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Christmas

Holiday Happenings: Outdoor Attractions

It can be tempting to hibernate the holidays away. But if you bundle up and face the wintry winds outdoors, you’ll be rewarded with lights, treats and high spirits this season.

Walk the Trail of Lights at Downsview Park (photo by Bensonkua)

Northern Lights
If you’ve never had a reason to head north to Downsview Park (at Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue), the “Trail of Lights” provides more than 400,000 radiant reasons to do so. Open from 6 to 11:00 p.m. every night until January 3, the three-kilometre trail winds through illuminated arches into 16 themed areas and the park’s Canada Forest, amazing visitors with energy-efficient LED lights in the form of blizzards, reindeer, Santa Claus and the country’s largest walk-through Holiday Tree. Whether you drive or walk the sparkling route, you’re sure to be spellbound. 1–35 Carl Hall Rd., $7 per person on Walk-Through Wednesdays, $20 to $50 per vehicle on other days; call 416-952-2222 or click here for tickets.

Luxe Cruise
Maybe a night aboard one of the heated, beautifully decorated Mariposa Cruise Line ships doesn’t technically count as an outdoor activity, but with its breathtaking views of Toronto’s harbourfront and skyline, the four-hour Holiday Dinner Cruises on December 5, 12, 18 and 19 afford a unique, luxurious way of celebrating with loved ones as you enjoy the city’s beauty from afar. Feast on a sumptuous buffet-style dinner featuring prime rib, roast turkey and other holiday mains while listening to ambient music guests can dance to. Boards at Queen’s Quay Terminal, 207 Queens Quay W., $72.95; call 416-203-0178 or click here for tickets, as reservations are required.

White Nights
Head outside on any night this December and be dazzled by the Cavalcade of Lights in diverse neighbourhoods across the city. See Chinatown’s dragons, Little Italy’s trumpeting angels, Koreatown’s tiger, Yorkville’s sparkly storefront displays and Yonge-Dundas Square’s polar bears. On Saturday nights, end up at Nathan Phillips Square, where Toronto’s official Christmas tree towers over revelers waiting for fireworks and free concerts. Live performances by State of Shock on December 12 and Faber Drive December 19 entertain music-lovers, followed by DJ’s spinning alternative music for the skating fanatics. Call 416-338-0338 or click here for more information.

The Natrel Rink (photo by Jennifer Hart)

The Natrel Rink (photo by Jennifer Hart)

Get Set, Skate!
You won’t wish for a river you can skate away on if you find your way to the Harbourfront Centre’s Natrel Rink. The country’s largest artificially refrigerated outdoor rink boasts a good view of the waterfront and is a great venue for free DJ Skate Saturday Nights, when different DJ’s play house music, blues, jazz and even ambient electronica while skaters glide across the ice every Saturday from December 5 to February 13 (except December 26). For beginners, rink offers several learn-to-skate classes, drop-in clinics and private lessons. Afterwards, you can enjoy warming drinks by one of the controlled fireplaces overlooking Lake Ontario. 235 Queens Quay W., free ($7 for skate rental); call 416-973-4093 or click here for more information on skating classes.

Away in a Manger
Here’s a unique way to spend the morning after an indulgent holiday banquet: join fellow animal-lovers in pampering the creatures that delight Toronto Zoo patrons all year long. From 10 to 11 a.m. on December 26, the 34th annual Christmas Treats Walk lets visitors feed treats and seasonal goodies to the zoo’s resident reindeer, Siberian tigers, polar bears and other beasts. Participants will be treated to free hot chocolate at the new Tundra Trek and entertained by carol singers during the walk. On Meadowvale Rd., north of Hwy. 401, half-price admission all day; call 416-392-5929 or click here for further details.

Holiday Happenings: Seasoned Performances

This season is bursting with festive, holiday-themed shows and concerts, from the classical and magical to the satirical.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Triple the Hallelujahs
Torontonians are spoiled for choice when it comes to enjoying one of the world’s cherished Christmas classics, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. One version of the oratorio will be performed by the esteemed Toronto Symphony Orchestra on December 16, 18, 19, 20 and 21. Dubbed “Toronto’s Favourite Messiah,” the uplifting concert is highlighted by the debut of three young talents: conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni, countertenor Matthew White and baritone Tyler Duncan. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., $35 to $99; call 416-872-4255 or visit here for tickets.

