Spring has sprung and the kids are out of school. If you’re staycationing in Calgary this year, never fear, we have lots of fun ideas for you! From tourist attractions and picnics, to urban hikes and daytrips, here’s how to keep kids busy over spring break in Calgary.
1. Be a tourist in your own town
Calgary is home to some amazing attractions and markets! Have a “Say Yes” Day and let the kids choose one (or more) to visit over Spring Break. Admission fees for a family of 4: $ = $1-29, $$ = $30-49, $$$ = $50-79
- Fun local tourist attractions in Calgary include: The Calgary Zoo ($$$), Telus Spark Science Centre ($$$), Youthlink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre (admission by donation – suggested $5/person), and Calgary Tower ($$$). Kids will love the big playgrounds at the Zoo and Telus Spark. The Animatronic Dinosaurs return to the Prehistoric Park on April 15, 2022 too!
- Visit a bird/wildlife sanctuary or fish hatchery. My kids love exploring the Discovery Centre and feeding the fish at Bow Habitat Station ($$). Adjacent Pearce Estate Park has a playground, picnic area, wetlands walk, and access to the Bow River Pathway. The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre are fun for exploring – don’t forget your binoculars! While you’re there, check out this family-friendly bike tour of Inglewood! For an unforgettable experience, visit Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary ($$$) near Cochrane and take a tour to learn more about these magnificent creatures and wolf conservation.
- Solve a mystery on a self-guided walking tour! For an outdoor escape room / clue solving adventure, try the Sculpted in Time Adventure from Mystery Towns. Over 90 minutes and 3 kilometres, you will solve 17 clues to solve the mystery. It’s fun for all ages and if you get stuck, there are clues to help you. We tried it last weekend and loved it!
- Go for lunch at a local Farmer’s Market. Calgary Farmer’s Market, Crossroads Market, and Symons Valley Ranch are open year round!
2. Explore Calgary’s Parks
Visit a park you’ve never been to and go for a bike ride/urban hike and picnic. Here are some of our favorite walking trails, bike paths, and picnic areas in Calgary.
Short, scenic walking trails in Calgary
These local trails are fun for all ages!
- Waterfall Valley to the Bow River Lookout,
- Confluence Park to Split Rock (a glacial erratic),
- Douglas Fir Trail to the lookout (can be very icy in spring – wear microspikes),
- Fish Creek Park Ice Falls and Ice Caves,
- Confederation Park: Rosemont Community Centre to the duck pond,
- Ralph Klein Park nature playground and wetlands (excellent birdwatching opportunities in the spring), and
- Nose Hill Park to the Medicine Wheel, intermittent pond, or airport viewing rocks.
Want to find a little waterfall, Medicine Wheel, or cool sculptures around Calgary? Check out this post on Landmarks to Look for in Calgary Parks.
Calgary Bike Rides & Bike Parks
Our story 10 Fun Family Bike Rides in Calgary has a collection of paved, beginner-friendly bike paths. For a longer bike ride, bike across Fish Creek Provincial Park (11 km one way or more depending on which side trails you take), around Glenmore Reservoir (14 km loop), or explore the Rotary Mattamy Greenway, a 145 kilometre network of bike paths around Calgary.
For urban mountain biking, head to Nose Hill Park, Eastlands (east of Winsport), or Fish Creek Provincial Park for sweet single track. Nearby West Bragg Creek has an awesome network of mountain biking trails; green are easy, blue are intermediate, and black diamond are advanced.
Mountain bike skills parks and pump tracks are lots of fun too! Some popular ones in and around Calgary include the following (click links below for Google Maps pin):
- Fish Creek Mountain Bike Skills Park
- South Glenmore Pump Track
- Fairview Pump Track
- Chestermere Bike Park
Calgary’s Best Playgrounds
Mix it up and visit new-to-you playgrounds! Some of our favorite playgrounds in Calgary are the new one at Shouldice Park (it’s huge and accessible!), Nellie Breen with its trees for shade and chairs to relax on, and East Village and St. Patrick’s Island. School playgrounds are fair game when school is closed (note that CBE’s spring break has different dates than Catholic schools); we like them because they’re big. To discover more awesome playgrounds in the city, visit Calgary Playground Review.
Calgary Picnic Areas
The following Calgary Parks have reservable picnic sites (min. charge is $69.57 for 1-25 people for 6 hours). Visit Calgary Parks links below for more info:
- Bowness Park – 8 picnic sites with fire pits
- Edworthy Park – 9 picnic sites (8 have fire pits)
- North Glenmore Park – 15 of 16 picnic sites available in 2021 (9 have fire pits)
- South Glenmore Park – several picnic sites + 1 picnic shelter
- Prairie Winds Park – 3 picnic sites
- Pearce Estate Park – 1 picnic site with 11 tables
- Sandy Beach – 9 picnic sites with firepits
- Shouldice Park – 2 picnic sites (1 has a firepit)
- Stanley Park– 2 picnic sites
Note that picnic sites are first come first served if they have not been reserved; check on-site signage before you get set up to make sure you don’t crash someone’s birthday party. Most picnic sites have more than one picnic table at them, so it may be possible to share a site (just ask!).
If you’d like to book a community fire pit for free, visit https://www.calgary.ca/csps/winter-city-calgary/winter-activities/winter-fire-pits/drop-in-and-bookable-fire-pits-community-parks.html
3. Take a Daytrip
Explore a neighboring town. One of the kids’ favorite daytrips last year was to Cochrane, only 30 km away. We rode our bikes to the playground at Tim Bannister Memorial Rink (333 Mountain Street), dined at Tim’s Pizza, walked by the river, then ended our day at MacKay’s Ice Cream. Although we were so close to home, the change of scenery made our short afternoon jaunt feel special.
Other options less than an hour away include Airdrie (Ironhorse Park, Nose Creek Park, Genesis Place), Chestermere (bike park, Chestermere Lake), Okotoks (“Big Rock” glacial erratic, BMX track), and Bragg Creek (hiking, xc skiing, snowshoeing, fatbiking, and mountain biking). For a fun road trip, drive the Cowboy Trail!
Visit a provincial/national park and go for a hike, bike ride, snowshoe, ski, or paddle. Here are some trails to try within 2 hours of Calgary:
- The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary ( less than 4 km round trip, within 1 hr from Calgary)
- The Best Short Hikes in Kananaskis (less than 6.5 km round trip)
- The Best Spring Hikes in Banff
- The Best Spring Hikes in Kananaskis
Traction devices will be required for most mountain hikes at this time of year. See our story Traction Devices for Winter Walks and Hikes for our top recommendations. You should also carry bear spray and use bug spray – ticks are out!
Travel Tips: For day trips, limit driving time to 3 hours total. Everyone is happiest out of the car! Check trail reports for current conditions and avoid avalanche terrain. To save money, pack a picnic, or plan to roast smokies at a picnic area.
4. Try something new
- Rent a fat bike ($$$) and go fat biking in Bragg Creek or Canmore. Rent from BikeBike in Calgary or Rebound Cycle in Canmore.
- Try geocaching! Instructions on geocaching with your smartphone are here. You can play for free.
- Go climbing at an indoor climbing centre ($$).
- Take a ski or snowboard lesson ($$$). Winsport is located in NW Calgary, Nakiska is only one hour away, and Mount Norquay is 1.5 hours away.
- Tubing at Nakiska ($$$), Mount Norquay ($$$), or Lake Louise Ski Area ($$$) is a blast whether you ski or not!
- Visit a local marsh and do some birding. Learn how to use the free Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell University here. Pearce Estate Park and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary are great places to try.
Know Before You Go
Have a wonderful staycation in Calgary!