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27 EPIC Things to do in Calgary in Winter (2024 Guide!)

27 EPIC Things to do in Calgary in Winter (2024 Guide!)

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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, joining a tour, 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 $101.00 CAD per day up to $150/day for peak season.

Next is Mt Norquay which is 1.5 hours west of Calgary near Banff. It’s a small resort and is the cheapest in the Rocky Mountains. Lift tickets for a full day cost $114 CAD for adults and as little as $43 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 the Banff Sunshine 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 when coming from Calgary for the day.) 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.

Hot Tip: An epic winter advenutre, consider booking a night or two at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, this is the hotel located up the gondola at Sunshine Village! Here, you can ski right from the hotels front doorstep.

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.

Two-hour lift tickets for skiing and snowboarding can be purchased online for $49 CAD with a full-day ticket costing $79 CAD. Rental equipment is also available for a fee.

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.

Luckily, skiing isn’t the only activity available. 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 (that’s in the summer only, though.)

I strongly recommend the tube park, especially for people visiting Calgary in the winter with kids (or people who are really just kids at heart – like us!) It’s such a fun time, and perfect for people looking for some winter fun without needing the skills of skiing or snowboarding. A single ride costs $27 CAD, it is an additional $10 CAD to rent a helmet.

If you need to warm up and 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 – you are in Canada, after all!

My favorite attraction at the Calgary Zoo is the penguin walk that happens every day, weather dependent, at 10 am. 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 downtown area of Calgary. 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. 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 downtown Calgary and offers a skating rink, as well as a 0.7 km 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!

Related Read: Heading to Calgary in another season? Check out the best things to do and see in Calgary all year round!

5. 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 avoid 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 at the Nordic Center.  Or, for an even better experience, head to the winter wonderland of Kananaskis Country to tackle the beginner-friendly West Bragg Creek which has around 60 km (37 miles) of trails to choose from. You can rent skis from Kananaskis Outfitters and they also offer lessons if you want a bit of an intro.

6. Visit a museum (or two!)

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

There are many different museums you can explore in while in Calgary! Museums offer a chance to learn something new while escaping the cold winter weather outside.

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.

Of course, these are just a couple of the many different museums you can check out in the city.

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. I recommend checking Viator here first, it is a trusted booking website where you can purchase the tickets in your chosen currency. They also have tickets for all budgets, so you can find what’s best you for. Browse all tickets available here.

Alternatively, you can try on 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 Edmonton 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 200 meters (656 feet) 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 $21 CAD for adults and children are only $10. You’ll save a couple dollars if you purchase your ticket online in advance.

9. Go the Spark Science Centre

front of TELUS Spark Science Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Photo credit: TELUS 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.

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 $15 CAD.

Related Read: Heritage Park is similar to Fort Edmonton Park, which is one of the best things to do in Edmonton.

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. 

For the best food in town, head to Paddy’s Barbecue & Brewery. We loved their outdoor patio and the beer and brisket were amazing. We were a little disappointed with the service but we had to include them because the food is that good!

Of course, if you’re a real beer lover (like we are) then you’ll need to visit a few different breweries while you’re in the city. The best way to do that? On a guided beer tour of course!

This particular brewery tour of Calgary is the perfect choice for anybody who enjoys drinking beer. You’ll be driven around in an air conditioned vehicle, which means you can drink as much as you want without having to worry about a designated driver. The tour also includes a guide and behind the scenes tours at the breweries. Oh, and don’t forget all the beer samples – you’ll get more than you can count!

This beer tour departs from downtown Calgary and lasts for 3.5 hours. It is a small group tour, so you should book in advance to secure your spot. It costs $120 CAD per person and you can book it easily online here.

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

12. Wander around downtown

Bailey walks through Downtown Calgary
There is so much to see!

Downtown Calgary is vibrant and exciting. In fact, it is one of the best places to visit in all of Alberta when it comes to city destinations.

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. 

