The holidays are a magical time in the Northwest. With fresh snow, frost covered evergreens, twinkling light displays, seasonal treats and festive events. There are so many ways to experience that nostalgic, warm feeling of what the holidays should be.
No matter what level of merriment you seek, University District has you covered for all your festive family fun this season. From splurge-worthy experiences and annual favourites worth revisiting to memorable events and encounters to spread some holiday cheer. However you choose to celebrate the season with loved ones, as long as you’ve got the spirit of in your heart, you really can’t go wrong.
Get out your notebooks and phone, put on your Santa hats, check our list twice and light up your Yuletide with our guide to the best holiday activities. They might inspire you with new ways to create memories of your own this season.
Ah, winter in Calgary; the perfect time to bundle up and explore the great outdoors. From skiing to tobogganing and ice skating, outdoor winter adventures are ready and waiting for you! Bundle up with scarves and woolly mittens and take a look at our suggestions for ways to soak up the holiday spirit outdoors.
A mix between your own adventure and amazing times, fat biking is a wonderful way to experience the natural beauty of our corner of the city on two wheels. The brisk winter wind in your face and the sounds of the crisp snow crunching beneath you, this unique and exciting seasonal experience is a must try. Fat bikes are a blast on the snow, a hoot to ride on almost any trail and a winter activity that everyone can enjoy. You’ll be hard pressed to wipe that grin off your face!
Tip: Drop into the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre for all your fat bike rental needs and take a look here for some epic Northwest trail suggestions.
Post activity: Is there anything better than walking into a cozy café on a cold winter day and lingering over a tasty holiday drink? After a two-wheeled morning excursion, it’s time to warm up with a classic rich latte at Weeds Café. From its mix of local artwork and family-heirloom furniture to the brightly coloured walls, this quaint and eclectic coffeehouse screams authenticity. Lounge in a barber’s chair as you indulge in some of the best breakfast in this quadrant of the city, play a game of chess or tickle the ivories on the vintage piano and break out into song over its delicious home baked pastries. Weed’s Café is calling!
University of Calgary Outdoor Centre: 2500 University Drive NW | 403-220-5038 | outdoor-centre.ucalgary.ca
Weeds Cafe: 1903 20 Avenue NW | 403-282-7940
Dig out your snow-riding buddy and satisfy your need for speed at St. Andrews Heights. There’s nothing quite like some good old-fashioned winter fun to cure those chilly-clime blues, especially when it offers hours of thrills with just a sled and snow-covered hill. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a gradual gradient, St. Andrews Heights known as one of the best sledding spots in the city, has numerous options to choose from for all your post-blizzard entertainment that’s enjoyable for both sledding tots and adults alike.
Post activity: Make an afternoon of it and head to the streets of Kensington. While there, tuck into Pie Junkie and treat your taste buds to a comforting wedge of homemade Christmas Orange pie with its all-butter crust. Known for their stellar sweet and savoury creations using family recipes spanning four generations, this Northwest locale is well worth the visit. Did we mention they make pie shakes?
St. Andrews Height: 2504 13 Avenue NW
Pie Junkie: 1081 2 Avenue NW | 403-287-8544 | piejunkie.ca
Up for a new outdoors winter excursion? Need a fun, exhilarating idea to get the family out of the house? Try snowshoeing! At 12 Mile Coulee Trail, located on the edge of the Northwest, snow and ice adds a special kind of magic to this ungroomed and wildly popular route that you simply can’t find in summer. Perfect for family or an afternoon date, this extensive trail offers a fun activity any skill level can enjoy. Put on a pair of snowshoes and discover the beauty of our snow-covered landscapes.
Tip: If you’re snowshoeing for the first time, start on flat terrain and use poles for balance. Also, consider renting a pair from the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre.
Post activity: If you’re looking for a place to refuel that is as top-notch as the wintry hike you just conquered, then The Lookout | Kitchen and Bar is your destination. With epic snow-covered views of the Bow River Valley and the Rocky Mountains, this eatery is the perfect setting for a delicious casual dining experience in NW Calgary. Tasty, wholesome dishes in their game! Start with the Jaltemba Bay Fish Tacos, followed by the Lynx Burger for something more substantial. Feeling adventurous? Try the fan favourite, Surf and Turf Pho or Creole Chicken. Delectable!
12 Mile Coulee Trail: Tuscany Boulevard NW and Stoney Trail NW | calgary.ca
The Lookout | Kitchen and Bar: 8 Lynx Ridge Boulevard | 403-930-7359 | lynxridge.ca
Photo credit: Dapper Doughnuts
The most wonderful time of the year is here! Whether it’s donating canned goods, buying or wrapping gifts for a family in need, or volunteering at your local shelter, giving back and showing others you care is what the holiday season is all about. This year, lighten someone’s load and pay it forward.
Looking for a fun and inventive group activity that supports a great cause? Until December 24th, you can give a little back this holiday season by volunteering to wrap gifts in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada at North Hill Mall and other participating locations across the city. Deck out in your best festive garb and volunteer as a family or as a team for a friends’ night out. Have some fun and help support the community at the same time!
Pre-activity: Do the unexpected and go the extra mile this season. Bring in a dozen warm and oh-so-scrumptious tasty treats from Dapper Doughnuts located next door at Market Mall, to share with your fellow wrappers. From classic flavours such as cinnamon sugar to inventive creations like s’mores, peppermint chocolate, banana foster and more, these gourmet sweets will be a hit! Plus, you’ll need the energy for all that wrapping.
