When Christmas break finally rolls around, most of us dream of jetting off to far, far away places, in hopes of leaving behind and temporarily forgetting about all the stress and responsibilities that come along with adulthood. The Bahamas, maybe? Cuba? Arizona? California? New York? The possibilities are endless.
Alberta is known for having particularly nasty winters, so can you blame us for dreaming of white sand beaches and all-inclusive resorts while we're stuck in the snow? I know that I sure can't. Unfortunately, though, all those little luxuries come at a cost, and it's one that not many of us can afford. If you're balling on a budget, you won't find yourself sipping mimosas by the poolside anytime soon.
Being a student myself, I understand the financial struggle that many of us are facing. My personal experience also means that I know that a winter getaway is almost essential during this time of year. After a long semester of readings, assignments, midterms, finals, and stress, now is the perfect time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate before the vicious cycle starts all over again in January.
If you're ready for a vacation, but can't afford to leave the province, don't worry. Alberta has plenty of options for getaways, no matter if you're making a day trip, or leaving for a week. From low-key, small town spots, to luxurious mountain resorts, there's somewhere for everyone to enjoy this Christmas break:
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Small Town Getaways
Although it's a popular tourist destination in the summer, Sylvan Lake definitely gives off small-town vibes come winter time. You may not be able to soak up the sand on the beach, but you certainly can try your hand at ice skating, snowmobiling, or ice fishing.
Located approximately 20 minutes southeast of Edmonton, Devon is the perfect Northern Alberta getaway. Here, you'll find Clifford E. Lee Sanctuary, which is a 300 acre nature preserve. The U of A Botanic Garden is also located here, which is also always worth a visit.
This is easily one of the most quaint spots in Alberta, and it's just 35 minutes outside of Calgary. Enjoy all the small town amenities, such as horseback riding, fishing, and hiking, or check out the assortment of welcoming and cozy little shops. You'll always find somewhere to grab a hot, delicious, homemade meal, or a new favourite boutique.
Camrose has a lot of big city charm, packed into a cozy small town. There are always local events and festivals going on, so there's no shortage of things to do. The town itself is beautiful when covered in snow, resembling a winter wonderland. Try your hand at cross country skiing, or spend a day exploring downtown to get some shopping done.
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Big City Getaways
If you're spending Christmas in Northern Alberta, you definitely have to take time to visit Edmonton. Whether you do Boxing Day shopping at West Edmonton Mall, or catch an Oilers game at Roger's Place, there's an abundance of things to do.
If big city is what you're after, why not visit the biggest in Alberta? Calgary has no shortage of places to visit, from shopping malls, to landmarks, to restaurants and coffee shops. Spend a night on the town bar hopping, or check out the variety of night clubs; there's something for everyone from country fans to EDM lovers.
It's definitely not as big as Calgary or Edmonton, but it's still big enough to satisfy your big city cravings. Check out the Southern Alberta Art Gallery while you visit, or grab dinner at one of their many great restaurants. There's plenty of gorgeous outdoor spots to visit as well, like the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.
Again, not as big as YYC or YEG, but still worth visiting. Go for a skate on the Bower Ponds, or hit the slopes at the Canyon Ski Hill. Red Deer also has a lot of great shopping and dining options for you to enjoy while you visit.
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Luxurious Mountain Getaways
In terms of getaways, Banff really has it all. The gorgeous rocky mountains, the small town charm, and the tourist attractions. Warm up in the gorgeous, luxurious Hot Springs, grab a bite to eat at one of the many local hot spots, and purchase some super cute, super Canadian souvenirs to commemorate your stay.
This one is less popular than the others, but equally as beautiful. There's no shortage of breathtaking views or adventure in Crowsnest Pass. Try your hand at hiking, skiing, or snowmobiling, or get in some photography practice to make all your Instagram followers jealous.
If you're in Northern Alberta, and can't make it to Banff, Jasper is the next best thing. Visit the astounding Columbia Ice Fields, or the Maligne Canyon Icewalk, where you'll get to see some stunning frozen waterfalls and other amazing mountain views.
On the contrary, if you're in Southern Alberta and don't want to drive north to the Rockies, you can check out Waterton. It has all the charm of a cozy, lakefront town, but the views are to die for. You can do all your favourite winter activities here, including snowshoeing, ice climbing, and skiing.