Category Archives: Family Fun

What to do this weekend – January 15-17

Checklist for Weekend FunLooking for fun and festive activities you and your family can you do this weekend in and around Calgary? Here are our top picks for family friendly activities:

  • This weekend kicks off IceMagic Festival at Lake Louise! Experience the incredible talent of international ice carvers as they delicately balance grueling physical labour with precision artistry in this 34-hour competition.
  • While you’re in Banff National Park visit the 5th Annual SnowDays. There are a variety of events that combine history, culture and cutting edge winter action.
  • Learn how to Cook With Your Kids at the Calgary Farmer’s Market. Families can prepare a healthy dish and sit down and enjoy their meal together.
  • See the connection between body and movement at BODY WORLDS Vital which opens at Telus Spark Saturday January 16. Understand the impact that healthy choices and lifestyle changes have on our physical body and wellbeing through this amazing exhibition.
  • Visit the Puppet Pop-Up Studio: Year of the Monkey. Inspired by the Chinese astrological calendar and the upcoming Chinese New Year, W.P. Puppets will be making monkey puppets from paper and cord at the Chinese Cultural Centre.

For all the information about these great events or a list of other family friendly activities happening this weekend, check out our calendar.

The Big List of Santa Locations

Christmas


Santa at the Mall

BassPro Shops at CrossIron Mills
The most wonderful time of the year is almost here! Gather the family and come to experience the joy of a classic Christmas. Get a free photo with Santa then stay for FREE games, crafts and activities that celebrate the season.

When: November 14 – December 24, 2015
Location: 261055 Crossiron Blvd, Rocky View AB
Website: www.crossironmills.com

Chinook Centre
Santa arrives at Chinook Centre on November 28, and would love for you to visit.

When: November 28 – December 24, 2104
Location: 6455 Macleod Trail SW, Calgary AB
Website: www.chinookcentre.com

Deerfoot Mall
In addition having a photo taken with Santa, bring a non-perishable food item for the Mayor’s Food Bank and you can join in the colouring and crafts in Santa’s workshop.
When: November 28 – December 24, 2015
Location: 901 64 Ave NE, Calgary AB
Website: www.deerfootmall.com

Market Mall
Santa will be welcoming visitors at his Playland in Market Mall. This year they are once again kicking off the Christmas season with breakfast with Santa with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House of Southern Alberta.

When: November 22 – December 24, 2015
Location: 3625 Shaganappi Trail NW, Calgary AB
Website: www.marketmall.ca

Marlborough Mall
Visit Santa all season long.

When: November 21 – December 24, 2015
When: November 21 – December 6, 2015
Thursday – Saturday: noon – 3 pm and 4 pm – 7pm
Sunday noon – 4 pm
December 7- 24
Monday – Saturday: noon – 3 pm and 4 pm – 7pm
Sunday: noon – 4 pm
Christmas Eve
10 am – 3 pm
Location: 3800 Memorial Dr NE, Calgary, AB
Website: www.marlboroughmall.com

Northland Village Mall
Northland Village’s Village Square will be transformed into Sugarplum Lane. Parents can bring their children for fun activities, yummy treats, and a visit with Santa! Be sure to bring your camera to take photos for free (no photographer onsite).

When: November 28 – December 24, 2015
Hours: 11 am – 1pm and 2 – 4 pm (December 24 Santa will only be available in the morning)
Location: 5111 Northland Drive NW, Calgary AB
Website: www.northlandvillagemall.ca

Southcentre Mall
Santa will be here until the 24th. While waiting for Santa, your kids can watch a holiday movie at the Magic Pond, located near Santa’s Enchanted Forest. After seeing Santa, be sure to decorate your own cookie in the Cookie Kitchen.

When: Now through December 24, 2015
Location: 100 Anderson Road SE, Calgary AB
Website: www.southcentremall.com

Sunridge Mall
Santa will arrive at Sunridge Mall on December 1, 2015 and they are offering Santa photos free of charge this year; just bring your own camera, camcorder or smartphone. In lieu of payment, a monetary donation to The Children’s Cottage Society is gratefully requested.

When: December 1 – 24, 2015
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11am – 8pm    
Sundays & Christmas Eve: 12pm – 5pm
Location: 2525 36 St NE, Calgary AB
Website: www.sunridgemall.com

Westbrook Mall
Visit with Santa by the fountain, participate in free kids’ holiday crafts on select days and take the opportunity to drop off a new, unwrapped toy for the Toy Angels holiday campaign.

