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A Calgarian Christmas

If you’re looking for a more unique way to celebrate this holiday season, you won’t want to miss these Calgarian Christmas gems.

Photo by Mike Sturk, courtesy of Spruce Meadows.

Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market

Located on the grounds of Calgary’s grand show jumping venue Spruce Meadows, the International Christmas Market showcases hand-crafted gifts from more than 200 vendors from around the world.

Kids will love the free pony rides, petting zoo, and ice-skating; they can even meet Santa’s reindeer in their stalls. You’ll love the 32,000 square feet of Christmas light displays and the complimentary Red Arrow shuttle bus service to and from Somerset/Bridlewood LRT station.  Now in its 13th year, the market offers a little something for everyone like handblown glass Christmas ornaments from Baraka Dream of Egypt and jewellery from Burnt Finger Beadwork, with prices ranging from $2 to $2,000.

Exhibitors bring products in from Netherlands, Turkey, France, and many European countries. In fact, more than 16 countries are represented.

WHERE: Spruce Meadows Grounds, 18011 Spruce Meadows Way SW
WHEN: November 18-20 and November 25-27, 2011
TIME: Friday 12pm-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm
COST: General Admission: $8, Free for seniors (65+) & children (12 & under)
Parking & Shuttle Service: Free
INFO: Call 403-974-4200 or visit www.sprucemeadows.com

Photo courtesy of Lougheed House.

Christmas All Through the House at Lougheed House

See festively themed rooms throughout the historic Lougheed House at this annual event presented in partnership with the Calgary Design Group. Built in 1891, the 14,000-square-foot sandstone home is open for visitors year-round, but in November, 10 of the 21 rooms are transformed by professional designers to represent Christmas through the ages. This year, designers took their inspiration from the idea of patchworks being common threads to history. For example, Lady Isabella Lougheed was Métis, and she and her husband, Senator James Alexander Lougheed, were important early socialites, a status that was and is reflected in the national historic site. Participating vendors for this year’s display include Roche Bobois and House of Persian Rugs, among many more, so expect a rich display of home décor and finery.

The event also offers Christmas sing a-longs, handmade craft workshops, live music, and the chance to have your photo taken with a Victorian Santa Claus. Weekends will offer all of these programs, but be sure to check the Lougheed House website for up-to-date schedules.

WHERE: Lougheed House, 707 – 13 Ave SW
WHEN: November 19 to 27, 2011
TIME: Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm; Monday to Friday 11am to 4pm.
COST: Adult Admission $15, seniors and students $10, children $5.
INFO: Call 403-244-6333 or visit www.lougheedhouse.com.

Photo courtesy of the Calgary Zoo.

Calgary Zoo’s Zoolights

The Calgary Zoo’s 13th annual festival of lights is a family holiday tradition for Calgarians with displays of more than 1.5 million lights at last count. This year, in addition to returning favourites like ice carving demos by Frozen Memories and the choreographed music and light show by Elfboy, the KidZone has been completely redone. The Penguin Plunge KidZone celebrates the upcoming opening of the new penguin exhibit at the zoo in February of next year. Activities will include the March of the Penguins waddling race, the Happy Feet dance and freeze game, and Reindeer ring toss. Also updated this year is the Wishing Tree, which is now a full exhibit of culturally diverse wishing trees that you can still hang your wish on. SantaVision returns, offering the chance to chat live with Santa from the North Pole; you can even download the conversation to be shared with friends and family. Lover’s Lane has been enhanced with new figures and string light displays, and Candy Cane Lane will now exist as part of a new area called Candy Land where visitors will be able to buy special candy treats.

New this year, don’t miss the Canadiana exhibit in the Destination Africa area, a red-and-white themed look at the best of Canadian food, flags, and figures. The no-adults allowed Elf Toy Shop is filled with volunteers to escort kids through the gift shop in search of the perfect gifts for their friends and family, with all items $20 or less.

Concession stands offer up seasonal treats like hot chocolate and Christmas cookies, and volunteers will be handing out free candy canes. Non-perishable food donations for the food bank will also be collected.

