Home Destinations 2019 Holiday Fun in Calgary & area

2019 Holiday Fun in Calgary & area

by Karen Ung

From cross country skiing through Christmas light displays to theatre productions, Calgary has Christmas fun for all ages and budgets. Here are some ideas for holiday fun in Calgary. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do and wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Get in the holiday spirit with Christmas fun in Calgary!

Outdoor Holiday Fun in Calgary

Calgary Zoolights ( 210 St. George’s Drive NE, Calgary)

With Calgary’s largest Christmas light display (1.5 million lights!) and fun activities, the Calgary Zoo’s Zoolights is a family favorite. Enjoy the light displays, warm up at Kitamba Cafe or an outdoor fire pit, ice skate at the West Lawn, and check out “Warthogs School of Magic” and “Dragon Alley.” We are loving the Harry Potter theme in the Conservatory this year! Kids can get Santa photos and do a craft there from 6 pm – 8:30 pm. While you’re there, don’t miss Lover’s Lane in Panda Park (lights choreographed to music) and the Bison Display near the Savannah Building (sound-activated lights)! For more details and the complete schedule (activities vary by date), visit Calgary Zoo – Zoolights.

Dates: November 22, 2019 – January 4, 2020 (except Christmas Day) from 6 pm – 9 pm

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Heritage Park’s Once Upon a Christmas ( 1900 Heritage Dr SW, Calgary)

Once Upon a Christmas at Heritage Park is a magical experience for kids of all ages. Where else can you enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas in a historical village? Begin your trip back in time at Gasoline Alley Museum. The lower level is home to Storybook Christmas activities where kids can listen to stories, play games, and do crafts with the Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph and Mrs. Claus.

Next, look for Santa at the Famous 5 Centre of Canadian Women and explore the historical village. Several buildings are open – including the Sandstone House for the first time ever – so you can see how Christmas was celebrated in the early 1900’s. Some must-do activities include watching a holiday musical at the Canmore Opera House, listening to the handbell choir or carolers, and taking a wagon ride through the village (it’s the best way to see the village!). Kids will also enjoy the hot chocolate bar, getting a treat at the Bakery, and shopping at the ‘Kids Only’ store. For more information, visit Heritage Park – Once Upon a Christmas.

Dates: Saturdays & Sundays, November 23 – December 22, 2019, 9:30 am to 4:00 p.m.

Lions’ Festival of Lights (Confederation Park 14 St & 24 Ave NW, Calgary)

Calgary’s biggest drive-by display of Christmas lights (500,000 lightbulbs!) is Lions’ Festival of Lights along 14 St NW, north of 24 Ave). While it is possible to see most of the displays from your car, it’s far more fun walking through them. Park on side streets off of 24 Ave NW, or park at the Confederation Park Golf Course and cross country ski to the lights. Read more at Lions’ Festival of Lights.

On November 30, 2019 at 5:00 pm, join in the Grand Opening festivities. There will be hot chocolate and cookies, carolers, ice sculptures and fireworks. Admission is free with a donation for the Calgary Food Bank. Note that food bank donations will only be collected on November 30th.

Regular hours: November 30, 2019 – January 8, 2020 6 pm – midnight.

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CP Holiday Train (various locations across Canada)

CP Holiday Train
Support the CP Holiday Train’s Food Bank Drive and watch a free concert! | Image credit: CP Holiday Train

The CP Holiday Train travels across Canada each year raising funds and collecting donations for North American food banks. Come support this great cause (food and monetary donations requested) and enjoy a free musical performance! 14 rail cars decorated with Christmas lights stop for about 30-45 minutes at each location. On December 8, 2019 catch Scott Helman and Madeline Merlo’s performance in south Calgary . See the full schedule at CP Rail Holiday Train – Canada.

Location (Calgary): Anderson C-Train Station – South C-train parking lot

Date: December 8, 2019; 5:45 – 6:30 pm

Christmas Lights and Skating at Spruce Meadows

Christmas lights at Spruce Meadows
The Christmas Lights at Spruce Meadows are spectacular. | Image credit: Spruce Meadows Media

With a quarter million lights and beautiful pond to skate on, Spruce Meadows is a winter wonderland. Enjoy a pastry and warm beverage in the Founders Plaza each evening from 5pm – 8pm starting December 9th (excluding December 25), then drive the 2-km Christmas Lights driving route.

Depending on the weather, you can also ice skate at Spruce Meadows (the pond is typically ready around Christmas) from 9 am – 10 pm. For more information on skating at Spruce Meadows, read this story: Calgary’s Best Outdoor Skating Rinks.

Dates: December 8, 2019 – January 5, 2020 (except Christmas Day); 5 pm – 10 pm.

