There’s so much to do in and around Calgary during winter. From downhill skiing to finding the best viewpoints of the city, you’re sure to find something to do this winter in Calgary. Make the most of it with these outdoor activities during these short sunny days of winter.
Outdoor Skating Trails/Rinks
Lace-up your skates for one of Calgary’s favourite winter activities. Olympic Plaza, in downtown Calgary, is a popular place for couples, friends, and families to go skating. Or, skate at Prince’s Island or Bowness Park Lagoon. If you want something new, North Glenmore Park is opening up a 730m ice trail that goes through the park by late December 2020.
You can also try out the new ice bikes and the 1.6-kilometre ice trail at Bowness Park. Calgary is the first city in Canada to offer ice bikes.
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Banff may be the most popular skiing destination for Calgarians. The three big ski resorts–Norquay, Sunshine, and Lake Louise–are stunning. Hidden away in Kananaskis is Nakiska, another popular ski resort that’s less than 2 hours away from Calgary. If driving out to the mountains isn’t for you, don’t forget about Canada Olympic Park, located in Calgary’s northwest.
There are plenty of places to go for a winter walk or hike in Calgary.
- 15 Places to Go On a Winter Walk in Calgary
- 25 Nature Attractions & Parks to Explore in Calgary
- Hiking Trails in and around Calgary
If you want to head out of the city, one of the most popular winter hikes is Tunnel Mountain in Banff. It’s a beginner-friendly hike that will give you incredible views of Banff. If you’re looking for a workout, Prairie Mountain in Kananaskis is great in all months of the year. It’s steep, but it will get you in great hiking shape for the summer. To explore the grasslands near Calgary, a winter hike at Glenbow Ranch is fantastic in all seasons (and is only a 30 minute drive from the City).
Frozen WaterFalls & Ice Walks
It’s not just lakes that freeze over in the wintertime. Frozen waterfalls are another must-see part of Alberta’s winter wonderland. The most popular place to see frozen waterfalls is at Johnston Canyon in Banff. Grotto Canyon near Canmore is another popular spot. Or, head out past Bragg Creek to Elbow Falls in Kananaskis. Troll Falls in Kananaskis is another popular destination if you want to hike with kids.
There are so many places in and near Calgary that are great for snowshoeing. You can snowshoe any park in Calgary that is not set for other purposes like cross-country skiing (ungroomed areas).
Bow Habitat Station offers snowshoeing lessons (Fridays from Nov – Mar (pending snowfall)) so that you can learn proper snowshoeing techniques while you trek the snowy trails of Pearce Estate Park.
Nose Hill Park is perfect for getting out while staying in the city, and your dog can come along too. West Bragg Creek, less than an hour from the city, has dozens of trails perfect for snowshoeing. For another snowshoeing spot in the city, try out the 12 Mile Coulee trail in northwest Calgary; the 11km trail is perfect for beginners.
Cross Country Skiing
If you’re looking to get out of the city to go cross country skiing, Kananaskis Country has beautiful trails. Within city limits, there are a few trackset trails. Bowness Park, South Glenmore Park, and West Confederation Park all feature maintained trackset trails. Some Calgary’s golf courses also have cross country ski trails maintained by volunteers.
Calgary has dozens of toboggan hills in its city parks iand n every quadrant of the city. If you’re in the northwest, Confederation Park is perfect for tobogganing. In the northeast, Prairie Winds Park has a lookout at the top of its toboggan hill. Stanley Park is a great tobogganing spot in the southwest. In the southeast, check out Elgin Hill in McKenzie Towne. It’s known as one of the best toboggan spots in the city.
If you not a fan of downhill skiing and still want to enjoy the thrill of mountain resorts, go snowtubing. With absolutely no skills necessary, snow tubing is a great winter family fun activity to get your heart pumping with all the thrill that the winter season brings. Canada Olympic Park (WinSport Tube Park), Mt Norquay, and Lake Louise Ski Resort offer snowtubing during the thick of winter.
Sleigh rides are a magical experience for the whole family, and a memory you’ll cherish for years. If you’re looking to get out to the mountains, Boundary View Ranch located in Kananaskis Village offers sleigh rides. Horsin Around in Southwest Calgary is a great option if you don’t want to drive out to the mountains for a sleigh ride. Moose Mountain Horseback Adventures near Bragg Creek offers sleigh rides and wagon rides too. Sleigh Rides in Banff
Watching wildlife/bird watching
Calgary is fortunate enough to have a provincial park located inside its city limits. Fish Creek Provincial Park has tons of wildlife and birds in all seasons. If you want to escape the city, check out Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park. Less than an hour drive from Calgary, it’s nestled along the Bow River, and many animals find their home in this park. For bird watching, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is open all year, and is home to many bird species. Remember your binoculars!
There are some fantastic ice fishing spots just outside the city limits. Ghost Lake near Cochrane is a serene lake for ice fishing. Bearspaw Reservoir is another favourite for Calgarians looking to catch some fish in the winter. To the east of Calgary, Chestermere Lake is another popular spot.
Discover the snowy landscape of Calgary and area on two wheels. Fat biking will let you enjoy the great outdoors during the winter. Explore Princes Island Park or any other part of Calgary, or the Kananaskis Country via the many approved Fatbiking trails. Canmore Nordic Centre, is another great place to explore from the saddle of your bicycle. You can also join for a guided Fatbike Frozen Waterfall Tour.
See Calgary Decked in Snow From Above
Standing atop Nose Hill, you have one of the best views of Calgary, not to mention views of the Rocky Mountains on a clear day. If you want to marvel at the beauty of Calgary’s downtown, Rotary Park and Scotsman’s Hill both offer iconic views of downtown. Rotary Park is just on the other side of the bow river from the centre street bridge. It’s a popular viewpoint, so don’t be surprised if you find others there too. Scotsman’s Hill in the southeast is another classic viewpoint, and looks over the Stampede Grounds with the highrise buildings of downtown as a backdrop.
Explore A Neighbourhood
If you’re looking to do a bit of window shopping this weekend, or check out some of Calgary’s cutest cafes and restaurants, you have a few options. Kensington, just northwest of downtown, is home to many small businesses. If you’re a foodie, check out some of the local restaurants along 17th Avenue, just south of downtown in the beltline region of Calgary. If you want to stroll through the heart of downtown Calgary, Stephen’s Avenue is a pedestrian-only street. For a quiet walk, the quaint neighbourhood of Mission is home to cute cafes and restaurants.
With the long nights of winter, Calgarians are making the most of it with beautiful light displays across the city. The Reconciliation Bridge (former Langevin Bridge) in East Village is lit up with thousands of lights every year. The Calgary tower features different colored lights to put on unique light shows. Olympic Plaza is another favourite spot for winter lights, especially if you’re skating underneath them. AND during December and early weeks of January, you can enjoy Christmas lights in Calgary.
What’s better on a cold winter day than relaxing in a natural hot spring? Calgary is lucky to be within a day trip of a few amazing hot springs. One of the most well-known is the Banff Upper Hot Springs (closed currently due to COVID-19) in the town of Banff. If you travel further into the mountains, you’ll find the Radium Hot Springs, another popular location. Though not a natural hot spring, Kananaskis Nordic Spa lets you enjoy gorgeous views of the Canadian Rockies from the plunge pools during the Scandinavian wellness spa treatments!