Things to do in Alberta: December 2023

By Allison Bench

It’s the most wonderful time of the year; and we’ve got you covered with some fantastic events around Alberta to check out. Whether you’re looking to enjoy some live music, take in the ballet, or stroll through some festive lights, there’s something for everyone in Alberta this December.

A Spectacular Holiday Ballet

This holiday season, step into the magical world of The Nutcracker ballet. This beloved classic, features the story of the young heroine Klara, who alongside her devoted Nutcracker discovers the whimsy of the Sugar Plum Fairy and battles the Rat King; this familiar tale will bring you and your family right into the magic of the holiday season! The Alberta Ballet’s modern performance was updated last year—it now showcases new choreography and costumes, including a confection-themed dance number you have to see to believe. See The Nutcracker in Edmonton from Dec. 6-10, or in Calgary from Dec. 15-24. Plus, AMA members save 15% on the regular price of tickets from Alberta Ballet when you purchase them online.

Christmas with Jan Arden

Calgary’s own pop singer-songwriter Jan Arden will be celebrating her home for the holidays as she performs two special Christmas shows. A Jan Arden Christmas will see the JUNO-award winner perform two nights of festive ballads, along with some of her best-loved hits at Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall. Arden, who is still based here in Alberta, will take the stage for the holidays in Calgary on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20. Get your tickets here.

Red Deer’s North Pole Stroll

Red Deer is celebrating the season with a month-long multi-location holiday extravaganza in the city’s downtown core. The North Pole Stroll kicks off in late November and runs until Christmas—and includes self-guided activities at multiple locations, like the hidden Christmas pickle game and a window display scavenger hunt. Plus there’s a family-friendly Frost Street Patio Party on Dec. 8 and evening shopping Twinkle Tour on Dec. 15. Run by the Downtown Red Deer Business Association, the event celebrates all things local by encouraging holiday shoppers to  boost their downtown retailers.

Fairy Lights

The long nights of December are when all the light festivals around the province really get going—and there’s no shortage of bright bulbs to take in this year. While the beautiful holiday light displays are the main attraction, many events feature food, games and other activities for the whole family.

Both of Alberta’s major zoos  will play host to holiday light events this year. Check out ZOOLIGHTS at the Calgary Zoo, on from Nov. 17 until Jan. 7, 2024. This year’s ZOOLIGHTS features over one million lights, and 250 different displays—plus axe throwing and hot chocolate to keep warm while you explore. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Valley Zoo plays host to Zoominescence. This year will include light installation pitched by local articsts. Some highlights include a fibre optic “porcupine lantern” and a life-size, lit-up polar bear. Zoominescence runs from Dec. 1 until Jan. 3.

Edmonton and Calgary will also each play host to the Glow festival of lights. Both city’s events feature indoor light gardens as well as children’s activities, maker’s markets, and live entertainment. Glow Edmonton takes place from Dec. 1 – Jan. 1, while Glow Calgary takes place Dec. 7 – 31.

In Lethbridge, the Nikka Yuko Winter Lights is a tradition that sees the city’s Japanese garden transformed into a winter wonderland. The twinkling lights, alongside ice sculptures and horse and wagon rides invites Lethbridgians to enjoy a special winter wonderland moment.

Candy and Silence at the movies

This December, if you’re feeling a little burnt out from the shopping and parties, head to the movies for a break from it all. First off, if you’re wanting something to get your sweet tooth active, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prequel Wonka is set to release Dec. 15. Starring Timothée Chalamet as the titular character, the movie will explore the story of how a young Willy Wonka became one of the world’s most eccentric chocolate makers—and how he met the Oompa Loompas. If you’re craving something a little more action-packed, Silent Night is a Christmas action movie that aims to give audiences a truly unique experience: it is a movie without dialogue. Set to hit theatres Dec. 1, the film is directed by veteran action filmmaker Jon Woo (Face/Off, Mission: Impossible 2) and stars Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad, RoboCop).

Remember, AMA members can save on movie tickets! Purchase movie passes at your local AMA centre, where you can save on both Landmark and Cineplex passes.

Get cookie decorating

The festive season is the peak time for treats, and if you’re looking for an activity that’s great for a group or to check out solo, many local bakeries hold holiday cookie and cake decorating classes. They’re a great way to learn a new skill—and to make some tasty  homemade gifts for friends and family.

In Calgary, Cookie Couture has several holiday classes set to take place in December, including specialty classes that focus on gingerbread or bûche de Noël (yule log) cakes. You’ll learn the ins and outs of outlining and detail work—becoming something of an icing expert through the class.

Many Edmontonians know of Duchess Bake Shop, a French-style bakery that specializes in French macarons and croissants. But their team also likes to share their skills by offering classes; this December check out their offerings, which include Christmas cookie decorating, a doughnut class, and a gingerbread house building extravaganza.

Of course, there are bakeries all around the province—contact your local favourite to see if they’re planning any special holiday classes.