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27 EPIC Things to do in Calgary in Winter

27 EPIC Things to do in Calgary in Winter

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When you think of winter vacation destinations in Canada does Calgary top your list? For most, it likely doesn’t which is such a shame.

Although a larger city located in the prairies, it’s home to a ton of awesome things to do. In fact, the city’s location gives it an advantage over the rest. Not only does it sit on the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains but it’s also home to a large international airport. This makes Calgary a popular port of entry in Canada that’s surrounded by beauty!

So, if you’re visiting anyway, you might as well spend some time exploring the city and taking advantage of its cheaper accommodation when compared to the nearby Rocky Mountain destinations.

Here are the 27 best things to do in Calgary in Winter!

Things to do in Calgary in Winter

1. Hit the slopes for skiing and snowboarding

Skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort from Calgary, Alberta in winter
Skiing the backside at Lake Louise!

Skiing (and snowboarding) is without a doubt the most popular activity during winter in Canada. Although Calgary is located in the prairies, there are a few options when it comes to downhill skiing both in the city and nearby.

For those who want to hit the larger downhill runs, you’ll need to travel at least 1 hour from Calgary to the Rocky Mountains.

The closest ski resort is Nakiska Ski Area. Located one hour west of Calgary, this large ski hill sits in the Kananaskis Valley. It’s a full-size ski resort with a 735-meter verticle descent and its longest run is a whopping 3.3 kilometers. Nakiska is a very popular ski resort among Calgary locals and one of the cheaper resorts in the Rocky Mountains. Adult lift tickets start at $98.00 CAD per day up to $119.00/day for peak season.

Next is Mt Norquay which is 1.5 hours west of Calgary. It’s a small resort and is the cheapest in the Rocky Mountains. Lift tickets are $93 CAD for adults and as little as $37 for children. Although the resort is home to black runs, it’s not ideal for the more advanced skiers and snowboarders, but has great learner runs.

Sunshine Village is another ski resort just over 1.5 hours west of Calgary. It’s a large resort perfect for advanced skiers and snowboarders with lots of black and double black runs and a huge terrain park. Sunshine Village is actually home to 10 ski lifts over a large valley connected by one large gondola. It’s an impressive resort! For beginners though, I don’t find the resort that good. Many of the green runs have flat spots that stop those who don’t want to go really fast. Adult lift tickets start at $190.

Last is Lake Louise Ski Resort which is 2 hours west of Calgary near the British Columbia border. Lake Louise is the largest ski resort in the Alberta Rockies with a 935-meter verticle descent, 7 ski lifts, and 142 kilometers of ski runs. It’s perfect for beginners, intermediates, and pros. This is easily one of the best things to do in Lake Louise in winter! Adult lift tickets start at $129 with a half-day option at $99.

I’ve been to all the above ski resorts and I’d say my favorite is Lake Louise with Nakiska a close second (purely for convenience sake.) I feel if you’re already going to drive all the way to Sunshine and Mt Norquay you may as well travel a little further and visit Lake Louise. And if you want a quick trip from Calgary, Nakiska is the best option.

Related read: One of the best places to ski in Canada is Whistler. Check out all the best things to do in Whistler in winter!

2. Go to WinSport Canada Olympic Park

WinSport Canada Olympic Park in Winter
The nearest place to go skiing and snowboarding in Calgary is WinSport Canada Olympic Park! Photo credit: Depositphotos Jewhyte

WinSport Canada Olympic Park is a state-of-the-art ski facility in Calgary that was used in the 1988 winter Olympics. Nowadays, the facility is used for professional training as well as recreational purposes. It’s home to a small terrain park with jumps ranging from green to double black. Unfortunately, the park isn’t the best for downhill skiers not wanting to hit a few jumps.

Two-hour lift tickets for skiing and snowboarding can be purchased online for $32.00 CAD.

Canada Olympic Park is also home to a bobsleigh track and a 10 lane tube park, the largest in western Canada, as well as a very unique ride where you can race a cart down the luge track!

