5 Family Fall Festivals to Attend this Year

fall festivals

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. I love getting out and enjoying the season, whether it be simply heading outside enoying the fall colors, a walk or out to one of the many Family Fall Festivals in and around Calgary.

I love taking the kids out to the many different festivals and events that celebrate Fall in and around Calgary. And there are definitely a lot to choose from! Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, apple festivals, harvest festivals and more. I actually didn’t realize just how many there were. I knew of the more common and popular ones but when I started researching I was surprised to find 20 or more to choose from. And there was a nice variety from free to ticketed events, days or evenings with activities that appeal to every age.

fall festivalsI was very excited about some of these and couldn’t wait to get out and attend, experiencing first hand what they were all about. Ones like the Torch Handbuilt Motorcycle Festival, the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival and BBQ on the Bow all sounded fantastic.

We do though have our favorites. Ones that we tend to go to each year due to the fact that they appeal to everyone in the family and are very well structured family events. At each of these, there is always something of interest for everyone.

Top 5 Family Fall Festivals

Calgary Corn Maze – Autumn Pumpkin Festival & Flashlight Nights

fall festivalsThere are a number of pumpkin patch events around Calgary but the Calgary Corn Maze is currently the one closest to us. They boast pumpkin games and crafts, as well as the pumpkin explosion! (this is something you just have to see). You can also enjoy fun farm activities as well as pick your own pumpkin from the pumpkin patch to purchase and take home. Plus you can still explore the maze, which is pretty beat down by this time of year but the kids still love cruising through it!

Flashlight Nights are on Friday evenings where you navigate the maze in the dark. If you arrive early you can still take in many of the family fun events before heading into the maze. It’s super fun to navigate in the dark and definitely gives you a whole new experience.

Illuminasia at the Calgary Zoo

The first time we attended this Illuminasia I was absolutely amazed. These handcrafted authentic Chinese Lanterns are gorgeous and definitely a sight to see. They are so beautiful as they “light up the zoo and set the stage for an experience like no other.” They fall festivalsare amazing. We went 3 times last year and enjoyed it every time. The Stage Show is not to miss as it is very well done and entertaining for all ages! It is a fantastic cultural event. There are other added activities such as Learning How a Lantern is made, musical performances, garden displays and learning about the national animals of China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

Heritage Park – Fall Themed Weekends

Heritage Park has always been a favorite in our family. In the fall they are open weekends only until Thanksgiving and offer different themes for each of their weekends. Events such as the Harvest Sale and Railway Days feature different family activities and events around their theme. My kids love Railway Days as we all love trains! Of course as it gets closer to Halloween they offer a great kid friendly event, Ghoul’s Night Out.

Okotoks Harvest & Blues Festival

fall festivalsThis is a weekend of concerts, exhibits & activities to celebrate harvest and blues music! There are free family activities on Saturday, that include carnival games, face painting, wagon rides and a full blues concert from the back of a flatbed truck! There are also evening concerts (ticketed events) that feature various blues performers.

Calaway Park – Halloweekends

Open weekends in the Fall, Calaway Park celebrates Halloween all season with their Halloweekends. This family friendly Fall/ Halloween event is a great way to head out of town (just a little bit) and enjoy the Fall season. Wear family friendly costumes and stroll down Hallo Street, if you dare. Enjoy tricks and treats and spooktacular rides.

These family friendly fall festivals alone will keep you busy and the kids busy every weekend til Halloween, not to mention the other great festivals that I haven’t even mentioned yet. I certainly love our favorites but I would also recommend branching out a little bit and trying something new. I kind of make it a goal each season to go to one that we haven’t been to before and see what it’s all about.

One event that is coming up this weekend is Alberta Culture Days. Celebrated around the province this a vibrant, three-day celebration with a variety of events in your area. Not having attended this one before I am looking forward to checking it out this weekend!

fall festivalsI find that there are so many opportunities to get out and explore our city and surrounding area. Not only enjoying this beautiful Fall season but also learning a little bit more about our culture, heritage and community.