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Outdoor Holiday Fun Near Calgary

Airdrie Festival of Lights (Nose Creek Park, Airdrie)

Get your glow on at Airdrie Festival of Lights! For the month of December, Nose Creek Park is lit up with over 800 gorgeous light displays nightly. Western Canada’s Largest outdoor walk-through Christmas Light Display also boasts Santa visits (see calendar of events for dates), miniature train rides ($2/ride), carolers, bonfires, skating, and cocoa or apple cider ($2/cup). Donations are requested to keep this awesome annual tradition going.

Dates: December 1-31, 2019 6 pm – 9 pm

Special events include The Great Airdrie Train Race on December 19 and the New Year’s Eve Dance Party on December 31st from 7 pm to 9 pm. For more information, visit airdrielights.com.

The Polar Express at Aspen Crossing (Mossleigh, AB)

aspen crossing polar express train
The Polar Express at Aspen Crossing is bucketlist-worthy. | Image credit: Kyle Bullock, The Bullock Life

Journey to the North Pole on The Polar Express! The magical one-hour train ride includes a golden train ticket, hot chocolate in a ceramic Polar Express mug, yummy cookie, and entertainment. Expect a reading of The Polar Express™ book (perfect if you haven’t read it or watched the movie), carolers, and visits from story characters. At the North Pole, each child will receive a silver bell from Santa Claus, just like in the movie. “Families are encouraged to wear their pyjamas for the ride and join in on the magic of Christmas!”

To book your train ride or get more information, visit Aspen Crossing – The Polar Express.


Holiday Performances in Calgary

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – Alberta Theatre Projects

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is a delightful, fun-for-all-ages show put on by Alberta Theatre Projects. Follow Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan to Narnia where they get caught up in a battle between good and evil. With help from the cheeky Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, magical creatures, and Aslan the Lion, the children help overthrow the White Witch and save Mr. Tumnus, the faun. Kids will be inspired by the young actors, thrilled by Aslan and the White Witch, and made to laugh out loud by the beavers and sassy Santa. If you are seated near the stage, you’ll get the added excitement of actors passing back and forth. We loved it!

This wonderful adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe will be performed at Martha Cohen Theatre from November 29 – December 29, 2019. Purchase tickets from Alberta Theatre Projects.

The Nutcracker – Alberta Ballet

The Nutcracker is one of the North America’s most well-known and loved ballets – for good reason! With a magical story and beautiful score, you will fall in love with the ballet whether it’s your first time attending or 20th. On the night before Christmas, Clara dreams about a Nutcracker (an early Christmas gift)-turned-prince, Mouse King, and Kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy. If you aren’t familiar with the story, we recommend reading it before going to the ballet (especially if you have young children so they won’t keep asking you what’s going on, but kids will still enjoy the dancing, elaborate costumes, and music). Recommended for age 5 & up.

Recognizing that The Nutcracker is a family affair, The Alberta Ballet offers several fun activities for kids including celebrity story time (Mayor Nenshi read to the kids when were there!), crafts, dress-up, and the chance to meet some of the talented dancers!

The Nutcracker will be performed in Calgary from December 13-15 & 20-24. Get tickets from The Alberta Ballet.

A Christmas Carol – Theatre Calgary

A Christmas Carol - Theatre Calgary - Image Credit Trudie Lee
Stephen Hair as Ebenezer Scrooge and the cast of ‘A Christmas Carol’ | Image credit: Trudie Lee

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a timeless Christmas classic. In Theatre Calgary’s rendition, visit Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmases past, present, and future to understand the true meaning of Christmas and what is truly important.

A Christmas Carol will be performed from November 28-December 28. Get tickets from Theatre Calgary.

Junior Claus: The Musical – StoryBook Theatre

Junior Claus is the tale of how Santa’s reluctant successor saves Christmas. When Christmas spirit drops to an all-time low, Santa’s teenage son must take the reins and overcome a bad elf’s schemes. Fortunately, a good elf, penguin, and other characters help him realize the true meaning of Christmas so he can share it with the world. Recommended for age 3 & up.

This Storybook Theatre production will be performed at Vertigo Studio Theatre from November 29 to December 22. Get tickets here.

Holiday Season Performances – Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

This Christmas season, enjoy Christmas favorites performed by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra:

  • The CPO is visiting every quadrant of the city for their Sounds of the Season Concerts,
  • Don’t miss Handel’s Messiah at the Jack Singer Concert Hall
  • Holiday Pops with Rune + Jens features world-renowned trumpeter Jens Lindemann
  • An Evening with Paul Brandt, and Paul Brandt’s Country Christmas are two great opportunities to hear Alberta’s own Paul Brandt with the CPO.

For more information, visit Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

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