To take a break from Calgary’s cold weather, head inside to the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, also located in Canada Olympic Park. Really, there is a ton of things to do at WinSport and it is well worth checking out if you happen to be in Calgary this winter.

3. Visit the Calgary Zoo

King Penguins at the Calgary Zoo
They’re so cute!

You can do some pretty neat animal watching in Calgary in winter even without leaving the city. While the Calgary Zoo is open all year round, you will get the best visitor experience in the winter as many of the animals are more active in colder temperatures. 

My favorite attraction at the Calgary Zoo is the penguin walk that happens every day, weather dependent, at 10:00 a.m. The penguin walk is a short 15-minute walk where you get to follow the king penguins through the park as they get their daily exercise. It’s a great photo opportunity!

Some of the other animals at the zoo include Amur Tigers, African Lions, Grey Wolves, Bison, and many more. Be aware that in the winter, some animals will be in hibernation including bears.

Be sure to stick around the Calgary Zoo after it gets dark during the holiday season for the wonderful display of Christmas lights throughout the park called Zoolights – an attraction in Calgary not to be missed around Christmas time. 

Adult tickets to the zoo cost $34.95 CAD, seniors $29.95, Children (3-15) $24.95, and kids under 3 are free. There is also a daily parking fee of $12 CAD.

4. Go ice skating at an outdoor rink  

Ice skating at Olympic Plaza in Calgary
Olympic Plaza in the city center!

A wonderful activity to do in Calgary in winter is ice skating on an outdoor rink. Even better is that all the rinks listed below are free to use and have skate rentals available (for a small fee) so that no one has to miss out.

Olympic Plaza is conveniently located in downtown Calgary and is open from 6 am to 11 am. The Olympic Plaza skating rink is another wonderful winter activity that is a remnant of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary. It is also the only refrigerated outdoor skating rink in Calgary, so even on warmer weeks, the ice will be skate-ready. For those staying in downtown Calgary, this is the most convenient option. Skate rental is $8 CAD for under 12s and $12 for 13+.

Bowness Park is located around 20 minutes outside the CBD. Its location offers an ice rink and a 1.6 km ice trail through the park for those of you who get tired of going in circles. I know, right? Ice bikes can also be rented for a more unique experience. The ice rink in Bowness Park is open from 5 am to 11 pm daily and is the perfect option for a more adventurous skate along the trail. Skate rental is $12 CAD for 1 hour and $20 for 3 hours.

North Glenmore Park is located 15 minutes from Calgary CBD and offers a skating rink, as well as a 0.7km ice trail from 11 am to 10 pm daily. Skate rental is $8 CAD for under 12s and $12 for 13+.

Rinks typically open in December (weather dependent) so, if you’re visiting Calgary in December or anytime before it starts to warm up in the spring, then you’ll have fun skating outdoors!

5. Work up a sweat Cross Country skiing

Cross country skiing in Canada
It’s a great workout!

Cross country skiing is a very “Canadian” activity and one of the best things to do in Calgary in winter. Calgary offers both free designated cross-country skiing trails and the choice to go off-trail and make your own way.

Groomed cross-country skiing trails maintained by the city are available at South Glenmore Park and Bowness Park. For the more daring, North Glenmore Park and Weaselhead Natural Environment Park offer ungroomed cross-country skiing trails in Calgary. This is also an opportunity to beat the crowds. 

You can also cross country ski at the Foothills Nordic Center at Confederation Park Golf Course as well as Maple Ridge Golf Course and Shaganappi Point Golf Course.

Winter equipment rental shops exist all across Calgary. One option is to rent your cross-country skis at Norseman Outdoor Specialist for $20 CAD/day. If you are new to the sport, lessons are available too at the Nordic Center.  

6. Visit a museum (or two!)

A display at the Glenbow Museum, Calgary
A display at the Glenbow Museum, Calgary!

