Can you believe that we're halfway through November already? I barely can - time flies so quickly, especially after Halloween when the holiday season starts approaching. The sun is setting so much more quickly now, which can definitely be depressing, but at least we've got twinkly festive lights to cheer us up. You may not be dreaming of mistletoe and Christmas trees quite yet, but believe me when I say they'll start popping up around you everywhere you go before you know it.
When you live in Alberta, and winter hits, it's BRUTAL. The air here can be so dry, which makes going outside into the cold even more unbearable (you all know that feeling, the one where the wind literally HURTS your face). Luckily we had a pretty decent and long-lasting fall this year, so making it through the next few months of snowstorms and slippery roads feels like less of a hassle - for now, anyway.
Although you may be tempted to spend your winter inside the comfort of your own home, you have to admit that winter is actually the prime time to get outside and enjoy yourself, because there's always so much going on! From skating rinks and Christmas markets to Ice Castles and winter festivals, there's never a dull moment here in Alberta at this time of year. No matter where you are in the province, you can always find a way to have fun not too far away from home.
This list includes some of our favourite ways to have fun in Alberta in the winter, and we hope that you and your loved ones find the time to enjoy some of them too! Make sure to bundle up and treat yourself to plenty of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream before heading out. Which of these festive and fun spots will you visit first?!
Go skating on Lake Louise
Every Albertan knows that Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful spots that this province has to offer. In the summer it's crystal blue waters make for the most spectacular Instagram photos, and in winter, when the lake freezes over, it makes for an excellent skating rink! Sure, you could go skating in your hometown, but why would you do that when you could be surrounded by the gorgeous Rocky Mountains while you glide down the ice? The only downfall is that Lake Louise is a popular tourist destination, so it may be pretty busy, but if you don't mind the crowds, you'll have a great time!
Check out the Ice Castles in Edmonton
If you were in Edmonton last winter, odds are good that you heard about the astounding Ice Castles that took over Hawrelak Park. If you didn't get a chance to see them, you're in luck, because they're coming back from December 31st of 2018 to March 10th of 2019! These gorgeous icey giants are the perfect winter photo opportunity for you and your significant other, or your best friends if you're skipping out on cuffing season this year. Be sure to get your tickets as early as possible, because this is sure to be one popular spot this winter!
Take a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
The snow may be sticking with us, but that doesn't mean you need to put your bathing suit away quite yet! If you're looking to get a day of total relaxation in, you HAVE to check out the Banff Upper Hot Springs. While they are quite relaxing all year round, there's something that makes soaking in this cozy, hot pool in the winter even better. As a bonus, it's totally affordable, and you'll end up paying less than $10 to sit back, relax, and enjoy those gorgeous mountain views.
Take a tour of the Columbia Ice Fields
If you happen to find yourself a little further north this winter, why not take the time to check out the Columbia Icefields? This is definitely a one of a kind experience, and you're sure to see some sights like nothing you've ever seen before. Hop aboard the all-terrain Ice Explorer and partake in a super informative guided tour of the massive glaciers that make up the Columbia Icefield. At the very end of your tour, a special treat awaits - the Glacier Skywalk! You'll be able to take in the views of the glaciers above, and the Sunwapta Valley below.
Check out Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo
It's almost that time of year again! Are you even a Calgarian if you don't get excited about the gorgeous Calgary Zoolights? This year the astounding display is back and better than ever for the 21st year in a row, bringing over 2 million stunning Christmas lights and various interactive exhibits to the Calgary Zoo for your enjoyment. If you want to light up your Instagram feed with Christmas cheer, there's no place quite like Zoolights to do just that.
Ride the Banff Gondola
Just because hiking isn't your thing doesn't mean you can't check out the mountains! If you head to Banff National Park and take a ride up the Gondola, you'll see some of the most amazing sites that the Rocky Mountains have to offer here in Alberta. As a bonus, riding in the Gondola will keep you out of the cold that you would have to deal with while hiking - it's definitely a win-win situation for a very small cost. Don't forget to bring along your camera so you can document your beautiful trip.
Check out the Ice Bubbles at Abraham Lake
Have you ever seen something so cool? The Ice Bubbles of Abraham Lake are a natural phenomenon, resulting from underwater bacteria consuming organic matter and then releasing gas bubbles that freeze in the icy waters - sounds kind of like a high school science experiment in the middle of the gorgeous mountains. It's definitely a sight like nothing you've ever seen before, and you won't soon forget!
Take on the Johnston Canyon Ice Walk
Do you have dreams of walking in a winter wonderland this season? There's no better place to do that than at the Johnston Canyon Ice Walk! Located in Banff National Park, this hiking trail is perfect for people of all levels - if you're a beginner, you won't struggle to keep up, and if you're an expert, it'll be a breeze, but you'll still get to enjoy all those beautiful sights around you. Johnston Canyon is always a popular tourist destination, no matter if it's summer or winter, so be prepared for crowds!
Go skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre
Although I personally have never been skiing or snowboarding, I know so many people who love winter so much solely because it's the perfect time of year to layer up and hit the slopes. Alberta has so many great places for skiing, but if you happen to reside in Calgary, or near Banff, then we highly recommend you pay a visit to the Canmore Nordic Centre. It's not the biggest or busiest ski hill in Alberta, which makes it great if you don't want to deal with tourists, or waiting in busy lineups to have some fun!
Check out the Silver Skate Festival in Edmonton
If you love to celebrate all thing winter, then the Silver Skate Festival is calling your name! This annual festival happens in Hawrelak Park in Edmonton from February 8th - 18th in 2019, and this coming year you can expect to see some amazing snow sculptures, fire sculptures, snowshoe races, triathlons, ice castles, live entertainment, and much, much more. If you find yourself feeling the winter blues post-Christmas, this fun festival is exactly what you need to pep back up and make it through until spring comes around again!
Take a ride with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours
If you've watched any sort of winter-themed movie, you've probably seen sled dogs. I know personally, I've always wondered what it would be like to ride along with these beautiful pups on a chilly winter day. If you've always wondered too, there's no time like the present for you to book a tour and find out first hand! You and your friends, family, or s/o can hop on a sled and go on an adventure with your furry new friends right here and Alberta for a totally reasonable cost - it'll definitely be a day you'll never forget.
Just like we told you, there's so much to do and see this winter in Alberta - you'll never be bored! Even if you don't have the time to cross every single one of these things off your bucket list, even just checking out one or two of them is a major accomplishment! Whether you make it to the amazing Calgary Zoolights, or ride along with sled dogs through the snowy prairies, you'll experience winter in a completely different way.