When: November 21 – December 6, 2015
Hours: Thursday – Saturday: noon – 3 pm and 4 pm – 7pm
Sunday noon – 4 pm
December 7- 23
Monday – Saturday: noon – 3 pm and 4 pm – 7pm
Sunday: noon – 4 pm
December 24
10 am – 3 pm
Location: 1200 37 St SW, Calgary AB
Website: Christmaswww.westbrookmall.com

Other Places to See Santa:

Airdrie Santa Claus Parade
Take family and friends to the Santa Claus Parade where Santa and numerous floats roll down on Main Stree and light up the downtown. This is a fun, festive way to set the mood for your holiday.

When: December 5, 2015 – 5 p.m.
Location: Main Street – The Parade will start at Fletcher Park (6th Ave NW and Main Street) and will proceed southbound Main street to Ridgegate.
Cost: Free
Website: http://www.airdrieparades.com/

Christmas at the Track – Veissmann Luge World Cup
Take photos with Santa, enjoy sleigh rides, a petting zoo, face painting, airbrush tattoo artist, cookie decorating, flip-books, ball pit, bouncy castles, family skating and come out and jump on a Springfree Trampoline! You can even catch a glimpse of exciting Luge World Cup action!

When: December 19, 2015
Location: Olympic Oval
Cost: $15 for a family or only $10 with a new or gently used jacket donation.
Website: www.winsport.ca

High River Santa Claus Parade
Join the second annual Light Up George Land Park and the 29th annual Santa Clause Parade. There will be live music, entertainment, photos with Santa, firepits, hot chocolate, unique gifts and more!

When: December 4, 2015
Location: Downtown High River
Cost: $15 for a family or only $10 with a new or gently used jacket donation.
Website:http://www.highrivertourism.com/christmas#events

Silver Springs Community Association’s Breakfast with Santa
When: Saturday, November 28, 2015 as Santa and Mrs. Claus  stop by for breakfast. Breakfast begins at 9am.  There will be pancakes, bacon, eggs and fresh fruit.
Location: 5720 Silver Ridge Drive NW
Cost: Ticket Sales begin November 2, 2015.Ticket must be purchased in advance. Tickets are $10 each and proceeds go toward programs at Silver Springs Community Association.
Website: http://www.silverspringscommunity.ca/events

Santa Claus Parade of Lights & Festive Fun (Banff)

The flurry of festivities starts with a line-up of kid-friendly, fun-filled activities that are sure to heighten your Christmas spirit. Festive Fun with Santa is a bustling event whose name says it all. Christmas craft making, face painting, balloon twisting, carnival games and photos with Santa himself provide hours of entertainment and memories that last a lifetime.Finally, enjoy the sweet songs of roaming carolers and watch the magic and glow of the Santa Claus Parade of Lights.

When: December 5, 2015 5:30 p.m.
Location: Along Banff Avenue
Cost: Free
Website: https://events.banfflakelouise.com/festival

Skate with Santa (Okotoks)
Santa is coming to town early this year for our Annual Skate with Santa at the Okotoks Rec Centre’s Piper Arena. Candy canes and hot chocolate add to the festive fun. Bring your skates and your camera for some free family fun!

When: Sunday, December 13, 2015 – 2:15pm to 3:15pm
Location: Okotoks Recreational Centre – 99 Okotoks Drive Okotoks AB
Cost: Free
Website: www.okotoks.ca/events

 

 

 

Halloween’s A Hauntingly Good Time in Calgary

Calgary Top Halloween EventsIt’s scary how much fun you can have on Halloween in Calgary. Depending on what your little ghouls or goblins are up for you can do anything from scare up a few ghosts to plan for the big night. Here’s a list of some of the celebrations going on:

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Presents, Disney in Concert: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Experience the thrill of the classic animated film, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, on the big screen as Roberto Minczuk conducts Danny Elfman’s original score. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the website.

When:  Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Location:              Jack Singer Concert Hall
Link:       www.calgaryphil.com

Little Spooks Halloween Party at Trico Centre for Family Wellness.

For kids up to six years old and parents. Join for fun, face painting, games, crafts and more! Wear your costume!

When:  Friday, October 30, 2015 at 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Location:              11150 Bonaventure Drive SE
Link:       www.tricocentre.ca

Monster Mash Halloween Bash at Village Square Leisure Centre.

Come dressed in your favorite costume and join for creepy crafts, ghostly games and ghouly activities. This is a free event!

When:  Friday, October 30, 2015 at 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Location:              2623, 56 Street NE
Link:       http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Recreation/Pages/Leisure-centres/Village-Square.aspx

Ghouls’ Night Out at Heritage Park.

Dress up and explore the Park after dark! Have tea with the Mad Hatter, wander through the pumpkin patch, play Carnival games, dance with zombies and more! To purchase tickets, visit the website.

When:  Friday, October 30, 2015 at 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Location:              1900 Heritage Drive SW
Link:       www.heritagepark.ca

Haunted Calgary’s Low Scare Hours

Do you have young children and worry that Haunted Calgary‘s The Coven may be too scary?