What Fall events are you attending this Fall?

Break Free – Free March Break Activities for Kids in Calgary

free march break activitiesI always look forward to the March Break with my kids. It is a time of no alarms, no deadlines, and no rushing to be anywhere. It is a nice break from the regular routine, providing some opportunity for time around home as well as doing some fun activities.

For me, the March Break should be just that, a break. Not a week of jam packed activities that are supposed to be ‘fun’ that leave everyone more tired than when we began. I like to balance out the week and do a couple of unique activities we wouldn’t normally do with the rest of the week, more going with the flow and doing what we feel like.

Living in Calgary, there is no shortage of activities and places to go for kids. We have the zoo, the science center and a multitude of museums, which are all fantastic places to go, but I was on the hunt for places and activities that we could do for free. Because I also believe that March Break should not also leave you broke at the end of it.

I had to hunt a little bit, doing a little research and piece some things together but I finally compiled a list of 10 free march break activities in Calgary. And I have to say some of them are quite unique (and I did not know existed).

10 Free March Break Activities in Calgary

Chapters/ Indigo

Chapters and Indigo stores are offering free spring break activities for kids ages 3-12 years old. From March 21-25 each day has a different theme to explore such as Lego and Superheros. Call your local Chapters/ Indigo store early to reserve your spot as space is limited.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

free march break activitiesThe Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Center is 36 hectares of nature trails and home to 270 species of birds. It is a beautiful place to take the kids, explore the trails, spot birds of all kinds, and visit the nature center; complete with interpretive exhibits and information about local wildlife. Open Tues-Fri from 10 am – 4 pm.

Devonian Gardens

The Devonian Gardens is a large indoor park and botanical garden located in the downtown core of Calgary. This 1 hectare area contains 550 species of tropical palm trees along meandering walkways, children’s playground, water fountains, ponds teeming with fish and a “living wall.” Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens, or sit on one of the many benches while watching the children play at the park.

Geocaching

Geocaching is a unique way to explore the city. Grab your phone and download the app at geocaching.com and go on your own treasure hunt. Using GPS, find other people’s caches hidden around the city. Bring a pocket of trinkets as when you find the cache you are to leave a token behind. Great places to try geocaching are 12 Mile Coulee, Noseworthy Park, and Fish Creek Park to name a few, but you may find some much closer to your home as well.free march break activities

Disc Golf

Disc golf, also known as frisbee golf, is a flying disc game where the aim is to get the frisbee into the wire basket in as few throws as possible. An outdoor activity, disc golf courses are available in several City of Calgary Parks (click here for list of parks).

Calgary Parks

There are lots of beautiful parks here in our city, such as Bowness, South Glenmore, Edworthy and Prairie Winds. All offer their unique history and flora to enjoy. Pack a picnic, go exploring or just stop at one of the many playgrounds.

ROAR Playpark

free march break activitiesLocated on the lower level of South Center mall, next to SportChek, is the ROAR Playpark. This free, unsupervised play space was created in partnership with the Calgary Zoo and has a zoo theme with lots of interactive components. There is a crawl-through tunnel, slide and climb-on creatures, iPad game stations, beautiful wall murals, and interactive educational sliding panels. This is a great spot to take the kids for imaginative play and a well deserved break for you, while you watch them unwind.

Chinese Cultural Center

Learn about the history of the Chinese community in Calgary as well as tour the Chinese Artifacts Museum. Entrance to the cultural center is free but for the museum and special events there is a small fee.

Calgary Public Library

The Calgary Public Library is always a great place to go with the kids. Not only do they have a plethora of books that kids can spend hours with, they also offer various programs, activities as well as free play areas. The Fish Creek Library boasts a giant chess game, as well as an interactive play area for kids on the upper level.

+15 Art Circuit

The +15 Art Circuit, presented by the City of Calgary Public Art Program, introduces you to 14 interesting pieces from the Civic Art Collection. Easily accessible through the +15 system, this free, self-guided tour is primarily indoors with just a few quick trips outside. You can download the free pdf guide to complete the circuit including map and descriptions of the pieces. This Art Circuit is one of the activities I was most excited to discover and can’t wait to do the tour. How unique!

