Calgary has some great spots to spend time with your family that aren’t just budget-friendly – they’re free! So, without further adieu, here are 7 awesome, free ways to spend an afternoon with your family in Calgary.
1. Devonian Gardens at the CORE Shopping Centre
Last weekend, our family visited Devonian Gardens with our 1-year-old and 3-year-old and they absolutely loved it. Not only did the balmy air make us feel like we were on a tropical vacation, but our kiddos had a great time climbing on the indoor play structure, watching the huge Koi fish swim in the ponds and listening to music as different people showed off their skills on the piano that’s available for anyone to play. After our visit, we headed to the food court for a snack and wandered through the +15 to check out the buildings downtown. It was the perfect (warm) way to spend the afternoon.
2. Mall Play Places
If you’ve got younger kids who are itching to run, jump and climb, many of the malls in the city have free indoor playgrounds or play places that little ones will love. Some of our favourites are the indoor playground at Eau Claire Market, which Is basically an indoor version of the park in our neighbourhood. Market Mall has a kid’s play zone with animal and vehicle themed climbing structures and activity centres and the one at Northland Village Mall is similar but on a smaller scale. South Centre has a great kid’s play area with a climbing structure and a slide, as well as a spot with TVs and iPads. CrossIron Mills, Deerfoot City, Market Mall and North Hill Centre are all worth checking out as well! If you’d’ rather not visit one of the city’s malls, why not head to the Calgary Farmer’s Market and let your kids go hog wild on their awesome Barnyard-themed play structure?
3. Calgary Public Libraries
Another favourite hangout for our family is the Public Library (particularly the Fish Creek Public Library). Our kids love getting the chance to build, draw, play dress up, explore light tables, and, of course, read books, while we take a minute to sip a coffee and let them explore. The new Central Library has an awesome climbing structure that kids go crazy over, and spending the day wandering through the beautiful building is something that everyone in the family can enjoy, no matter what their age. It definitely doesn’t hurt that Luke’s Drug Mark serves delicious drinks and snacks onsite, either. Other libraries throughout the city have great activities and amenities to offer, so be sure to pay a visit to the library closest to you.
4. YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre
As a teacher, the most popular unit I’ve taught in science is always forensic science. Kids love having the chance to examine crime scenes and use their skills to try to figure out “whodunnit”. The Calgary Police Interpretive Centre is the perfect place to let kids explore the world of police, learning about fingerprinting, trying on real police uniforms, taking in presentations on safety and crime prevention, and more.
5. Glenbow Free First Thursdays
Yup, you read that right! The first Thursday night of every month from 5-9 pm is FREE at the Glenbow Museum. Kids and parents will love admiring the different exhibits that the Glenbow has to offer, whether it’s one of their permanent displays or a temporary exhibit. Right now, the Christian Dior exhibit will dazzle fashion lovers and “The Rise and Fall of Civilization” piece by Kent Monkman will definitely take your breath away, along with the many other beautiful and intriguing installments that the museum has to offer.
6. Leighton Art Centre
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Admission to the Leighton Art Centre, located approximately 45 minutes outside of Calgary, is “Pay-What-You-Can” and supports educational programs, family programs, artist workshops and exhibitions, and the Permanent Art Collection at the museum. This Art Centre, Gallery and Museum hosts a variety of exhibitions by Alberta artists in the last residence of A.C. and Barbara Leighton, who were a couple who were deeply devoted to the arts in addition to being artists themselves. The museum includes furniture and artifacts both owned and created by the couple, in addition to paintings, prints and textiles and more.
7. Esker Foundation
The Esker Foundation is a gallery located in Inglewood, hosting contemporary art exhibitions, programs, and publications. The exhibitions change three times per year, in the fall, winter and spring. Currently, exhibitions by Glenna Cardinal, Neil Campbell and Jeremy Shaw are on display. This incredible organization also offers all kinds of free programs for families and kids. For example, on the first Thursday of the month, from 11-11:45, children between the ages of 3-5 are invited to explore a variety of mediums and techniques as they create their own art piece. On the third Sunday of each month, kids between 5-10 and their parents are invited for a hands-on artistic session from 1-2 pm. After these sessions, families receive 10% off at Bite Grocer & Eatery, Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar, Scarpetta Italian Eatery and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery.
Are there any great ideas that were left off the list? We’d love to hear them in the comments!