Any person who's been around long enough knows that when December comes around, your wallet starts to suffer. It's time to start shelling out cash for Christmas presents for all your loved ones, hair and nail appointments so you're prepped for all the upcoming holiday functions, and of course, booze and food.

Being a university student, I know that it's tough to balance your budget so that you can still pamper yourself, and enjoy life at the same time. Dinner at fancy restaurants on 17th and nights out at Commonwealth and Cowboys don't come cheap. If you're under serious financial strain, you need to learn to ball on a budget, and keep your agenda full of cheap, fun things to do.

Luckily, with Calgary being such a big city, there's always something new and exciting going on, especially during the holiday season; sometimes, it's just a matter of keeping your eyes peeled for event postings. Just because you're low on cash doesn't mean you need to spend your December at home watching Netflix. We've done the hard work for you, and comprised a list of some free things for you to check out this month, all you need to do is bundle up, and show up.

What are you looking for?

Free things to do from December 1 - 8

Free things to do from December 9 - 15

Free things to do from December 16 - 22

Free things to do from December 23 - 31


For things to do from December 1 - 8, click "Next".


The CORE's 150 Trees

Where: 324 8 Ave SW // Downtown

via @coreshopping

When: Anytime during mall hours, until December 20th.

A lot of people's favourite thing to do during the holidays is admire Christmas lights, but that can sometimes come at a hefty cost. The CORE has 150 trees, decorated by Calgarians set up for you to admire.

Website


Christmas in Kensington

Where: Kensington

via @curiocitycalgary

When: Every Saturday from 12 - 4 p.m.

Snap a picture with santa, take a sleigh ride, or catch a free movie. There's plenty to do in one of Calgary's trendiest neighbourhoods.

Website


Airdrie Santa Claus Parade

Where: Main Street // Airdrie

via @hezsadie

When: December 2nd from 5 - 6 p.m.

Kick off this festive month by welcoming Santa into town. Enjoy the great hand-crafted floats and live entertainment Airdrie has to offer.

Website


Visit the Glenbow Museum

Where: 130 9 Ave SE // Downtown

via @glenbowmuseum

When: December 7th from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Glenbow offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month, and it's definitely worth taking advantage of. Take a date, or roll solo; either way, you'll learn something new.

Website


Esker Foundation

Where: 1011 9 Ave SE #444 // Inglewood

via @ashtoby

When: Tuesday - Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If you haven't already, you definitely want to visit this modern and contemporary art gallery in Inglewood. They're only open when they have an exhibition, and lucky for you they currently have two running until December 22nd.

Website


Hike through Nose Hill Park

Where: 1320 5th Ave NW // Sunnyside

via @buffalohunting

When: Anytime!

Nose Hill is another Calgary hot spot, and is great if you're looking to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. If you have a dog, this is a great spot to go for a stroll, or if you just happen to like dogs, you'll see some here for sure.

Website


Firefighters Museum of Calgary

Where: 5111 47 Street NE // Castleridge

via @firemuseumyyc

When: Tuesday - Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This museum may be small, but it's packed full of cool stuff. Admission is free, but donations are accepted and encouraged.

Website


Tobogganing in Royal Oak

Where: 8900 48 Ave NW // Bowness

When: Anytime!

Royal Oak is a great place to go sledding, as there's a variety of hills, all of different sizes, perfect for everyone to enjoy.


Open Mic Night

Where: 1011 1 Street SW // Downtown

via @calgaryevents

When: Every Tuesday night

Café Koi present open mic night, every Tuesday for your enjoyment. Of course, a drink and some food might make your experience even better, but if you're strapped for cash, the live music is great too!

Website


Inglewood Bird Sanctuary & Nature Centre

Where: 2425 9 Ave SE // Inglewood

via @constantramble

When: Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Stay active this winter, and spend a day snowshoeing in Edworthy Park. There's plenty of beauty around you to explore.

Website

For things to do from December 9 - 15, click "Next".


Urbi et Orbi Fine Art Christmas Market 2017

Where: 623 58 Ave SW // Meadowland Park

When: December 9th, from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Even if you don't have money to spend, Christmas markets are still a great place to hangout and get in the holiday spirit. Admire the fine art that's for sale, and do any last minute Christmas shopping you need if you've got the funds.

