Family Day long weekend in Alberta is a time to celebrate family and winter. This is a popular weekend for winter festivals of arts and culture all across our province. With current COVID-19 restrictions, many festivals adapted in order to allow for celebrations still- just in a slightly different way. In addition to the many festivals occurring this weekend, you can also experience a wealth of outdoor winter fun through different sports and activities like skating, skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing, for example.
Make the most of your Family Day staycation this year with the ideas and inspirations below.
1. Family Fishing Weekends Alberta
Go ice fishing this weekend. During Alberta’s twice-yearly Family Fishing Weekends, no fishing is licence required. Albertans and visitors are invited to give fishing a try on waterbodies with open fishing seasons (not in national parks). Keep in mind that fishing regulations still apply.
2. Exposure Photography Festival
Exposure is an annual festival that celebrates photography, hosting thoughtfully curated exhibitions that showcase internationally renowned practitioners alongside emerging and established talent from Alberta. The exhibitions present a broad range of works, including photojournalism and photocollage, abstract and politically engaged photography, and works that embrace the social and individual experience, as well as visual explorations of identity and personal narratives. Checkout the displays in Calgary, Banff, Cochrane, Edmonton, Lethbridge.
3. Snow tubing
Enjoy snow tubing this family day weekend. We are known for winter fun in Alberta: skiing and snowboarding, skating, hockey, tobogganing, and multiple places across the province offer snow tubing! This unique and thrilling experience is just like sledding, but a little faster (often requiring a helmet) and of course, on a tube. Here are some places you can go snow tubing in Alberta from north to south, and east to west.
4. Cross-Country Skiing Adventures
Enjoy one of Alberta’s most popular winter sports with your family this Family Day weekend by treating them to a cross-country skiing adventure. There are several groomed trails around Northern Alberta, but some of the more popular areas include: Whispering Pines, Lesser Slave Lake and Devonshire Day Use Area, or Winagami Lake PP.
5. Family Festivities in the Park – Grande Prairie
Come for the fun and stay for the free hot chocolate! If you’re in the Grande Prairie area, you can take advantage of the Family Festivities in the Park (Muskoseepi Park). The festivities run February 13-15 from 10am-6pm and involve an array of outdoor family fun: snow luging, skating, tobogganing, free snowman kits, snowshoeing, and additional children’s activities.
Muskoseepi Park: 102 St. & 102 Ave., Grande Prairie
6. Winter Magic Festival – Hinton
Enjoy COVID-friendly recreational and cultural activities in and around town during this year’s Winter Magic Festival like skating on the Pretzel – a new 600-meter ice track nestled among the trees in the Hinton Campground, located next to the playground at the Hinton Centre on Switzer Drive.
7. Silver Skate Festival
The 2021 Silver Skate Festival is helping us all experience the best of the Fest in a safe and healthy environment. Brave the cold this weekend and skate across Hawrelak Park pond before taking in the artistic displays across the adjacent fields. Also near the pond is the Park Pavilion (a perfect place to warm up around a fire), and Culina on the Lake (an excellent local choice for snacks or warm drinks).
You can take walks through art displays like the Crystal Lanterns or The Space Between, head to the Waiward Snow Sculpture Garden, and then experience The Folk Trail, and Heritage Village.
8. Boardwalk Ice on Whyte Sculpture Tour
Beginning February 12, a few central Edmonton streets will be decorated with larger-than-life ice sculptures for the Boardwalk Ice on Whyte self-guided tours. The group of experienced and talented ice-carvers’ work to be featured include: Mark Berge, Steve Buzak, Peter Fogarty, and Cliff Vacheresse. The sculptures will be well lit and provide the backdrop to walks through neighbourhoods like downtown and Jasper Ave., or Whyte Ave. and Old Strathcona.
9. Canadian Birkie Ski Festival
Birkie, short for Birkebeiner, refers to a Nordic Ski Race which you can only find in Canada (Edmonton), the USA, and Norway. This 30+ year-old Birkie Ski Festival runs February 12-21 and encourages activity and exercise in Edmonton’s coldest months. This is an exciting way to learn how to cross-country ski from experienced professionals, or a good opportunity to compete: sign up for the Canadian Virtual Birkie.
10. Deep Freeze Winter Byzantine Fête
One way in which Edmonton is making the most of the cold is through its many artistic, cultural, and historical winter festivals. From February 5-14, you can find a number of these winter art displays and performances on Alberta Ave. with the Deep Freeze Winter Byzantine Fête. The event sprawls across Borden Park and seven different community leagues and will offer displays to visit in person and activities to enjoy virtually.
11. Ice-way Skating
There are tons of ways to enjoy Edmonton’s urban parklands and river valley in the winter- cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hikes, and of course, skating! Located all throughout the city are specially built ice-ways intended for leisurely skates. The Victoria Park iceway is located in the heart of the city, down the hill from downtown Edmonton, and the Rundle Park Iceway is in the city’s northeast river valley. And in Edmontn’s south you’ll find the smaller Meadows Rec. Centre Iceway (located in the south parking lot).
12. Big Jig Ice Fishing Derby – Sylvan Lake
If you are in the Red Deer or Sylvan Lake area for your Family Day Long Weekend, take your loved ones to the Big Jig Ice Fishing Derby. Not an experienced fisher? No problem! You’ll get a chance to learn from the pros, participate in the Pass the Poutine events, enjoy local music and slide down ice slides.
