Although the financial ‘holiday hangover’ can leave you dreading your bank statement this time of year, it doesn’t mean your family has to be stuck at home for the rest of winter! From free meals to low-cost movies and much more, Calgary has many budget- friendly activities for children that will keep your family entertained and your bank account intact.
1. Recreation Centres. Local recreation centres offer hours of fun with everything from swimming, climbing walls, skating, obstacle courses, and gymnasium time. Although admission can be pricey, many leisure centres offer discounts on certain days or times.
For a complete list of The City’s best deals, visit calgary.ca/free.
2. +15 Art Circuit. If you are looking for a unique excursion, a self-guided art tour through Calgary’s skyway network introduces your family to 14 pieces from the Civic Art Collection. Easily accessible through the +15 system, this free tour is primarily indoors with just a few quick trips outside.
Your kids will get a chance to check out interesting artworks including bears, a family of horses, a beaver, mermaids, gargoyles, and even a Space Flower. For a detailed PDF including descriptions of the artworks and a map, visit calgary.ca and search for ‘Art Circuit Tour.’ (Be sure to check out the Mar/Apr 2020 edition of Calgary’s Child for my full review of the skyway art walk!)
3. Winter geocaching. If a little snow doesn’t bother your family, there are a number of winter geocaching opportunities in our city. Remember to keep safety in mind by dressing in layers, bringing spare batteries for your GPS, and don’t forget to bring a small shovel and pencil.
For a detailed list of rules and locations, visit calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Locations/Geocaching-in-parks.aspx.
4. Family Sundays at Century Sports. If your kids are into sports, Century Sports has the best deals. Mini golf is only $4 a round on Sundays and after 4pm, you can play glow mini golf. Fore!
5. Glenbow Museum. The Glenbow hosts free admission on the first Thursday of every month from 5 to 9pm. The Discovery Room is the perfect place for your kiddos to explore their creativity and make cool stuff, including foam printmaking. They can transform the ordinary into extraordinary by using ready-made objects as the base for a thought-provoking artwork or follow the clues in the museum’s art scavenger hunt.
6. Cheap movie day. Going to the movies is probably one of the top requests you hear from your kids when you are looking for something to do on an otherwise ‘boring’ day but taking the whole family can rack up a bill over $50 (not including popcorn and candy!). Luckily, Cineplex hosts Family Favourite Movies on Saturday mornings at 11am with a family favorite movie each week for only $2.99. The featured movies change each month. Titles can be found on their website, cineplex.com, and search for ‘Family Favourites.’
7. Indoor play places. Looking to get the kids out of the house without having to bundle them up like tiny Michelin Men? The number of indoor play areas in Calgary has exploded in the past few years, and it isn’t hard to find something for children of all ages from tots to teens. The price of entry varies depending on the place, but many are affordable, costing as little as $3 per child for hours of indoor fun.
8. Dine out on the cheap. Many restaurants in Calgary offer free children’s meals on certain days of the week or with the purchase of an adult meal. A few of these restaurants include Denny’s, Montana’s, Swiss Chalet, East Side Mario’s, Applebees Grill and Bar, IHOP, and more.
If your palate is a bit more refined and you are looking for a high-end dining experience, at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel, kids aged five and younger eat free off the children’s menu every day, while kids aged six to 11 eat for half-price off the regular menu.
9. Calgary Public Library. With almost unlimited things for kids to do including play areas (called Early Learning Centres), toys, movies, music, computer games, books, and free organized activities, it’s hard to imagine a place better than your local library to spend a few hours on a cold day.
10. Devonian Gardens. If you are looking for somewhere to hang out downtown, Devonian Gardens is a great alternative to the typical mall. Bring back memories of summer in the urban oasis with one hectare of botanical gardens, including more than 500 trees, 50 varieties of plants, a 900-square-foot living wall, fountains, fishponds, and a playground to climb and explore.
Stacie is a freelance writer, photographer, and mother of a delightful daughter, five, and silly son, two.
Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2021 Calgary’s Child