/Calgary’s best holiday and Christmas events + giveaway

Calgary’s best holiday and Christmas events + giveaway

These are Calgary's best Christmas events and concerts

Cheers to the holidays!

How do you get into the holiday spirit? There’s the obvious things we do at home – make Christmas cookies, etc… but as much as I wish these activities instilled that special Christmasy feeling in me, they don’t. The key to getting that seasonal jolt, I’ve realized, is to do things where that holiday magic is served up for you. Where you don’t have to do anything, but show up and let it 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 roll during the holidays.

My favourite Calgary Christmas events

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.

Holiday tea at Fairmont Palliser

Going for afternoon with a clutch of girlfriends or your favourite female relatives is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Of course, you could take a dude, but only if they appreciate 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.

Far better, to take your guy to the swish holiday cocktail service running December 17 to 31, 2018  from 6 to 12 p.m. on the Fairmont Gold floor . It could be your one and only chance to explore Fairmont Palliser’s Penthouse with its sweeping views of the downtown core all lit up. For the holiday tea, it’s best to make a reservation as it only runs December 20 to 23 and again December 27 to 30, 2018 at Fairmont Palliser.

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.

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.)

Alberta Ballet's The Nutcracker

The holidays just aren’t the same if we haven’t seen The Nutcracker. (Photo credit: PaulMcGrath)

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 14 to 16, and again December 20 to 24. In Edmonton it’s at their Jube December 6 to 9, 2018.


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.

Calgary zoo zoolights

Don’t forget to bring your camera!

You can go for a skate, visit Santa, plus there’s crafts for kids. ZOOLIGHTS runs from 6 to 9 p.m., November 23, 2018 – January 5, 2019, excluding December 25. For more info and to buy tickets, go to CalgaryZoo.com/ZOOLIGHTS.

Calgary Christmas concerts

Full disclosure: This is one thing I’ve never done, but has long been on my bucket list. I just know listening to legit, talented coral singers would give me that festive feeling. The two concerts I’m hitting up are the Calgary Carol Festival at Knox Church December 1 – 3 and the Calgary Men’s Chorus Christmas at the Movies performance December 13 and 14, 2018. See you there?

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).

rat's nest cave canmore tours

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

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 14 to 17 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 old people) 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. This family-friendly event runs Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., November 24 to December 23, 2018.

The 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. They do have some openings this Friday, November 30th on the 7:30 p.m. train and on the Sunday, December 2nd 7:30 p.m. train.

As for what to do once Christmas is over, check out this fantastic winter in the Rockies guide.


Would you like to win four passes to Once Upon a Christmas at Heritage Park or ZOOLIGHTS? Of course you would! Lucikly, I’ve got both up for grabs.

To enter

  • Comment my most recent post on Instagram.
  • Receive another entry for following me on Instagram.
  • Or, comment below with what gets you in the holiday spirit. And tell me which passes you’d like to win.
  • Each comment or follow receives one entry. Do all three to improve your chances.


  • Entrants must be over 18-years of age and residents of Canada.
  • Contest closes by midnight, December 6, 2018. All entries must be received by then.

You also may enjoy reading:

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

Secrets of royal teatime

About the Author:

I’m a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust. Whether it’s luggage, time or just life, I cram as much as possible into small compartments. Warning: Contents may shift during flight. My life is one bumpy ride! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.


  1. Thia B 29.11.2018 at 10:51 - Reply

    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

  2. Carol-Ann Woods 29.11.2018 at 12:44 - Reply

    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.

  3. Julie 29.11.2018 at 15:30 - Reply

    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!!

  4. julie 29.11.2018 at 15:42 - Reply

    i just commented on your latest instagram post under juliemwb !!

  5. Crystal Finlay 29.11.2018 at 18:18 - Reply

    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

  6. ML 29.11.2018 at 23:23 - Reply

    Cutting down our own Christmas tree! Best tradition we have each year! 🎄

  7. ML 29.11.2018 at 23:27 - Reply

    Cutting down our own Christmas tree each year! 🎄
    Nutcracker – Zoolights – Heritage Park
    We want to do them all this year.

  8. Amy Care 30.11.2018 at 12:29 - Reply

    Hi Jody, would love to go to Zoolighths! We haven’t been in years!

  9. Natasha 30.11.2018 at 14:06 - Reply

    When mulled wine and Christmas lights come out, I know it’s Christmas!

    • Jody 30.11.2018 at 17:22 - Reply

      I need to find a good mulled wine spot in Calgary. Got any recs?

