Calgary is the biggest city of Alberta and a great city to visit, especially in winter! As the location for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, it’s clear Calgary in winter is an excellent place to be.
While it can definitely be cold, the people living in this Canadian city make the most of their Calgary winter by going outside to have some winter fun. There are lots of things to do in Calgary in winter, read along and before you know it you are planning a winter trip to Calgary!
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Things to do in Calgary in winter
In this post you will find:
- Some interesting facts about Calgary
- A list of the best winter activities in Calgary
- What should I wear to Calgary in winter
- Where to stay in Calgary
- How to get around in Calgary
- Map with winter things to do in Calgary
This post has been created in collaboration with several other travel bloggers, who have kindly shared their favorite Calgary winter activity with me to create this post and hopefully inspire you to visit Calgary in winter!
Fun facts about Calgary
No, Calgary is not the capital of Alberta, the city of Edmonton is. However, Calgary is the largest city of this beautiful Canadian province. With approximately 1.1 million residents it’s the 4th biggest city in Canada.
Occasionally it can get very cold in Calgary, temperatures have been known to dip to -30 degrees Celsius! However, usually the average temperature in Calgary during winter is between -5 and -10°C. In general, January is the coldest month in Calgary.
Surprisingly enough, when the Chinook Winds blows temperatures can suddenly increase with as much as 15°C! Furthermore, while it’s cold in winter, Calgary is the sunniest large city in Canada. And nothing beats being outside on a cold and sunny day…
Yes, winter in Calgary is generally colder than in cities on the East coast of Canada. However, locals describe the cold as a ‘dry cold‘ making it easier to cope with than with the ‘wet cold‘ of the east.
And, as mentioned above, Calgary is also the sunniest Canadian city so on many winter days going outside is still very enjoyable.
What to do in Calgary in winter
There are many places to visit in Calgary in winter, which isn’t surprising for a city that experiences winter for almost six to seven months a year. While the Calgary Stampede is the biggest draw in summer, the Calgary winter season has no shortage of festivals and celebrations either.
From the High Performance Rodeo (Calgary’s international art festival) to the BIG Winter Classic (music, arts and local craft beer) and Glow (a family-friendly Winter Light Festival held in downtown Calgary), there are lots of Calgary winter events.
Below you can find a list of Calgary winter activities you can enjoy throughout the entire winter season.
- Skate on the Olympic Oval
- Go tubing at the Acura Tube Park
- Visit the Calgary Central Library
- Attend a Calgary Flames Game
- Explore the river walk
- Stroll along the Stephen Avenue Walk
- Admire the view from the Calgary Tower
- Try cross country skiing
- Enjoy ice skating at Prince’s Island Park or Bowness Park
- Go skiing in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
1. Skate on the Olympic Oval
Cindy from Travel Bliss Now: at the Olympic Oval in Calgary, you can go for gold by skating on the fastest ice in the world, a fun winter adventure you can do in any weather.
Built for the 1988 Olympics, the Oval is open for public skating when it’s not being used for speed skating training and competitions. Since the timing for public skating varies, be sure to check the online schedule.
Skates and helmets (which are mandatory) are available for rent at very reasonable prices. Don’t worry if you’re not a very good skater! There are free ‘ice walkers‘ you can hang on to for balance, and a lot of people use them.
The Oval is located at 288 Collegiate Blvd NW on the University of Calgary campus. The easiest way to get there from downtown Calgary is to take the CTrain (more information about public transport in Calgary can be found below). Get off at the University Station and follow the signs from there.
2. Visit the Acura Tube Park
Lindsay from Step Into Jordan: one of the best things to include on your Calgary winter itinerary is the Acura Tube Park, located at the Calgary Olympic Park (88 Canada Olympic Road SW, east side of the main hill).
It is one of the largest and fastest of its kind in Western Canada. There are single tubes and multiple tubes and a variety of lane options to choose from! The Acura Tube Park is managed by WinSport, which aims to allow people of all ages to discover, develop and excel in sports.
Onsite there is a food truck and washroom facilities. Wear your outdoor gear and prepare for the weather with ski gear from head to toe: touque, gloves, jackets, ski pants and boots.
Tickets for the Acura tube park are sold for 2 hour increments. The venue is opened from Thursdays to Sundays and every day during the holidays. Check the schedule here.
3. Get bookish at the new Calgary Central Library
Cindy from Travel Bliss Now: on the really cold days (or any day really), head indoors to the city’s new Central Library. This is not the quiet, studious place you might expect.
