When it comes to things to do with your family, it really is true that some of the best things in life are free! If you’re searching for fun things to do in the city, there are plenty of great destinations to visit that won’t cost you a dime. Check out our roundup up awesome free things to do with your family in Calgary and get ready to explore!
Calgary has an extensive list of incredible parks in every quadrant of the city. Whether you’re looking for great trails to walk, run, bike, blade, snowshoe or ski along, you can visit most parks throughout the Calgary all year round. Many parks feature barbecue pits, picnic shelters and playgrounds, and some even have cafes and teahouses (Bowness Park, Fish Creek Park, Reader Rock Garden, and Central Memorial Park, to name a few). Parks like South Glenmore Park, Prairie Winds Park, Canmore Park, Valleyview Park, Riley Park and Bowness Park are just a few locations that have spray parks and wading pools for summertime fun. Other spots, like Pearce Estate Park and Sandy Beach Park, offer the perfect place to launch a raft, kayak or canoe to enjoy the water on a sunny day. Be sure to visit the websites of parks around the city to see the unique things each one has to offer!
South Glenmore Park
It’s no secret that kids love to climb, jump, swing and slide, and Calgary has a ton of amazing playgrounds where they can do all that and more! Of course, there are playgrounds in schoolyards and most neighbourhoods, but there are also some “destination” parks that are worth a bit of a drive because of their special equipment or fun themes. Playgrounds like Carrington Playground, Prairie Winds Park Playground, Ralph Klein Playground and North Glenmore Playground have zipline features that acrobats of any age will get a thrill from, while Applestone Park, Forest Lawn, Cambrian Heights, Renfrew Park and South Glenmore Park are just a few of the parks in the city that have been designed with accessibility in mind. Currie Barracks playground has a fun airport theme, and playgrounds like the one at Thomson Family Park have really interesting architecture and climbing structures that even older kids will enjoy. Pack a lunch and go on a playground tour or plan to spend the afternoon at your favourite park – it’s free and tons of fun!
Our family loves the Devonian Gardens, located inside the CORE Shopping Centre downtown. Our kids could spend hours visiting the fish in the ponds around the gardens and love climbing and sliding at the indoor playground. It’s incredible to think that the perfect getaway on cold or rainy days is a tropical garden located on the top floor of a shopping centre, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Devonian Gardens!
Walk The YYC
Would you like to learn about the people and stories that make our city great? Have you ever wondered if there are any ghosts lurking around some of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods? Are you on a mission to get your 10,000 steps in? If you said “yes!” to any of the questions above, Walk The YYC has two totally free walking tours that you need to book ASAP! The “Calgary Downtown” tour is available to be booked Monday to Saturday at 10 am, and the “Haunted Cowtown” tour takes place Saturdays at 8 pm. Both tours require at least 2 participants to be booked one hour prior to leaving, so make sure to reserve your spot online to guarantee a free tour!
Try The All Trails App
If you’re tired of walking the same old trails and are looking for a great new spot to explore, the All Trails App is an awesome resource. Simply enter in the city or park of your choice, and a list of trails, complete with information about length, terrain, whether the trail is kid-friendly, if dogs can go off-leash, and what kinds of sights you can expect to see will pop up. You’ll also be able to look at photos and read comments about the trail left by users who have visited it before. You can even print a map or send it to your phone and get directions so you don’t get lost on the way!
Spruce Meadows hosts many events throughout the year that offer complimentary admission. If you have horse lovers in your family, you won’t want to miss the riding and jumping tournaments in their beautiful facility in Calgary’s Southwest. In the winter, enjoy twinkling lights throughout the grounds from the warmth of your car as you take in Spruce Meadow’s complimentary Christmas Lights display. Make sure to keep an eye on the calendar on the Spruce Meadows website so you don’t miss any of their fun and free events!
There’s nothing quite like taking in the sights and sounds of the Farmers Markets around town, and there are plenty of great ones to explore. The Calgary Farmers Market and The Crossroads Market are Calgary staples, but there are new ones popping up all the time that are definitely worth checking out! The market at Granary Road, the Marda Loop Mercantile and the Avenida Food Hall and Fresh Market have all opened recently to rave reviews from customers looking for yummy treats they can’t find just anywhere in the city. Many communities have indoor and outdoor markets on the weekend at different times throughout the year, so check your community newsletter to find out where you can shop and support local vendors!
The Police Interpretive Centre
Who isn’t intrinsically fascinated by the world of police? YouthLink Calgary has the perfect place to explore everything related to the men and women of the law, and the best part is, it’s totally free! Parents and kids alike are guaranteed to have a great time trying out forensic science experiments, learning about police tools and communication techniques, meeting guides and hearing stories about policing, and trying on real police equipment and sitting in a patrol vehicle. There are also exhibits dedicated to the Canine Unit, HAWCS (the helicopter that tracks down criminals), The Tactical Unit, and more!
Glenbow Museum Free First Thursdays
The first Thursday night of each month is free at Glenbow Museum! Bring the whole family to visit their permanent galleries and don’t forget to check out the temporary exhibitions which change throughout the year. Learn about Canada’s history by examining art, artifacts and stories, marvel at sparkling minerals and rocks, examine the symbols of West Africa, and prepare to be blown away by the Warriors exhibit which explores war in different cultures. View art in a variety of different mediums, from sculptures to paintings, fashion and more, as you take in the Glenbow’s impressive collection of exhibits. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Glenbow.
Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs
If wandering through beautiful gardens filled with colourful flowers sounds like a great way to spend a sunny day, you’ll definitely want to add the Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs to your “must-see” list. Over fourteen different gardens with unique features cover several acres of land. Each garden has a pathway that winds through flowering shrubs, fruit trees and other plants and trees. The Sunflower Garden, Old Post Garden, the Labyrinth, the Edible Fruit Tree Grove and the Peony Garden are just a few of the special gardens on the grounds. There is even a spot to have a bite to eat at the Oak Grove Picnic Area! The park is open to the public all year from dawn to dusk.
Visit the Calgary Humane Society
Looking for the purrfect way to spend an afternoon? Why not pay a visit to the Calgary Humane Society? Visitors are always welcome to come and see the animals and learn all about them during open hours, although visits with the animals cannot be guaranteed (since potential adopters are given priority for visits). If it’s not too busy, however, you may be able to sneak in a cuddle with one of the animals waiting to be adopted, and who knows? You might even fall in love with one yourself! While visiting the shelter, make a stop at the Pet Gear Store to bring home a treat for your own furry friend – all proceeds go back to caring for the thousands of animals who come into the shelter each year.
Calgary Public Libraries
Libraries aren’t just for books anymore (although you should definitely take advantage of your free membership to check some out)! The Calgary Public Library offers all kinds of free classes and workshops for people of all ages and interest areas. Many libraries also have kids’ play areas that will keep your little ones busy for hours, with features varying by location. Whether your kiddo likes to build, colour, or use their imagination to play, a Calgary Public Library near you is sure to have something they’ll love. You won’t want to miss the incredible new Central Library downtown – its stunning architecture is sure to take your breath away! While you’re there, make sure to get a tasty treat from Luke’s Drug Mart which has two cafes on location (one at street level and one near the children’s library).
Calgary always seems to have some kind of festival happening, and many of them are free. In the summer, street festivals like the Fourth Street Lilac Festival, Marda Gras and Inglewood Sunfest offer free street entertainment as well as vendors selling a variety of goods and treats. The city has festivals for all occasions, including music, the arts, food, different cultures, and more!
What are your favourite free things to do in Calgary? Let us know in the comments!