We offer a LOW SCARE attraction from 2-4pm on October 30, 31, and November 1.

During low scare, we have few to no actors throughout the haunt and there is more natural light available. However, our sets and props remain unchanged.

If in doubt, we recommend parents go through first before bringing their kids through. Many people also find their children are comforted by attending our low scare event during the daytime before attending full scare in the evening. The choice is up to you!

When: October 30, 31, and November 1 from 2-4 p.m.
Location: 222 Rocky Ridge Bay NW
Cost: By donation to animal rescue and the food bank – recommendation is $10 + 2 cans of food per person
Link: http://www.hauntedcalgary.com

Harvest Pumpkin Hunts at Butterfield Acres Farm.

Weekends in October. Check website for times available. Search for pumpkins in an old Hay Wagon. There will also be kid-sized pumpkins to decorate and spend time with the cute farm animals! Tickets go on sale September 1. This event sells out, so get your tickets early. Tickets must be purchased in advance. For more details and order forms, contact 403-239-0638 or visit the website.

When:  Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 12:00 am – 12:00 am
Location:              254077 Rocky Ridge Road
Link:       http://butterfieldacres.com/farmfun_pumpkin.htm

TELUS Spark Presents, Monster Mash-Up!

TELUS Spark Presents, Monster Mash-Up! Proudly Brought to You in Part by Calgary’s Child Magazine. Monster Mash-Up is the perfect family-friendly event to kick-start your Halloween celebrations. Enjoy activities like pumpkin decorating, mad science and ‘A Peek at Parasites.’ Or perhaps the toy mash-up is calling your name – channel your inner Frankenstein and cut, sew and glue together toys. It’s sure to be a frightfully fun time! Included with Admission or Membership. For more information, visit the website.

When:  Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location:  TELUS Spark – 220 St. Georges Drive
Link:       www.sparkscience.ca/events/special-events-2/monster-mash-up-2015/?fullsite=1

 Little Boo – Haunted Atlas Coal Mine.

Families can explore the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, but must beware of ghouls! Ride the Train of Terror, put on your best poker face for Detective Fibs and the Truth Fairy, and give the pumpkin toss your best shot! Costumes are encouraged, but dress for chills! Children must be accompanied by an adult. To purchase tickets, visit http://littleboo.brownpapertickets.com. The Haunted Atlas Coal Mine is an annual fun(d)raising event for the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site. Revenue generated supports building restoration at the Nationally designated, locally operated site. Between May and Thanksgiving, Atlas provides thrilling underground Tunnel Tours, narrow gauge Mantrip Tours, Tipple Tours and Unmentionables Tours.

Cost:      $5.00
When:  Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Location:              15 Minutes East of Drumheller on Highway 10
Link:       www.atlascoalmine.ab.ca/events

Halloween Boo Bags at North Mount Pleasant Arts Centre.

There are two times available: 4:30 to 5:30pm and 6 to 7pm. An instructor will be on-site and all art supplies you need to decorate a frightening loot bag! Bags are $10 each. Kids must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver. Space is limited. To register, call 403-221-3682.

When:  Friday, October 23, 2015 at 4:30 am – 5:30 pm
Location:              523, 27 Avenue NW

Halloweekends at Calaway Park.

Saturdays, Sundays and Holiday Mondays from September 5 to October 12. Join the Boo Crew for a spooktacular good time. Take a stroll down Hall-Street if you dare! Join the Boo Crew for a spooktacular good time. Take a stroll down Hall-Street if you dare!

When:  Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location:              245033 Range Road 33
Link:       www.calawaypark.com

5 Foodie-friendly Family Fun Activities

Five Foodie Friendly
Cooking is one of the best ways for children to learn about food and nutrition. Inspiring kids to appreciate food can be tough, so for parents of picky eaters these five suggestions might help. After all, kids are more likely to try something that they’ve had hand in helping to pick and prepare.

  1. Indulge in a cool treat at one of Calgary’s fabulous ice cream shops.
  2. Get some local fruits and veggies at a Farmers’ Market.
  3. Try out one of the amazing brunch items at Yellow Door Bistro
  4. Experience the flavors of Calgary at Taste of Calgary.
  5. Make a pie with berries you picked yourself at the Saskatoon Farm in Okotoks.

For more great summer ideas for all ages, check out our super “Summer in the City” activity list by Nanica Brown! http://www.calgaryschild.com/family-fun/activities/1924-summer-in-the-city-check-out-all-the-fun-in-calgary

Day Tripping around Alberta – All Aboard a Prairie Adventure

Riding the Rails at Aspen Crossing
Every wonder what it’s like to ride the rails? We recently had the chance to take the new Circus Train excursion at Aspen Crossing located just outside of Mossleigh, Alberta.

Train travel is something my children have never experienced. I was a bit worried that we would get onboard and they would spend the next three hours pestering me if we were there yet.

