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10 Best Things to Do in Calgary in Winter

Calgary is such an epic place in winter that it was home to the Olympics in 1988. That’s definitely the international sign of “this place is awesome in winter!”

Since I grew up in Calgary I already knew that :)

Although many visitors use Calgary as a stopover on the way to winter adventures in the Canadian Rockies, it’s really a stellar place all on its own. There’s so much to do in and around the city making it Alberta’s urban winter wonderland.

To help you plan your next trip, this list has the 10 best things to do in Calgary in winter.


10 Best things to do in Calgary in winter.


Things to Do in Calgary in Winter


Winter wonderland isn’t complete without some seriously good sledding. On this Calgary does not disappoint.

The city has over 20 different hills on city property that are designated for tobogganing and sledding.

Some of the best hills have to be at Stanley Park and St Andrew’s Heights Toboggan Hill.

At Confederation Park you’ll find perfect sledding, ice skating rink and bathrooms.

There’s even an option for sledding in downtown Calgary. Head over to St Patrick’s Island and you’ll find a toboggan hill there.

If you want to feel like a kid again just grab your sled and hit the hills!


People sledding on snow covered hill in Calgary.


Ice Skating Downtown Olympic Plaza

With over 50 different places to strap on some skates and glide across the ice, ice skating is one of the best things to do in Calgary in winter.

You’ll find rinks at tons of places like Bowness Park, Prince’s Island, and North Glenmore Park.

But the best place has to be skating downtown at Olympic Plaza.

As the only refrigerated outdoor rink in the city, you’ll find it has the longest season from November through March.

Rentals on-site are super convenient if you’re visiting from out of town or just getting into skating.


Ice skaters at Olympic Plaza in Calgary.


Cross-Country Skiing

In the winter wonderland of Calgary, cross-country skiing takes over as the sport of choice in the city. As soon as the snow begins to fall, the tracks start to form.

Throughout the winter, ski tracks are maintained all over the city in parks and at a number of the local golf courses.

Some favorite tracks are at Bowness Park, North Glenmore Park, and the East Village Nordic Loop.


Nordic Loop sign East Village Calgary in winter.



When there is plentiful snow during the winter months, snowshoeing is one of the best things to do in Calgary in the winter.

It’s a great activity especially if you typically enjoy hiking other times of year. So, don’t let the snow stop you.

Think of it as continuing what you love just with wider footwear.

Snowshoeing in Banff and Kananaskis Country are epic. A day trip to Chester Lake for snowshoeing is an ideal getaway from the city.

But there are tons of places to go within the city limits too like Glenmore Park after a fresh snowfall.


Snowshoer on trail surrounded by evergreen trees covered in snow.


Winter Walks Along the Bow River

One of the best things to do in Calgary is to walk along the Bow River. This is one of the best hiking trails in Calgary no matter what season.

It’s absolutely delightful in winter. It’s a gorgeous white winter wonderland when everything is covered in snow.

Take a stroll along the river and explore the sights along the way. You’ll often see geese and ducks in the water.

Let it take you to places like Prince’s Island Park, Pearce Estate Park, and don’t forget to check out the Peace Bridge. It’s just beautiful against a backdrop of winter snow.

Read our article What to Wear Hiking in Winter so you’re prepared for cold weather hikes.


Calgary Peace Bridge in winter.


ZOOLIGHTS at Calgary Zoo

The Calgary Zoo is a popular place to visit any time of year. But during the winter it gets into the holiday season with ZOOLIGHTS.

As the animals get ready for the night, you’ll see the festive lights come on. So although it gets dark early in the winter, there’s still so much fun to be had at the zoo.

ZOOLIGHTS takes place typically from mid-November through to the first week of January.

Winter Festivals

Who says the fun has to stop just because the temperatures drop during the winter? Not Calgary!

That’s right, fun and festivities continue making the festivals some of the best things to do in Calgary in winter.

Chinook Blast hosts an array of events from massive art installations to DIY crafting workshops.

There’s also live music, sporting, and cultural events.

Block Heater will melt away those winter blues with fabulous music performances inside and out.

Canmore Day Trip

Picture all the great outdoor fun of the Canadian Rockies without the massive crowds you’ll find in Banff.

That’s what awaits you in Canmore.

Located just about an hour from the city, a day trip to Canmore is definitely one of the best things to do in Calgary in winter.

For outdoor adventures you can hike Grotto Canyon or Ha Ling Peak (for more experienced winter hikers), go dog sledding, or wild skating on the nearby lakes.


Four people wild skating in Canmore with mountain backdrop.


I also love walking the Bow River Trail because the view of the mountains along the water is magical.

And there’s also Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk which is an easy walk with gorgeous views as well.

When you’re ready, there are plenty of places in Canmore to warm up and grab a bite to eat.


Woman wearing toque at Bow River Canmore in winter.


Lake Louise Day Trip

A day trip to Lake Louise is one of the best things to do in the Canadian Rockies in winter.

There you’ll find tons of awesome outdoor winter activities.

You can do everything from snowshoeing and ice skating to dog sledding and climbing a frozen waterfall. See? Super cool!

But seriously, one of the coolest things to do in the Calgary area in winter is to ice skate on Lake Louise. It’s totally worth the two hour drive from the city.

In early winter, before Lake Louise is frozen over, you can hike around the lake and still see the brilliant turquoise color – absolutely stunning!


Hikers beside Lake Louise in winter.


Banff Day Trip

In just about a 1.5 hour drive from downtown Calgary, you’ll be in the fabulous Banff.

That’s why it’s the most popular day trips from Calgary and one of the best things to do in winter from YYC.

Yes, many people travel to Banff for a series of days, but you can still get the Banff experience on a day trip.

You’ll want to plan out your day to the fullest with things like Sulphur Mountain and cross-country skiing.

There are also three downhill ski resorts to choose from in Banff including Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Sunshine Village.

Or just head straight to the Banff Upper Hot Springs for a relaxing soak in the mineral waters while enjoying an outstanding view.


Banff Springs Hotel in winter with snowman in foreground.


Final Thoughts on Calgary Winter Activities

As you can see, the fun doesn’t stop in Calgary during the winter season. In fact, the city celebrates the coming of the snow and so can you. This list of the 10 best things to do in Calgary will help make sure you don’t miss out on a thing.

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