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. 

These are Calgary's best Christmas events and concerts

Cheers to the holidays!

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. 

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.

Calgary’s best holiday and Christmas events + giveaway

As excited as I am for the holidays to start, I don’t begin until December 1.

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.

Fairmont palliser afternoon tea

Here’s what you could tuck into at the Fairmont’s holiday tea.

For the holiday tea, it’s best to make a reservation to ensure you get seated.

prince charles and lady diana wedding tea cup

Follow a page from my book and order a glass of champers in addition to your Lot 35 tea.

ZOOLIGHTS Calgary

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.

Calgary zoo zoolights

Don’t forget to bring your camera!

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.

ZOOLIGHTS runs from 5 to 9 p.m., November 20, 2020 – January 3, 2021, excluding December 25. For more info and to buy tickets, visit ZOOLIGHTS.

Note: This year you’ll have to book online in advance for timed entry tickets.
Also: You’ll want to park in the North Lot (just off Memorial Drive) as the West Gate entrance is currently closed.
Zoolights Calgary

Warm up indoors at the Conservatory Gardens, where there’s even more seasonal displays.

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.

rat's nest cave canmore tours

Eve and I down under. (But not in the Auzzie kind of way.)

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.

Once upon a Christmas Heritage Park Calgary

Christmas is all about tradition and visiting Heritage Park is a good reminder of that. (Photo credit: Heritage Park)

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., the first 3 weekends in December and from December 21-23, 2020.

Note: This year you’ll have to book online in advance for timed entry tickets.

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.

You also may enjoy reading:

Everything you need to know about Aspen Crossing’s Polar Express

How to be more thankful and grateful over the holidays