The holidays feel different in Banff and Lake Louise. Moments replace presents, and calm replaces chaos. From the festive streets to the snow-capped peaks, magical memories are awaiting their opportunity shine here. And some of those memories can be created every single year. It’s never too late to start a new Christmas tradition, and a winter escape to the mountains may be the best place to start.
We interviewed five local families from the Bow Valley with kids of all ages to find out their favourite Christmas pastimes. Find out their local take on Christmas traditions in Banff National Park – they may just become some of your own!
1. Ice Skate Under the Stars
For families with older kids who are up for a bit of adventure, a nighttime skate on a mountain lake is a wonderful Christmas Eve tradition. “Stargazing and skating is our favourite holiday activity, where we’ll pack up the car with lots of blankets, layers, snacks, and a thermos of something warm to drink. There is nothing quite like skating on nature’s ice rink with a blanket of twinkling lights to look up to.”
Be sure to check Parks Canada’s guidelines and ice safety reports before heading out. There are other great options for ice skating within the town of Banff. Many have fire pits to warm up chilly fingers and toes, like the Banff High School rink.
2. Explore a Castle
“One of our traditions is to get some fresh air on Christmas Day by walking to the Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel for a hot drink and snack at STOCK Food & Drink. Perhaps when the kids are older we'll head to the Rundle Lounge, but while they are small, STOCK is the perfect destination. We can sip our hot drinks, choose from their pastries and other baked goods and play giant board games – kids love it! We also like to walk around the hotel and look at all the Christmas decorations.”
3. Hit the (Crowd-Free) Slopes
Some locals love to take advantage of Christmas Day downtime at the SkiBig3 resorts.
“After brunch with the family on Christmas Day, we often will hop over to Sunshine or Mt. Norquay for an afternoon of skiing as they are both so close to town. We love having lots of room to roam on the slopes, they are often much quieter on Christmas Day. It helps the kids burn off some energy and helps us burn off all our Christmas cookies!”
4. Enjoy a Christmas Feast in a Ski Lodge
“My kids completely loved going for Christmas dinner at Lake Louise Ski Resort. Aside from the delicious Christmas buffet, there was tons of family entertainment. We spent the night snow tubing and eating snacks outside of the Lodge of Ten Peaks, and later on had a visit from Santa and watched a magic show. Now they ask to go every year!”
5. Watch Christmas Trains, Parades, and holiday events
A local’s favourite for kids and kids at heart, you’ll find most of the community at the Banff Train Station when the CP Holiday Train comes to town.
“Our kids love trains, so getting to watch one decorated in Christmas lights is extra special for them. It is a very unique experience and one that we even get excited for. The Sam Robert’s show last year was fun for them to dance the night away with their friends.” Another great event to take in Christmas lights in a new way is at the Santa Clause Parade of Lights in mid-November.
*Please note that the CP Holiday Train only comes to Banff every other year. It will be passing through in 2020, 2022 and 2024.