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Top 10 Things to Do in Calgary in the Winter

People skating outdoors in Calgary, Canada

1. Go Ice Skating

There’s nothing more quintessentially Canadian than strapping on a trusty pair of hockey skates and going for a spin at one of Calgary’s many outdoor ice rinks. By mid-December the majority of public ice skating spots are good to go – including Olympic Plaza – Calgary’s best inner-city ice rink. Built in 1988 for the Winter Olympics, Olympic Plaza attracts all types and levels of skaters. Its central location makes it ideal for tourists and office workers alike. There’s no cost to skate but rentals are available at around $20 evenings and weekends, if you haven’t come equipped. The best part about Olympic Plaza? It’s only a 5-minute walk from Global Village English Centre.

If you prefer a more naturally formed ice, take a short bus ride from downtown to Bowness Park where a beautifully imperfect ice loop runs along the Southern edge of the park. Skating here is scenic but more challenging, as the ice is a little bumpier, but that just adds to the fun! Conveniently, skaters can rent equipment, warm up next to fire pits and purchase hot chocolate at the little Café located in the main building. If you’re a language student looking to avoid the tourist crowd and immerse yourself in local community, Bowness Park is definitely the place to skate.

Have the temperatures dropped below -15? Take the C-Train to the University of Calgary station and go for a Monday night skate at The Oval. It’s an indoor speed skating rink that is very popular with families, University students and new skaters. The ice here is smooth and clean – perfect for avoiding those nasty spills when you’re new to the sport. The best part about this rink? It’s indoors and relatively warm! You can also rent skates at the Oval and they’ll make you wear a helmet so you don’t damage your precious brain.

People skating outdoors in Calgary, Canada
Friends skating outdoors in Calgary

2. Try Tubing at Acura Tube Park

Tubing at Canadian Olympic Park should be on everyone’s list of Calgary winter adventures. No skills required, simply hop on a tube, link arms with a few of your favourite pals and let the Acura Tube Park attendants push you down the lane. The runs are some of the longest in Canada but feel short when the adrenalin starts pumping and your tube is spinning out of control down the mountain.

There are fire pits and a food truck on site, if all the excitement has worked up an appetite. The Tube Park is located on the ski hill, so you can also walk over to the main lodge for a delicious burger and a cold pint after you’ve finished.

The Acura Tube Park is an easy bus ride from Global Village’s downtown campus.

People pulling tube style sleds after going down a hill together

3. Attend a Calgary Flames Hockey Game

One of the most iconic buildings in Calgary – The Scotiabank Saddledome – is home to our very own NHL (National Hockey League) team The Calgary Flames. Located in the Eastern corner of the downtown, the Saddledome (shaped in the form of a horse saddle) is easy to access via C-Train or short walk from the core. With a season that runs from October to April, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a live-action Flames hockey game during your stay in Calgary. For an average cost of $65.00, tickets are easy to acquire last minute for the more spontaneous sports fan.

Here at Global Village Calgary we always recommend that our students catch a weekend game – when the fans are at their loudest and most rowdy – making for an exciting atmosphere. Known as the ‘C of Red’ the mass of Calgary fans that fill the Saddledome know it’s bad luck not to wear red at a game. Or better yet, get yourself a Calgary Flames Jersey. They can be purchased at any sports clothing outlet in the city, and would make a great souvenir of your time at Global Village Calgary.

Afraid of the cold? Don’t be. The Saddledome is a covered and heated stadium, making a hockey game an ideal way to spend a cold evening in Calgary.

Birds eye view of Hockey Game

4. Study at Calgary’s Central Library

As an English Language student, chances are you’ll have the occasional assignment to complete. Why not ditch our somewhat lively student lounge in favour of a (slightly) quieter, more studious, location? Calgary’s Central Library, completed in 2018, has been hailed as an architectural masterpiece and is a main attraction for tourists visiting Calgary. Shaped like the bow of a ship, the library is open and airy inside with lots of natural light and curvy warm woods to make you feel cozy and safe.

With 4 floors there are lots of nooks and crannies adorned with comfortable reading chairs for you to settle into. There’s even a café if you need a caffeine boost. And YES, you’re allowed to drink that coffee anywhere you want! Gone are the days of tall stuffy rows of books. This library lets you breathe. And virtually every spot in it has a wonderful view of the surrounding city. Need an enclosed space equipped with conference tables, chairs and all the latest technology? No problem. Small study rooms can be reserved for free. Great for those group projects that our teachers love to assign!

Calgary Library
Friends sitting on stairs of Calgary Library

5. Walk along the Bow River

A truly pleasant (and affordable) way to get to know the city is to explore the many well-groomed pathways that run through it. The most scenic and central of them all is the Pathway that runs parallel to the Bow River and through Eau Claire. We suggest carving out 1 hour on a beautifully sunny day to walk from Global Village’s downtown location in the East, through Chinatown and along the river all the way to Sunnyside in the North West. Along the way you’ll have open views of the river and city skyline.