Ballet Creole’s Soulful Messiah promises to delight with a unique, movement-oriented take on Handel’s masterpiece. Its shows on December 11, 12 and 13 combine the company’s trademark African and Caribbean dance influences with tap, contemporary R&B and the voices of legendary black singers for a joyous and moving celebration. Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W., $20 to $45; call 416-973-4000 or click here for tickets.

A third—and beloved—interpretation of the Messiah, by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir on December 20, encourages audience participation. Conducted by a feisty, white-wigged “Maestro Handel,” the Sing-Along Messiah lets you lift your voice in song with 2,700 other audience members and guest soloists. A special offer lets groups of six save $10 per ticket off the regular price. It’s enough to make you shout “Hallelujah!” Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., $25 to $39; call 416-872-4255 or see Tafelmusik’s website for details and tickets.

Two Cheers for the Children
There’s nothing more angelic than children’s voices soaring in perfect harmony. On December 11 and 12, the St. Michael’s Choir School stages Sing We Noel, Noel We Sing, its annual Christmas concert. Featuring a special performance of Dancing Day for choir and harp composed by John Rutter, the show includes sacred music from the Catholic tradition and Christmas sing-along favourites. Massey Hall, $22.50 to $36.50; call 416-872-4255 or navigate here to purchase tickets.

The youthful yet very professional members of the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre present Wintersong: Dances for a Sacred Season on December 18 and 19. The tapestry of five dances comprising the show mixes mid-winter solstice dance influences from Native Canadian, Jewish, Christian and secular traditions. Live Celtic music adds to the enchanting atmosphere. Fleck Dance Theatre, $15 to $28; call 416-973-4000 or visit this link for information and tickets.

The Nutcracker (photo by Bruce Zinger)

The Nutcracker (photo by Bruce Zinger)

Favourite Fairy Tale
Even heretofore hardened hearts hearts will melt at the National Ballet of Canada’s magical production of The Nutcracker on December 12, 16, 17 and 18. Featuring a full orchestra, a gorgeous set, a dancing horse, a lively battle and the participation of the VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto, this classical ballet takes audiences on an amazing adventure through a dreamscape where toys comes to life, snowflakes waltz and the Sugar Plum Fairy falls in love with the Nutcracker Prince to the heavenly sound of the celesta. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., $33 to $121; call 416-345-9595 or click here for tickets.

Season for Satire
In a month that can change from cheerful to stressful faster than you can say “Happy Holidays,”
The Second City gives us two reasons to laugh. What the Elf?!? is a family-friendly musical about a lost tin soldier trying to find Santa’s sleigh. An interactive improv show follows the musical on December 21, 22, and 23; parents and their young children to participate. For adults, Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue on December 19 pokes fun at holiday traditions, family reunions, Christmas carols—even the relationship between Joseph and Mary. 51 Mercer St. What the Elf?!? $12 per ticket or $40 for a family four-pack. Dysfunctional Holiday Revue $22; call 416-343-0011 for tickets.

Holiday Happenings: Heritage Traditions

Festive family fun abounds this month at the city’s heritage sites and historic museums. Step back in time and experience old-fashioned Toronto traditions that will delight both young and old. Events occur during daily museum hours except where noted.

Casa Loma

Casa Loma

Casa Loma
Experience holiday magic as classic storybook tales are brought to life at this enchanting hilltop castle. The attraction also offers a variety of registration-only special events: on December 13 and 20 families can feast on scrumptious pancakes at a breakfast with Santa Claus; or help your little elf decorate a miniature gingerbread house on December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. And on December 22 and 30, get physical with a holiday-themed family archery lesson and learn the history and techniques behind this ancient sport.

1 Austin Terrace. Admission and special event prices vary; call 416-923-1171 for more information and to register.


Mackenzie House

Eschew the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping for the charm of a traditional Christmas in the 1859 row-house of Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie. Sample mulled cider and warm biscuits in an authentic 19th-century kitchen while little ones write letters to Santa Claus the old-fashioned way—using a pen and ink pot, plus stationery made with a circa-1845 printing press. And on December 13 and 20, gather in Mackenzie House’s cozy family room for an afternoon storytelling session featuring Christmas tales from the Victorian era.

82 Bond St. Adults $5.71, children $3.33; call 416-392-6915 for details.


Todmorden Mills Museum

Discover the simple pleasures of a Regency-era Christmas at Todmorden Mills—the site’s early 19th-century homes are adorned for the season with a lovely array of evergreen garlands and festive decorations. You can even create your own tree ornaments using a traditional felting technique. Register for the Cast Iron Chef cooking series on December 5 and prepare tasty holiday treats on an open hearth. On December 12, creative visitors can use wires, pliers and natural materials to make custom holiday decor at the wreath-making workshop.

