Written by Susan Pederson
Have you ever skated along an ice trail? Are you up for a nature challenge? Have you heard of Chinook Blast? These are just a few of the free and low-cost City of Calgary activities available to families through The City’s Winter City Strategy.
Our city boasts an abundance of winter activities built right into our landscape. Calgary.ca/lovewinter is full of free and inexpensive outdoor activities and events to keep your family busy throughout the winter months. Kids and adults need only to throw on a jacket, toque, mitts and grab a hockey stick, skates, sled, snowshoes, or skis - and they’re set! Winter walks are an easy go-to, as are toboggan runs down a powder-coated hill. Outdoor skating rinks are a community staple for a pick-up game with friends or to practice your ice dancing technique. And Calgary’s two skating trails allow for longer skates that put you right smack in the middle of nature.
When temperatures dip below the tolerance of even the bravest souls, The City also has many indoor opportunities that are free or low cost. From organized classes to drop-in activities, The City’s recreation facilities will keep your family moving, creating, and playing together all winter long.
Here are our top 10 free or low-cost ways for your family to explore winter in Calgary, whether knee-deep in snow or nestled inside doing an activity your family loves:
- Hit the ice! Skating is the perfect winter activity for all ages, either at an area or at one of Calgary’s many outdoor skating rinks. North Glenmore Park (7305 Crowchild Trail SW) and Bowness Park (8900, 48 Avenue NW) boast ice trails from mid-November to mid-March (weather dependent). You can even try a new way to skate this season at Bowness Park with an ice bike! (Picture a bicycle, where the front wheel has been replaced with skates and the back wheel is surrounded by skates.) Adult- and child-sized bikes are available to rent. Helmets strongly recommended. For more information, visit calgary.ca/lovewinter.
- Celebrate winter with Chinook Blast, Calgary’s winter festival. This annual festival is returning to heat up our city with several activities over four weeks, from February 4 to 27. The City is a partner in this winter festival celebrating community, culture, and civic pride. Kid- and family-friendly activities include the Glow Winter Light Festival, the Ethnik Festival, and weekend activities at Olympic Plaza, the hub for Chinook Blast. You can also find coordinated events hosted by community associations and other friends of Chinook Blast. Celebrate winter by checking out this festival that brings together partners from the arts, nonprofit, communities, tourism, and sports to showcase the best of our city. For more information, visit chinookblast.ca.
- Cozy up to an open fire. Drop in or book a wood-burning fire pit or bring your own propane fire pit to one of Calgary’s parks! Don’t forget to bring your own firewood and the marshmallows. New for 2022, you can enjoy alcoholic drinks at select fire pits. You can book City fire pits from 12 to 2pm, 4 to 6pm, and 7 to 9pm on weekdays and weekends. To book a fire pit, visit calgary.ca/parksfirepits.
- Explore nature in your own backyard. Complete activities in your backyard or a local park with our Winter Neighbourhood Nature Challenge card. Try to finish all the challenges by March 20, the last day of winter. To begin your nature challenge today, visit calgary.ca/lovewinter.
- Help your kids and teens stay active after school. There are free programs offered at various recreation facilities, community centres, and community-based partner agencies through Calgary AfterSchool. To find an AfterSchool program near you, visit calgary.ca/afterschool.
- Drop in at your local playground or check out one of the nine new Calgary inclusive playgrounds! Visit calgary.ca/inclusiveplay for locations and features. Or let the kids rediscover play at one of our unstructured drop-in programs at Mobile Adventure Playgrounds. Onsite play ambassadors will be on site to inspire play. For dates and locations of the Mobile Adventure Playgrounds, visit calgary.ca/free.
- Slide and glide. Grab a sled and head to a local toboggan hill. Many parks and greenspaces offer safe and exciting hills. If sliding is not your thing, gliding along on cross-country skis is an invigorating way to enjoy a great workout while drinking in our beautiful scenery. There are many groomed and ungroomed areas to explore in and around town. Snowshoeing is another option for those who want to explore the snow-covered parks in their community. Where can you slide and glide in town? Visit calgary.ca/lovewinter.
- Get sporty at a leisure centre. Swimming is a year-round way for your family to have fun. Leisure centres also feature drop-in basketball, badminton, and open gym times at Southland Leisure Centre or Village Square Leisure Centre. To plan your family’s physical activity this winter, visit calgary.ca/leisurecentres or calgary.ca/liveandplay.
- Chill out at home. Discover a variety of self-guided activities for all ages to stay active, create art, try an interactive game, or learn something new. For creative inspiration, visit calgary.ca/athome.
- Celebrate chocolate! Help decide who will win the coveted title of “Calgary’s Best Hot Chocolate.” Throughout the month of February, participating cafés and restaurants will feature signature hot chocolate drinks during Calgary’s Hot Chocolate Festival. Proceeds from each drink will benefit Calgary Meals on Wheels. To plan out your delicious hot chocolate tour, visit yychotchocolate.com.
Calgary may not have invented winter, but we have invented hundreds of ways to enjoy this special season, many of which are unique to Calgary and our beautiful landscape. The City provides opportunities that are open to everyone. As a reminder, COVID-19 protocols, including face coverings and physical distancing, remain in place at all City of Calgary facilities.
For more ideas on fun outdoor things to do all winter, follow The City on Facebook and Twitter @cityofcalgary or visit calgary.ca/lovewinter.
Susan is a writer, poet, spoken word artist, and mom to two active girls who wish every month had a hot chocolate festival.