Hard to believe, but the final weekend of November is upon us.

For some people that means it's time to start shopping, but for others, the end of November is the time to get a head start on some of the Christmas entertainment options in Calgary.

As always, providing a list of cheerful events to take part in this weekend is The Homestretch director Tracy Fuller.

Skating at Olympic Plaza

It's time to dust off your ice skates because the outdoor rink at Olympic Plaza is finally open.

The ice surface is refrigerated, which means Chinooks aren't a problem, and the rink is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Skate rentals and sharpening are available. 

And the best part — It's 100 per cent free.

The only caveat is you have to leave your hockey sticks, toboggans, sleds and strollers at home.

Christmas-themed plays

If you're one of those people that must see some Christmas-themed play, show or event over the holidays, now is the time that everything gets started.

Here's a few of the festive entertainment ideas that are already underway — even though it's only November.

Theatre Calgary's A Christmas Carol, starring the one and only Stephen Hair starts Thursday and runs until Christmas Eve.

Heritage Park's Once Upon A Christmas starts this weekend and runs every weekend until Dec. 23.

Rosebud Theatre's Christmas production is called Cariboo Magi — it's a comedy about a hodgepodge theatre troupe that gets stuck in a snowdrift, only to arrive on stage on Christmas Eve — to give the performance of a lifetime.

Cariboo Magi runs until Dec. 23 in Rosebud, about 100 kilometres northeast of Calgary.

Christmas Markets

The Calgary Expo Holiday Market happens this weekend at the BMO Centre on the Stampede Grounds.

Spruce Meadows' International Christmas Market is on this weekend and next weekend at the world-famous equestrian grounds on Highway 22X just south of Calgary.

Nutcracker Suite

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble is performing the Nutcracker Suite on Saturday at Grace Presbyterian Church.  

But this isn't your ballet teacher's nutcracker. This is the legendary Duke Ellington's rendition, which jazzes-up Tchaikovsky's legendary score.

Jonathan Love is narrating, Cedric Blary will play solo clarinet, and Kelly Steele will be tap dancing. Kids under 12 get in for free and it promises to fun for the whole family.

That's this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Grace Presbyterian Church.

Zoo Lights

The Calgary Zoo starts its annual Zoo Lights Festival on Friday, and that runs until Jan. 6, 2018.


How about something that has nothing to do with Christmas at all?

I offer you GIRAF 13, or the thirteenth edition of Calgary's annual Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival — yes, that really is what GIRAF stands for. The event celebrates the spirit of independent, underground, and experimental animation, showcasing Canadian animators. Basically this is all things weird and wonderful pushing the boundaries of everyday animation.

It's happening at the Globe Cinema — but it's not just screenings. There are workshops, artist talks, and even retro animation features.

Details and the full schedule is available online.

Calgary Philharmonic Classics

The Calgary Philharmonic is putting on a concert called Greatest Classical Hits at the Jack Singer Concert Hall Saturday night.

Included are piano and symphony piece by Rachmaninoff, along with a romantic suite by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

But when I think of greatest hits albums, I think of songs we can all hum along to, and even people who don't think they know classical music know Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

It was even turned into a disco tune that climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1976.

Anyway, if you've never heard all four movements of this iconic symphony, you have your chance on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Jack Singer.

Tickets are available online.

With files from The Homestretch