67 Pottery Rd. Adults $5.24, children $2, workshop prices vary; call 416-396-2819 for details and to reserve.

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village
Step back in time to a Victorian country Christmas and enjoy festive performances, hands-on activities and festive treats at this living history museum. On December 5, 12, and 19 the historic village is bathed in the flickering glow of candlelight and oil lamps for Christmas by Lamplight, an annual celebration with costumed carollers, games and storytellers. Then return December 6, 13, and 20 for a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings served in the Village’s historic brewery restaurant.

1000 Murray Ross Pkwy. Admission prices vary; to purchase tickets for Christmas by Lamplight, call 416-736-1733, ext. 5331. For Sunday Christmas Dinner reservations, call 416-667-6295.


Colborne Lodge

Celebrate the holidays in winter-wonderland surroundings in a restored 1837 regency villa. Tour the picturesque home of High Park’s founders, John and Jemima Howard, while nibbling on delectable holiday snacks and toast the season with mulled cider warmed by an authentic wood stove. Sign up to make a festive seasonal wreath to take home on December 5, 6 and 10; on December 12, 13, 16, 17 and 19, craft custom adornments for your dinner table at the two-hour Christmas centrepiece workshop.

Colborne Lodge Drive. Adults $5.71, children $3.33, workshop prices vary; call 416-392-6916 for details.


Gibson House

Holiday traditions of yore come to life at this north Toronto family farmhouse built in 1851. The Georgian-style exterior is resplendent with seasonal finery; costumed staff lead capture the spirit with tours of this historic rural landmark. On December 19 and 20 the museum hosts Mincemeat, Pomanders and Paperchains—a weekend event with festive crafting for kids in the Discovery Gallery and traditional holiday fare from the open-hearth kitchen.

5172 Yonge St. Adults $5.48, children $2.62; call 416-395-7432 for more information.


Montgomery’s Inn

Enjoy plentiful seasonal entertainment throughout the month at this early-1800s Etobicoke landmark. Ring in the holidays on December 4 by singing 19th-century carols while sipping period-relevant drinks in the tavern at this historic inn. On December 4 and 5 the Humber River Shakespeare Company performs an original production of Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol. Also on December 5, master baker Monika Paradis presents a delightfully decadent Gingerbread House workshop. And on December 12, cozy up by the fire and enjoy readings of The Ghost of Christmas Present and many more seasonal stories.

4709 Dundas St. W. Admission prices vary; call 416-394-8113 for registration information.

Weekend Roundup, December 4th to December 6th

December is finally here! ‘Tis the season to eat, drink, shop, skate and be merry at festive holiday performances.

Friday: Spend an evening at the Distillery Historic District

Friday: Spend some time at the Distillery Historic District

Friday December 4th
Pick out gifts for little loved-ones at the Distillery Historic District’s Children’s Trunk Show shopping event, then spend the evening walking the area’s cobblestone laneways and admiring its seasonal light display.

Get into the festive spirit at the Friday After Five event hosted by the Gardiner Museum. This special holiday happy hour features Christmas cocktails and a tourtiere poutine created by celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy.

Partake in a 72-year-old seasonal tradition at the Church of the Holy Trinity—its Christmas Story performance brings the nativity to soul-stirring life.

Saturday: Tea at the Royal York

Saturday: Tea at the Royal York

Saturday, December 5th
Take time for afternoon tea at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and nibble on finger sandwiches, mincemeat tarts and other holiday treats. Visitors can also take home decadent goodies from the on-site Festive Bakery.

Meet new friends while learning how to pry open shellfish at the singles oyster shucking, tasting & wine pairing night at Leslieville gastro-pub Prohibition.

Sing along with Weezer and other alternative-rock superstars—the Air Canada Centre hosts radio station 102.1 The Edge’s Jingle Bell Rock concert.

Sunday: Eva Avila portrays Maid Marian in Robin Hood

Sunday: Eva Avila portrays Maid Marian in Robin Hood

Sunday, December 6th
Enjoy a festive afternoon at Roy Thompson Hall as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Dickens’s holiday classic, A Christmas Carol.

Strap on your blades for Harbourfront Centre’s HarbourKIDS: SK8 festival at Canada’s largest artificially cooled outdoor ice rink.