Strolling next to Prince’s Island Park, you’ll be able to admire the beautiful tranquility of a luscious park transformed into a winter wonderland. You’ll pass a small lagoon-turned ice skating rink, see (and hear) 100s of Canada Geese floating on the river, and enjoy a peaceful walk free of motorized vehicles. A good spot to turn around is at the Peace Bridge – that famous red pedestrian bridge that crosses the Bow River into Sunnyside. First, take out those smart phones, turn on Portrait mode and snap a few shots of yourself in front of the Peace Bridge.

The Calgary Peace bridge on a snowy and frosty day

6. Take a skiing lesson at WinSport

You’re an English student, probably from a warm country where snow is something you only see in the movies. SO…. before you fork out a $120 to ski at one of the amazing ski resorts in Banff National Park, take a lesson at WinSport! Your wallet will thank you and you’re less likely to break an arm or other appendage. Skiing and snowboarding looks easy enough when you’re watching it on YouTube, but don’t be fooled…Canadian skiers spend years learning before they call themselves experts.

Spend an afternoon at Calgary’s very own ski hill – WinSport, located at Canadian Olympic Park (C.O.P). C.O.P was built for the 1988 winter Olympics and has acted as Calgarians’ go-to spot when they’re itching for a few hours of skiing but don’t want to leave the city. It’s a 30-minute bus ride from the Global Village campus, or a 10 minute drive from downtown. The best part is that WinSport offers 90 minute beginner lessons, equipment and a lift ticket for a total of $60. Trust us when we tell you that that’s a steal!

View from top of a ski hill

7. Shop ‘til you drop

You’ve arrived in Canada, it’s mid-winter and you’re just not used to the cold climate yet. That’s fair! At Global Village Calgary, lots of our language students spend their free time shopping (indoors, of course, where it’s always a toasty +20 Celsius).

You can easily make a day of it if you head to CrossIron Mills in the North East of Calgary. Cross Iron Mills is Calgary’s biggest single-level shopping and entertainment centre and houses more than 230 speciality stores and premium brand outlets. It’s retail bliss! Aside from all the amazing shops, CrossIron Mills also boasts a Cinema, dozens of full-size restaurants and an impressive fast food court that rivals any in the city. 4 or 5 hours pass fairly quickly at this place.

Person holding shopping bags as if they just went on a large shopping trip

8. Take in the Views from McHugh Bluff

Did you know that Calgary has the highest number of sunny days of any city in Canada? That means that on any given day in the winter, you’re likely to be blessed with blue skies and beautiful golden sun. Take advantage of all that favourable winter weather and try catching a sunset from McHugh Bluff. It’s only a 20-minute walk from Global Village’s campus downtown. Stroll down Centre Street through Chinatown in the direction of the Bow River.

Once you hit those majestic stone lion heads perched on the Centre Street Bridge, take the staircase down to the river walk pathway. Follow it west until you hit Prince’s Island Park. Make your way through the park, traversing the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Bow River and Memorial Drive. From there you’ll see an intimidatingly tall staircase that clings to the side of a cliff. It’s exercise time. Climb the stairs to reach McHugh Bluff. After you catch your breath, walk west along the bluff until you find the ideal spot to sit and reflect while taking in the spectacular panorama that is Calgary’s skyline. On the clearest of days, you’ll even be able to see the Canadian Rocky Mountain Range to the west. Ahhhhhh.

Landscape view of Calgary, Canada
Landscape view of Calgary, Canada with park bench

9. Eat BBQ Like a Local Calgarian

Unless you’re a vegetarian, you can’t come to Calgary and not partake in one of our favourite pastimes – eating Southern style BBQ – the kind that’s slow-cooked for 8 or more hours in a wood burning smoker. When it’s chilly outside, this is comfort food at its best. There are dozens of great BBQ joints in Calgary but our absolute favourite is Hayden Block, located in Kensington.

So, after class at Global Village grab 8 of your favourite classmates, hop on the C-Train and head to Sunnyside station just across the Bow River. From there Hayden Block is a 5-minute walk. Once at Hayden Block take a seat next to the fire, or at one of the many communal tables and get ordering. Classics include long-smoked brisket (our favourite), hot links, beef short ribs, pulled pork and bacon wrapped corn. Don’t forget a side of green beans…for health. Hayden Block also specializes in American whisky, so ask your waiter about the daily whisky specials. Just writing this has us salivating! Yum!

Big plate of assorted meats and dinner food items

10. Watch a Calgary Roughnecks Lacrosse Game

Everyone associates Canada with Hockey, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: the MOST exciting game to watch live is Lacrosse. Lacrosse is a team game and is the oldest organized sport in North America. It’s a fast-paced game where speed and endurance are key to winning.

It’s known as the ‘fastest game on two feet’. If you’ve never experienced an NLL Lacrosse game, don’t miss the opportunity to catch our Roughnecks play while you’re in Calgary. Tickets are affordable, the fans are loud and the rock music never stops playing during the game! Games happen on the weekends and at the Scotiabank Saddledome – conveniently located downtown and a 10-minute train ride from Global Village Calgary. Go ‘Necks Go!!

Very excited fans at a Calgary Ruffnecks Lacrosse game
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