I was very pleased with the number of free march break activities in Calgary. With a nice mix of indoor and outdoor, arts and active to choose from there certainly is something that everyone can enjoy. I can’t wait to explore a couple of these this week! (though I would love to do them all, it’s a break remember?) Which ones are you going to check out?

Christmas around Calgary

christmas events in calgary

One of the many things that I love about Christmas are all the fun family activities that are on to attend during this season. From crafts to critters, there is something each weekend to choose from and you’ll never run out of fun things to do!

Many of them are free, while some charge a small admission fee to get in. I love that many of them are also outside, which I think is a great way to get the kids outside and help the entire family enjoy winter! (cause let’s be honest sometimes winter is not so enjoyable). These events provide different ways for you to enjoy the holiday season, celebrating and demonstrating that there is more to Christmas than just gift giving – which I feel is important to teach the kids too.

5 Fun Christmas Events in Calgary

Every year we attend at least one but usually hit 2 or 3. Our top five holiday events in Calgary are:

Zoolights

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Zoolights

Held at the Calgary Zoo, view 1.5 million Christmas lights displayed in all shapes and forms, from animals to flowers. From late November to early January from 6 – 9 pm, children will be awed with the array of lights throughout the zoo. There are other activities for the kids as well such as snowman bowling, hay jumping (our favorite), as well as fire pits throughout to stop and warm up for a while. Hot chocolate is available for purchase, or bring a thermos of your own. There is an entrance fee for this event but it’s well worth it.

CP Christmas Train

This beautifully lighted Christmas Train rolls across Canada making stops along the way to the North Pole. It is a child’s dream come true as you watch the train pull into the station. There are crafts for the kids as well as an outdoor concert. We went for the first time a few years ago (yes it was minus 30 and yes I think we are crazy) and my kids absolutely loved it! In fact it is the only thing that they are asking specifically to go to again this year (I guess the weather did not deter them). It is a free event and a very magical experience – check the website for your local schedule (attendees are encouraged to bring a non perishable food donation).

Once Upon a Christmas

IMG_0771 - Version 2Enjoy an old fashioned Christmas at Heritage Park where you can enjoy a wagon ride, snow painting and a visit with Santa Claus. Shop the Heirloom Christmas Shoppe with unique finds at old fashioned prices! Children’s mazes, crafts and even a kids only store (that’s right no adults allowed) so your little ones can shop for you for Christmas. Our favorite here is the Christmas Train display, where you walk into a magical wonderland of model trains, zooming through Christmas villages and displays. Oh it is a sight to behold! My kids can spend hours in there watching the trains go round and round. Runs the 4 weekends before Christmas; there is paid admission to the park but you can find coupons at Safeway or First Calgary for discount on admission, which make it quite reasonable.

Christmas at the Hive

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Making beeswax candles

This event takes you out of Calgary into the outlying areas of Okotoks. Hosted by the Chinook Honey Company this free family event includes making your own beeswax candles, honey toffee, visits with the donkey, a scavenger hunt and mead tasting. My kids love making candles in the snow and of course tasting all the honey! There is also a viewing area inside where kids can see the inner workings of an actual hive and try to find the queen bee. Just a short drive out of Calgary, this is a wonderful event that runs on Saturdays in early December starting at 10 am in a beautiful rural setting.

Lion’s Festival of Lights

Largest free drive by Christmas lights display, this 115,000 LED light display lights up Confederation Park. Set up completely by volunteers this light display will wow and awe everyone young and old. It can be seen along 14 St. NW, just south of 24 Ave.

These are just a few of our favorite Christmas event in Calgary (and around). There are many others that we have not been to before that I would like to check out, like Christmas in Kensington, Christmas Skate at the Olympic Oval (Calgary Olympic Park), Christmas in Canmore; all a variety of crafts, music and activities and each a little bit different (Canmore is showing outdoor movies – super fun!). And new this year The Polar Express Train Ride! Can we say I am super excited about this one?

