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Author: Mhairri Woodhall

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, Mhairri now lives in Calgary with her husband and daughter. Specializing in family, luxury and culinary focused travel, Mhairri loves exploring her new province, nourishing her wanderlust and writing about her adventures.

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As I watch my husband and daughter dancing in the pool, I can’t help but think that we’ll all sleep well tonight. For although the pumping music has drowned out the splashes, giggles and squeals there’s no mistaking the looks of pure exhilaration and joy. It’s day two of Calgary’s three-day International Children’s Festival in late May and we’re all having a blast.

Calgary International Children’s Festival

Olympic Plaza is the venue for the festival’s many free activities and concerts, which include story time, magicians, jugglers, balloon animals, face painting and arts and crafts. We’ve been here all day and haven’t spent a dime. If you plan on coming down, be sure to bring bathing suits for the kids as the concert stage above the plaza’s sprawling outdoor wading pool oversees the ultimate pool party.

Next door, at Arts Commons, you’ll find the ticketed musical performances, cultural shows and live theatre. Each show has a recommended age group, so you’ll know which performances are appropriate for your kids.

St. Albert International Children’s Festival

St. Albert, just outside Edmonton, hosts their epic five-day children’s festival in late May as well, and judging by what my friend, Jane has to say about it, I get the feeling we’ll be heading there next year.

Year round children’s theatre is a very big deal here. The St. Albert Children’s Theatre (SACT) is a major contributor to the festival, mounting a main stage production every year. This time around, it was an adaptation of “James and the Giant Peach.” Jane’s cousin in St. Albert has a teenaged son, Adam, who has been involved with SACT since he was just a wee lad. Adam played the role of the master of ceremonies (with great aplomb, unquote). The audience couldn’t take their eyes off him.

Turning this classic children’s story into a musical was genius. The songs were everything from hilarious to poignant. The large cast took on multiple roles and the costume changes were epic. The play ran about 45 minutes and at times there were as many as 30 children of all ages on the stage acting and singing their hearts out. Jane said the audience had as many adults as children and all were totally enthralled throughout.

Stay a Little Bit Longer

The Festival has grown so much that it now takes up a number of venues around the town, from the venerable Arden Theatre to a curling rink reconfigured with stadium seating and a stage. There are free performances and activities and ticketed shows, with age appropriate guidelines. Toddler Town sounds perfect for our little one – story telling, music, a free play area with hula hoops, tumbling mats, puppet shows and singing. In fact, there is so much for children to do – from Viking weaving, paper making, dance and music, to clowning and stilt walking workshops, I can see we’ll have to plan to stay a few days.

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