The Glenbow might just be Calgary’s most well-known museum and is one of the top things to do in Calgary when you want to escape indoors. The Glenbow is the place to go to learn about Canada’s Indigenous people and to see a wide range of art from top Canadian artists that the Glenbow holds in its collection of over 33,000 artworks. So, if you are a lover of art (like I am,) make sure to stop by the Glenbow Museum. Admission is $10 CAD with kids under 6 free.

Visiting the National Music Centre is a must-do activity as well. Studio Bell has five floors of exhibits including interactive exhibits with instruments you can actually play. The Rolling Stones mobile recording bus is kept in the building too. Make sure to check out an evening concert while you are there too. Studio Bell is only open Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is currently free.

Related Read: For the best museum, be sure to go on a day trip from Calgary to Drumheller. One of the best things to do in Drumheller is to visit the famous Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum!

7. Watch a Flames NHL game

The Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary
This unique-looking stadium is an icon in Calgary! Photo credit – Depositphotos Rcliff

The Calgary Flames are the pride of the city and only one of two NHL teams in Alberta. Take in the energy of the game at the Scotiabank Saddledome, a landmark of downtown Calgary that you can’t miss. It is the only building with a roof that curves like a saddle and has been compared to the brim of a cowboy’s hat.

Be sure to show up early to pick up your Calgary Flames gear and browse all the sports memorabilia on display throughout the building. Getting tickets to a game can be hard. You can try on the official website, however, if not available, try Stub Hub for second-hand tickets off a trusted site, or, local Facebook groups such as Calgary Marketplace (although risky if you have no experience buying safely.)

Seeing an NHL game live is truly one of the best things to do in Canada and I myself have been to a few. I hate to break it to you though, I’m an Oilers fan!

8. Take in the views from the Calgary Tower

Views of the city and Rocky Mountains from Calgary Tower
On a clear day, you can even see the Rocky Mountains!

Come indoors from the cold and see Calgary from a whole new perspective. At the Calgary Tower, a glass floor suspended 200m above the ground will give you a bird’s eye view of Calgary as well as the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

While you are there, eat at the tower’s famous Sky 360 Restaurant and Lounge that slowly rotates as you view Calgary while you eat. The restaurant makes one full rotation every 45 minutes. It’s open every day except Mondays from 5 pm till late as well as Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm for brunch. There are also gift shops where you can purchase souvenirs to always remind you of your Calgary winter holiday. 

A visit to the Calgary Tower costs $18 CAD for adults and children are only $9.

9. Go the Spark Science Centre

Telus Spark Science Centre is one of my favorite Calgary activities and there is no better time to check it out than when looking for things to do in Calgary in winter.

The latest experience to check out at Telus Spark is the new digital gallery that promises a brand new immersive technological experience. No headset required! Telus Spark also has a planetarium with the largest globe theatre in western Canada. Here, you can watch a movie about space that is an experience like no other. 

The best thing about Telus Spark is the hands-on opportunities for all ages. Step on a scale and watch a tube fill with water in front of you to show you how much water is in your body or record your voice on a loop as you try to harmonize with yourself.

Lastly, be sure to experience one of the nine decadent astronaut ice cream flavors. There is one for every planet. Toppings include cotton candy, cookies, and donuts. The earth cone includes a cake pop to represent the moon.

Entrance to the Spark Science Centre costs $26 CAD for adults and $19 for children.

10. Step back in time at Heritage Park

Gasoline Alley Museum at Heritage Park
Gasoline Alley Museum

Heritage Park is Canada’s largest living heritage museum. The museum spans over 127 acres and is home to the Heritage Park Historical Village, Gasoline Alley Museum, and Heritage Town Square.

The Heritage Park remains open during winter in Calgary from 10 am to 4 pm. However, the Historical Village is closed with the exception of special winter events like Ghouls’ Night Out and Once Upon a Christmas, which are family favorites. 

Gasoline Alley remains open all year and also hosts a Winter CARnival around the holidays that includes memorable activities like Pin the Heart on the Grinch and snow fort building among its usual breathtaking displays of old cars and oil and gas memorabilia. Special off-season rates apply. 

