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

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.

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

Secrets of royal teatime