Aspen Crossing 2I had nothing to worry about. Once our tickets were punched we got to pick out seats on the train. The three cars we could choose from included the lounge, the dining car and the Pullman. We took the Pullman it was the perfect choice, not just because of the wide, cushy seats and great views. It also had quick access to the open air patio car and caboose which turned out to be my daughter’s favourite place on the whole train.

When everyone was on board the train slowly pulled away from the station and on to the spur line – after a brief safety debrief it was on with the show. Most of the kid aged entertainment happens in the back of the Pullman car and the caboose. Our ring master handed out balloons, the face painter got ready and the smell of popcorn wafted out of the caboose.

If you’re wondering if there is enough to keep you entertained the answer is a definitive yes.  There are balloon twisters who made some truly incredible animals, live music in the lounge car and a mysterious golden elephant that gets lost and can be returned to the ring master for a treat or two or eight if you are a motivated six-year-old.

Aspen Crossing 1If that’s not enough to captivate you there is also a mystery on the rails. I won’t spoil it except to say there is a robbery and the shootout where they use blanks can be quite loud for little children.

Last but not least is the scenery. Chugging peacefully across the countryside the views are incredible. When we weren’t running from one end of the train we saw cows, llamas and deer along with the Mossleigh grain elevators.

If you get hungry or thirsty the dining car has a selection of hot dogs, sandwiches bagels, chips, sodas, bottled water,souvenirs and drink tickets if you would like something stronger from the lounge. They also take debit so you don’t have to worry about remembering to stop at a bank machine.

When we left that day my son asked when we were coming back. “It was epic mom.”

If you child is a Thomas enthusiast, loves Supertrain and knows all the names of the trains then this is the day trip for you*

Even if they aren’t train junkies this is a pretty amazing way to spend the day.

Aspen Crossing has eight train tours that run the gamut of themes. From dinner theatre – to Ale on the Circus train they have something for every age group. If a day trip is too much time on the road there are 85 camp ground spaces and two converted caboose cabins. If you don’t want to ride the rails you can enjoy dinner on their 1887 Pullman dining car that once belonged to John Diefenbaker or simple take stroll around The Station to find a perfect memento from the day.

For more information visit aspencrossing.com

Tips for taking it all in at Aspen Crossing:

  1. Check out the Cupola in the Caboose
  2. If you have small children pick the Pullman car, it’s air conditioned and if they fall asleep the seats recline. There were several kids and dads or grandpas snoozing.
  3. Get there early. We didn’t have time to look around before the train left and the kids were so exhausted from all the things they did on the train we couldn’t check anything out after.
  4. It was over 30 degrees the day we went and while the cars are air conditioned the patio space has no shade, but it does have the best views, so pack sunscreen and water.
  5. Take the time to ask questions about your trip. All the staff have a passion for the rails and can tell you lots about the train and tracks you are riding on.

WARM UP WINTER! HO HO HOLIDAY FUN!

Bundle up the kids and head on out to create some wonderful holiday memories. From winter picnics… to the beautiful music of the season and everything in between, here are some of our favorite ideas to make this holiday extra special for you and your family.

Here are some of great family-friendly events to help you ring in the New Year!

December 31, 10am to 12Noon; Noon Year’s Eve, Telus Spark. Join for a special Noon Year’s Eve celebration to ring in the New Year early with your little ones. Perfect for those with early bed times. Enjoy a day jam-packed with family fun, live science demonstrations and experiences, including a special Noon Year’s Eve countdown! sparkscience.ca/specialevents

10:00 am – 4:00 pm; New Year’s Eve Party at Bow Habitat Station. December 31, 10am to 4pm; Ring in 2015 with the whole family this New Year’s Eve! Join Bow Habitat Station for fun, family-friendly activities, and for a ‘Countdown to Noon’ dance party from 11:45 am to 12:30 pm. Activities include: a trip to feed the fish, build your own noisemaker, face painting, family photo booth and more! Date: December 31, 2014 Time: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Cost: Adults, $10. Seniors/Students, $8. Youth (5-17), $6. Children 4 & under, free.

December 31, 5 to 8pm; New Year’s Eve Family Event, Village Square Leisure Centre. Swim, jump, splash and slide 2014 out the door! There will be a DJ pumping out the sound as families enjoy the wave pool, nuclear balls, tubes, arts and crafts, prizes and more! Join for a pool party countdown!

