(Photo: Jasper Planetarium/Travel Alberta)

Things to Do in Alberta: December 2021

By Jeff Cummings

As 2021 winds down, holiday festivals are gearing up. Those celebrations look a lot different in a pandemic, but there are still plenty of opportunities to embrace the joy and spirit of the season. 

The shortest day of the year happens on Dec. 21, which means there are ample opportunities to gaze into the stars no matter where you are in Alberta. It’s also an optimal month when aurora borealis (northern lights) dazzle in this province at night. Share moments with your families and friends as you hypnotize yourself with the dancing colours of red, purple, and green moving across the dark sky above. Plus, this province is home to some of the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserves, including Elk Island, Wood Buffalo, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes national parks. AMA members can save $10 on annual Parks Canada Discovery Passes

Bask in the glow of Christmas light displays—either from your vehicle or physically distanced in a park. For starters, visit the Christmas Lights at Spruce Meadows in Calgary or the Winter Light Festival in Lethbridge’s Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. Drive through one of Edmonton’s most decorated neighbourhoods, Candy Cane Lane, or check out the Winter Wonder Forest near the small, nearby town of Gibbons.

The Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton
(Photo: Roth and Ramberg/Travel Alberta) 

Fort Edmonton Park remains open through to Dec. 19 on Saturdays and Sundays for the first time ever, and there’s a good reason. The park wants Albertans to explore the diversity of First Nations’ and Métis peoples at its new signature exhibit, The Indigenous Peoples Experience. The exhibit will remain open from noon to 4 p.m. during the weekends until the end of its now extended fall season. That means you still have a chance to explore the rich and beautiful cultures of First Nations and Métis peoples. You’re also encouraged to seek out truths as lived by Indigenous peoples before Canada became a country. 

While last year’s live theatre holiday season was humbug, you can safely revisit the classics in Calgary and Edmonton live in 2021. Get re-acquainted by watching protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge and the adaptation of the Charles Dickens-novella, A Christmas TaleTheatre Calgary’s edition from Nov. 30 to Dec. 25 will include a three-person cast production live on stage in a physically distanced Max Bell Theatre. If that’s not enough, Calgarians who enjoy this annual tradition can watch an extended director’s cut of a filmed performance right from home. In Edmonton, Citadel Theatre’s edition will delight all families from Nov. 27 to Dec. 23. The performance will take place in the venue’s Maclab Theatre. 

Zoolights at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo (Photo: Tourism Calgary/Travel Alberta) 

The Wilder institute/Calgary Zoo lights up at night from Nov. 19 to Jan. 2 for the 25th anniversary of its annual wintertime tradition, ZOOLIGHTS. It features colourful twinkling lights at every turn in the zoo, including more than 200 light figurines, along with interactive and choreographed light displays. It takes about 90 minutes to two hours to experience all that ZOOLIGHTS has to offer, and the lights turn on every night from 5 until 9 p.m.

Hollywood filmmakers are hoping to bring yuletide cheer back to movie theatres in December. This month’s blockbuster releases include the Steven Spielberg-directed romance-musical West Side Story on Dec. 10, Spider-Man: No Way Homeon Dec. 17, The King’s Man on Dec. 22, sci-fi disaster movie Don’t Look Up on Dec. 24, and reboot-horror Nightmare on Elm Street on New Year’s Eve. AMA members can save on Cineplex and Landmark film passes for kids, adults, and seniors when you pick them up at your local AMA centre. 

It’s more important than ever to support local, and with the holiday season approaching, December is an excellent opportunity to do just that. It’s also easier to shop online, thanks to MARKT by Spruce Meadows, which features hundreds of artisans and retailers in the Calgary region. Another virtual goldmine where you’ll find everything from jewellery to decor: localshops.com, run by two small Calgary-area business owners. There’s also shopyzh.com—a marketplace featuring talented entrepreneurs from Medicine Hat, Brooks, and others from Alberta’s southeastern corner. And Edmontonians, you have a treasure trove of local shopping opportunities with EdmontonMade.com