I’m one of those Calgarians that has never been to internationally renowned Spruce Meadows for, well… the horses. I know, I know the horse jumping is supposed to be incredible and that the queen has been there, but horses just aren’t my thing.
Christmas, however, that is my bag.
When the opportunity came up to visit the Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market, I was in! The market typically runs for three weekends leading up to the holidays, and this year every weekend fell in November.
I’d tried and failed once before to visit the market, turned off by the huge queue of cars leading into the parking lot. Turns out, the best weekend to visit? Black Friday! While everyone else is out at the shopping malls fighting over 40-inch TV screens, I got to merrily roll into the parking lot, find my perfect spot and buy tickets with ease.
We started our visit with a trip up Reindeer Alley. Donner, Blitzen and Prancer were all chilling out, interested in the visitors who poked their heads into their pen. Having never seen a reindeer before, I was taken aback at their size… smaller than I expected! Their antlers, however, are pretty epic. I couldn’t help but wonder how the weight of them didn’t give the poor reindeer constant headaches, but evolution and all that (yes… I have weird thought processes).
Next up was candy cane lane and the smaller riding hall where they’d taken all the stable stalls and turned them into miniature shops for the vendors. There truly was everything on offer you could imagine. Cute jewellery, infomercial products, hand-knitted hats and sweaters, tasty treats and more! If you hadn’t done your Christmas shopping, it’s a great place to get a little inspiration.
What did we leave with? Well… mostly food, because that’s how my pregnant brain rolls these days. We picked up some traditional German stollen bread to enjoy on Christmas Day (it freezes well!), mulled wine and hot buttered rum spice mixes (for when I can have booze again), and for my British husband, some Mr Kipling fruit mince pies.
We were even able to get some gifts for our nephews in Scotland, with one stall selling some unique kids toys that I’ve never seen before.
Having been to an early Christmas market in Germany many years ago, we also came hungry, ready to eat bratwurst and enjoy some mulled wine (David) and hot chocolate (me). The food was a tad pricey for the quality, but it’s part of the experience. Grabbing a seat in the concession area, we had a decent view of the stage in the main equi-plex, enjoying first the Calgary Burns Supper Club singing traditional carols, followed by a group of highland dancers doing everything from traditional dances to a pop-club rendition of Frozen’s Let It Go… as you do.
The benefit to it being dark by 5 p.m. in winter? Getting to enjoy the Christmas lights while still being able to make it home in time for dinner!
I would absolutely visit the Spruce Meadows Christmas Market again, as it really kicked us into the holiday spirit. Are the markets as good as those in Germany? Depends on what you’re looking for out of them. It is much more of an international flavour, but that also means there is something for everyone. Plus… outdoor fire pits. Enough said!
This was the last weekend of the market for 2015, but keep an eye out for 2016. If you’re wanting to stock up on some unique holiday gifts or events in Calgary before Christmas, may I suggest:
- Market Collective which is happening every weekend from now until December 20th at the Chinese Cultural Center
- The Marda Loop Christmas Market on December 12th
- The Holiday Fest’n’Film on St. Patrick’s Island, courtesy of East Village. Bundle up for an outdoor viewing of The Polar Express on December 4th.
What are your plans this holiday season? Are you making it to any holidays events in your community?