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15 Free (or Really Cheap!) Things to Do This Winter in Calgary

Published Jan 17, 2020 | Updated Feb 19, 2020

Get loaded with an armful of ideas for free (or really cheap) things to do in the remaining winter months in Calgary. Here are 15 ideas to keep your families happy and active!

Don't let Calgary winters stop you and your family from getting out and about! I know this time of year can be a bit tough: cold weather, trying to spend less (Christmas can be a doozy), and usually trying to stick to some sort of resolution.

Well here are 15 ideas that combat EVERY SINGLE ONE of those points! Make this winter special, embrace the winter months, and rediscover all of the great things Calgary has to offer.

15 Inexpensive Things to Do This Winter in Calgary (With Kids!)

1. Go ice skating in the great outdoors. There are plenty of outdoor skating rinks around Calgary, many of which the City of Calgary maintains. Why not try a rink you've never been to before? Some suggestions are Big Marlborough Park, Bowness Park Lagoon, Carburn Park, and Prairie Winds Park. (Note that not all rinks have skate rentals, so make sure to bring your own.)

2. Tobogganing! A great way to embrace the snow. Make sure your kids are dressed warm and strap on their helmets before they head to the slopes. Some of the best hills are 

  • Royal Oak (50 Royal Birkdale Dr. NW) – there are various hills that range in size so there is something for everyone
  • Prairie Winds Park (223 Castleridge Dr. NE) – has a tall and steep hill (the mother of all tobogganing hills!) but also some small ones to the side for the younger ones
  • Big Marlborough Park Dry Pone (6021 Madigan Dr. NE) – a great day adventure! The hill ends on a flooded lagoon where you can skate as well
  • Signal Hill (Sirocco Dr. and Signal Hill Hts. SW) – this one made the top 5 list in the Calgary Sun survey, definitely worth checking out!
  • McKenzie Towne (McKenzie Towne Dr. SE) – also known as Elgin Hill, this has a beautiful panoramic view of McKenzie Towne!

3. Take a trip out to Banff National Park for the SnowDays FestivalHappening for almost two weeks (January 15 to 26, 2020), the SnowDays festival has tons of free events that combine history, culture, and cutting edge winter action. For the kids there are tons of activities from wagon rides, to ice skating, and much more. There are also crackling fires and hot springs to warm yourselves back up. 

Photo Credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

4. Watch a family favourite movie at a Cineplex Theatre on Saturday mornings at 11am for only $2.99. A portion of the proceeds goes to Free The Children. A fun and affordable way to enjoy the weekend with the fam! For a list of movies playing, click here.

5. Visit the Leighton Art CentreLocated about 45 minutes away from Calgary, you may not have heard of this little gem. Admission to this art gallery and museum is "pay-what-you-can" and you can escape the hustle and bustle of Calgary. The centre is now a heritage home and museum as well as a gallery for local artists and artisans. While you're in the area, drive a little further to local hot-spot Chuckwagon Cafe, featured on You Gotta Eat Here, to make a little day of it!

6. Watch an indoor tournament at Spruce Meadows. These are free during the winter months, so it's a good time to check it out, wander the barns, and enjoy a hot chocolate in the stands. You can also bring your skates and head out to the pond!

7. Taste and vote for the best hot chocolate in all of Calgary during YYC Hot Chocolate Fest. What kid wouldn't love personally testing all the different hot chocolates? For the month of February, there will be coffee shops, restaurants, chocolatiers, and hotels creating delicious and unique hot chocolates to support Calgary Meals on Wheels. Yum!

8. Visit the Devonian GardensStep out of the cold and into a garden of tropical plants, water fountains, tree-decked plazas, and ponds teaming with fish. There is also a "living wall" within the Gardens—a favourite spot for photos. Children can enjoy the indoor playground or take part in various drop-in programs.

9. Go to 50% off evenings at TreeHouse indoor playgroundDid you know admission is half price after 7 p.m.? This is one of Calgary's largest indoor play centres with two locations, huge play structures, bounce houses, a mini arcade, concession, and parent-and-tot lounge.

10. Check out the Schedule of Events for Calgary Public Libraries. There are often great activities for kids at the local libraries, from story times, arts and crafts, to games and guest speakers. And best of all, they're all free!

11. Build a totally awesome igloo. Fill empty milk and juice cartons with water dyed from your kids' favourite colours. Leave overnight to freeze, and then use them the next day to build an amazing colourful igloo or fort. Bring some lights in there at nighttime, and your igloo will glow! I don't know if this will be more fun for the kids or adults . . .

12. Plan a hot dog and marshmallow roast in the park. Fish Creek Park and Bowness are open throughout the winter and are great for taking the family for a walk while spotting the wildlife. Pack a small picnic so you can warm up by the fire with hot dogs and s'mores. 

13. Celebrate Chinese New Year with over 20,000 others. Over two weekends in January there will be a festival at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre filled with festival music, lion dancing, food, games, and an indoor bazaar to celebrate the Year of the Rat. Not to be missed! January 18 to19 and January 26 to 26.

14. Visit the Youthlink Calgary Police Interpretive CentreIf you’re looking for a fun, free place to visit in Calgary, then make sure to visit the Calgary Police Interpretive Centre! Admission is free on Saturdays and Sundays, so you can explore over 50 immersive exhibits, incredible stories of history, true crime displays and family-friendly activities.

15. Take your kids on a geocaching adventure. Geocaching is becoming more and more popular and is tons of fun for families! People place hidden surprises (small gifts, notes, etc.) in areas like parks and trails for someone else to come along and find. You can see where these are buried by visiting Geocaching.com, or by downloading a geocaching app onto your smartphone (this is ideal so that you can bring the map along). Make sure your kids bring along something fun to leave behind, so someone else can come along and find their treasure!

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