There really is a lot of pressure on the Christmas season. We want beautiful decorations and yummy food, perfect presents and fun family time . . . and we want all of that to bring us harmony, joy, and hope.
I won’t deny these are worthy goals. But as parents all know, sometimes you just have to make that joy happen, in spite of everything! And since there’s nothing quite as cozy and magical as Christmas in the Rocky Mountains, we headed to Banff for a weekend of wintery, holiday, recapture-the-wonder fun. At least, that was the goal – with teenagers, you just never know what will pop up.
First Stop: Banff Gondola for Nightrise and Dinner at Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen
The Banff Gondola is a classic mountain adventure, one that’s suitable for all ages and abilities. This winter, the Gondola has introduced Nightrise, an immersive, multi-sensory winter experience where you can enjoy magic under the stars. Christmas lights always brighten up our long winter nights in December, but while Nightrise opened on December 2, 2021, it goes beyond the holidays for a unique winter activity that merges multimedia and storytelling for a new and inspiring perspective of nature at this iconic Banff location. You can catch this amazing event until March 12, 2022.
The journey begins in the gondola itself, with lights, music, and storytelling. As Nightrise is in collaboration with the Stoney Nakoda Nation, you can deepen your understanding of Indigenous Peoples through storytelling and drumming, along with our connection to the land. The night comes alive as you travel through the dark, with the lights of Banff twinkling in the valley below. The Upper Terminal has been transformed for Nightrise, with atmospheric lighting offering a magical experience, combined with music and story. Dance through the swirling interactive lights and watch the trees come to life. Listen to the sounds of nature outside and relax inside on comfortable pillows while you enjoy diamond lights cascading around you.
“I like everything about Nightrise,” my youngest exclaimed, halfway through.
We were also guests at the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen and enjoyed a fabulous dinner buffet, the perfect accent for a beautiful event. The food was delicious, the staff was warm and welcoming, and the teenagers were overjoyed.
On the gondola ride back down, we listened to the storytelling gently wishing us goodbye and goodnight and there were yawns all around.
Time for Bed: Elk + Ave Hotel
We took our tired selves into Banff after Nightrise to spend the night at the Elk + Avenue Hotel. Just a few steps from the restaurants, shopping, and nightlife of downtown Banff, Elk + Avenue Hotel brings an upscale twist to the classic mountain escape. It’s a lovely option for families, in easy walking distance of important places like the candy store. Our suite included a pull-out couch in the living area (with a full table, which I always appreciate with kids) and two queen beds in a loft. Of course, the mini-fridge and coffeemaker are always important to families, too. The lobby was festive and cheerful.
Wake Up! Farm and Fire Breakfast
How do you drag teens out of bed on a Sunday morning? Bribe them with breakfast out. Before heading out on a day’s adventures, everyone needs to fortify themselves with a delicious meal, plus, it feels more like being on vacation when you can relax over a cup of coffee that someone else poured. The Farm and Fire Restaurant, located right in the Elk + Avenue Hotel, is one of Banff’s newest restaurants, as it opened in June 2020. The menu is filled with wood-fired and slow-roasted staples, with a farm-to-table philosophy that makes each dish taste fresh and delicious.
Open Top Touring Lets You Leave the Car Behind
If you’re looking for a Christmas adventure for the little ones, you’ll definitely want to check out the Mountaintop Christmas at the Banff Gondola. But plan for the fun to begin on the journey! Open Top Touring has introduced the Elf Express. They will pick you up in a 1930’s vintage-inspired touring coach, driven by one of Santa’s elves. On the drive to the Banff Gondola, you’ll hear stories of Santa, sing Christmas carols, and receive a voucher for a printed photo with Santa.
Banff Gondola Mountaintop Christmas
Find Santa on the top of a mountain this Christmas! Even if your kids roll their eyes at Santa, the Mountaintop Christmas is delightful. We enjoyed the seasonal decorations, the treats, and the snow-covered Christmas atmosphere.
Santa will be visiting until December 24, 2021, with an inviting festive backdrop for pictures. (Santa even came outside for pictures with us! And yes, the teens rolled their eyes.)
The kids were happy with the takeaway craft kits, the cookie decorating kits, and the maple sugar snow taffy and we all relaxed to watch a short Christmas classic movie. Of course, you can also enjoy all the regular interactive displays at the Banff Gondola, too, learning about the park and the land we live on. Access to all Mountaintop Christmas activities is included with admission and the event runs on weekends until December 19, 2021, and then daily until December 30, 2021. Even better, kids go free before noon – every day!
Take the perfect family photo, grab a hot chocolate, and start a new family tradition this Christmas. It’s fun, relaxing, and festive.
Parents dream of family harmony and having fun together, and this is especially true at Christmas. We work hard to infuse delight and magic into the season. This Christmas, it’s time to capture the wonder and enjoy the special moments in spite of everything life can throw at you. Even if we never arrive at that sparkling, peaceful destination in our imagination, those moments become even more precious in the midst of an imperfect world.
Of course, our magical weekend away wasn’t perfect; we had a few minor injuries from skiing earlier in the day and falling down the stairs, but it was all in a day’s parenting. At the end of the weekend, we made the short ride back home to Calgary, filled with new experiences and positive interactions, and it was so worth it.
Banff Family Christmas Weekend:
Where: Banff, AB
You can read more about our Nightrise experience here.
Thank you to Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection, Banff Gondola, Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen, Elk + Ave, Farm and Fire, and Open Top Touring for hosting our family; all opinions expressed here are my own. CQ