The Heritage Town Square is also open all year round and is home to 4 unique retail shops and an old-fashioned soda shop, a counter service restaurant, the Railway Cafe, and the Selkirk – a full-service restaurant open for lunch and dinner. The best part is, no park admission is required for Heritage Town Square.

Heritage Park is a cool place to visit and even in winter, there is still plenty to see and do. You can book tickets in advance here for $10.

11. Visit the local breweries

A beer at Outcast Brewing
Seriously though, have you? Photo credit: Outcast Brewing

Calgary has 44 (yes, that many) unique breweries scattered throughout the city. There is a brewery for every taste pallet and likely one nearby wherever you are in the city. 

Outcast Brewing keeps ten beers on tap and is famous for its slushie sours that contain so much fruit you might think you are drinking a smoothie. A must-try is the cherry cheesecake, made with real cream cheese. Try it to believe it! 

Big Rock Brewery is the most established local brewery in Calgary and is also the oldest. Tour the brewery and order lunch from their beer-inspired menu. Try a strawberry rhubarb cider, the traditional brown ale, or my favorite, the Grasshopper wheat ale that has a light citrusy taste. 

Related Read: IF you love breweries be sure to make your way eat to Kelowna. This small city is full of unique craft breweries, plus, there’s lots of awesome things to do in Kelowna in winter.

12. Wander around downtown

Stephen Avenue (aka 8 Ave SW) is a pedestrian-only walkway in Calgary that boasts some of the city’s best shopping and dining. In the wintertime, Stephen Ave gets dressed up in its holiday finest with thousands of Christmas lights. 

17th Ave South, also known as the Red Mile, is your best destination if you want to hit the nightlife in Calgary in winter. It is home to many restaurants and clubs and the go-to destination for young party-goers after a Flames hockey game. 

13. Go hiking

Hiking at Grassi Lakes in winter
The beautiful Grassi Lakes!

Nose Hill Park is the third largest park in Canada located within a city and offers hiking trails in Calgary even in winter. An easy trail is the aptly named Nose Hill Trail. It is an out and back trail that covers almost 6km (3.7 miles) and takes around 1.5 hours to complete at a steady pace. However don’t stop there, within the park you’ll find many more trails to enjoy.

If you don’t mind going for a drive to discover some trails within the Rockies then be sure to head to Canmore or the Kananaskis. Within these areas, you can hike trails such as Troll Falls, Grotto Canyon, the Bow River Loop, and Grassi Lakes. All these and more can be done in winter, however, crampons or ice cleats will help.

Related read: Check out all the best things to do in Canmore in winter!

14. Enjoy the nightlife

There is one thing that Calgary knows how to do right, and that’s party!

Do you enjoy live music? Check out the best bands the city of Calgary has to offer at Broken City or a slightly more alternative scene at Dickens Pub. The Palomino is easy to access and is right on the train tracks. It also offers two floors and an eclectic mix of live music.

A local favorite hangout is the Ship & Anchor Pub if you are looking for a hip, sit-down place.

If clubbing is your thing try a Habitat Living Sound or Twisted Element for an inclusive LGBTQIA+ experience. 

15. Attend a winter event or festival

The GLOW Winter Light Festival
Just some of the displays around the city! Photo credit: Glowfestyyc

What better way to enjoy winter in Calgary than at a festival or event?! There are plenty of seasonal events held annually during the winter months that you can choose from.

The GLOW Winter Light Festival, happening in February, is new to Calgary but promises a family-friendly evening activity at the coldest time of the year to get everyone outdoors and exploring the city. Festive holiday lights are set up throughout downtown Calgary and the event is free to enjoy.

Luckily, this event takes place alongside the Calgary Hot Chocolate Festival so there will be plenty of places to warm up as you try decadent hot chocolate creations throughout downtown Calgary in winter. 