*December 31, 7 to 9pm; Recreation in The City of Calgary The City of Calgary Recreation New Year’s Eve Family Dance Party. A family-friendly, safe and warm way to ring in the New Year! Music and activities for the young and young-at-heart. Wear neon or white and anything that glows. Bring your dancing shoes! Kids’ countdown at 9pm. Takes place at the Municipal Building. calgary.ca/recreation

*December 31, 9pm to Midnight; The City of Calgary Recreation New Year’s Eve Outdoor Celebration. Follow the Family Dance Party with an outdoor winter party at Olympic Plaza. Bundle up and bring your skates for skating with hot chocolate, music and ice sculptures. Finish off the evening with a countdown to midnight and fireworks. calgary.ca/recreation

December 31; Zoo Year’s Eve, The Calgary Zoo. A family-friendly way to roar in the New Year. Little party animals and mom and dad will enjoy the Zoolights displays, fireworks show, Kids Zone and some wild entertainment. Fire pits and hot chocolate are available to keep everyone warm and toasty.calgaryzoo.com

Let it Snow!

  • Skiing
    Getting the family together to go to the mountains can be difficult to squeeze into a busy lifestyle of work and school. Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park (COP) is the convenient and fun solution to that problem. Hills for all skill levels and a half pipe are all located at 88 Canada Olympic Road SW, just off of the TransCanada Highway. COP is open Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm; Saturday, Sunday and holidays 9am to 5pm.  Snowboarding: Not a skier? Take advantage of lessons at COP for individuals of all ages and abilities. Take the initiative with private lessons or family private lessons.
  • Plus 15’s
    Don’t be wary of exploring the streets of downtown Calgary because of the chilly weather. Take advantage of the world’s most extensive pedestrian skywalk system spanning across 16 kilometres and enjoy the snow covered streets without the parkas and snow pants.
  • Winter hikes
    Some great areas that are suited for the whole family include Heart Creek Trail just 45 minutes from Calgary. It is an easy half-day hike on mainly flat ground, which follows a creek. Also, Bow Valley Provincial Park located less than an hour west of Calgary is a great way to get moving and enjoy the outdoors.
  • Frosty Snowman Ideas
    Few things can warm up a yard or park like a snowman. The snow conditions must be just right. If you can make a tight snowball with the snow, then you have great snowman making material. Typically a snowman has a carrot nose, button eyes and charcoal mouth, plus a borrowed old hat and scarf. Don’t let this be your only choice. Here are some ideas:
  • Sticks, rocks, berries, twigs and leaves all make wonderful snowman decorations.
  • Add six drops of food coloring to a litre of water and put it in a fine mist spray bottle or old ketchup bottle. Use the bottle like a pen and make markings to add color to your snowman creation (try stripes, dots, solid colors, etc.)
  • Use different size containers to mold snow pets for your snowman. How about a green alligator or a pink elephant?
  • Line up a lot of snowballs and make a snow caterpillar. Let the kids go for a pretend ride.
  • Make an active snowman… surfing, skiing, playing a snow instrument, dancing.
  • Decorate your snowman with things that birds would like to eat. Try a berry and nut necklace!
  • Have a contest to see who can make the tallest or fattest or funniest, etc. snowman.
  • Play toss the hat on the Snowman. Take turns with a hat (or Frisbee) to see who can toss the hat onto the head of the snowman.
  • Pack up the kids and go on a Winter Picnic!
    Bring snacks and firewood, and head to a park near you. Check out calgary.ca/parks to find locations near you and also how to get a permit (firewood is included with a permit), if required. Or take a winter hike and discover the beauty of nature in winter on trails in Calgary’s natural area environment parks or on cleared pathways.
  • Scavenger Hunt 
    Make a list of winter items, get the kids to help you with this beforehand, then go out and see how many you can find. A short list of 10 items is great, and learning about what there is in nature in winter.
  • Head For The Toboggan Hills
    Head for the hills with your toboggan, inner tube, or sled! And always play safe – wear a helmet on your head!Calgary Marlborough Community Association, 636 Marlborough Way NE
    Confederation Park (East), 2807-10 St NW
    Deerfoot Athletic Park, 1604-14 Ave NE
    Elliston, 60 St & 17 Ave SE
    Erin Woods, 20 Erinwoods Dr SE
    Kingsland Dry Pond, 502 Heritage Dr SW (behind arenas)
    Glenbrook Hill, 45 St & 25 Ave SW
    Maple Ridge Dry Pond, Mapleglade Cl SE
    Marlborough Park Community Association, 6021 Madigan Dr NE
    Monterey Park – Catalina Blvd & 28 Ave NE
    Prairie Winds Park, 223 Castleridge Blvd NE
    Richmond Green, 33 Ave & 25 St SW
    Richmond Park, 22 Ave & 45 St SW
    River Park, 4500-14A St SW
    St. Andrew’s Heights, 2504-13 Ave NW
    Scarboro, 15 Ave & 15 St SW
    Scirroco Joint Site, Scirroco Dr & Signal Hill Hts SW
    Stanley Park, 4011-1A St SW ·
    Strathcona, 277 Strathcona Dr SW
    Turtle Hill, On 45 St btwn 17 Ave & 26 Ave SW
    West Glamorgan, 4207-41 Ave SW
  • Take in a Play, Concert or Performance
    Our Events Calendar is filled to the brim with seasonal performances sure to delight families of every age. Visit the calendar for all the details!
  • Skating
    Outdoor skating rinks in Calgary are weather dependent and are typically open mid-December through February, except for Olympic Plaza which is a refrigerated ice surface and is generally open from mid-November to mid-March.City-maintained outdoor rinks are free to use and are flooded as needed during low usage hours. Please stay off the ice while it is being cleaned or cleared of snow. Hockey sticks are not permitted and helmets are strongly recommended.The following outdoor skating rinks are maintained by The City:
    Big Marlborough Park – opening mid December
    Bowness Park Lagoon – opening mid December
    Carburn Park – opening mid December
    Olympic Plaza – OPEN
    Prairie Winds Park – opening mid December
    Prince’s Island Lagoon – opening mid DecemberToo cold to skate outside? Visit the Olympic Oval for indoor skating fun! Helmets are required. Check online for the public skating schedule. The City of Calgary also maintains several indoor arenas that are occasionally open for public skating; check the schedule online.

