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 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 to ensure you get seated.
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. Or, an Enchanted Dinner for adults only on November 16.
ZOOLIGHTS runs from 5 to 9 p.m., November 19 – January 2, excluding December 25. This year, several new themed areas and activities have been added to make this year even more memorable including a 25th anniversary Memory Lane, 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!
Does someone in your squad get pooped out when darkness falls? If so, book in for Safari Sunday Brunch November 7, 14 & 21.
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., the first 3 weekends in December and from December 20-23.
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.