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Five ways to Embrace the Holiday Spirit in Alberta

Author: Debbie Olsen

Debbie is a writer, researcher, traveller, mom, wife, foodie, gardener, housekeeper, photographer, and occasional hormone-crazed maniac. She has contributed to eight Fodor’s guide books about Alberta and writes regular columns for the Calgary Herald and the Red Deer Advocate.

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Spruce Meadows / Tourism Calgary

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When you get caught up in the hectic pace of everyday living, the holiday season is the time to slow down, reflect and reconnect with the ones you love. There’s no better place than a snowy white winter playground to rekindle your sense of childlike wonder and experience anew the joy of living in the moment.

A one horse open sleigh

A classic Christmas card image comes to life when you’re snuggling under a warm blanket, all cozy in a horse-drawn sleigh. Take in the beauty of twinkling lights, stunning mountain panoramas under endless starry skies as you go dashing through the snow. Two top spots to enjoy this magical experience are with Brewster Sleigh Rides in Lake Louise and Heritage Ranch in Red Deer.

Bring us some figgy pudding

Enjoy a spectacular Christmas feast without the fuss and no mess to cleanup afterwards. Alberta’s top chefs have created spectacular holiday menus at the best restaurants around the province with full-on feasts for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Chefs at the Eden, western Canada’s only CAA 5-Diamond dining room in Banff’s Rimrock Hotel, have come up with a special Christmas-themed chef’s tasting menu and for New Year’s Eve, a six-course gourmet menu followed by a party in the ballroom complete with a midnight toast.

Walking in a winter wonderland

Stroll through Western Canada’s largest walk-through lights display, ride a festival train and warm up with hot chocolate and a toasty bonfire at Airdrie’s Festival of Lights (Dec 1-31). From Dec 3-23, the Alberta Legislature is decked out in thousands of lights including a 60-foot spruce decorated with more than 5,000 lights, and features an outdoor skating rink and daily live musical performances. Don’t miss the magical Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo. Stroll the grounds with a cup of hot chocolate and see more than 1.5 million lights, 200 displays and numerous choreographed light installations. Bring your skates, too. There’s lots of time to get in a visit as it runs from the end of November right through the first week of January.

All I want for Christmas

Holiday Markets have become a central part of the season with Christmas craft markets in most cities and towns. They’re the place to find unique handmade gifts, toys and decorations. You can satisfy your sweet tooth with homemade holiday baking and a cup of hot chocolate. With more than 275 of Canada’s most talented artists, artisans and designers, you could get lost for days in Edmonton’s Butterdome Craft Sale. In Calgary, the Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market is the biggest of the season with more than 250 vendors both outdoors and indoors.

Baby, It’s cold outside

Cold is seriously cool. You can’t go wrong with warm hospitality from locals and spectacular scenery that includes glistening mountain peaks, dramatic frozen waterfalls, frosted forests and sparkling white winter cityscapes. There is a host of unique outdoor activities to enjoy from skiing and tobogganing to dogsledding and snowmobiling. Whether you’re skating on a frozen lake, snowshoeing through a stunning landscape or climbing a frozen waterfall, you’ll find plenty of adventure simply by stepping outside.

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