In fact, the Calgary Central Library is a popular tourist attraction that was named to Time Magazine’s 2019 list of the world’s greatest places!
Hailed an architectural masterpiece, the building is shaped like the prow of a ship. The inside is all about curvy warm woods and natural light. It’s less about the books (although they have them) and feels more like a public square.
It’s a high-tech space with computers and device plug-ins galore. There are learning labs and digital production studios built for podcasters and YouTubers.
It has a noisy play-zone for kids and a special area where only teenagers are allowed. On the top floor, there is a ‘community living room’ where you can sink into cushy chairs looking out onto the Calgary skyline.
The library is centrally located at 800 – 3rd Street SE, next to the hip East Village neighbourhood. Entrance is free and you can register for one-hour tours which are offered daily.
4. Attend a Calgary Flames Game
Roxy from The Coastal Campaign: a great way to enjoy Calgary’s cold winters is to attend a hockey game. Supporting the local NHL team, the Calgary Flames, offers a lively environment and fun for everyone, not just sports fans.
The energetic atmosphere brought on by the Flames’ loyal fans is definitely worth witnessing. The best way to get involved is to wear something red (or better yet, a jersey) and become part of the infamous ‘C of Red‘.
When they play at home, the games are held at the Scotiabank Saddledome, located just east of the downtown core. There is parking available at the stadium or the local CTrain, Calgary’s train system, stops nearby at the Victoria Park/Stampede station.
All the classic food you would expect to see at a sports game are on offer, such as hotdogs, fries and popcorn, along with some new options and of course alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Tickets vary in price depending on your seats, but on average cost $60 (Canadian dollars) and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.
Next time you’re in Calgary during the winter, make the most of it and go cheer on the Calgary Flames!
5. Explore the river walk
Ayngelina from Bacon Is Magic: the best way to enjoy Calgary in the winter is to embrace winter, wear proper winter boots and bundle up in warm clothing and a big puffy jacket. It’s best to wear layers as the weather can practically change from hour to hour.
Most people don’t realize that Calgary is a very walkable city, with 700+ km of pathways that locals walk, bike, run and even rollerblade on every year.
One of the more scenic spots in Calgary, that is close enough to downtown but away from the skyscrapers, is the Jack and Jean Leslie Riverwalk which runs along the Bow and Elbow rivers (located in the East Village). This great Calgary neighborhood begins at the Simmons Building and is home to some of the best Calgary restaurants .
This pathway is used as a cultural hub with lots of things happening and is a busy commuter pathway as well. Put on a toque and enjoy one of the most scenic views of Calgary. Then head back to the Simmons Building to warm up with coffee from the famous Phil and Sebastian coffee roasters.
6. Stroll along the Stephen Avenue Walk
Kenny from Knycx Journeying: winter in Calgary can be quite cold sometimes, but that shouldn’t deter you from going outside to enjoy a walk around Calgary city center.
If you are staying in Calgary’s downtown, have a stroll around the Stephen Avenue Walk. There are many attractions here, including:
- Olympic Plaza
- Contemporary Calgary
- City Hall
- Central Library (mentioned above)
- Glenbow Museum
- Devonian Gardens
- Harley Hotchkiss Garden
- Wonderland Statue (pictured above)
7. Admire the view from the Calgary Tower
There is no way you will miss the Calgary Tower as it stands 190.8 meters tall. The Calgary Tower is one of the Calgary highlights and offers dining and entertainment to tourists year-round. It is also the best place for a panoramic view of the Calgary’s skyline!
The tower has been opened to the public since 1968 and, although it isn’t the tallest structure in Calgary’s downtown, the observatory deck at the top offers an unobstructed view of the entire city development all the way to the Rocky Mountains. If you dare, step onto the glass floor and experience severe vertigo when looking down…
The tower also features a revolving restaurant and is connected to the rest of downtown through the Plus 15 Skyway, one of the most extensive pedestrian skywalk systems in the world.
8. Try cross country skiing
Thea from Zen Travellers: Cross country skiing is a fun, low-cost, heart-pumping winter activity that can be done right in Calgary! While doing so is at the mercy of the region’s famous chinooks (the warming winds that tend to melt away all the snow mentioned above), some good skiing can be had when the weather cooperates.
Tracks are set at the Shaganappi Golf Course in the southwest and the Confederation Golf Course in the northwest, meaning you don’t even need to leave the city to get your ski on.
