Family Fun Just Off the Beaten Path

So, you've taken the kids to the Calgary Zoo. They've revelled in the amusements of Calaway Park and Heritage Park. They've had their minds improved and their ambitions tweaked at TELUS Spark, Calgary's Science Centre.

Now what?

Plenty. Calgary in August is a nice place to be – even an inexpensive place if you play it smart. And look around: this town is overflowing with kids. In a city brimming with the kind of youthful exuberance that only a boomtown like Calgary can muster up, there's bound to be something for the under 18 crowd.

First up: how does breakfast sound? Dinner is controversial – your kids want hot dogs, you want sushi. But everyone can agree on waffles.

buffet at the ramada
Kid-friendly fare
Sleep in and then take the little champions to the Ramada Hotel downtown for the brunch buffet. There's fare for all palates, and kids six and under eat free.

August is a great month for festivals. The Chinatown Street Festival in mid-August is free, lively, and full of sights and sounds your kids have never encountered before. Treat them to authentic Chinese cuisine or else Calgary’s own ginger beef, the crown jewel of “western Chinese Food”; then stick around for the dragon dance which blends athletic skill and artful showmanship in a way that will trick your boys into loving dance and confound your girls into appreciating martial arts.

For free outdoor fun it’s hard to beat Calgary Parks and Gardens, which offer free wading pools on hot summer days as well as the thriftiest summer cuisine in town, the wiener roast: you bring the picnic, roasting sticks and firewood, they provide the fire pits. You can rent a picnic site by booking in advance or just take your chances by showing up and using a site for free (usually a safe bet if you aren't a large group). Call 311 to check for fire bans. Check picnic locations here.

For a long list of free summer events, check the City of Calgary Parks website.

Tell your older kids and teens to pack the skateboard: Shaw Millennium Park, on the west end of downtown Calgary, is North America’s largest free skateboard park. It offers lots of varied terrain for skaters of all levels.

What if it's raining? Go for a swim. Like any city subject to serious winters, Calgary offers lots of variations on the indoor swimming pool. Cardel Place is great for little kids with its large, shallow wading pool and a "river" that will whisk you in brisk figure eights. The City of Calgary's Leisure Centres offer wave pools, waterslides and numerous gyms and courts.

Kids six and older might enjoy Calgary's new Skyline Luge which offers a fun ride with twists and turns for the whole family and for all skill levels.

fireworks from Global Fest
Fireworks and more at GlobalFest
Up for a late night? If you've still got energy to burn after ticking off this list, GlobalFest offers an international fireworks competition over several evenings in late August. Buy tickets in advance – they're good for both the fireworks show and the concurrent Oneworld Festival which is a multicultural celebration showcasing cuisine and cultural activities from around the world. What better way to cap off another long summer day in everyone's favourite Rocky Mountain city?

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