North Hill Mall: 1632 14 Avenue NW| 403-289-2516 | northhillcentre.com
Dapper Doughnuts: 3625 Shaganappi Drive NW | 403-614-8014 | thedapperdoughnut.com
This year, do things a little different. Give back to the men and women who help the community each and every day. Host a family holiday baking night or invite your friends to an ugly Christmas sweater baking party and deliver some festively festooned cookies and treats to your local fire and police stations and even staff at the nearby Foothills and Alberta Children’s Hospital. It’s a great way to say thank you for all they do for the community. After all, they’ll be working through the holiday.
Post activity: After baking up a storm and delivering some goodies, treat yourself to a well-deserved break at Fresh Blend Coffee and Sandwich Bar located in the heart of NW Calgary in the quaint community of Varsity. It’s no secret (or maybe it is!) that this spot serves up a delicious London Fog and apple strudel. You can guarantee your tummy will leave more than happy!
Fresh Blend Coffee and Sandwich Bar: 4625 Varsity Drive NW | 403-288-1888
Photo Credit: Ronald McDonald House Charities
The holidays represent the season of giving: making family bonds, forming new friendships, sharing meals and creating everlasting memories. At University District, we know a thing or two about making connections. This festive season put a smile on another person’s face no matter the age and commit to a do-good, feel-good activity! Volunteer time at a local senior’s centre or help prepare a meal for families in need at Ronald McDonald House Charities Southern and Central Alberta’s Home for Dinner program. It’s a wonderful way to spend quality time with family and friends while making a difference for others.
Ronald McDonald House: 111 West Campus Place | 403-240-3000 | rmhcalberta.org
There’s something about Christmas lights that gets us all into the holiday spirit. Watching all the glittering, sparkling lights brings the excitement, joy and hope of the season to life. And luckily, there are plenty of places in our neck of the woods where you can enjoy the magic of the season.
Brave the cold and bask in the spectacle of lights at University District! Lit up with a field of festive snowmen and a glittering 20ft tree, U/D is the perfect destination for locals and travelers looking to get into the festive holiday spirit. Even the most bitter of Scrooges can’t resist the allure of this holly, jolly light display.
Tip: Bring your four-legged friend on the journey and wonder through our urban dog park. You’re canine will thank you for it!
Pre-activity: Before you make your way to U/D, fetch a steaming cup of chai latte and grab a tiger brownie or triple treat snack pack to go from nearby Joyful Java. The family owned café is the kind of place you feel instantly warm. From twinkle lights and community tables to comfortable couches, a shared library, free board games and meals made fresh in-house every day. This teeny little coffeehouse in the neighbouring community of Brentwood is a must-visit locals-know kind of spot!
U/D Discovery Centre: 4410 University Avenue NW | 403-288-0280 | Ends early January 2019
Joyful Java: 4039 Brentwood Road NW | 403-880-0971 | joyfuljavacafe.com
Photo credit: Tuscany Candy Cane Lane
The spirit of Christmas comes alive in Tuscany. Bundle your kids, parents and fur babies and enter the magical destination of Candy Cane Lane with its dazzling trees and decked out homes. It’s well worth the stroll! Open to Northwest residents and beyond, guests are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food donation in support of the Calgary Food Bank.
Pre-activity: A little bit off the beaten path, Mitillini’s Pizza and Steakhouse isn’t fancy but their pizza is a favourite amongst those seeking a tasty Italian-style wood-fired pie. With half price slices of goodness on Sundays, it’s no wonder this NW locale is a go-to for families in NW Calgary. Go ahead and enjoy a slice, or the whole pie. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the season after an evening of holiday light sightseeing.
Tuscany Candy Cane Lane: Tuscany Vista Crescent NW | Candy Cane Lane YYC | Ends December 25, 2019
Mitillini’s Pizza and Steakhouse: 5720 Silver Springs Boulevard NW | 403-288-7737 | mitillinispizza.ca
Every winter for the past three decades, Confederation Park (southeast corner) transforms into a mesmerizing sparkling attraction, shining bright with over 300,000 lights. Whether you choose to enjoy the free drive-by Christmas lights showcase from the comforts of a warm car or explore the epic display on foot while sipping homemade hot chocolate and munching on peppermint popcorn, visiting the Lions Festival of Lights is a Calgary Christmas tradition that never fails to delight!
Post-activity: End your magical winter journey on a sweet note with Calgary’s ultimate mousse and cheesecake at Yamato Bakery. The dessert house is most notable for its Green Tea Mousse and Mango Cheesecake, but its french-influenced desserts with a Japanese twist like its Taro Mousse are quickly becoming a fan favourite! Stay awhile and dig into one, two or even three desserts. You won’t be disappointed.
Lions Festival of Lights: Corner of 14 Street and 24 Avenue NW | lionsfestivaloflights.ca | Ends January 8, 2020
Yamato Bakery: 1322 Centre Street North | 403-230-5313 | yamatobakery.com
From our family to yours, we wish you a wonderful holiday season full of joy, festive fun and memorable moments.
The University District blog is a resource for Calgarians who want to live, work, play, visit or buy in the northwest. We will provide you with information, stories, news and a closer look at the things that matter so you can live a more inspired, active and connected life in NW Calgary at University District… Life works here.