Follow Robin Hood as his merry men as they engage in eco-conscious hijinks in the Ross Petty production of Robin Hood: The Environ-Mental Family Musical.

Weekend Bonus: Ice, Wine and Dine Festival

Holiday Ornament MartiniNovember 20 & 21 Fire jugglers, stilt walkers and strolling songsters take over Elm Street this weekend, as the Ice, Wine and Dine Festival transforms the relatively quiet downtown strip into a festive holiday block party.

Organized by local businesses, the event also features live music, fortune tellers, magicians and ice-sculpture carvers, while restaurants and cafés serve up delectable food and drink specials under heated patio tents—recently opened pub The Queen & Beaver offers mulled cider and warm gingerbread, Commensal has organic hot chocolate and a tasty $5 vegetarian sampling platter. Even the Elmwood Spa participates in the festive fun by handing out free Lindt chocolate goodies. Those who seek heartier fare can stop by the Duke of Somerset and feast on pot roast sandwiches and the miniature deep-fried Mars bars, or pop into the Wolf and Firkin pub for spicy chili served with toasted garlic bread.

Culture vultures are encouraged to peek inside the Arts and Letters Club—a heritage building that, this weekend, hosts visual artists, poetry readings, music performances and more—while party enthusiasts will want to stop by the impressive Ice Martini Lounge, a chic outdoor space featuring a frozen ice bar. Here, revelers can pose for photos beside large-scale ice sculptures and sip on signature cocktails like the “Yongetini,” made with crème de menthe, chocolate liquor and vodka, and garnished with chocolate rosebuds. This downtown neighbourhood event has something for anyone looking to catch a bit of early holiday cheer.

Elm Street (two blocks north of Dundas Street) between Yonge and Bay streets. 4 to 9 p.m, free (excluding food samples); for further information, click here.

Frugal Faves: The Bata Shoe Museum and Swarovski Crystal Wish Tree

There’s so much to see and do in this city, but after a while, admission fees, restaurant bills and shopping sprees start to add up. Where Toronto’s weekly tips on discounted tickets, exclusive sales, free events and more help you get the most out of your trip without burning a hole in your pocket.

View these Spanish chopines and more at the Bata Shoe Museum.

View these Spanish chopines and more at the Bata Shoe Museum.

Shoes on a Shoestring
A hot deal is afoot at the Bata Shoe Museum. Footwear fetishists can admire can admire a range of historically significant slippers, clogs, moccasins and more for pay-what-you-can admission on Thursday evenings year-round. And as a bonus, entrance to the museum is free on November weekends when you donate a new pair of socks as part of the annual Warm the Sole charity sock drive. From ancient silk sandals to Renaissance chopines to today’s sexy stilettos, the museum displays hundreds of shoes spanning the centuries.

PWYC admission is in effect Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. Free weekend admission with socks donation runs now through November 29. Visit here or call 416-979-7799 for more information.

The Swarovski Crystal Wish Tree lights up the Eaton Centre.

The Swarovski Crystal Wish Tree lights up the Toronto Eaton Centre.

Sparkle and Song
Kick off the festive season this Thursday, November 19, as the one-of-a-kind Swarovski Crystal Wish Tree is unveiled at the Toronto Eaton Centre. Thirty-five feet tall and adorned with 20,000 crystals, this rotating tree creates a constant shimmering effect that is sure to dazzle. Prior to the big reveal is a free, special-guest performance by acclaimed vocal quartet the Canadian Tenors, singing seasonal hits from their recently released holiday album. Now in its fifth year, this shopping-centre holiday tradition helps benefit the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada through the sale of commemorative ornaments.

The Swarovski tree reveal is scheduled between 6 and 7 p.m., on the second level of the Toronto Eaton Centre, near Indigo.

Frugal Faves: T.O. Tix and Festive Winter Windows

There’s so much to see and do in this city, but after a while, admission fees, restaurant bills and shopping sprees start to add up. Where Toronto’s weekly tips on discounted tickets, exclusive sales, free events and more help you get the most out of your trip without burning a hole in your pocket.

<i>Jersey Boys</i> swings it '60s style (photo by Joan Marcus).

Snatch up discounted tickets to Jersey Boys and other hot shows from T.O. Tix (photo by Joan Marcus).