Website


Christmas at the Hive

Where: Chinook Honey Company // Okotoks

via @mindful.m

When: December 2nd and 9th, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Make the drive to Okotoks, and spend your day participating in fun winter activities, including visiting donkeys, roasting marshmallows, and sipping on honey hot chocolate.

Website


Explore Stephen Avenue

Where: Stephen Avenue // Downtown

via @wakeupyyc

When: Anytime!

Stephen Ave is a great place to explore, as long as you have enough self-control to avoid spending money at all the hot spots you'll find. Bring along a camera and have an impromptu photoshoot with your friends while you're at it.

Website


Explore Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre

Where: 197 1st Street SW // Downtown

via @holly_4ever_yeung

When: Anytime!

The Chinese Cultural Centre is beautifully decorated, and another really great place for taking cool pictures for your Instagram feed.

Website


Nickle Galleries

Where: University of Calgary // University Heights

via @melissaellencole

When: Current exhibits are running until December 16th

The University of Calgary Nickel Galleries are always worth a visit. Admission is completely free, and gives you access to three galleries, and a variety of amazing artifacts.

Website


Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmer's Market

Where: 1320 5th Ave NW // Sunnyside

via @high_vibehealth

When: Every Wednesday from 3 - 7 p.m.

You don't need to spend money to reap the benefits of a market. Grab some free samples of tasty, local goodies and find new favourites.

Website


Study at the Calgary Public Library

Where: Various locations

via @knitlib

When: Anytime!

December is time for finals, and finding a good study spot can sometimes be difficult. The Calgary Public Library has a large selection of locations around the city, so find the one closest to you and hit the books!

Website


Marshmallow Roast in Bowness

Where: 8900 48 Ave NW // Bowness

via @curiocitycalgary

When: Anytime!

S'mores don't need to be limited to the summer. Take a walk in Bowness this winter, and pack a picnic of hot dogs and marshmallows that you can roast over an open fire.

Website


Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

Where: Anderson C-Train Station // Southwood

via @travelwithravi

When: December 9th from 6:45 - 7:45 p.m.

The Holiday Train comes once a year, and is sure to brightly light up your holiday season. The cost is free, but you can bring a donation for the local food bank in the spirit of giving.

Website


Relax with your pup at Shelf Life Books

Where: 1302 4 Street SW // Downtown

via @shelflifebooks

When: Hours vary by day

Need a cozy place to curl up with a book this December? Head downtown to Shelf Life Books, and spend the day reading! Did we mention you can bring your dog along?

Website

For things to do from December 16 - 22, click "Next".


Legacy Christmas Light Parade

Where: Legacy View // Legacy

When: All December long

More Christmas lights? Absolutely. If you don't mind making a drive down to Legacy, you'll see that the community is brightly lit up with over 100,000 Christmas lights, perfect for your viewing pleasure.

Website


Skate Nights with DJ CLAUZ

Where: Olympic Plaza // Downtown

via @tourcanada

When: Every Saturday night in December from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Make your skate date even more fun. On Saturday nights, you can find a live DJ at Olympic Plaza, spinning tunes for you while you glide around.

Website


Take some photos on 17th Ave

Where: 17th Ave SW // Downtown

via @eykphotography

When: Anytime!

There's a plethora of cool spots for you to check out on 17th. From cafes and restaurants to record stores and thrift shops, you'll definitely take some awesome pics for your Instagram.

Website


Relax in the Devonian Gardens

Where: The CORE Shopping Centre // Downtown

via @badgalriccii

When: Anytime!

One of the downfalls of winter is that it can be difficult to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature. Luckily, the CORE's indoor Devonian Gardens will make you feel like you're relaxing outdoors on a nice summer day.

Website


Photoshoot on Peace Bridge

Where: Prince's Island Park // Downtown

via @explorecanada

When: Anytime!

Calgary's Peace Bridge is always a popular hangout, especially for those who have a knack for photography. Pose for a few snaps, or if you prefer being behind the lens, snap some of our beautiful city.

