10 Best Winter Activities to Do in Calgary
Here is our city guide on 10 best things and activities to do in Calgary during winter. Looking for tips on how to enjoy a fun time in the middle of winter in Canada? Here they are.
After we spent one winter in Calgary, Canada, we must admit that it was an unforgettable experience.
Yes, we knew it would be cold, but probably did not take it that seriously until the real winter arrived. We could live with temperatures below Zero for a while (even though the windchill close to -40°C was maybe little to much), but our winter in Calgary was also incredibly long (and when we even heard Canadians complaining, we sometimes felt sorry for ourselves).
First snow arrived at the beginning of October, and it snowed till mid-April. During this period we had seen an uncountable number of periodically repeating routine: snowing, melting, slushy walkways, icy walkways, our several backslides, and it could start over again. On the other hand, it was the real white winter we've never had before in the city, and it had its magic.
Check out what winter activities you can enjoy while visiting Calgary in winter.
#1 Go Ice Skating
When the winter arrives, and the temperature falls below freezing point, it's time to dust off your skates and hit the ice rink. Where else you’ll have at least comparable winter conditions in the city than here in Calgary. Outdoor skating rinks are weather dependent and usually open mid-November to mid-March. It gives you plenty of time to take courage and practice if you're not familiar with this activity.
You can skate in downtown on city-run Olympic Plaza, this is the only refrigerated outdoor ice surface in Calgary or try nature ice skating on Bow River, two easily accessible spots are Prince’s Island Lagoon near downtown or Bowness Park in North West.
Our Tip: With a rental place on site (for as little as C$10), Bowness Park offers largest outside ice skating area and one of the best opportunities for ice skating in the city on the frozen river.
With a coffee shop and fire pits around the place, you may stay even after dusk.
# 2 Go Flames Go
In Canada, ice hockey is undoubtedly the sport number one.
The best professional hockey league on the planet NHL can be seen in the city, as Calgary is a home base for Flames team since 1980. The game itself is all about the show and gives you the opportunity to see the best players in the world.
Games take place in older Saddledome arena, Calgary's characteristical building with a saddle-like roof which determines the panoramic view of downtown. Stretch your legs before the opening face-off and climb on the rim above Enmax park, on a bright day you'll be rewarded with the view of the Rockies.
Our Tip: Save yourself a few bucks and don't buy tickets a long time in advance.
The first time we went to the game we purchased them a few months in advance just to find out that price significantly dropped a few days before the game. If you want to see the most popular games such as Calgary vs. Edmonton also known as the Battle of Alberta or any other Canadian team is in the city, it's wise to secure your seats earlier, but be prepared to pay several times more.
# 3 Walk 15 Feet Above Ground
Get lost in +15 Calgary's skywalk maze, one of the world’s most extensive elevated systems connecting buildings.
You can cross downtown area almost without setting your feet on the ground. Name of the walk above streets refers to the fact it is approximately 15 feet higher than ground level. The total length of the skywalk is around 18 km, so there is plenty to explore. Possibility to walk in Calgary's city center without suffering severe weather conditions, especially in the winter, when it's too cold, makes from this unique skywalk system a great option.
Our Tip: Don’t look at a map, wander around and be surprised where the corridors take you.
# 4 Watching The Sunset From McHugh Bluff
Calgary is one of the sunniest of Canada's 100 largest cities, and even though it’s chilly outside, your chances are high to walk around under clear sky and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Take a stroll across Prince’s Island uphill to McHugh Bluff from where you can admire beautiful urban panorama. It’s definitely worth the wait to see the sunset from here and watch burning sun reflection on modern skyscrapers.
After dusk, it’s nice to return to the river and walk across the lit Peace Bridge back to the downtown area.
Our Tip: It's also worthwhile mentioning to get up early to watch the sunrise from here.
You can be almost sure you'll have this place just for yourself. When temperatures drop below -30°C we guarantee you that you won't meet a single soul.
Well, maybe just us.
# 5 Fishcreek Provincial Park
Fishcreek Provincial Park is a wilderness within the large city, and a proof, that men, and nature can coexist together.
The serenity of this place makes you forget your daily life problems. Park stretches in the southern part of Calgary and is easily accessible by car or public transport.
There's a big chance to spot some of the Canadian wildlife like deer, coyotes, birds or beavers and the park features 80 km of trails and offers many activities such as hiking, biking, walking, swimming, fishing or camping in the summer, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Our Tip: A great place to visit all year round but winter brings almost magical atmosphere.
Snow covered plains, and frozen creeks want you to immerse in the tranquility of this place and explore it.
Check the thickness of the ice before stepping on it first, or you will end up waist-deep in the freezing water when the outside temperature is hitting -15°C, right Martin?
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# 6 Visit Calgary Tower
You can't be in Calgary without visiting the Calgary Tower.