Over the Christmas period, you can visit Christmas light displays, Christmas markets to pick up last-minute gifts and even head to shopping malls to meet Santa!

16. Cozy up in a hot tub or spa

The Banff Upper Hot Springs during winter
Relax in paradise at the Banff Upper Hot Springs!

Let’s face it, the winter in Calgary can be cold – bitterly cold! So why not try and warm up with a nice soak in a hot pool or hot spring.

The Fairmont Palliser is a luxury hotel that sits just 100 meters from the Calgary Tower and features a large indoor pool and hot tub. The on-site RnR Wellness Spa claims to be a premier experience and includes a eucalyptus steam room – perfect for warming up those muscles and bones. Many of their treatments are curated to be very Canadian, highlighting the sounds, scents, and culture of the country. 

If you are willing, take a drive to Banff Upper Hot Springs. This attraction has brought visitors to Banff since 1886 with the bathhouse building being a recognized heritage site. The hot springs are outdoors and only available on a first come first serve basis so make sure to dress appropriately for cold winter weather as you may need to wait outside. Once you enter, the water is between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius. Admission is modest at less than $10 CAD per adult and towels and swimsuits can be rented for $2 each. 

 17. Try ice fishing

An ice fishing tent from Alberta Fishing Charters, Calgary
This is the actual tent you’ll fish in. It comes complete with a heater! Photo credit: Alberta Fishing Charters

Calgary’s Alberta Fishing Charters offers unique ice fishing packages near the city. Starting at $399 CAD per couple ($75 per extra guest), you’ll get access to an ice fishing set-up, tent, and your own personal guide for up to 7 hours as you try ice fishing. A very uniquely Canadian activity to try in Calgary in winter. If I have one tip though…dress warm! 

18. Try fat biking

Fat biking in Calgary
The fat tires really help you get through the snow, although many parts of the city are free from the snow!

Rent a fat bike for a day and take it around the city’s bike and park trails for a fun outdoor activity. You can enjoy trails around the city such as through Prince’s Island Park, along the Bow River Pathway, and even McHugh Bluff. Take your phone with Google maps and just explore the city. Most of the trails link up and you can get a great look at the river valley and city.

Ridley’s Cycle makes renting your fat bike easy with its downtown location with many bike rental options. They can also help you with more suggestions and routes to ride. Be sure to dress in many layers as you may need to remove some as riding a fat bike in the snow is a great workout. 

19. Go to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

A wolf at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
The wolves are so cool to see and it’s great to support a good cause!

A hidden gem that makes a great activity in winter is the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, a not-for-profit taking care of rescued wolfdogs located one hour northwest of Calgary near the town of Cochrane. It’s the perfect place to go if you want to learn all about wolves and see them for yourself in a snowy winter environment.

The sanctuary does have some rules that are important to know before you go. No children under six are allowed in the sanctuary. The paths can not accommodate strollers and no fur or faux fur clothing is allowed. No dogs are allowed on site, not even kept in your car in the parking lot. Be sure to check the visitor rules on their website or call ahead before you go.

The facility is open Thursday through Monday. Several different types of tours are available. Admission for youth is $13 CAD and adults are $23. 

20. Go sledding 

Calgary is not without hills so it will be easy to find a great hill for sledding in many city parks or neighborhoods. If you’re looking for a large steep hill where you can go fast, Elgin Hill in Mckenzie Towne is for you. This hill is considered advanced and not for new sledders. 

If you are up for a bit of a hike from the parking lot, Stanley Park along the Elbow River (not to be mistaken with Stanley Park in Vancouver) also has a great hill that is considered in the advanced category. 

Glendale Park has a safe hill for beginner and younger sledders free of obstacles and usually packed with snow. Another safe hill is located north of Royal Oak School in a neighborhood by the same name. Confederation Park and Deerfoot Athletic Park have intermediate hills. 

If you need a sled, most big box stores in Calgary should carry them in winter.

21. Join a walking tour 

A a walking tour through Canmore!
Exploring any city with a guide is especially interesting.

