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Give the gift of an Alberta experience this Christmas

Author: Jennifer Allford

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Rogers Place / EEDC

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This Christmas, mix up your gift giving with things to do not just things to have. Alberta has experiences for everyone on your list.

Tickets to the game or a show in Edmonton

From the air, it looks like a giant thought bubble. From the ground, it looks like a massive space ship has landed smack dab in Edmonton’s core. Inside, in the Winter Garden, you’ll find a gorgeous circular mosaic – 13.7 m (45 ft) across – based on a painting by renowned Indigenous artist Alex Janvier. The brand new Rogers Place arena opened in September 2016 and is attracting hockey fans, big name bands and road shows, as well as art lovers.

Whether the folks on your list love the Oilers, big music, soaking up culture or celebrating the holidays with a Cirque de Soleil show, give the gift of tickets to an event at the latest jewel in Edmonton’s crown.

Brewery tour and award-winning beer in Red Deer

Treat your friends to a pint of Insomniac IPA and a tour of Red Deer’s Troubled Monk Brewery. Ask the brothers who founded the brewery to tell you how they went from pouring their first pint in the summer of 2015 to winning a silver medal at the World Beer Cup – aka the Olympics of beer – in 2016. Learn how Alberta farmers produce some of the best malt barley in the world. Then go back to the tap room to taste it.

Dog sledding adventures in Lake Louise

Kingmik Dog Sled Tours is the latest in the more than 100-year history of dog sledding in and around Banff National Park, where adventurers used dogs to take passengers and supplies into Skoki and Assiniboine lodges.

What better gift than the chance to climb into a dog sled for a memorable 90-minute ride through spectacular scenery? In front, eight Alaskan Huskies run full speed ahead, having the time of their lives. Behind stands a knowledgeable guide, or musher, urging them on. Tucked into warm blankets, friends and family can just sit back and admire the mountains along the 16 km (10 mi) trip from Lake Louise to the Great Divide on the BC border. For an extra thrill, stand with the musher at the back of the sled for a few minutes and help guide the dogs. Bucket list stuff.

Toast the holidays with a taste of Christmas Gin near Calgary

Give yourself a present this year – you’ve earned it – with a trip to Eau Claire Distillery to try a tipple of their Christmas Gin made with the ancient spice resins of frankincense and myrrh.

The distillery, a beautiful 45 minute drive southwest of Calgary, offers weekend tours and tastings over the winter as well as mixology classes so you and your friends can learn how to make the perfect cocktail with Eau Claire’s award winning spirits.

After you’ve toured the distillery and seen the copper stills and aging barrels, cross a few gifts off your list – pick up a bottle of Prickly Pear Equineox for mom, Three Point Vodka for dad and a bottle of Parlour Gin for yourself.

Starry, starry nights

After you’ve enjoyed Alberta’s famed blue skies all day, receive the gift of endless starry skies with a visit to one of the province’s four dark sky preserves. All this holiday light show will cost is a tank of gas.

In Canada, you can’t just turn out the lights and say you’re a dark sky preserve. You have to meet strict guidelines to be certified by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. We hate to brag but Alberta has the largest dark sky preserve in the whole world -- Wood Buffalo National Park Dark Sky Preserve up on our northern border with the Northwest Territories. And we have the second biggest, the Jasper National Park Dark Sky Preserve.

You can also play connect the dots in the night sky at Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park’s Dark Sky Preserve, which straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border in the southeast, or at the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, a quick drive east of Edmonton. All the preserves have star parties throughout the year. Fun for the whole family.

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