Related Read: For a particularly interesting downtown area, head to Lethbridge Alberta where you’ll find many historic buildings. There’s plenty of fun things to see and do in Lethbridge too!

13. Go hiking

Frozen waterfall in Grotto Canyon
Frozen waterfall in Grotto Canyon

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.

If you aren’t a confident hiker or don’t have your own crampons, then I highly recommend booking this guided icewalk in Grotto Canyon. It’s a small group tour where your guide will take you along a frozen river, past historic pictograohs, and to a forzen waterfall. The best part is that gear like hiking poles and icecleats/crampons is provided, and honestly, you’ll need them!

The tour departs from the Grotto Canyon parking lot about an hour drive from Calgary on the way towards Banff, or you can get picked up in Banff if you are staying there. The tour lasts for about 4 hours and costs only $98 CAD per person. You can book it easily online here!

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

14. Enjoy the nightlife

Bailey sips a cocktail at Taiko Canteen   
Cheers!
Daniel plays minigolf at Taiko Canteen in Calgary
Taiko Canteen is a bar with mini golf!

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.

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. 

For drinks, food, and mini-golf all rolled into one, head to Taiko Canteen, an awesome spot in SE Calgary. This is one of our personal favorite spots for a fun night out whenever we visit Calgary.

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 one of Alberta’s best hot springs or hot pools.

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 from Calgary to Banff to visit the 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 around $16 CAD per adult and towels and swimsuits can be rented for $2 each. 

If you don’t mind going a little bit further, make the drive to Radium Hot Springs, it’s a cute town with an even better hot spring!

 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. 

If you want to go fat biking in the mountains, then head over the Kananaskis and join this guided fat biking tour. This tour actually takes you to a frozen waterfall – how cool! The guide will teach you all the tricks to fat biking and riding on the snow, and all gear is included too.

The tour departs from Kananaskis Outfitters about an hour away from Calgary. It lasts for about 3 hours and costs $95 CAD. You can easily book your spot online here.

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 

lady in a sled going down a hill of snow almost crashing with a scared look on her face
It’s fun, and sometimes a little scary!

One of the things that Canadians love to do in the winter is sledding (tobogganing!) So, while you’re here, you might as well give it a go, too.

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, then this Street Art with Craft Beer Tour is a great choice as it combines both beer and art! 

You’ll head to a couple of different places to do some beer tasting before checking out Beltline Urban Mural Project (or BUMP for short). Beltline is one of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods and around a third of its population are immigrants. BUMP is an initiative to transform Beltline into an open-air art museum with murals that reflect the heritage, diversity, and modern-day culture of Calgary.

The tour costs $89 CAD and there’s a maximum of 12 participants, so you’ll get to know your fellow travelers and honestly, by the end, we felt more like we were hanging out with a group of friends rather than taking part in an organized tour – which is exactly how we like these experiences to be! You can book this tour online here!

22. Visit delicious local cafes

Bailey holds a big mug of coffee to drink
Nothing better than a warm cup of coffee on a cold winter day!
woman holds a cappuccino with a leaf on it as coffee art
Tastes as good as it looks!

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

Bailey walks into a pool at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa in Alberta, Canada
Kananaskis Nordic Spa!
bailey walks through Grotto Canyon during the winter
Hiking into Grotto Canyon.

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! In fact, some of the activities we’ve already mentioned in this blog involve going to the Kananaskis!

Hiking is one of the top activities in the Kananaskis and Grotto Canyon is a relatively easy 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, or join this guided tour that includes all of your gear.

Another great winter activity in the Kananaskis is dog sledding. 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 $440 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.

Another one of the top-rated experience you can do in the Kananaskis is this stargazing tour. You’ll strap on your snowshoes before going on a night hike. Your guide will lead the way and you’ll get plenty of opportunities to take photos of the stars, too. The tour last for 2 hours and costs $85 CAD. You can book it online here.

Note: 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 that goes from Calgary to Banff or Calgary to Lake Louise.

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 Lake Minnewanka, Banff town, Castle Mountain, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake. So basically alllll the best spots!