For a fun day out, venture one hour west of Calgary to Canmore in the Rocky Mountains, and join an interesting and picturesque sightseeing tour. if you love local history, the Cowboys and Coal Mines tour is for you. A guide will take you to all the best spots on this highly rated 1.5-hour walking tour.

If you want to stay in Calgary, are looking for a tour but walking isn’t your thing, Rocky Mountain Sidecar Adventures might be up your alley. These tours are pricey but have several different sightseeing options. One of which is a Creepy Calgary Ghost Tour. 

22. Visit delicious local cafes

A cat at The Regal Cat Cafe, Calgary
They’re so cute! Photo credit: The Regal Cat Cafe

Delicious cafes are dotted all over downtown Calgary but only one offers you the chance to pet cats looking for their forever homes.

The Regal Cat Cafe partners with the MEOW Foundation to give cats a temporary home while they wait for their forever home. The cats are kept in a separate room but can be watched from the cafe through a plexiglass barrier, giving you the option to interact with the cats or not, and keeping the cats separate from the eating area.

The cafe offers cat-themed human treats and souvenirs. The cat room can get busy so the option to book a timeslot is available online.

Hexagon Board Game Cafe is another great option on a winter’s day in Calgary if you have a few hours to play games with friends. There are so many games available you won’t get bored here!

Analog Coffee tops many lists for best cafes in Calgary. A local favorite, it now boasts several locations throughout the city. The first-ever location being on 17th Ave. Their coffee is so amazing and my go-to place when I’m in Calgary and want a delicious cappuccino!

23. Day trip to the Kananaskis

Troll Falls near Canmore, Alberta
In winter the waterfall is frozen and wow its spectacular!

The Kananaskis often gets overlooked as it sits directly next to the tourist hotspot of Banff National Park. However, the stunning valley offers all the same outdoor activities with fewer crowds, plus, it’s closer to Calgary than Banff too!

Hiking is a popular activity in the Kananaskis and Troll Falls is an easy 90-minute hike that takes you to a frozen waterfall in winter. It is slippery though, so it’s recommended that you bring ice cleats or spikes. 

Another great winter activity in the Kananaskis is dog sledding. The Boundary Ranch, a one-hour drive from Calgary, offers a dog sledding Dreamcatcher experience which includes exploring a teepee encampment and a trappers cabin. There is also a campfire meal. The Dreamcatcher experience is just under $400 CAD per person.

For a relaxing activity take a trip to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. This is one of the most luxurious spas in the Rocky mountains and access, which starts at $119 CAD, includes access to the Hydrotherapy cycle (Five Pools), the Eucalyptus Steam Room, Alchemist Steam Room, Finnish Sauna, Banyan & Barrel Saunas, and Exfoliation Cabin. You can book their morning session from 9 am to 2:30 pm or the afternoon session from 3:30 pm to 9:00 pm.

To enter the Kananaskis you will need to purchase a pass for $15 per vehicle (or $90 for a year for two vehicles.) The money goes towards conservation efforts in the park. 

24. Day trip to Banff

Sulphur Mountain in winter in Banff
The stunning view from Sulphur Mountain!

Visiting Banff National Park is a must-do in Canada. You can either make the 1.5-hour drive from Calgary yourself or join a tour.

If you’ve decided a tour is the easiest option this 10-hour guided tour is the perfect option. The tour takes you from Calgary to Banff and visits Sulphur Mountain Gondola (optional), Banff Town, Johnston Canyon, Bow Falls, Surprise Corner, and the Hoodoos.

If you decide to visit on your own then you’ll either need a car or a great way to get to Banff is to take the On-It Bus which will take you from Downtown Calgary to Banff for just $10 CAD. Once in Banff, you can get a transfer pass to the Roam bus that will take you to several destinations in the town. 

My recommendation is to check out all the best things to do in Banff in winter before you go, but places you should not miss are the Banff Gondola, Banff Upper Hot Springs, a visit to Johnston Canyon, drive the Bow Valley Parkway, and take a trip to Lake Minnewanka.