Box-Office Bargains
Want to take in the hottest shows in the city without paying the hefty price?  The T.O. TIX outlet is your one stop shop for exclusive deals on tickets for stage performances around the city. If you’ve got a flexible schedule (all tickets are for same-day shows) visit the booth at Yonge-Dundas Square to purchase half-price and discounted tickets to popular shows like Jersey Boys and Medieval Times. You can also purchase seats for select shows online.

T.O. TIX accepts Visa, Mastercard, debit and cash, and is located on the southeast corner of Yonge and Dundas streets. Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 6:30 p.m; call 416-536-6468, ext. 40 or visit here for more details.

Check out the city's holiday window displays (photo by Jessica Napier).

Check out the city's holiday window displays (photo by Jessica Napier).

Take a Walk in a Window Wonderland
Get in the holiday spirit early by embarking on a self-guided tour of the festive window displays in and around downtown Toronto. At The Bay’s flagship store, Christmas creatures come to life alongside a working train and an animatronic Santa Clause in a series of Toyland vignettes. Explore the tony Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood and marvel at the dazzling high-fashion window decor at chic retailers like Holt Renfrew. And creative windows designed by retail management students at Ryerson University can be spotted at businesses throughout the Downtown Yonge area—you can even vote for your favourites online.

The Bay is located at 176 Yonge St., while Holt Renfrew resides at 50 Bloor St. W. To check out a map of Ryerson students’ holiday windows, click here.

12 Days of Christmas in Calgary

Get into the holiday spirit with these yuletide events around Calgary

By Laura Pellerine

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Christmas, Calgary is brimming with events to take in—from old Ebenezer’s spiritual transition on stage, to metal guitar players rocking out to “Carol of the Bells.”

TransSiberian200x200

Day 1: Nov 18
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Get into the spirit early with this band’s fresh take on traditional Christmas songs. Combining rock, metal, R&B and classical music to create a unique sound, the orchestra is known for its original compositions, as well as reinventions of holiday classics like “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”: a medley of “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” During the show, you can expect to see pyrotechnics, exceptional vocal performances and long-haired guitar players headbanging to Christmas tunes. At the Saddledome, tickets $25 – $57.50, call Ticketmaster, 403-777-0000.

Day 2: Nov 22
Christmas All Through the House at Lougheed House
This National Historic Site was built in 1891 as the former home of Senator James and Isabella Lougheed. For the holidays, individual rooms get transformed into historical recreations of Christmas throughout the decades. After wandering through the rooms to the sound of carollers, visitors can have an antique photo taken with a Victorian St. Nicholas, or head outdoors for a sleigh ride around the grounds. Nov 18 – 22, tickets $10 – $15 at door, 707 – 13 Ave SW.

Day 3: Nov 28
Alberta Theatre Projects’ Toad of Toad Hall
Alberta Theatre Projects celebrates the holidays by offering a family themed show—in past years they’ve put on Robin Hood and Peter Pan. This year they’ve chosen Toad of Toad Hall, an adaptation by Philip Goulding from Kenneth Grahame’s popular children’s book The Wind in the Willows. The story follows the rich, but reckless, Mr. Toad as he runs from the law, while his friends Ratty, Badger and Mole are left behind to fight off the nasty Weasels. At the Epcor Centre, Nov 25 – Dec 27, tickets $25 – $51, call 403-294-7402.

HeritagePark200x200

Day 4: Dec 2
Christmas by Lamplight at Heritage Park
For a true old-fashioned Christmas experience head to Heritage Park. Their Christmas by Lamplight evening includes a three-course traditional turkey dinner in the Wainwright Hotel where you are greeted by costumed carollers as you enter the lobby. Afterwards, you can join in the carol singing at St. Martin’s Church and then hop onto a horse-drawn wagon for a cozy ride around the park. During the day, their Once Upon a Christmas event runs on weekends in November and December, and offers a similar experience with carollers and wagon rides, but also includes roaming theatre performances, a visit from Santa and a chance to wander through traditionally decorated historical homes. Christmas by Lamplight: Dec 2, 9, $39.95 (adults), for tickets call 403-268-8500; Once Upon a Christmas: Sat and Sun, Nov 21 – Dec 20, tickets $5 – $7.50.

Day 5: Dec 3
A Vinyl Café Christmas with Stuart McLean
It’s becoming a uniquely Canadian Christmas tradition to hear CBC’s master storyteller and best-selling author Stuart McLean tell stories of his beloved character Dave’s comedic attempts at cooking a turkey. After premiering in 1994, McLean’s often quirky and moving radio show, “The Vinyl Café,” draws 800,000 listeners each week. On this year’s A Vinyl Café Christmas Tour, expect to hear two new Dave & Morley stories, a few old favourites, and songs from Canadian musicians. At the Jubilee Auditorium Dec 3, 4, tickets $44.50 – $50, call Ticketmaster, 403-777-0000.