The City is All Aglow With Millions of Twinkling Lights

  • Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo to Jan. 3; 6 to 9pm – gates close at 8:30pm (closed Christmas Day and excludes Zoo Year’s Eve); Every year, people of all ages head to the Calgary Zoo to enjoy hot chocolate, fire pits, fun games and the display of 1.5 million twinkling lights. The Zoo Lights are open every day from 6pm to 9pm (gates close at 8:30pm), finishing on Sunday, January 3 (excluding Christmas day and New Year’s Eve). Admission for adults is $15 and admission for children is $11.
  • Lions’ Festival of Lights – Confederation Park – 14 Street – 24 Avenue NW; For many Calgary families, the annual visit to the Lions’ annual light display marks the beginning of the Christmas Season.  Located on the east side of the Confederation Golf Course, you’ll find thousands of glowing lights displayed in beautiful Christmas themes. See Merry Christmas written in 17 languages at the 25rd Annual Lions Festival of Lights located at Confederation Park. The display is illuminated daily from 7pm to Midnight until January 8. This is a free event.
  • McDougall Centre – 455-6 Street SW; The Christmas Lights on these beautifully kept grounds are a joy to behold.
  • Olympic Plaza – 228 – 8 Avenue SE; Originally built for medal presentations during the 1988 Winter Olympics, Olympic Plaza is a great place to bring the family to enjoy a day of skating. The rink is open to the public daily from 10am to 9pm until the middle of March, depending on the weather. Grab your ice-skates and glide amongst the lights.
  • Airdire Festival of Lights Nose Creek Park – Airdire, Alberta; December 1 to 31, nightly from 6 to 9pm. 20 minute drive north from Calgary on QE II Highway. Experience the glow as you walk through a wintry world of twinkling holiday lights. Sip on a cup of hot chocolate while standing beside a roaring fire. Watch the glow as you gleefully ride the miniature trains around a frozen pond! For more information, visit airdriefestivaloflights.com.
  • Downtown Calgary – Downtown Calgary lights up beautifully, enjoy twinkling office towers and the decorated lobbies of office buildings and hotels. Stephen Avenue Mall glows from top to bottom.
  • Spruce Meadows – Each evening between 5-10 pm from December 5 to January 4 – Scotiabank, Bennett Jones, ATCO Group and AKITA Drilling present Christmas Season magic with a quarter of a million lights, blanketing Spruce Meadows from west to east. The 2 kilometer drive through the grounds includes Tournament Lane, The Courtyard, Traffic Circle, the Nations Flag Park, Congress Hall, Riders Chapel and the Pond with strings of lights measuring nearly 50 kilometers.
  • Currie Barracks – Light Up Currie Barracks! It’s that time of year – Cue the lights, decorations and festive cheer! To brighten up our dark December nights, we’re setting the sales centre a-twinkle with holiday lights. Currie Barracks Sales Centre (J5, 2953 Battleford Road)

Stampeding on the Cheap: Buy Ahead and Save!

