Heading to Banff for a weekend or even just a day over the holiday season has become one of our favourite Christmas family traditions. There’s just something extra-magical about being surrounded by the majestic mountains and snow-laden trees combined with the twinkle lights and sparkly decorations all along Banff Avenue.

Banff Santa Parade 2017

The Santa Claus Parade of Lights heralded in the Christmas season in Banff National Park this past Saturday. The singing, dancing, floats and inflatables bring smiles to our kids every year. Not to mention the candy canes and other delights handed out by elves is always a hit too. The parade is only just the beginning of all the programs, shows, and activities running all season long.

Here is a collection of some of our favourite family traditions and upcoming events happening in the Canadian Rockies this Christmas.

Banff Gondola Summit

Banff Gondola Mountaintop Christmas Events and Activities

If you are looking for one thing to add and check off your Rocky Mountain bucket list – summiting Sulphur Mountain aboard the Banff Gondola is an absolute must. It takes less than 10 minutes to reach the 2281 meter above sea level mountain peak. At the top, the four-level observatory houses an interpretive centre, upscale and casual dining options and a 40-seat theatre.

Banff Gondola Christmas

Until the end of December, kids can enjoy the Twelve Animals of Christmas Treasure Hunt. There are clues scattered throughout all four levels of the Gondola Summit. Find the clues, answer the questions correctly and win a prize when you bring back the quiz at the end of your visit. On Saturdays and Sundays there are additional Mountaintop Christmas activities including Santa’s Reindeer Challenge Game, Cookie Decoration, Photos with Santa, Kids Gift Making,  Professional Family Photos and a 20 minute Disney Christmas movie playing in the theatre.

Sky Bistro Banff Gondola

Between a brisk walk along the boardwalk to take in the 360 degree view of six mountain ranges, a leisurely lunch at the Sky Bistro, hunting for clues and doing all the activities, our family spent over 4 hours at the top.

Be sure to arrive early because most of the Christmas activities wrap up by 3pm. Admission $62 per adult, $31 per child ages 6-12 but arrive before noon and one child rides free per paying adult. www.brewster.ca

Christmas Shopping


Banff Christmas Market

With over 75 vendors selling art, jewellery, clothing & accessories, gifts for the home and much more the Banff Christmas Market is the perfect stop for some holiday shopping. In addition to the market, there will be Christmas story-telling by the Banff Public Library staff, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and photos with Santa. Entry fee $5 kids ages 10 and under are free of charge. The Banff Christmas Market runs November 24 – 26th, 2017 and is located on Sundance Road at Warners Stables. www.banffchristmasmarket.com

Canmore Christmas Artisans’ Market

In its 22nd year, the Canmore Christmas Artisans’ Market is the premier market in the Bow Valley. There will be over 80 artisans and artists from Canmore and surrounding areas selling their wares. You’ll find one-of-a-kind hand-crafted jewelry, photography, pottery, paintings, furniture, body products, clothing, fine foods, and so much more. There will be food vendors serving up sweet and savoury treats so bring an appetite. Admission is $3 and goes to support the Canmore Preschool Society. The Canmore Christmas Artisans’ Market runs November 25 & 26, 2017 and is located at the Canmore Collegiate High School. https://canmoreartisansmarket.com

Spirit of Christmas Banff Ave

The Spirit of Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas shop on Banff Avenue is a fun place to visit any time of the year. With over 5000 square feet on three levels of Christmas everything – this store keeps the Christmas spirit alive year round. However, it is definitely not to be missed during the Christmas season. Stop in for for unusual and whimsical Christmas ornaments and decor. The humungous Christmas village display with lit-up houses, moving parts, and music is guaranteed to delight even the darkest scroogie heart. www.spiritofchristmas.ca

For more Christmas shopping ideas during your stay in Banff and Lake Louise, visit: www.banfflakelouise.com.

A Christmas Carol at Banff Springs Hotel

A Christmas Carol at the Fairmont Banff Springs

Brand new this year, A Christmas Carol will be playing at the Banff Springs Hotel from Dec 2 – 31st. The show is open to the public however, guests of the hotel receive 50% off admission tickets. Hotel guests can also enjoy the Christmas-themed activities all month long including movie night (Polar Express), outdoor winter games, a scavenger snowflake hunt, boardgames, letters to Santa, video gaming and craft making.
You can even arrange to have one of Santa’s elves come and read a bedtime story to your little ones. www.christmasatthecastle.ca

Santa Skies at Lake Louise, Sunshine and Mt. Norquay

Ski with Santa

If you ask my kids where Santa lives, they’ll knowledgeably reply he lives in the North Pole. However, they’ll point out he vacations in the Rocky Mountains. And he loves to ski! Santa hits the Big 3 over the holiday season this year.

Leading up to the holidays, Santa stops at Sunshine Mountain for two weekends: December 12th & 13th, 19th & 20th.
After hitting the slopes, he’ll be around to take pictures with all the good little skiers in the village.

To take a breather before the big event, Santa Claus brings Mrs. Claus and their elves and reindeer to ski and snowboard at Lake Louise on December 23 and 24, 2017

On Christmas Day, there will be lots of Santas ripping down Mt. Norquay. Anyone dressed in full festive regalia (hats alone don’t count) can ski for free at Mt. Norquay on Christmas Day.

Lake Louise Sleigh Ride

For Horse Lovers

Sleigh Rides at Lake Louise

Enjoy a fairy-tale inspired horse-drawn sleigh rides in Lake Louise starting mid-December. The ride lasts 45—60 minutes and glides along majestic Lake Louise to the translucent-blue frozen Lake Louise Falls. Here you can see ice climbers scaling its glassy heights. Rides depart right in front of Chateau Lake Louise and tickets can be purchased inside at the Brewster Tours desk. If you are going during a busy weekend, be sure to book your ride in advance. Rides are $35 per adult and kids are $30 (ages 3-8). Free for children 2 and under. www.brewsteradventures.com/winter-sleigh-rides

Banff Trail Riders – Free Holiday Wagon Rides

Every Sunday between November 19th and December 17th, you can enjoy a free holiday wagon ride with Banff Trail Riders. Nothing says Christmas like cozying up with your loved ones and taking in the glorious mountain scenery on a winter wagon ride! Stop by the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies parking lot on Sundays between 12 – 4pm for an authentically Canadian afternoon of fun. Please note that all rides are weather dependent. www.banfflakelouise.com

Whyte Christmas Banff

A Whyte Christmas

On December 2nd, stop by The Whyte Museum for their Christmas Open House. This museum is a must-visit for anyone wanting to learn more about history and culture of the Rocky Mountains of Canada. During their Christmas open house not only will you be able to enjoy their collections, programs and exhibitions but you can also celebrate the season with crafts, cookies, carols, and of course, a visit from Santa. The Whyte Museum also has a great gift shop with carefully curated items that would make great gifts for even the most discerning person on your list. The event runs from 1-4 pm and admission is free. www.whyte.org

These are only a handful of our recommendations. For a complete list of all Christmas events, attractions, and activities happening in Banff National Park, be sure to visit Banff and Lake Louise Tourism for more information.
Disclosure: The writer was hosted by Banff and Lake Louise Tourism.