It’s the most wonderful time of the year….until Boxing Day hits. You’ve decked the halls, eaten way too many cookies, now you really wish your sister-in-law and her noisy brood would go back home already. I don’t mean to be a Grinch, but cabin fever is a sad reality over the holidays. If I were to channel my inner Oprah, I’d say what I know for sure is that the festivities aren’t just around the tree. If you want to make spirits bright between Christmas and New Years, you need to shake things up. Get out of dodge, man! Resist the urge to hibernate and tackle one of these affordable activities in central and southern Alberta.
Things to do in Cypress Hills
Affordable accommodation and myriad of activities await outdoorsy types at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, in southeastern Alberta. Every awesome winter activity is supported here, from a snow luge to tobogganing, plus a purpose built-outdoor hockey rink. There are also fat bike, snowshoe, skating and cross country ski trails. If it were me visiting, I’d rent a kicksled and glide across the Prairie like the Scandinavians do. You can rent all the equipment you need or hole up inside Elk Water Lake Lodge.
Drumheller over the Christmas holidays
Who says you can’t explore the hoodoos in the snow? Winter camping is available all year round in Dinosaur Provincial Park. It’s super quiet at this time of year, but you’ll still be able to get the DL on dinos, as the Visitor Centre is open during weekdays. A few hours drive north, Royal Tyrrell Museum is also open. Stroll through over 200 million years of history, sussing out one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains. Stretch out your day in Drumheller by climbing to the to top of the Giant T-Rex or hitting up the waterslides at either the Ramada or Super 8.
Note: Royal Tyrrell Museum is open: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays and on Dec. 24, 25, and Jan. 1.
Red Deer holiday events
If you’ve never taken an real, legit sleigh ride, then you’ve never experienced how utterly rad snuggling up together like two birds of a feather can be. Heritage Ranch offers magical sleigh rides running every day between Christmas and New Years, and all winter long. You’ll dash through woods filled with 20,000 sparkling Christmas lights. Capping off the experience is a mug of hot chocolate around a bonfire afterwards.
Interested in trying out snowshoeing with your family? You’ll experience a true winter wonderland when tromping through Kerry Wood Nature Centre. This outdoor nature playground is open all year round and snowshoe rentals are only $2!
Anyone with kids knows how difficult it is to negotiate New Years. Instead of fighting to stay awake, take wee ones to Sylvan Lake on January 1 instead. Fireworks kick off at at 6 p.m. with a pizza dinner and family dance. Before thefestivities begin, you can skate on Sylvan Lake or try your luck at ice fishing.
Winter things to do in Canmore
This authentic mountain town reaps all the benefits of being on Banff’s doorstep, but few of the drawbacks heavily trafficked tourist towns experience. If you haven’t yet checked out Kananaskis Nordic Spa, this is the time! It’s less crowded if you visit mid-week, but if you book in for a massage, you’re guaranteed access to the outdoor spa no matter if there’s a waitlist. In the town of Canmore itself, glide across The Pond, a natural ice skating surface just off Main Street or hit up the Canmore Nordic Centre, where affordable cross country skiing and awesome toboggan hills await. More favourite spot for cocktails wine or appies is Crazyweed, but my neighbours (who are locals) recommend Trough and Graze on Main Street. The sweetest bookshop in the world is Cafe Books and they have a second hand bookshop in the same complex and serve up afternoon tea there.
Things to do in Lethbridge
Going to Lethbridge at this time of year is a recent development in my life. The shopper in me appreciates how their Winners and thrift shops aren’t picked over, allowing you to score some excellent finds. Hotels are easier on the wallet down here, and both the Best Western and the Holiday Inn have waterslides families can plunge into. Back in my day, the ultimate in cool, however, was bedding down at Lethbridge Lodge. Its tropical courtyard flanking the pool is a lush oasis that makes you forget about the chilly weather outside.
If you’re into watching live hockey, affordable WHL games are being played in both Medicine Hat and Lethbridge at the end of December and early January. And if you’ve got a history buff in your crew, check out the interactive exhibits focusing on the human history of southwestern Alberta at Galt Museum and Archives.
Do you manage to get out of the house between Christmas and New Years? What are your favourite activities to do then?