25. Day trip to Lake Louise

A lady poses for a photo at the Lake Louise Ice sculptures
Posing with the ice sculptures at Lake Louise!

Lake Louise is a two-hour drive from Calgary into the Rocky Mountains and offers many wonderful winter activities.

During winter, the lake freezes over and becomes one of the most beautiful places to ice skate in the world. The ice skating area is maintained by the Fairmont Château Lake Louise – one of the most beautiful hotels in the Rocky Mountains, so the ice is usually in great condition. The best part is that if you have your own skates this activity is completely free! If you don’t, you can rent them from Alpine Social Rentals at Lake Louise. The ice skating rink usually opens in mid-December until mid-April.

Another popular reason to visit Lake Louise is to visit the Ice Castles. These beautiful ice sculptures are made every year and sit on the frozen lake. Kids love them and they are also completely free. On top of that, you can cross country ski around the lake (also free), enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride ($45 for adults and $35 for children), have a coffee or meal at the hotel, or just enjoy the magnificent views!

In January, Lake Louise also hosts the Ice Magic Festival where artists from all over the world carve ice sculptures. These sculptures remain viewable by the public into February. 

These are just a few of the fun things to do in Lake Louise in winter, but the truth is there’s plenty more! You could easily spend a couple of nights here enjoying this winter wonderland.

There is a lot of paid parking available at Lake Lousie foreshore, though it can fill up during busy times (weekends and public holidays). My advice is to arrive early in the morning (around 8 am). This will ensure you get a parking spot at the lake.

26. Day trip to the Icefields Parkway

Peyto Lake in winter on the Icefields Parkway
The stunning Peyto Lake just before it freezes for the rest of winter.

Up for a bit of a winter road trip? The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in Canada (and possibly the world.) This 232km stretch of highway travels from Lake Louise to Jasper. It takes around 3 hours to drive the whole thing without stopping in winter, however, I’d allow an entire day if you plan on stopping along the way.

Some of the best places to stop on the Icefields Parkway include Crow Foot Glacier Lookout, Bow Lake Viewpoint, Peyto Lake, Weeping Wall, Big Bend, Athabasca Glacier, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Falls.

If you’re not driving all the way to Jasper then I recommended only driving part of the highway. A great section is until you reach Peyto Lake. This is only 35 minutes from Lake Louise (2.5 hours from Calgary) and after visiting, you can turn around and head back, visiting Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier on the way.

Winter tires are a must and you need to be careful and alert while driving this highway in winter. Parks Canada will close the highway over the pass (after Big Bend) during bad weather so check ahead of time for road closures. Also, Athabasca Glacier tours and the Skywalk are closed in winter, however, you can still view the glacier from the viewpoint.

A Parks Canada pass is necessary to travel through this region regardless if you plan on stopping or not.

Hot tip: If you have time, drive the entire Icefields Parkway to Jasper, then plan to spend a couple of nights there. There are plenty of fun things to do in Jasper in the winter to keep you busy!

27. Caving in Canmore

Caving in Canmore
I was 16 in this photo (hence the photo quality)! If I can do the caving at such a young age… so can you!

Canmore is a little over an hour’s drive from Calgary and is my personal favorite mountain town. Within Canmore, I love the caving tour.

The Rat’s Nest Cave is a worthwhile adventure that I did when I was younger. This six-hour adventure tour has you repelling 60 feet down and squeezing through tight spots as you make your way to a crystal clear pool in the grotto. The best part is despite the cold outside temperatures, the cave maintains a 4.5 C° temperature!

It’s certainly not for those who get claustrophobic, but don’t worry if you’re nervous, all safety equipment is provided as well as experienced guides.

Where to Stay in Calgary

Calgary City
Calgary Skyline in Winter

Calgary is a large city so there are plenty of places to stay within the city. The trick is to pick a hotel with a great location depending on the activities you plan on doing. For example, staying downtown is perfect for most visitors, however, those wanting to spend more time exploring the Kananaskis, Banff, or Canmore should stay on the westside of Calgary.