Of course, the best places to ski in Alberta are in the nearby Rockies (read more below), but if you want to skip a drive to the mountains after a big snow fall all you have to do is check the local ski club’s track-setting schedule and go for a glide!
If you’ve never tried cross-country skiing, it’s a wonderful winter activity that will warm you up on a cold day and keep you fit as the snow flies.
9. Ice skating at Prince’s Island Park or Bowness Park
Prince’s Island Park is located on an island (what’s in the name) in the Bow River and is linked to downtown Calgary by four bridges. This urban park covers over 20 hectares and offers a great getaway from downtown Calgary.
As soon as winter sets in properly and the water freezes solid, the lagoon at Prince’s Island Park becomes one of the best outdoor ice skating rinks in Calgary.
10. Go skiing in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
While strictly speaking this isn’t an activity you can enjoy in the city, one of the best things about Calgary is it’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains. As such, this Calgary things to do in winter list wouldn’t be complete without adding a day trip to one of the many ski areas in the nearby Rockies.
- Mt. Norquay
- Lake Louise Ski Resort
- The Sunshine Village
The views of Lake Louise in winter are spectacular, and the service offered at this 4 star resort in Banff National Park is impeccable.
What to wear in Calgary in winter
Canadians have a famous: ‘There is no bad weather, just bad clothing‘. This couldn’t be more true, especially for a Calgary winter trip.
As long as you dress well, winter in Calgary shouldn’t be an issue and you’ll have an excellent time with the aforementioned Calgary winter things to do.
First and foremost: dress in layers! That way, if you are getting hot from all the walking and ice skating, you can take off one layer but still be properly dress for the cold. A great base layer is a merino wool long-sleeved thermal shirt and merino leggings.
Buy quality gear
Furthermore, if it’s really cold outside, don’t stay out too long at a time. Instead, find a nice place to have a drink and get warm again.
Where to stay in Calgary
There are lots of accommodation options available in Calgary, suitable for any budget. Below are some of the best places to stay in Calgary.
Best budget hotels in Calgary
- Alt Hotel Calgary East Village: modern, spacious and in a great location (next to the Bow River). There is a fitness center and onsite restaurant.
- HI Calgary City Centre Hostel: very affordable private rooms with en-suite bathroom in a nice clean hostel with a premium location (only a 2 minute walk from City Hall transit stop).
Best medium priced hotels in Calgary
- Residence Inn by Marriott: with spacious rooms, an exceptional breakfast (included) and a perfect location this is a very nice hotel to spend the night.
- Hilton Garden Inn: a lovely 4 star hotel which is also very centrally located in downtown Calgary. With comfortable beds, coffee making facilities in the room and courteous staff you’ll surely enjoy your stay here.
Best luxury hotels in Calgary
- Hotel Le Germain Calgary: a five star hotel in the middle of downtown Calgary, with spacious luxurious rooms, an extensive complimentary breakfast and an onsite restaurant and bar.
- The Fairmont Palliser: last but certainly not least is the beautiful Fairmont Palliser hotel. With a large indoor pool and hot tub, spa, fitness facilities, very comfortable beds and beautifully decorated rooms the Fairmont Palliser is a wonderful place to stay during your winter Calgary trip.
How to get around in Calgary
While the city center of Calgary can easily be explored on foot, some of the activities included in this list are a little further afield. Luckily, Calgary offers an efficient and easy to navigate public transport system.
The C-train has two lines, the red line (201) and the blue line (202). There is a 2km long ‘Free Fare Zone’ in downtown, between 3rd Street East and 11th Street West (along 7 Avenue). Within this zone you don’t have to pay for a ticket, when traveling further you are required to purchase a pass.
Calgary best things to do winter: map
Calgary in winter: in conclusion
I hope this post has proved that despite the cold, Calgary is a great place to visit in winter! If you dress well, stay active and heat up every couple of hours with a nice cup of coffee or hot chocolate you are bound to have a wonderful winter time in Calgary.
If you want to read more about traveling Canada, also read these posts:
- Best things to do in Canada in winter
- Best things to do on Mount Seymour in winter (Vancouver)
- Best places to visit in Canada
- Best small towns to visit in Canada
- Canada road trip budget
- Niagara Falls with kids (by a local)
- Things do in Drumheller
- Things to do in Vancouver
- Great day trips from Vancouver
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do on Vancouver Island
- Things to do in Winnipeg