Gone are days when this architectonical landmark was towering above the city because meanwhile, Calgary grew a lot. It spread out in all directions, so today it is the classical North American city with many suburbs, but also buildings in the city center grew higher and higher, so today, Calgary Tower is by no means the highest building in the city.
But despite this fact, it is still worth visiting as you can see plains stretching to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, skyscrapers on the other side, busy streets of Calgary below - people, cars and trains, and overall, it will give you a better idea of the places where you are.
Our Tip: Do not forget to step on the glass floor and look down.
For a while, it is terrifying, but once the feeling gets over, you will for sure enjoy it.
# 7 Enjoy Shopping
Wintertime in Calgary is best for catching up on shopping. When the summer finally arrived, we wanted to spend as much time outside as possible and do activities we couldn't do throughout the winter, that's why the time approximately from October to March is great for shopping, because sometimes it is so snowy and so cold that you won't regret not being outside at all. This time of the year is also convenient for Christmas shopping and discounts at the beginning of January.
You'll find everything you need in Calgary for good prices: we equipped ourselves with new camping gear, outdoor clothes and bought some extra lenses for the camera.
Our Tip: One of the biggest and most sought shopping centers is Heritage Mall easily accessible by both car and public transport. You can find it in the southern part of the city when driving from the city center.
When using public transport take a train (red line) to the Heritage Station and from there the shopping mall is within walking distance.
# 8 Go Skiing
The Canadian Rockies belong among the most beautiful places in the world and are heavily-visited during the summer when the weather is perfect for all kind of outdoor adventures. When the winter comes, and hiking or biking trails are not accessible and the scenery changes dramatically, Calgary can serve as a perfect gateway to anyone who loves skiing or snowboarding.
When you decide to go skiing, only three hours drive from Calgary lies the famous Lake Louise (a destination popular during summer and winter almost equally), a ski resort where you can enjoy great skiing with perfect views. It is also a place where every year the best skiers from all around the world compete in Alpine skiing. According to many, this is the best place where to go, but it has also the highest prices.
When in Lake Louise, you can stay in the iconic hotel on the bank of the lake, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Our Tip: You can still visit the Canadian Rockies and go skiing without breaking a bank as there are other more budget-friendly places to go. One of them is the family-friendly Nakiska Mountain Resort only 45 minutes drive from Calgary.
# 9 Visit Museums
There are quite a few museums in Calgary and in the near surroundings.
It is a great way how to enjoy the city in the winter, and learn more about the history, science or Canadian music. We've done quite a lot, and although visiting museums in Canada doesn't come cheap, we enjoyed our time spent there as we were grateful for every activity we could do when the city was under snow.
Among our favorite museums belong Glenbow Museum, TELUS Spark and Studio Bell - all of them are near the city center.
Our Tip: You don't need to be a huge fan of dinosaurs to enjoy a visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller.
Drumheller is a small city located 135 kilometers northeast from Calgary, and the museum contains one of the world's largest collections of fossils. You can arrive in Drumheller for only one day, but you can also stay overnight and enjoy a drive along the canyons the day after.
You can check hotels availability here.
# 10 See where the Winter Olympics Games in 1988 Took Place
In 1988, Calgary was hosting the Winter Olympics Games, and since then visitors of the city can enjoy the areal in every time of the year, but going there in the winter seemed somehow more appropriate to us. Apart from only having a look around, you can spend here a very active day.
Also many activities such as tubing, bobsleigh, luge or skating are available.
Our Tip: If you'll have enough of being outside, why don't you visit a nearby Canada's Sports Hall of Fame?
# Extra tip: Shovel The Snow
Looking for a serious physical winter activity, but running seems too dangerous, and you don't want to be inside the gym? Well, we might have an idea. Although those who must deal with tons of snow every year won't find it amusing, we think that snow shoveling is a great winter activity, plus your driveway will look nice and tidy (at least until the next snow storm).
Our Tip: Do you need extra cash?
We bet that many people in Calgary in winter actually look for someone who will help them shovel the snow.
WHAT TO PACK FOR CALGARY IN WINTER
Our essential Canada winter packing list helps you prepare for extreme Canadian temperatures.
WHERE TO STAY IN CALGARY
Calgary is a considerably large city, and you should not have a problem to find here accommodation during winter as it is low season in the city. What hotels can we recommend you while in Calgary?
BUDGET: Aloft Calgary University - Modern and clean hotel close to Calgary's university is the right place for you if you like design hotels with great service.
MID-RANGE: Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel - Short walk to the international airport, stylishly designed rooms, and comfy beds with the cityscape overlook.
LUXURY: Hotel Le Germain Calgary - Newly renovated hotel in the city center, just across the street from the Calgary Tower is definitely one of the best picks for the price you can find in Calgary.
You can also search for all hostel options using HostelWorld.
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