as well.
As I have a 3 year old, Christmas is just getting better and better. From the short bread cookie baking to putting up the dazzling lights indoors. it’s soooo fun! ( except when he wants to yank the lights down! gah!) Zoologhts would be a magical (early evening) fun nite!!
i just commented on your latest instagram post under juliemwb !!
Watching Christmas movies and decorating the house are the start to my house feeling Christmasy! We would love to win tickets to the Zoo lights! They are so beautiful and so many things to do that help get you in the Christmas spirit
Cutting down our own Christmas tree! Best tradition we have each year! ????
Cutting down our own Christmas tree each year! ????
Nutcracker – Zoolights – Heritage Park
We want to do them all this year.
Hi Jody, would love to go to Zoolighths! We haven’t been in years!
When mulled wine and Christmas lights come out, I know it’s Christmas!
I need to find a good mulled wine spot in Calgary. Got any recs?
I would love to go the Zoolights! I follow and commented on instagram. @jollygirl555
I love turning on Christmas music when we are just hanging out at home and just having it in the background while the kids play. I’d love to take the kids to zoolights.
We would love to go to Zoolights . Taking our 6mth old grandson to his first Zoolights! Where his parents got engaged 2 years earlier. Zoolights has many great memories for our family and we will add one more by taking our grandson this yea.
We like strolling around the neighborhood looking at all the decorated houses. So festive. Zoolights would be awesome. Never been. #JodyRobbins #Zoolights #Christmas #ThankYou
December 1 we start listening to Christmas music! It’s how I get into the Christmas spirit. I would livevpasses to ZooLights. It has been a while since we have gone.
Decorating the Christmas tree with the kids is fun. We kove to see the Zoolights.
I turned on the Christmas music today! Next up…decorating the Christmas tree. I would love to win the Once Upon a Christmas at Heritage Park tickets.
What gets me in the Christmas spirit is watching the excitement on my daughters face when she sees Christmas lights, or when we start decorating the house. Seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes is just so magical and special. We would love passes for zoo lights or heritage park. Every Christmas event is just so magical.
I love to blast Christmas music while I decorate!
For me it’s getting my kids picture taken with the big guy. I’m ready for the holidays to start now
Love the Palliser for the holidays, even if it’s just to go look at their decorations and grab a hot chocolate from Starbucks ???? hoping to take the fam to zoolights ????????????????
I love listening to Christmas music while drinking some hot chocolate by the fireplace and I would love the passes for Zoolights!
Fresh snow and hot chocolate get me in the mood! Would love to go to zoo lights!
We started our Christmas season with the Airdrie Santa Claus parade. This is the first year we’ staying home for Christmas and I’d love to take my kids to zoo lights for the first time.
Putting up the Christmas lights and decorating the Christmas tree is my favourite way to get in to the holiday spirit. I also absolutely love driving around the city looking at Christmas lights and would be so grateful to win the zoo passes! There is something so magical and festive about Christmas lights!
Watching Christmas movies and making gingerbread houses gets me in the Christmas spirit. Would live Zoolights tickets!
What a valuable post Jody! I have to admit, I already starting Googling that cave experience in Canmore – wow, what an experience that would be!! I wouldn’t be picky, as a part time teacher I would go anywhere for free these days (haha) so whatever tickets I would win I would appreciate every moment!!
Rum and eggnog, turkey hat and decorating the tree!
We’re starting a new tradition this year and going to see the Nutcracker! We’re celebrating Christmas early this year.. Unfortunately I’m stuck working Christmas (as an ER nurse I often spend my holidays at the hospital helping others). Would love to take my daughter to heritage park though. Looks fun!
Digging out the Christmas movies and snuggling on the couch to watch them gets me in to christmas mood especially if there is no snow on the ground. I’d love to be able to go to either the zoo lights or Heritage Park- it’s been years since I’ve been to zoo lights and I’ve never been to Heritage Park for their Christmas event
I am just a big fan of Christmas! I love everything but if I have to pick only one thing, I would say the Christmas songs! ????????????☃️❄️ I have never been to Zoolights, I would love to go!