Website


Visit Contemporary Gallery

Where: 117 8 Ave SW // Downtown

via @cluelessclouds

When: Wednesday - Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Contemporary Gallery is always free to visit, and is always worth visiting. The aesthetic is super cute, so you'll always get great pics for the 'gram.

Website


YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre

Where: 5111 47 Street NE // Castleridge

via @youthlinkyyc

When: Tuesday - Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If police work has ever interested you, you'll want to check this place out. You might just feel like you're on an episode of CSI. Admission is free on Fridays and Saturdays for your enjoyment.

Website


Play a game of ice hockey

Where: Any of Calgary's outdoor rinks

When: Anytime!

Ice hockey is a Canadian winter tradition, let this be the year that you partake.


Window Shop at the Uncommons

Where: 1325 9 Ave SE // Inglewood

via @heyseto

When: Hours vary by day

This is another trendy spot, in another trendy Calgary neighbourhood. The aesthetic, and all the little trinkets you can purchase are super cute.

Website


Snowshoe in Edworthy Park

Where: 5050 Spruce Drive SW // Edworthy Park

via @hansyyc

When: Anytime!

Stay active this winter, and spend a day snowshoeing in Edworthy Park. There's plenty of beauty around you to explore.

Website

For things to do from December 23 - 31, click "Next".


Lions Festival of Lights

Where: Confederation Park // Queens Park Village

via @anamay_v

When: Open every night until January 8th from 6 p.m. to midnight

If you're too broke for Zoolights, we highly recommend the Lions Festival as an alternative. It's just as bright and beautiful, and completely free.

Website


Take a hike in Fish Creek

Where: Fish Creek Provincial Park

via @travelalberta

When: Anytime!

Fish Creek is the second largest urban park in Canada, and it's located within Calgary city limits. There's plenty for you to explore.

Website


Clubbing on a budget

Where: Music Calgary // Downtown

via @seventeen403

When: Wednesday - Sunday, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Clubbing doesn't have to cost you a fortune. Nightclub's like Music often offer guest list, which includes free cover, and sometimes a free drink! Music is also known for hosting theme nights, which are usually super lit. The contact number for guest list can be found on the Facebook page, linked below.

Website


The New Gallery

Where: 208 Centre Street South // Downtown

via @abbi.buckley

When: Tuesday - Saturday, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The New Gallery is non-commercial and artist run, and promotes contemporary art made by local artists. It's super cool, totally free, and definitely worth visiting.

Website


Enjoy the view at Scotsman's Hill

Where: Scotsman's Hill // Downtown

via @ellinorstenroos

When: Anytime!

Scotsman's Hill boasts one of the best views of Downtown YYC, no matter what time of day (although it's particularly beautiful at sunset or after dark).


Watch the sunset in Prince's Island Park

Where: 698 Eau Claire Ave SW // Eau Claire

When: Anytime!

Sunsets in YYC are usually pretty, but watching them in a gorgeous park with people you love make them even better.

Website


Windowshop at Eau Claire Market

Where: 200 Barclay Parade SW // Eau Claire

via @calgarynightmarket

When: Hours vary by day

Eau Claire Market is a great spot to visit, even if you don't have money to spend. Check out a variety of vendors and shops, and connect with cool Calgarians.

Website


Check out the mall's Christmas lights

Where: Chinook Centre and Market Mall

via @urbacalgary

When: Anytime!

I'm at the mall every day because of my job, but this display right outside my work place never fails to get me in the holiday spirit. I've seen photos of Market and Chinook, both beautifully decorated for the season; the displays make for great pictures.


Explore St. Patrick's Island

Where: 1300 Zoo Road NE // St. Patrick's Island Park

via @tourismcalgary

When: Anytime!

If you need a break from Calgary, without really leaving the city, just cross the George C. King Bridge and enjoy the 31 acres of adventure that await you.


Explore the Plus 15

Where: Downtown

via @tashasibbs

When: Anytime!

If the Calgary cold is too much for you, explore downtown via the 16km long pedestrian skywalk system. Stay warm, and enjoy all the same views that your favourite city has to offer.

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