WHERE: The Calgary Zoo, 1300 Zoo Road NE
WHEN: November 25, 2011 to January 7, 2012, excluding Christmas Day
TIME: 6 -9pm each night; gates close at 8:30 pm.
COST: Adult Admission $10+GST, $6+GST for children 12 and under.
INFO: Call 403-232-9300 or visit www.calgaryzoo.org.

Photo courtesy of Heritage Park.

Once Upon A Christmas at Heritage Park

Historic buildings and costumed interpreters bring Christmas of the 19th and early 20th century to life at Heritage Park.  Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park complete with sleigh bells and warm blankets and sing carols in the church or with a wandering costumed caroler. You can even meet Santa and pet his reindeer.

Three of the historical family homes are open to show the different turn-of-the-century experiences of the holidays. The Prince displays a wealthy family’s store-bought gifts and real lights on the tree. The Thorpe once belonged to a Scandanavian family and features straw decorations. Finally, The Ranchhouse offers a simple Prairie Christmas with homemade gifts and a poplar tree. Also, enjoy live historical theatre with a new play this year by the volunteers of the Heritage Park Players. A Tannebaum Tale runs three times a day in the recently refurbished Opera House.

Of course, you won’t want to miss the holiday treats. You’ll need to pre-purchase tickets for the famous breakfast buffet at Wainwright Hotel, and you’ll want to buy early – with fresh-baked goods from Alberta Bakery, French toast with warm Canadian maple syrup, and Spolumbo’s maple breakfast sausage, it’s no wonder this event sells out nearly every year. Tickets, $17.65+GST for adults, $11.95+GST for kids 3-17, kids aged 2 and under eat free. Call 403-268-8500 to pre-buy. Selkirk’s Grill and Railway Café are great spots to warm up with hot chocolate and cookies after you spend an hour or two skating on the synthetic outdoor ice rink.

And if you have a few more gifts on your list, don’t miss the unique vintage jewellery, wind-up toys, and more available in the Mercantile Block, including an antique store, Switzer’s Grocery & Confectionary for the perfect host gifts, and a portrait studio for those Christmas cards you’ve been meaning to send out. Kids can get in on the shopping with a no-adults-allowed gift shop with volunteers to help them pick out the perfect gift for $10 or less.

WHERE: Heritage Park, 1900 Heritage Dr SW
WHEN: Saturdays and Sundays November 19-27, December 3-18
TIME: 9:30 am until 4 pm
COST: Adult Admission: $8 +GST; Child (3-17) Admission: $6 +GST; Free for kids 2 and under as well as Annual Pass holders
INFO: Call 403-268-8500 or visit www.heritagepark.ca.

Photo courtesy of Pegasus Performances.

Christmas Mystery Theatre at The Deane House Restaurant

Enjoy dinner and an interactive show together at the Christmas Mystery Theatre. Pegasus Performances has been the resident company for this event for the past nine years, and each year they bring a new comic murder mystery to The Deane House Restaurant written by an Alberta playwright. The action happens all around you throughout the four-course dinner, so keep an eye out for clues! Sit back and enjoy the show or try and solve the crime to become the master detective of the evening – winners go home with a Canadiana gift basket and certificate courtesy of the gift shop at Fort Calgary and The Deane House.

This year, The Santa Mentalist tells the story of a psychic come to aid the CIB (Claus Bureau of Investigation) to solve a mystery, while renegade elves are found out by the head elf Noelle Noel in Rebel Without A Claus.

Doors open for cocktail hour at 6 pm, dinner is served at 7 pm, and the mystery is solved by 10:45 pm. Plan a corporate or group event, or attend a public show to experience a unique mix of food, entertainment, and mystery. Book your tickets early as these popular shows almost always sell out!

WHERE: The Deane House Restaurant, 806 – 9 Avenue SE
WHEN: November 12, 17-20, 24-26, 30, December 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 19-22.
TIME: 6 pm – 1 am
COST: $80, includes a served four-course dinner, entertainment, gratuity on the food, and applicable taxes. Cash bar.
INFO: For tickets, call 403-290-1875 x 241

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