8 Unconventional Outdoor Activities to Try this Summer

From pickleball and pump tracks to downhill karting, river surfing, and more, we shine the spotlight on some fun and fresh activities to try in and around Calgary and Airdrie this season.

The weather is getting warmer and the days are growing longer, which means it’s the perfect time to engage in some outdoor fun. While hiking, golf, and tennis are classic pastimes to enjoy in the summertime, there are plenty of other less conventional sports and activities out there to consider. Here, we’ve compiled eight solid options that are well worth a try.

Play Beach Volleyball

If you’re looking for a fun and physically active way to spend time with friends this summer, consider giving beach volleyball a try. There’s just something really great about soaking up the sun, feeling the sand between your toes and laughing with pals as you jump, dive, and vie to keep that volleyball from touching the ground. Both Calgary and Airdrie have outdoor beach volleyball courts available for public use (four in each city), so you don’t necessarily have to be part of a club or league to gain access to a court.

That being said, if you are interested in joining a beach volleyball league, there are some great local options to choose from, including the Calgary Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA), which boasts 19 outdoor sand courts at Valleyview Regional Park in the city’s southeast. 

Join the Nose Hill Parkrun

While some may consider running to be a solitary activity, going for a group run can be a pleasurable and motivating way to switch up your exercise routine and get to know other members of the running community. One easy and low-stress way to embark on a group run is by joining a free “parkrun” event. Founded in the United Kingdom about 20 years ago, parkruns are timed, five-kilometre runs that take place every weekend in more than 2,300 locations around the world—including Calgary.

Hosted by volunteers and held every Saturday at 9:00 am in Nose Hill Park, the Nose Hill parkrun is a welcoming and inclusive experience that brings together runners (and walkers and joggers) of all levels for a pleasant run, with views of the Rocky Mountains and local wildlife. Visit the Nose Hill parkrun website for more info about the course and how to register.

Go Downhill Karting

If you’re in the mood for some adrenaline-filled fun, try the Downhill Karting track at Winsport Canada Olympic Park. Suitable for adults and kids alike, the track gives riders the opportunity to zoom down a purpose-built track that features more than 1,800 metres of twists, dips, tunnels and turns.

While the course is fast-paced, you can control your speed thanks to the simple braking and steering system of the three-wheeled kart. Once you get to the bottom of the course, it’s just a matter of hopping onto the chairlift and heading back to the top of the track for another go. There are a number of ride packages to choose from. Visit the Downhill Karting site for more details on options and pricing.

Ride a Local Pump Track

Cycling along Airdrie and Calgary’s scenic pathways is a quintessential summer activity. But for those who want to sharpen their riding skills, why not head to one of the many bike parks or pump tracks in either city? These specially designed biking circuits generally consist of an endless loop of rollers, jumps, and banked turns (called berms), all of which help riders practice their balance and improve their handling skills. Plus, they’re really fun.

While there are a number of local pump tracks to choose from, one of the newest and most exciting options (in our humble opinion!) is the brand-new circuit set to open in Airdrie’s Bayside community later this summer. Read about it here.

Surf the Bow

The mighty Bow River has long served as a summertime playground for rafters, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders who love to ride its (mostly) gentle rapids for hours at a time. In recent years, local water adventurers have added another Bow-based activity to the roster: river surfing.

As it turns out, the Bow features some pretty decent, beginner-friendly waves in the south channel of Harvie Passage in southeast Calgary. And when conditions are right, there’s another surf-friendly wave just off of 10th Street, beneath the Louise Bridge. Of course, river surfing is more high-risk than floating down the Bow in a raft, which is why people new to the sport should consider taking lessons prior to venturing out solo. The Alberta River Surfing Association offers lessons to members (which you can become, for a nominal fee).

Play Disc Golf with Friends

Not only is disc golf entertaining and budget-friendly, it’s also accessible to people of all ages and skill levels. Plus, the rules are simple to follow. The sport is played and scored much like traditional golf, except instead of using a ball and clubs, players throw a disc from a tee area to a target, or “hole,” with the aim of completing each hole in the fewest throws.

Thanks to disc golf’s burgeoning popularity, more and more disc golf courses are popping up in southern Alberta. The City of Airdrie operates one permanent course, the City of Calgary operates three, and the Calgary Disc Golf Club runs several more around the city. There are also some great options further afield, including the Canmore Nordic Centre course, the Aspen Meadows courses in Sundre, and the WJ Homestead Disc Golf Course in Priddis.

Give Pickleball a Try

These days, it’s pretty much impossible to talk about outdoor pastimes without the word “pickleball” coming up. The fastest-growing sport in North America for the third year in a row, pickleball is a mash-up of tennis, badminton, and Ping Pong, and is played with a paddle and a perforated plastic ball. Suitable for two players or four, it’s a fun, social way to get some exercise while enjoying a little bit of healthy competition.

There are a variety of outdoor pickleball courts in Calgary and Airdrie where you can give the game a try—just be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules around using or reserving these courts, as different locations have different guidelines.

Explore a Summer Night Market

While attending a summer night market might not be the most active outdoor pursuit when compared to some of the other items on our list, it’s still a pretty great way to enjoy the season’s warm evening air and longer stretches of sunlight. Getting out with family and friends to support local vendors and entertainers is, in our view, a perfect way to celebrate the season and build community with others.

While there are quite a few night markets to choose from in Calgary and its surrounding areas, most of them take place just one or two nights a month during the season, so be sure to plan ahead before heading out. Some of the most popular markets include the Calgary Night Market in Bridgeland, the Inglewood Night Market and the University District Night Market. It’s worth checking out all three—not to mention Airdrie’s annual Christmas In July Night Market, which will take place this year on Saturday, July 20.