The Calgary Stampede is coming, and if you’ve lived in the city for a while, you know that it’s not always a wallet-friendly experience. Fortunately, the Stampede has a few value offers that will help you and your family make the most out of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth:

  • Purchase $50 in Stampede Bucks for $39.99 at COSTCO until July 4th
    Stampede Bucks are redeemable anywhere on the Park, including Rodeo and Grandstand Show tickets. Buy a few of these, and it can add up to a pretty significant discount.
  • Two Stampede Park Admissions and Two 591ML Coca-Cola Products for $25 at Mac’s until July 13
    It’s about a 30% discount, so if you live close to a Mac’s, take advantage!
  • Buy a 12-Pack Box of Coca-Cola, Get a Free Kid’s Admission
    Make sure the box you buy has the clip-and-save coupon on the packaging! Cut it out and bring it to the Stampede with you for a free kid’s admission. $8 savings – that’s worth at least a hot dog, right?
  • Safeway Stampede Midway Cards – Ride all Day OR 60 Tickets for $37.85 until July 3
    For the first time, these Stampede Midway Cards also give you a 1 ticket discount at the Kids’ Midway – if you have a ride-lover in the family, it’s definitely worth it to buy ahead. Available exclusively at Safeway, these passes will save you about 25% on the Stampede Park price.

Unplugging with Miss Alex – by Alex Broger

My fiancé (Jon) and I were at the dog park last week and on the way we walked past a playground. As we walked by, he turned to me and pointed out just how many of the parents (moms and dads) were on their cell phones, texting, talking, “Facebooking”, or “Instagramming”; and, as a result, not paying attention to their kids.

I’m not saying this is any indication of their parenting skills or daily involvement in their children’s lives, but Jon looked at me and said, “when we have kids, I’ll never be like that.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I have already been like that.

I worked in daycare for two years, and while they had a strict “no phone” policy, the summers I spent nannying afterwards didn’t. I loved (and still do) the kids I worked with and truly enjoyed my time with them, but constantly having to “make believe” gets draining. I could only hear, “Miss Alex, look at this!” and “no, say this!” while playing Lego, dolls, and house so many times before I was all out of original and creative ideas.

I’ll admit there were times it was easier to just nod “yes” without really hearing what they were so excited to tell or show me. Trips to the park became my salvation. I could send them off to play on the slide, or with other children, while I feverishly checked my Facebook newsfeed every five minutes.

I was plugged in. And it wasn’t until my phone broke and I was forced to use my pre-app flip phone that I realized how immensely it was affecting my ability to engage.

The first week was hard. I had to fight the urge to check my phone constantly, and even worse was the aching feeling that I wasn’t aware of what was going on with my friends or family every single minute.

After the initial longing for Wi-Fi compatibility wore off,I began to realize that playtime with my kiddies was becoming more enjoyable and fun. I was able to put aside my phantom need to be connected with the outside world, and focus on connecting with the people, three lovely children, around me. Without that fear of missing something (seemingly vitally important) on Facebook, I was able to project that wasted energy towards making the day interesting and creative.

Removing the temptation of being able to take a video or photo and post it to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook also opened up a whole new world of awareness.

When I was little, there was a running joke in my family that I was going to grow up thinking my dad was a video camera, since all I ever saw of him was his face behind the machine. No one can blame a dad for wanting to capture all the adorable moments, but by trying to capture every moment to relive it, you end up missing it while it’s happening.

I began taking (a few) photos with a digital camera and sharing them with the family instead of everyone on my “friends” list. I was present, I was relaxed, all the things I had previously missed captivated me, and I loved it.

Unplugging allowed a plethora of imaginative and inspired ideas to flood out of me, and creative play didn’t seem too long or mentally draining anymore. My attention was refocused onto what was important.

I have never seen kids as happy as when I put my phone down and gave all of myself into that dance routine or pirate ship adventure. I’m also happier when I don’t have to worry about checking my phone for updates.

As a rule, I still only take my phone out during naptime, downtime, emergencies, or as a reference when I am working with children. And, every so often, I enjoy the feeling of being unplugged in my adult life too.

I recommend this challenge to anyone who has kids, works with kids, or just wants to become fully immersed in a moment of their own lives. Select a set time to check your Facebook and use your apps and don’t check it until then. Your peace-of-mind will thank you.

Edmonton’s TELUS World of Science & Harry Potter The Exhibition – Worth the Trip?

My husband and I were very fortunate to have the chance to explore the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton this past weekend. We both love museums and this one was definitely worth a look.

The TELUS World of Science in Edmonton is similar to TELUS Spark in Calgary in a lot of ways – it’s a science museum, and features a lot of the same traveling exhibits that Spark does. (For example, while we were there, it had the How to Make a Monster exhibit which was at TELUS Spark a little while ago.)

The biggest difference between the two museums is the scale – TELUS World of Science has an IMAX theatre (the biggest in Canada) as well as a dome theatre with awesome programming that comes free with admission, tons of permanent exhibits, and room for two traveling exhibits at a time. TELUS World of Science also has a free, volunteer-run observatory on the grounds, which doesn’t run on cold or cloudy nights, but which would be awesome to check out in the spring or summer if you are in the area.

Until March 8th, TELUS World of Science is also home to Harry Potter – The Exhibition. This is fantastically popular, so much so that you have to book a timed entry ticket when you arrive at the museum. We arrived at the museum at 2:00 PM on Sunday, and couldn’t get into the Harry Potter exhibition until 6:45 PM. You can book ahead online, and we chose to go on the busiest weekend of the year, so your family will probably have a much easier time getting in than we did.

