Don’t Bust Your Budget: Frugal Fun in Calgary This Holiday Season

They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year. They say there’s no place like home for the holidays. They say it is the season to be jolly.

Okay, I don’t disagree. But the season is not without its difficulties, and I don’t just mean the decorating and the cooking! (I know, I know, some people love that stuff. I would rather sip eggnog and watch others do it.) Life with a family can be busy, delightful, aggravating, and expensive, especially at Christmas! With extra visitors, the kids off school, and the lingering dark winter nights, families can get a little stir crazy after the dust (glitter?) of Christmas settles. But with the inevitable Christmas bills coming due, you might also be feeling the pressure of watching a budget. Raising a family can be costly, and it’s always great to have some budget-friendly ideas for fun things to do with your family.

Budget Activities Calgary Winter Break (Family Fun Calgary)

(Mostly) Cheap Things to do Over Winter Break

Sledding

It gets cold in Calgary, to be sure, but we often have wonderful winter days for outdoor activities. There are lots of great places to head outside and enjoy the fresh, crisp air, plus the kids will burn all kinds of energy running up and down a hill! (Now, if only we get enough snow.) The City of Calgary has designated specific locations in every quadrant that are safe for tobogganing.

Skating

For a change from swooping down a hill, grab your skates and head out to one of the many beautiful skating rinks. The City of Calgary has 8 outdoor skating rinks that are maintained by the city and free to use. In addition, there are 35 more rinks that are maintained by the Adopt-A-Rink program and many communities also have community rinks. Outdoor rinks are, of course, weather dependent, although the ice surface at Olympic Plaza is a refrigerated surface. If the weather is too cold (or too warm . . . ) indoor rinks are usually relatively inexpensive, too. The City of Calgary offers a family pass for $14.25 and Vivo has a skating-only pass for $13. Or, you could skate on the “fastest ice on earth” at the Olympic Oval on Monday nights for only a toonie and a food bank donation. Also, check out your local arenas, as many of them are quite inexpensive.

Christmas Lights

Have you had enough of Christmas yet?! If not, many places in Calgary will have their Christmas lights up through New Year’s Eve, and sometimes right through winter break. Bundle up and take a walk through a brightly lit park. Or grab yourself a coffee, pack the kids into their car seats, and drive past some lovely lights!

Swimming

Yes, it’s winter and baby, it’s cold outside. But that can be a great reason to head to the pool, especially if it has a hot tub or a steam room! And there is nothing like water play to help wear the kids out. The City of Calgary has a number of indoor pools where families can play, generally for under $20. Plus, select times are designated as Splash and Swim times, where adults pay only $2 and kids are $1. The 2 City of Calgary leisure centres are a little more money, but they also offer more options for activities. Or, check out your local YMCA for swimming and other activity options. Check out the City of Calgary kids’ stocking stuffer: a coupon booklet stuffed with staying active options for only $5.

Geocaching

Geocaching is generally considered more of a summer activity, but there’s no reason not to get outside on the nice winter days, too! It will give you an excuse to go exploring. For tips and tricks on winter geocaching, see the official geocaching blog.

Calgary Public Library

I’m sure it’s not just me: I absolutely love the public library. Not only can you save money (and room in your house) by borrowing books, music, and movies, but they have many services and online resources, too. They also have great programs you can register for, or see your local library for drop-in events, to help get you out of the house, plus unique play areas, like The New Adventures of Engine 23.

YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre

The YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre is a fun, free place to visit (although there is a suggested donation), especially for any child who is remotely interested in policing, crime, and the law. They are only open on Fridays & Saturdays during the school year, but kids will be fascinated when they get the inside scoop on some exciting Calgary Police Service units and equipment at YouthLink, and especially when they discover the amazing opportunities to learn about covert operations, solving crimes, and fun forensics! (They are closed December 24th, 2017 to January 4th, 2018, so you only have a couple visiting options over the break.)

Devonian Gardens

Winter can be cold, and sometimes you just get tired of snow pants, hats, and mitts. (Or, maybe you get tired of kids losing them everywhere you go; I know I do.) Devonian Gardens is a unique indoor oasis located downtown in the CORE shopping centre. The Gardens are undergoing an ongoing renovation, but with green space and an indoor playground, it’s a great FREE place to visit on a cold day. If you have kids that love the train, take the C-train downtown to add to the fun!

Calgary Airport

Okay, maybe this is just my family, but my kids love hanging out at the airport. And we have a world-class airport in our city, with good kid-friendly spaces. Besides a couple indoor playground areas, you could also visit the SpacePort, a FREE exhibit area with interactive displays focussing on aeronautics and space. (The SpacePort is free, but you will have to pay for parking.)

Mall (& Indoor) Play Areas

Sometimes, just heading to a play place at a local mall can be exciting enough for the little ones. Pack a treat and let them burn some energy in a warm (confined) space. Take a deep breath. Buy yourself a coffee.

You can also check out our ultimate list of indoor play places in Calgary here, but be warned, they are not all budget-friendly.

Glenbow Museum First Thursday of the Month Free

On the first Thursday night of every month, from 5 – 9 pm, you can visit the Glenbow Museum for free. (So, this idea only works once during winter break, but at least the kids could sleep in the next morning!) Explore the diverse collection of Glenbow Museum; you might be surprised at what your kids are interested in.

Laser City $5 Laser Tag

Kids six and up might enjoy a rousing game of laser tag! (And adults can release some of the latent Christmas frustration?) On Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 4:30 – 9 pm, you can play a game of laser tag for only $5/person. No booking is required, so just show up!

Board Game Cafes

Board games have become a quintessential family activity over the years. But instead of you forking out all the money to buy all the games, check out one of the many board game cafes in Calgary. For a small fee, your family can come buy some snacks and try out some new games. Pips Board Game Cafe is especially suited for families, with lots of family-friendly games to choose from.

Christmas Crazy Kids (Family Fun Calgary)

Are you going crazy in the house? I completely understand.

So, Get Out and Play!

Whether winter break flies by for you and your family (or feels like a lifetime), add some playtime to your holidays. Everyone needs a break from the house, and you can make some wonderful – and maybe surprising! – memories.

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