There are also a number of community skates and events. Sadly, we do not have a Santa Claus Parade, which I really think should be reinstituted. Yes we used to have one, and I’ve been, way back before I had kids, my husband and I went. But apparently there has not been one in Calgary since 2007. Cochrane, Banff, Airdrie, and High River all have one, I think it’s time for Calgary to have one.

christmas events in calgaryBut even without a Santa Claus parade, there are tons of activities to choose from. From outdoor events to theater – I love it! Because each weekend in December it is not what will we do this weekend? It is which event should we go to this weekend (thankfully some of these events are on during the week as well).

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t run ourselves ragged getting to all the Christmas events. I am not a big believer in getting it all in until we are exhausted and never want to see anything Christmas again. But it is nice to have the choice and variety to go out and enjoy our beautiful city, the season and our wonderful winter weather, creating more wonderful memories for years to come (even when it is -30C, cause yes we did that one year and that is the one that my children remember).

What are some favorite holiday/ Christmas events that you attend?

Crunchy Broccoli and Feta Salad

One of the things I love about summer (I know it’s not quite summer yet, but it’s on my mind), is all the comings and goings, the possibilities and options of places to go and see and explore. There is so much to do that you can easily be gone all day everyday if you chose to.

I love taking the kids out whether it be to the zoo, Heritage Park or checking out a new park in the city. One of the challenges and things I really don’t enjoy so much, is packing lunch for the day. Snacks are easy enough but I find that peanut butter sandwiches are only exciting for so long and then we need something new. I also like things that are ready to grab and go so packing lunch takes no time at all. I also like variety; so salads, things with vegetables and different flavours and textures. Makes the trip more enjoyable cause you’re looking forward to lunch, and life more exciting!

So I usually prepare ahead of time and freeze, muffins and cookies to take or other meals that are easy to make ahead and just grab the day of. That’s why I was very excited when I discovered this broccoli salad recipe. It’s fresh, crisp, has a zippy flavour and is lovely on a summer day. Plus I love feta cheese! and though I am dairy free, I discovered that goat feta is ok for me as it is not considered dairy as it does not come from a cow. (And if it makes a difference to you make sure you check the label when you are buying it – I had no idea that you could have cow feta until someone pointed it out to me, I just assumed they were all goat). Which I say thank God to that! Cause I love feta!

Crunchy Broccoli and Feta Salad

1 bunch broccoli

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp wine vinegar

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp. each sea salt and pepper

1 cup crumbled feta cheese (I use goat feta as it is considered a non-dairy because it does not come from a cow)

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 c. red onion, very thinly sliced

Cut broccoli into florets. Peel and cut stems into 1/4″ thick slices.

Pour enough water into saucepan to come 1″ up side and bring to a boil. Place broccoli in steamer basket in saucepan; cover and steam until bright green but still crisp – about 1 minute. (Do not overcook! I have made the mistake a couple of times of leaving it too long and ended up with mushy broccoli and it does not taste so good in the salad. One minute is really all you need). Drain water.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Add broccoli, feta, tomatoes and onion. Toss to coat.

Can be made a head and refrigerated.

Gorilla Bones

On the Easter weekend we went to the zoo. It was crazy busy as it was their Easter Eggtravaganza. I had never seen it so busy, there was a line of cars to get into the parking lot and then another line to get into the zoo. We had been to this event before but I have never seen so many people as there was that day.

It is a great event with lots of value added activities for the kids, like a blow up maze, Easter pictures and pot your own plant; as well as the usual interactive exhibits and touch tables.

Outside the gorilla enclosure there was one of the zoo staff with this skeleton of an adult gorilla. It was really neat, the kids got to touch it and check it out, do some exploring. The zoo staff explained different parts of the skeleton to them as they were at each part.

The kids really enjoyed it. I think it is of such value for children to be able to touch and feel things in their learning, which is one of the reasons I love the zoo!

Checking out the gorilla skeleton