  10. Melinda 01.12.2018 at 09:02 - Reply

    I would love to go the Zoolights! I follow and commented on instagram. @jollygirl555

  11. Connie Wong 01.12.2018 at 09:05 - Reply

    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.

  12. NormaJane @njnowski 01.12.2018 at 09:10 - Reply

    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.

  13. Jessie 01.12.2018 at 10:19 - Reply

    We like strolling around the neighborhood looking at all the decorated houses. So festive. Zoolights would be awesome. Never been. #JodyRobbins #Zoolights #Christmas #ThankYou

  14. Jennifer 01.12.2018 at 10:29 - Reply

    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.

  15. LCruz 01.12.2018 at 10:42 - Reply

    Decorating the Christmas tree with the kids is fun. We kove to see the Zoolights.

  16. Gemma 01.12.2018 at 10:50 - Reply

    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.

  17. Kim 01.12.2018 at 11:04 - Reply

    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.

  18. Sharon Targett 01.12.2018 at 14:56 - Reply

    I love to blast Christmas music while I decorate!

  19. Marlaine 01.12.2018 at 15:34 - Reply

    For me it’s getting my kids picture taken with the big guy. I’m ready for the holidays to start now

  20. Jill 01.12.2018 at 16:05 - Reply

    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 🤞🏻🤞🏻

  21. Jess 01.12.2018 at 16:52 - Reply

    I love listening to Christmas music while drinking some hot chocolate by the fireplace and I would love the passes for Zoolights!

  22. Fareen R 02.12.2018 at 07:47 - Reply

    Fresh snow and hot chocolate get me in the mood! Would love to go to zoo lights!

  23. Shawna 02.12.2018 at 08:54 - Reply

    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.

  24. Cara Thomas 02.12.2018 at 11:29 - Reply

    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!

  25. David Pyle 02.12.2018 at 16:13 - Reply

    Watching Christmas movies and making gingerbread houses gets me in the Christmas spirit. Would live Zoolights tickets!

  26. Angela 02.12.2018 at 16:39 - Reply

    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!!

  27. Amy C 02.12.2018 at 17:49 - Reply

    Rum and eggnog, turkey hat and decorating the tree!

  28. Lisa Rutherford 02.12.2018 at 19:47 - Reply

    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!

  29. Echo 03.12.2018 at 05:58 - Reply

    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

  30. Mathilde 03.12.2018 at 06:27 - Reply

    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!

  31. Nicole M 03.12.2018 at 09:05 - Reply

    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.

  32. Kathi 03.12.2018 at 16:16 - Reply

    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!

    • Kathi 03.12.2018 at 16:17 - Reply

      Zoolights would be awesome to win!

  33. andrea amy 03.12.2018 at 16:44 - Reply

    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!

  34. Iffat 03.12.2018 at 16:47 - Reply

    All of them my favorite places to go. But Heritage Park is my children’s top on the list. We just love history!

  35. Maggie 03.12.2018 at 21:49 - Reply

    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:)

    • Jody 04.12.2018 at 08:41 - Reply

      How fascinating. I am going to check that out. Thanks for the tip!

  36. Janice Tetreault 03.12.2018 at 22:33 - Reply

    Hi Jody,

    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

    • Jody 04.12.2018 at 19:26 - Reply

      I’m with you! Nothing begins in earnest until Dec. 1.

  37. Jennifer 04.12.2018 at 07:16 - Reply

    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!

  38. Lisha 04.12.2018 at 11:24 - Reply


  39. connie 04.12.2018 at 12:21 - Reply

    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!

  40. Karol-Ann 04.12.2018 at 20:18 - Reply

    Christmas music & mulled wine with friends!

    • Jody 05.12.2018 at 09:12 - Reply

      I wish I knew how to make mulled wine! I’ve tried and failed so many times.

  41. Tanya Ryshel 05.12.2018 at 05:45 - Reply

    Watching Christmas movies and baking Christmas cookies

  42. Farrah Pablo 05.12.2018 at 21:10 - Reply

    Finally decorating a Christmas tree with my kids and cuddling with them on the couch while having Christmas movie nights with them.

  43. Farrah 05.12.2018 at 21:17 - Reply

    Finally decorated the tree with my kids and cuddling them on the couch while having Christmas movie night.

  44. Elizabeth M 06.12.2018 at 19:47 - Reply

    Listening to Christmas music and putting up our tree while drinking egg nog.

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