SingAlongMessiah200x200

Day 6: Dec 5
Christmas with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
At the CPO’s Handel’s Messiah, a classic piece of music (which you may recognize from its “Hallelujah!” refrain), is performed with soloists as well as the CPO chorus. At key points in the oratorio the audience is invited to sing along and rise to their feet, a custom started by King George II. Things get a little sillier at the Sing-Along Messiah, where a costumed “George Frederic Handel” conducts a complete orchestral accompaniment. With beautiful music, comical stage antics and audience participation, this will be a fun afternoon for the whole family. At the Epcor Centre, Handel’s Messiah: Dec 4, 5, $19 – $85; Sing-Along Messiah: Dec 6, $19, call 403-571-0849.

Day 7: Dec 9
Deane House Murder Mystery Theatre
Exercise your holiday sense of humour with these two murder mystery shows. Fit for Death is a story of how overweight elves get put on a fitness routine and are worked out—“to death.” Meanwhile, in It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like … Murder, when Santa gets run over by a reindeer, camaraderie between the elves becomes ugly as they jockey over who gets to take Santa’s place. Fit: Nov 13, 14, 25 – 28, Dec 9 – 13; Beginning: Nov 19 – 22, Dec 2 – 6, 16 – 20. Tickets are $75 and include a four-course meal at the historic Deane House Restaurant, call 403-269-7747.

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Day 8: Dec 12
Zoolights
Once the sun goes down, the Calgary Zoo gets transformed into one of Western Canada’s largest light displays with over 1.5 million lights in the shapes of zoo animals, holiday icons and even the Calgary Flames symbol. Kids can chat live with Santa Claus in the North Pole with “SantaVision,” or head over to specially designed plays areas like Snowball Alley and Snigloo, where they can make their own igloo. Be prepared to bundle up­—it usually is cold, though you can warm up next to their on-site fire pits and sip hot chocolate. Nov 27 – Jan 3, 2010, $8 adults, $5 kids.

Day 9: Dec 18
Christmas in Wales at Rosebud Dinner Theatre

If you don’t mind the hour-and-a-half drive, head to Rosebud Theatre, situated in the hamlet of Rosebud in the middle of the prairies, and it will feel like you’ve stepped back to a simpler time. Their holiday show is Christmas in Wales—a tale of one adult’s reveries of an old-fashioned holiday celebration, complete with Welsh carols, snowball fights and family. Dinner is served buffet-style in the Mercantile Room, located a short walk along a dirt road from the theatre. For a more traditional feel, try to get a dinner spot at the Rosebud Country Inn, adorned with old-fashioned decorations. Here, they serve a turkey dinner with all the fixings: mashed potatoes, cranberries, plum pudding and carols from wandering musicians. Nov 6 – Dec 23, tickets $27 – $62.50, call 1-800-267-7553.

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Day 10: Dec 22
Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Going to see Clara fight off the evil rat king in The Nutcracker has been a North American Christmas tradition since it was first performed by San Francisco Ballet in 1944. Alberta Ballet’s current production will mark the second year of the Edmund Stripe’s newly choreographed version. It toured last year around the world to sold-out audiences, and this year promises to be just as enchanting with beautiful hand-worked costumes and sets designed by the Emmy Award-winning Zack Brown. At the Jubilee Auditorium, Dec 18 – 26, tickets $27 – $106, call 403-245-4549.

Day 11: Dec 24
Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transition from a selfish miser to a humble do-gooder is brought to life by Theatre Calgary. The Broadway-sized set, period costumes and huge musical score help add a feeling of magic to the show. And perhaps best of all, Scrooge is played by Stephen Hair, a local award-winning actor, who has donned Scrooge’s top hat for 16 years. At the Epcor Centre, Nov 20 – Dec 27, tickets $32 – $75, call 403-294-7440.

Day 12: Dec 25
Skating at Bowness Lagoon
This quiet lagoon is set inside a 30-hectare river valley park in the heart of the northwest. Surrounded by snow-trimmed evergreens, this pond is a loop with bridges you can skate under. If you get cold, there’s usually a crackling fire pit on the ice. 8900 – 48 Ave NW, 403-268-2300, (or 311 in Calgary area).