The Harry Potter exhibition is $26.50 for an adult, and $19.50 per child. This includes admission into the regular exhibits at the museum.

I’m going to break this review into two sections, because we had a very different experience at the Harry Potter exhibition than we did at the rest of the museum:

 

Harry Potter The Exhibition

Once it’s your turn to enter the exhibit, you line up with everyone else in your time slot. You will be asked if you would like to rent an audio guide for $6. The audio guide was pretty basic and mostly about the actual props involved. It might be of interest to more die-hard fans of the series. It will not be of any interest to the kids in your party, especially if they are under twelve.

You will then be guided along the line and given a house scarf to take a picture in with your party. Once you return the scarf, you will be given a card with a number on it. You can show this card at the very end of the exhibit to buy your picture, which is $25 or more depending on what kind of prints you want.

After that, everyone is led into a dark room with a chair and the sorting hat. This was really cute and added to the atmosphere. Due to the nature of the room, it may be very hard for little ones to see. The presenter will ask a few people to try the sorting hat on and it will “sort” them into a house – there’s only time for two or three people to be “sorted,” so prepare for disappointment if your child isn’t picked.

From there, you enter another dark room and watch a short video with clips from the films, ending with the door being opened onto a “train platform” at Hogsmeade, fully equipped with a realistic replica Hogwarts Express. The whole group will be led into the exhibit from here. It is visually stunning, and probably the highlight of the entire exhibition.

The exhibition itself is mostly comprised of loads of props from the Harry Potter films, including costumes, artwork, wands, magical items, and furniture. I could see that many of the families with kids in the exhibit were having trouble transitioning their little ones from the “hands-on” nature of the rest of the museum to this very “hands-off” section, as you are not allowed to touch anything. You travel through sections of props themed by classes, professors, and areas such as the Forbidden Forest or the Quidditch Grounds.

There are only three “interactive” areas in the exhibition – you have the opportunity to pull up a mandrake root; you can throw a quaffle (a kind of ball) through a hoop, just like in Quidditch; and you can sit on Hagrid’s giant armchair.

At the end of the exhibition, everyone exits through a long and winding gift shop. To give you an idea of the prices, they ranged from about $6 for a 30 gram chocolate frog to $60 for a Hedwig (owl) stuffed toy. Replica wands were $50, and house scarves and ties could run you between $25-$35.

I strongly recommend having a conversation with your kids about what you are and are not willing to buy from the gift shop at the end. At one point, a well-meaning dad had to try to convince his young daughter to leave the shop while trying to pry a scarf, wand, stuffed owl toy, and three chocolate frogs away from her. (You can imagine how well that went.)

I thought it was unfortunate that you are unable to exit any other way but through the gift shop – it is fairly expensive to get into, and you’re left with the potential of seriously ruining your otherwise perfect day at the museum by refusing to buy a $6 chocolate frog, or giving in and spending a lot more money than you meant to. The museum’s gift shop is separate from the exit, and has price points of all levels, which means you can always afford to grab a little treat for your kids if you’d like.

For a family with die-hard teenaged or tween Potter fans, this exhibition could be really interesting. Visually, it was stunning, and for my husband and I as adults it was well worth the extra cost. It may or may not be suitable for your young family.

TELUS World of Science

The World of Science was a totally different story. There is something here for literally every age range, every interest, and every ability level – ranging from very simple “press this button” activities to some genuinely challenging math-based puzzles and in-depth thinking activities, the museum is beautifully designed for the entire family to enjoy. Exhibit areas include the human body, space travel, forensic science, the environment, and loads more. We spent the entire time from 2:00-6:45 PM in the museum proper, and only just managed to see most of what the museum had to offer in terms of exhibits – never mind all the incredible IMAX and star shows!

We took in one show in the fabulous dome theatre, which was an interactive tour around our solar system. Kids were encouraged to shout out answers, move around the theatre, and even leave and come back if necessary – the presenter helpfully pointed out the nearest bathroom and reassured parents that they could come and go as many times as they liked during the program. It was so quiet and soothing under the stars in the theatre that a little guy next to us fell asleep watching the show. Each show runs about 40 minutes and is absolutely free with admission, and well worth your time.

I really cannot say enough good things about the variety of activities in the museum and the fantastic educational content and effort put into each and every one. I learned so much in the afternoon we were there, even as an elementary teacher myself – even if your kids aren’t old enough to get much out of the educational content, the hands-on nature of almost everything means that there is lots to keep all ages busy.

If you are in Edmonton for a weekend – and even if you aren’t! – the TELUS World of Science is well worth the visit. I highly recommend it!