Within the central city area, the Wicked Hostels – Calgary is a good choice for budget travelers. The hostel is clean, comfortable, and located in a good area. There are cheaper places to stay in Calgary but this place is great value for money.

If you can spend a bit more the Regency Suites Hotel is perfect. The suites have a full kitchen which is perfect for homemade meals which can save you a lot of money. The rooms are beautiful, breakfast is included, and they even have a fitness center. On top of that, the hotel’s location is perfect.

For luxury travelers, check out the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire. This hotel overlooks the river valley, comes with an indoor pool (with waterslide), hot tub, fitness center, hair salon, and gift shop. Obviously, the rooms are extremely beautiful and the views are spectacular.

If you’re looking for a place in west Calgary Along River Ridge Bed & Breakfast is my choice. Located along the Bow River but also not far from Highway 1, the hotel will save you 15 minutes each way on adventures west. However, you’re still close enough to easily explore Calgary. It’s a small bed and breakfast with amazing reviews!

Canada Winter Travel Essentials

A lady all dressed up in winter gear in Canada
All rugged up and ready to explore!

If you’re planning to visit Canada in winter then there are a few things you should pack – things we never travel without. Some you may already have, but others you may want to pick up before you leave. This is especially true if you want to enjoy some of the best outdoor activities!

Here are some of our must-have winter essentials:

Crampons/ Ice Cleats: This is the one item I have that I use so much. If you love the outdoors and enjoy short walks and hikes, crampons are a must! The best part is, the pair that I own is only $29 CAD. They aren’t the best pair out there but they’re perfect for the everyday explorer/traveler.

Insulated water bottle: In the summer you want to keep your water cold but in winter, you want to keep it from freezing. That’s why I always carry an insulated water bottle. This Iron Flask Water Bottle is perfect because it doubles as a thermos so it’s great for carrying hot water for those winter hot chocolates! I have the 32-ounce bottle in pink but I wish I had one of the multi-colored bottles!

Merino wool socks: Cold feet can ruin your time exploring the great outdoors during winter. Please do yourself a favor and get a good quality pair of socks. Even just one pair with come in handy but I myself carry three of these COZIA Wool Socks. They’re 80% Merino wool and really warm. The best part is they are only $15 each! When I’m skiing I can even double them up if it’s -30 °C.

Thermal layers: Staying warm begins from your first layer. Life outside during the Candian winter is much more comfortable with thermal layers. There are a lot of great products in this space but look out for Merino wool products – they’re the best in my opinion!

Ski Gloves: Did you know ski resorts in Canada don’t rent gloves? That means you’re going to need to bring your own. I get really cold hands so I love these new heated rechargeable gloves. They keep your hands warm in the coldest temperatures. Although expensive, you’ll never wear another pair of gloves again.

Polarized sunglasses/ ski goggles: People often forget that on a sunny day in the mountains, the sun can really hurt your eyes when it reflects off the snow. For around town, check out these polarized sunglasses and for in the mountains these ski goggles.

Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. During the winter though, it’s perfect for keeping my nose and cheeks covered from the cold especially when skiing or hiking. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.

Renting a Car in Alberta

The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to the best attractions within them requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada and using crown land and campsites you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey from Exploring BC and Alberta on a gondola at Nakiska Ski Resort near Calgary
Thanks for reading!

Without a doubt, Calgary is one of the most common places to fly into when exploring the Rocky Mountains. So while you’re there, be sure to enjoy the city with these 27 awesome things to do during winter.

Thanks so much for reading! I’m really excited about your upcoming trip and hope this list has helped plan it. If it has then browse around more to check out more great blogs such as:

15 most Instagrammable places to visit in Banff

Things to do in Canmore

How to spend Christmas in Banff

40 Epic Things to do in Whistler in Winter
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