It’s also a small group with a maximum of 5 travelers, so you really get to know your guide and can experience the area like a true local. The guides really make this tour – they’re so fun, friendly, and passionate about traveling in the Rockies. Their enthusiasm is definitely contagious! Plus, they’ll take many pictures of you enjoying the gorgeous scenery and have you laughing the entire time.

You’ll head to all the top spots and give you an excellent overview of the area, including Lake Minnewanka, Castle Mountain, and of course, the beautiful town of Banff itself. You’ll also head to Canmore (where we used to live!), and if the group is keen, there might be an extra stop at Lake Louise. What’s cool about this being such a small group tour is that you can tailor the day to the interests of everyone on the trip.

This tour costs $185 CAD and you can arrange hotel pickup and drop-off, although there might be an extra fee depending on where you’re staying. This includes the entry fee to Banff National Park, bottled water, and ice cleats if you need them during winter in Banff. You can book your spot on the tour easily online here!

If you decide to visit on your own then you’ll need your own car or to rent a car in order to get around.

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.

If you’re arriving at the Calgary Airport and want to go straight to Banff, there are transport options for that, too.

Hot tip: If you have more time, why not plan a 3-5 day itinerary in Banff! There is so much to see and do here. You can choose one of the best hotels in Banff town and explore easily from there.

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 away, making it a fantastic day trip from Calgary into the Rocky Mountains. It’s also a hub of 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.

If you don’t have your own wheels, the best way to get to Lake Louise for the day from Calgary is on this full-day tour.

Besides visiting the Lake Louise lakefront, you’ll also visit the famous Lake Louise Ski Resort, which we think is the best in all of Canada. The chairlift takes you insanely high up, and the views are just incredible – plus, with over 100 ski runs, it’s impossible to get bored here.

You can also upgrade your tour to include a ride on the sightseeing gondola at Lake Louise or go snow tubing, which is great fun if there’s room in your budget. It’s one of those experiences that makes you feel like a little kid again, and we love it!

The basic tour package costs $211 CAD for adults and $142 CAD for under 15s. There’s a maximum group size of 25, so it doesn’t feel like a giant commercial tour, and there’s still a fun, friendly atmosphere. It’s great for families or groups of friends and basically anyone who enjoys nature and being active! You can book your tour easily online here!

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 way from Calgary 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

group of people staring down a cavern in a narrow cave in Canmore, Alberta
This is one of the best adventure tours near Banff! Photo Credit: Canmore Cave Tours

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 – so it’s great in the winter, too!

This tour is 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.

You will start your experience underground with a 59-foot (18-meter) rappel into the cave – I loved this part! You then spend an impressive 4.5 hours exploring underground. A true adventure, this tour requires a good amount of physical fitness as you can expect to squeeze through some narrow sections and crawl through others to reach the different chambers.

In the end, you will be rewarded with an area called The Grotto which has a stunning clear pool of water and a bunch of impressive stalactites and stalagmites. 

If you’re looking for a slightly shorter tour, this Canmore Explorer Tour is another great option. Run by the same company, this 4.5-hour tour is slightly cheaper at $138.47 CAD for adults and $117.95 CAD for youths aged 10 – 15 years old. Less rugged but still very thrilling, this tour explores the same Rat’s Nest Cave but skips the rappel and some of the more advanced sections in the tour.

The full 6-hour tour costs $179.49 CAD for adults and $148.72 CAD for youths aged 12 – 15 years old. You can choose between two departure times and have up to 3 days before the experience to cancel with a full refund if your plans change. You can book your caving adventure tour here!

Where to Stay in Calgary in the Winter

Calgary City
Calgary Skyline in Winter

If you’re spending more than one day in Calgary, you’ll need somewhere to stay. Luckily, 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.

Wicked Hostels – $

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. Plus you have the flexibility to book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com to snag a great deal.

Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites – $$

If you can spend a bit more the Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites 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.

Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire – $$$

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.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

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 some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.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 in 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