PCA 2020

DIY Day Camps for Active Kids

School’s out, the kids are already bored or attached to their electronic devices 24/7, and you’re suddenly regretting that decision not to enroll the kids in multiple weeks at day camp (at some point, you thought one week in August would be enough!). Here are my top suggestions for things to do with the kids this summer, your own DIY camp, as you seek to entertain the troops until school starts back up again. The best part? You won’t have to spend a lot on most of these activities or outings beyond basic transportation and the occasional ice cream cone or treat.

1. Tour de Calgary (explore the city on bikes). My family loves biking the paved Bow River Pathway from Shouldice Park in the northwest to the city centre. Highlights along the way include the playground at Shouldice Park, playgrounds and ice cream at Edworthy Park, the playground at Prince’s Island Park, the wading pool at Eau Claire Market (where you’ll find more ice cream and coffee for parents to refuel), the playground at East Village, and finally the playground at St. Patrick’s Island. This Tour de Calgary is a full day and the kids will have a blast (invite friends to make the playgrounds more fun!).

For a ‘week on bikes’ I also recommend checking out the trails in Fish Creek Provincial Park, exploring the paved trails along the Elbow River Pathway, biking the Bowness/Baker Park Loop in the northwest (spending time at the Bowness Park wading pool), or riding around the Glenmore Reservoir between North and South Glenmore Parks (where you’ll find a spray park).

Road trip option. Drive out to Canmore for the day and bike the gravel pathways along the river (my family always starts at the town skatepark where there is a large parking lot). Bike from the skatepark along the river to the West Canmore playground, spend some time at the bike park and pump track in Millennium Park, and visit the school bus on main street for ice cream. For a map, visit canmore.ca/recreation-facility/trails and download the map for Bow Valley West. Park at the Recreation Centre marked on the map and bike the Bow River Loop Trail. Millennium Park is marked on the map (and the West Canmore Playground is on the other side of the river where you’ll see bathrooms marked on the map). From the playground, you can also continue on the Three Sisters Pathway to an old mine site.

2. Playground-hopping and park-touring. For this adventure, I recommend visiting the Calgary Playground Review website, calgaryplaygroundreview.com, and then create a list of playgrounds your kids want to visit this summer, and then try to visit a handful of your chosen playgrounds in July and August.

My family likes visiting playgrounds we can connect to by bike, but sometimes we’ll choose a few we can drive to in the same area of the city and then head out for a day of playground-hopping. This is a great adventure for bringing friends along (and I recommend packing a picnic-style lunch).

A few of my family’s favorite playground-hopping itineraries:

  • Downtown tour. Prince’s Island Park, East Village, St. Patrick’s Island along with the wading pool at Eau Claire Market. You can bike, scoot, or rollerblade between locations.

  • Airdrie road trip. Chinook Winds Park (with a skatepark, playground, and spray park) and Carrington Playground in north Calgary on the way home (with a great zipline).

  • South Calgary tour. Elboya Playground and Curry Barracks airplane playground are two of my family’s favorites in the south and it’s a short drive between the playgrounds.

  • Prairie Winds Park. You can spend the whole day at this popular park in the northeast. You’ll find two playgrounds, a large wading pool, and a spray park.

  • Bowness Park. This is my family’s favorite park in northwest Calgary. You’ll find a playground, wading pool, paved pathway loop for bikes, scooters, or rollerblades, paddle boats for rent, and a cute train that tours the park (extra cost for boats and train ride).

3. Multi-sport camp week (five days, five sports). Get the kids involved in choosing five sports they’d like to try, pick a week, and see if you can get another family or two involved. (You could even take turns with the leadership and driving.)

Suggestions:

  • Swimming. Find an outdoor pool and spend a few hours cooling off on a hot day. There’s also a beach at Sikome Lake in Fish Creek Provincial Park (entrance fees required). And for a road-trip suggestion, consider driving out to Canmore to spend the day at Quarry Lake where there’s a great beach. The lake is free to access.
  • Disc golf. Visit the disc golf course in Royal Oak or try out the course in Baker Park (both in northwest Calgary). All you’ll need is a frisbee for each person playing and the rules are the same as basic golf: Start at the tee-off area, throw your disc down the fairway, and aim for the basket on each hole. For more information, visit drmdiscgolf.ca.

  • Geocaching. Take a walk and search for treasure at the same time! Download the geocaching app on your phone (there are free versions) and then search for caches in your favorite park. Basic rule of thumb: If you want to take a treasure from the cache, you must leave a treasure (so bring those Happy Meal toys with you to trade). For more information, visit geocaching.com/play.

4. Mountain biking. Visit the Fish Creek bike park and try out the beginner pump track before moving on to the larger pump track or the flow course with small jumps and rollers. From here, you can hop on the paved pathway and ride over to the Bow Valley Ranche for ice cream at Annie’s Café. There’s also a fabulous bike park in Chestermere with larger jumps that older kids will enjoy. Both bike parks are free to use. Find the Fish Creek bike park on Trail Forks here, trailforks.com/skillpark/fish-creek-mountain-bike-skills-park.

5. Hiking or trail running. Visit your favorite natural area in the city and go for a hike or a trail run if the kids have lots of energy. Favorite spots for my family include Nose Hill Park, Twelve Mile Coulee in the northwest community of Tuscany, Fish Creek Provincial Park in the south, the Weaselhead natural area between North and South Glenmore Parks, or Griffith Woods in the southwest.

Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.

 

 

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