Calgary Zoo Lights vs. Lions Festival of Lights vs. Airdrie Festival of Lights

Things to do in Calgary: Calgary Zoo Lights vs. Lions Festival of Lights vs. Airdrie Festival of Lights!

With the Christmas and holiday season behind us, we would like to post about our experiences at each of the three light festivals around Calgary. We found that with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season (and our general laziness), we usually only get around to one of these a year. And, we certainly have a favourite...

Calgary Zoo Lights

COST: $14.95 + $10 parking

TOTAL TIME REQUIRED: Approximately 1.5 hours

WHERE: Calgary Zoo

WHEN: Late November to Early January from 6 P.M. - 9 P.M.; check exact dates here

NOTES: We found the Calgary Zoo Lights to be a once-every-few-years kind of excursion. Given the already high costs of the holiday season, it costs almost $50 for a couple just to get onto the grounds. Once there, we found a large area of lights to see and some neat touches, like getting to roll your own maple candy on a stick and ice skating and free skate rentals for everyone. That being said, the ice rink was quite full and for novice skaters like me, there was no way I was going to be able to use this perk. The Zoo also attempts to integrate learning about animals with the lights display. Depending on the day, it might be hard to take it all in, especially given that you have a maximum of three hours on the grounds. The most impressive light installation here was the Tunnel of Love, which changed colours every so often and was a popular photo spot.

Lions Festival of Lights

COST: Free

TOTAL TIME REQUIRED: Approximately 45 minutes, more if you plan to toboggan or use your crazy carpets (Yes, Confederation Park is officially approved by the city for tobogganing and sledding)

WHERE: Confederation Park

WHEN: Early December to Early January from 6 P.M. - midnight; check exact dates here

NOTES: The Lions Festival of Lights is an awe-inspiring display. The festival is organized entirely by volunteers and, according to their website, draws over 57 000 visitors a day! That does not surprise us one bit. You can drive by Confederation Park to see the lights, but you will almost certainly want to pull over and go inside. Once there, you will see a sizeable display of lights and even ice sculptures! Parking around the community fills up quickly, so be ready to walk there and back. We think of the Lions Festival as a highlight reel of sorts, all the impressive stuff, none of the clutter.

Airdrie Festival of Lights

COST: Free, cash donations recommended ($10 per family)

TOTAL TIME REQUIRED: Approximately 45 minutes, more if you plan to skate and ride the Holiday Train

WHERE: Nose Creek Park

WHEN: All December from 6 P.M. - 9 P.M.; check exact dates here

NOTES: We saved the best for last... the Airdrie Festival of Lights is a bit of a dark horse amongst the others. Also run by numerous volunteers, the display of lights is absolutely huge and just walking around the park, stopping to admire the lights, and take a few photos can take 45 minutes. This festival also boasts free parking right on site and welcomes pets. We particularly enjoyed the nativity scene, Santa's sleigh, and the themed exhibits with solid attention to detail. Then, there is the Holiday Train; absolutely magnificent to watch and welcomes adult riders for only $2 a ticket. There are also food trucks and beverages available for a nominal charge. The night we attended, the local Tim Horton's was handing out free coffee and latte samples. There is a sizeable skating rink in the middle of the park where you can bring your own skates. By the end of the night, we were in awe of the number and size of light displays and all the activities available to partake in. If there is only one lights festival you can attend, make it the Airdrie Festival of Lights.