13. Winter Escape Family Day Challenges – Red Deer
From February 13-27, the city of Red Deer challenges you and your family to get into winter! The Winter Escape is a virtual event in 2021 and boasts local activities for all ages. Some events to expect include a Virtual Escape Room/Scavenger Hunt, and several outdoor challenges you can partake in around Red Deer with your family. Register for the full list of challenges, and best of luck.
14. Snowshoeing Provincial Parks
Around Central Alberta and Red Deer are numerous provincial parks, all with tons of snowshoe space. The beauty of snowshoeing is you don’t need groomed trails, just a lot of snow and open space. So any one of the close parks are perfect for an afternoon of family exercise. Try Aspen Beach, or Crimson Lake.
15. Sundre Winterfest
This is your chance to explore the best of Sundre in Winter! The annual Winterfest kicks off this weekend and runs February 13-15 in the riverside Greenwood Park. Fill your day with artistic experiences through the Ice Sculpture Displays and Pioneer Village at the Museum. And while many of the normal artistic displays and performances cannot occur as normal this year, Winterfest adapted and instead created an online directory of local Sundre artists, creators, and musicians.
16. Reduced Admission at the Calgary Zoo
Calgary Zoo is giving back to the community by discounting the day admission rates for the entire month of February.
If the temperatures stay above -25ºC, you can see the penguins waddle around the zoo. There are a few things to keep in mind for this year’s walks, so be sure to read the Zoo’s healthy and safety guidelines upon ticket purchase. You and your family could see up to 13 king penguins on your zoo stroll, including the newest chick addition, Boudicca, who is not even a year old yet!
17. Chinook Blast Outdoor Art Exhibits
The Chinook Blast outdoor ‘Light up Your Winter’ event will light up and decorate parts of Calgary’s downtown core and other walkable neighbourhoods. The Festival runs from February 13-28th (delayed from original February 11 start date due to weather), so you and your family have time to see it all. But the long weekend is a perfect time to get in a winter walk- or you can pack all the creative fun into one day! Display are lit 3pm-9pm every weekend until the 28th.
18. Hot Chocolate Festivals
Over the month of February, the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest, hosted by Meals on Wheels, creates a tasty way to support local. $1 from every non-spirited hot chocolate/$2 from every spirited drink will go to Calgary Meals on Wheels. Download the official YYC Hot Chocolate Fest app (Apple and Google Play stores) and choose from their list of cafes from which to taste your cocoa. Give the hot chocolate your official rating and stay tuned for the winners!
If you are Okotoks, warm your heart and tummy with a number of delicious and unique hot Chocolates that are popping up around Okotoks during Hot Chocolate Festival Okotoks.
19. Sleigh Rides in Banff
Take a scenic sleigh ride through the southern Rockies this Family Day weekend. This activity can be enjoyed in a romantic setting, or as a family. There are a number of tours in the Banff and Canmore area, each with something special or unique to offer. Choose from sleigh rides only, or combine your tour with an ice-walk, gondola ride, or snow tubing.
20. Guided Ice-walk Tours
In both Banff and Jasper, you can experience seldomly-seen Rocky Mountain winterscapes through a guided ice-walk tour. The scenery is worth the trip alone, but with the ice-walks you get to be part of the scenery as you’re taken to forested locations or frozen waterfalls. It is highly recommended you bring warm and waterproof footwear, snow/ski pants, and all your other layers of warmth.
21. Pond Skating
There is so much to do in Jasper National Park, but one quintessential activity is lacing up for the frozen mountain lakes. The pond skating experience is best after a cold snap, so consider Alberta lucky in this sense; all the skate-able lakes in Jasper are frozen solid and ready for you and your family this weekend. Popular places to skate in Jasper include Lake Mildred and Pyramid Lake.
To take a bicycle through the snow and ice, your tires need to be fat, and they need to have grip. You need a fat tire bike. If you’re just looking to get into the sport, or try fat biking for the first time, you can pick from a few guided tours, where the pros can show you how its done.
Kananaskis Country is a popular fat biking destination, and there are places you can rent from nearby in Calgary. Canmore is just as popular, with Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park currently offering five groomed fat bike trails in good condition.
23. Virtual Family Fun Day – Lethbridge
The Family Fun Day at Casa is a virtual event this year: join for an afternoon of arts and crafts while they teach you how to create a 3D Family Portrait using air-dry clay and guide videos on YouTube. Supplies are limited, so please call (403) 327-2272 to reserve your kit for curbside pick-up February 3-13.
24. Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding in Southern Alberta
You need not travel far for skiing and and snowboarding in the region of Southern Alberta. There are three popular and highly-reviewed resorts in the area, all of which provide their own scenery and features: Castle Mountain in Pincher Creek is in the southern Rockies near the BC border; Hidden Valley Ski Resort is in the hills of south eastern Alberta; and the Pass Powderkeg is in the foothills near Crowsnest Pass.
25. Explore Cypress Hills Provincial Park
The southeast corner of Alberta (and the southwest corner of Saskatchewan) is the home of Cypress Hills, an expansive Provincial Park filled with trees, hills and badlands. There is a ton of winter fun you can enjoy here like snowshoeing, fat tire biking, and there are groomed trails for cross-country skiing.
26. Valentine Staycation
Your romantic getaway is waiting- right in your backyard. This Valentine’s Day, why not enjoy a romantic staycation at one of these Alberta hotels or resorts? Sip champagne in the Rockies, wine and dine on the prairie, or take in a night of big skies and stars: these packages offer all kinds of romantic fun. Some of these romance deals are available year-round as well, so if you can’t make it for the weekend of the 14th, you can always try creating your own weekend of romance and luxury.
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