The holiday season can sometimes feel like one long series of obligations and events designed to blow your family budget and get further in debt.

But not every outing has to involve getting out the plastic. Here are five fun activities in Calgary that won't cost you much, if anything. 

Take in a free movie

Macaulay Culkin and Catherine O'Hara in Home Alone

The holiday classic Home Alone is playing at the Plaza on Dec. 24 at 3 p.m. for free. (20th Century Fox/Home Alone Official Facebook Page)

The Plaza Theatre is hosting free movie screenings each Saturday until Dec. 24 as part of the Christmas in Kensington festivities, which also feature horse and wagon rides and strolling carolers on Christmas Eve. 

  • Dec. 17: The Holiday
  • Dec. 24: Home Alone

Shows are at 3 p.m. The Plaza is located at 1133 Kensington Road N.W. 

Go see some holiday lights

Festival of lights

CBC is one of the co-sponsors of the Lion's Festival of Lights at Confederation Park.

The annual Lion's Festival of Lights at Confederation Park, sponsored in part by CBC Calgary, features more than 300,000 LED lightbulbs in a dazzling display stretching from 24th Street to about Rosevale Drive along 14th Street N.W.

There's also a major light display in Legacy, a new community in the city's far southeast. The district is hosting its second annual Christmas Light Parade, with over 80,000 lights. Legacy is at 210th Avenue and Macleod Trail.

And up in Airdrie's Nose Creek Park, the Festival of Lights also boasts fire pits and $2 rides on the miniature train. Admission is by cash donation. 

Climb aboard Engine 23 at the Central Library

Engine 23 storytime0:35

Take the kids to the Central Library for storytime at Engine 23, a real decommissioned fire truck that was donated to the library.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m., a Calgary Fire Department firefighter drops by for storytime. 

There are also readings geared for the pre-schoolers (ages two to five) on Fridays at 10:30 a.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m., Sundays at 1 p.m. and Mondays at 10:30 a.m.

Strap on the skates 

Family skating fun

Skating on an outdoor rink can be a fun, free family activity. (Getty Images)

There are a number of places to skate for free outdoors in Calgary — such as the lagoon at Bowness Park and Olympic Plaza at City Hall. There is also a new skating rink opening this year at the Thomson Family Park.

If you want to stay warmer, head to the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary for a $2 skate on Friday, Dec. 23.

The oval also offers skating for a toonie every Monday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Helmets are mandatory, and skaters are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for the University of Calgary Food Bank.

Several City of Calgary arenas are offering free public skating at 1 p.m. on Boxing Day:

  • Murray Copot Arena (6727 Centre St. N.W.)
  • Optimist / George Blundun Arenas (5020 26th Ave. S.W.)
  • Rose Kohn / Jimmie Condon Arenas (502 Heritage Dr. S.W.) 
  • Shouldice Arena (1515 Home Rd. N.W.)
  • Stew Hendry / Henry Viney Arenas (814 13th Ave. N.E.)
  • ​Stu Peppard Arena (5300 19th St. S.W.)

Let it slide

Toboggan generic

There are 18 city-sanctioned tobogganing hills in Calgary. (AP)

Tobogganing is a great way to get out in the fresh air without spending much money. Apart from a sled and a helmet, all you need are some warm clothes and a little fearlessness.

But be warned — tobogganing in unapproved areas in Calgary could land you a ticket. There are 18 hills designated by the city as safe for sledding:

  • Big Marlborough Park dry pond: 6021 Madigan Dr. N.E.
  • Confederation Park: 2800 10th St. N.W. (north side of park immediately west of Rosemont Community Centre).
  • Deerfoot Athletic Park: 14th Avenue and 16A Street N.E.
  • Glendale Park: 25th Avenue and 45th Street S.W. (west side).
  • Kingsland dry pond: Heritage Drive S.W. behind the Rose Kohn and Jimmie Condon arenas.
  • Maple Ridge dry pond: Mapleglade Close S.E.
  • Marlborough Community Association: 636 Marlborough Way N.E.
  • McKenzie Towne​: 160 McKenzie Towne Dr. S.E.
  • Monterey Park: Catalina Boulevard and California Boulevard N.E. (northeast corner only).
  • Prairie Winds Park: 223 Castleridge Blvd. (north side of hill).
  • Richmond Green: 33rd Avenue and 25th Street S.W.
  • Royal Oak: 50 Royal Birkdale Dr. N.W. (north side of hill).
  • Rundle dry pond: 4120 Rundlethorn Dr. N.E. (behind Rundle Elementary School).
  • Sacramento dry pond: Sacramento Drive and 104th Avenue S.W.
  • Scarboro: 15th Avenue and 16th Street S.W.
  • Signal Hill: Sirocco Drive and Signal Hill Heights S.W.
  • St. Andrew's Heights: 2504 13th Avenue N.W.
  • Stanley Park: 4011 1A Street S.W.