Banff National Park is magical in any season. Still, there is something particularly special about the snow-topped mountains and charming streets during the Christmas season. For locals and visitors alike, these are the best ways to celebrate Christmas in Banff with kids.
Santa Claus Parade of Lights
There are few events as loved in Banff as the Santa Claus Parade of Lights. This year, the parade kicks off November 16, 2019 at 6:00 pm. Pack warm clothes and arrive early to save your post along Banff Avenue, the main street in Banff. Follow the parade to Central Park for a Carols by Candlelight concert and gather by the community fire to warm up.
Banff Christmas Market and Photos With Santa
Stretching from November 15, 2019 through the 17th and again November 22 through the 24th, the Banff Christmas Market is the perfect place to find your Christmas spirit and amazing gifts for friends and family. Inspired by the rocky mountains, local vendors and culinary creators gather at the Warner Stables offering all the best one-of-a-kind products in Banff in one location.
The Banff Christmas Market is also the perfect place to grab a Santa Selfie and some adorable pics of your kids with the jolly big guy. Photos with Santa are included in the price of admission.
Cost: $7.50 per day or $15 for a weekend pass. Children 12 and under are free.
Mountain Top Christmas
One of my favourite stops in Banff is the Banff Gondola. I always recommend families visit at Christmas! Join Santa and his elves, local artisans and musicians in celebrating Christmas at 7486 feet above Sea Level. Kicking off the weekend of November 16, the celebrations happen every Saturday and Sunday straight through to December 30, 2019.
There’s plenty to do besides seeing the big guy in red. Kids will love taking part in the freshly baked cookie decorating, the 12 Animals of Christmas Treasure Hunt and the Above Banff Theatre movie featuring a Disney Christmas film. Best of all, all the activities are included in your admission to the Banff Gondola.
Tip: Arrive early as this year, the Banff Gondola is offering free admission to kids riding the gondola up before noon.
Cost: Activities are free with admission to the Banff Gondola.
Christmas at the Castle
It’s hard to think of Banff without the iconic Banff Springs coming to mind. This year, there are a number of ways to celebrate Christmas at the “castle”.
Experience the Christmas classic “A Christmas Carol” live at Banff Springs on weekends in November and December. Families staying at the hotel can also take part in writing letters to Santa, heritage tours, snowflake scavenger hunts and more.
Cost: Tickets to A Christmas Carol range from $26-$36 and can be purchased here.
Spirit in the Mountain
Families visiting Banff most often also fall in love with the town of Canmore. Located at the gates of Banff, Canmore is a delightful town with great restaurants and activities. One of the most unique Christmas activities in all of Banff is taking the Spirit in the Mountain tour with Canmore Cave Tours. The guided tour takes you 100 feet underground through the cave into a grand gallery for a truly unique evening of holiday concert. Tours take place December 20 through December 23, 2019
Cost: $149 per person including guide, equipment, and concert.
Christmas on Skis
Want to see Santa and hit the slope? You’ve come to the right place. Ski with Mr. and Mrs. Claus on December 14, 15 and 31 at Sunshine Village Resort’s Santa on the Mountain event. Want to don your own Santa gear? Skiiers dressed as Santa ski for free at Mt. Norquay on Christmas Day. Lake Louise Ski Resort hosts a magical Christmas Eve complete with entertainment, food and nighttime tubing with firepit snacks.
Cost: Varies by ski resort.
Banff New Year’s Eve
The Christmas celebrations in Banff are capped off with a fun-filled New Year’s Eve. This year, catch a spectacular fireworks show at midnight by simply stepping outside in downtown Banff. Also, keep an eye on Mt. Norquay as skiers glide down the mountain with torches lighting their path. This Banff tradition is viewable from downtown Banff.
A Local’s View on Christmas in Banff
While Banff and Canmore are hot tourist destination spots, they are also home to many of us. What I love best about Christmas in Banff is experiencing that small-town feel that the holidays lost ages ago. Take time to slow down and enjoy the lights and offerings of these unique Canadian towns. Rent skates and head to the iconic Lake Louise, take a day to sled downhill at Lake Louise Ski Hill or Mt. Norquay and take time to unwind and enjoy this time as a family.
Lead photo by Jakob Owens.