If you’re in the mood for a getaway from the city but don’t want to shell out the money for a hotel, we’ve got great news. There are plenty of amazing places to visit that are less than two hours away from Calgary, and totally worth the trip. So, what are you waiting for? Load up your family, fill up the gas tank, and get ready to explore some of the amazing gems that are practically in Calgary’s backyard.
86 km from Calgary
Kananaskis is the roughly 4,000 square kilometre mountain and foothill area that encompasses such popular tourist areas as Banff, Canmore, and Lake Louise. There is “snow” shortage of winter activities to keep your family busy in Kananaskis! If you love wandering the great outdoors, there are tons of incredible cross country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking trails to discover. If you’d rather not tackle the mountainous terrain on foot, why not try out a snowmobiling tour? Friends of ours raved about their incredible experience taking a dog sled tour through the Kananaskis trails, and this is something that is high on our family’s to-do list.
99 km from Calgary
If you’re looking to ski or snowboard in the mountains at a destination that’s close to the city and a little more budget-friendly than traditional ski resorts, Nakiska is an excellent option. Nakiska is a popular choice for families since it has a great variety of runs for riders of all ability levels. There are 4 chairlifts and 64 trails, and many repeat visitors have said that the wait times to hop on the chairlift are short. Make sure to purchase your lift ticket online prior to arrival (or bring your season’s pass). You’ll also need a face covering for your time in the parking lot, at the base of the mountain, indoors, in the lift lines, and on the lift itself, but you’re able to pop it off as you make your way down the slopes. It’s recommended that you bring more than one mask, as they tend to get cold and snowy after being worn outside for a while.
105 km from Calgary
Photo: Town of Canmore via Facebook
Canmore has long been one of our family’s favourite places to visit at any time of year. There is so much to see and do in this cozy little town just 25 minutes from Banff. One of the benefits of Canmore is that you can enjoy many of the perks of being close to the mountains without having to pay for a day pass into the provincial park (although $20 for a carload is totally worth it). Some of our favourite things to do in Canmore include hiking to Grassi Lakes (although it’s arguably more beautiful in the summer, it’s still a great, easy winter hike), wandering around the cute little shops downtown while sipping a coffee or hot chocolate from Beamer’s, and grabbing a bite to eat from one of the incredible restaurants in town (there are too many to list them all, but we really love Crazyweed, communitea café and The Grizzly Paw Pub & Brewing Company). Restaurants are closed for dine-in as of December 14 due to Covid restrictions, but takeout options are available. Watch for a change in current restrictions for your next chance to grab a table! Things we haven’t tried yet but are on our list include taking a cave tour and renting some snowshoes or fat bikes, or exploring the toboggan trails, skating rink and winter disc golf at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
127 km from Calgary
Banff is another destination that tops our family’s list when it comes to winter day trips – if I could visit every weekend, I definitely would! I’ll take any excuse to visit the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), even if it’s just to take in the views from outside the hotel. It’s not uncommon to see caribou wandering the grounds, too! A trip to Banff wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Fudgery for a candy apple and some other sweet treats to munch on while exploring what has to be one of the most scenic downtowns in the country. Some of our favourite places to grab a bite in Banff include Tooloulou’s, Park Distillery, The Bison, The Balkan, and Beaver Tails, all of which are open for meals and treats on the go!
143 km from Calgary
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Sunshine Village is a ski resort located within Banff National Park. With 9 chairlifts and 120 different trails to explore, there is something for every skier and snowboarder in the family to get excited about. Sunshine Village was always a go-to for my family growing up, and we are excited to take our kiddos out for their first rip this year. Sunshine Village boasts the most modern ski lift system in Canada, one of which includes the country’s first heated chairlift – Teepee Town LX. Because Sunshine has the highest elevation of any ski and snowboard resort in the country, they receive some really incredible snow, creating perfect deep powder runs that snow junkies crave! Note that face coverings are required in all lift lines and while riding any lifts including the magic carpet and the gondola. Purchasing lift tickets in advance is recommended.
159 km from Calgary
Although Sylvan Lake is one of our family’s favourite places to visit during the summer, we never really realized just how much there is to do there in the winter, too! Visitors are invited to skate on one of the two huge outdoor rinks that have been built on the lake, so whether a game of shinny or a few laps around the rink are what you’re into, this is the perfect spot to do it. Until March 30, the entire Pier and lakeshore will be decorated with lights, creating Sylvan Lake’s Winter Village – the perfect backdrop for a magical winter walk. Bonfires are even available to enjoy the perfect winter picnic every weekend. Want to try your hand (or rod) at ice fishing? During the winter, about 100 ice fishing shacks are set up across the lake, some of which are decked to the nines with couches and even TV sets.
183 km from Calgary
Chances are, if you’ve seen a breathtaking photo of someone skating, kayaking, canoeing, or even just posing on an emerald lake with a stunning mountain backdrop, it was probably taken at Lake Louise. In the winter, you can lace up your skates to cruise along the ice, or bring along a stick and a puck for the most epic game of shinny you’ve ever played. Dog sled tours, skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, showshoeing, hiking and even sleigh rides offer even more ways to enjoy a day in this incredible location. Make sure to check on health and safety protocols before your visit, particularly if you plan to take a tour or visit areas that tend to be crowded with outdoor enthusiasts!