Christmas music gets me in the holiday spirit! Also my kids. They start talking about all the things they remember from last year and my oldest explains Christmas to the younger ones. We would love to win the zoo light passes. Thanks for the chance to win.
I don’t get in the spirit until I decorate my house. When the tree is up and there is a roaring fire in the fireplace, that’s the spirit for me!
Zoolights would be awesome to win!
I commented on Instagram (and am already following – andrea_hockeygirl). Our yearly visit to Once Upon a Christmas at Heritage Park gets us in the spirt! We would love Zoolights passes as we went to Heritage Park on November 25 for Once Upon a Christmas!
Love baking some delicious Christmas cookies and snuggling up to watch my favorite Christmas movies. But not before we sing our hearts out to Christmas Carol’s while decorating the tree and house!
All of them my favorite places to go. But Heritage Park is my children’s top on the list. We just love history!
Watching wheat grow in the wintertime – literally! – is what gets me in the Christmas spirit. It’s an old Croatian Christmas tradition which I’ve always loved. Learn more by checking out the Croatian Heritage Society page on Facebook. I’d love to take in the Zoo lites:)
How fascinating. I am going to check that out. Thanks for the tip!
I love listening to Christmas Carols, decorating our tree & sipping on apple cider. That’s my perfect way to get me in the Christmas spirit. Also, Christmas carols while I’m driving starting December 1st
I’m with you! Nothing begins in earnest until Dec. 1.
I get in the holiday spirit once all of the shopping and running around is over and you just have time to spend with family and friends! We would love to go to zoo lights!
Watching Nutcracker and going to Zoolight remain our family favourites every Christmas! With a new addition to family this year, we would love to take our 9 months old to Zoolight!
Christmas music & mulled wine with friends!
I wish I knew how to make mulled wine! I’ve tried and failed so many times.
Watching Christmas movies and baking Christmas cookies
Finally decorating a Christmas tree with my kids and cuddling with them on the couch while having Christmas movie nights with them.
Finally decorated the tree with my kids and cuddling them on the couch while having Christmas movie night.
Listening to Christmas music and putting up our tree while drinking egg nog.
Doing Christmas baking! Following you on Facebook
Setting up the Christmas Tree, listening to Christmas music is the start of Christmas for me!
Spending it with family, eating all the delicious food!
Christmas music playing over the radio gets me into holiday spirit! Also, seeing the festive decorations at the mall.
December 1st is our special family
Day. We listen to Christmas music and decorate. We bake cookies. We watch elf in our onesies. It’s our tradition that definitely gets us in the mood for an amazing month.
Christmas music, lights, decorations and family gatherings get me in the holiday spirit!
Setting up and decorating the Christmas tree gets me in festive spirit.
Christmas baking and blaring Christmas music gets me into the holiday spirit! Thanks for the chance to win ????
So many good ideas in here! I’ve never been to a Christmas concert here – we’ll have to check one out this year. Watching cheesy made for TV Christmas movies really gets me in the spirit! We also started a new tradition of a Christmas Village last year and the kids couldn’t wait to get it set up, so we put it up yesterday!!
Putting up the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music and getting to burn my cinnamon apple candle 🙂
Singing Christmas and wintery songs with my choir
Listening to Kenny and Dolly’s Christmas CD’s always gets me in the spirit!
When I blast the Chistmas music and start to decorate!
Watching the hallmark countdown to Christmas movies and putting up the tree
decorating my home with bright colours and seeing the 150 trees display at the Core Mall!
It’s our first Christmas in Canada (actually in the northern hemisphere!) and I am loving all the outside lights. I was a bit nervous of it being so dark early in the evening but it’s just the opposite – everything looks magical! Our own tree is decorated and we are all super excited for Christmas!
Congratulations Nadja! You’re the winner of the four passes to Heritage Park’s Once Upon a Christmas. Check your email for more details. Thanks so much for commenting.
Putting up the decorations is always the first thing I do and totally gets me into the Christmas mood!
Christmas music! As soon as I hear, all I want for christmas, its christmas! 😉