There’s an excitement about Christmas Day that can hardly be contained, no matter your age. If you find yourself in the mountains for this festive holiday, you’ll see that excitement elevated thanks to the lofty summits that surround you and holiday spirit that captivates the whole region.
While many towns get sleepy on Christmas Day as families gather indoors, Banff and Lake Louise come more alive than ever. If you’re looking for ways to spend this special day and create new memories, here are some ideas:
Start with a Christmas Day Brunch
Many restaurants are open on Christmas Day for a festive breakfast or brunch so you can start the day off on the right foot. Some need to be reserved in advance, so check out our Guide To Brunch in Banff and Lake Louise for some inspiration.
Go for a Scenic Skate
You’ve got a number of skating rinks to choose from, such as the postcard-perfect Lake Louise or the skating rink downtown outside the Banff Community High School. No matter which you select (view this listing of locations and rental options), each rink comes with mountain views that make for a memorable skate.
Hit the Slopes (Dress Up to Ski Free!)
All three ski areas are also open for skiing on Christmas Day. But, did you happen to pack your Santa Suit? An annual favourite for locals, head up to Mt. Norquay Ski Resort, where anyone who dresses up like Santa, Mrs. Clause, reindeer, or elves gets a full day of skiing for FREE!
Cozy Up in a Café
Nothing feels better when it’s cold outside than a hot cup of tea or a cappuccino. Many cafés in Banff and Lake Louise are open on Christmas Day, making them the perfect destination for a short stroll or a warm-up in between activities. For a festive drink, check out the Banff Hot Chocolate Trail.
Have a Mountaintop Celebration
We’re pretty sure you won’t find an experience like this anywhere. Ride the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain (10am - 3 pm), where Christmas activities await you. Take in the soaring views as your family indulges in kid-friendly activities.
Get Your Legs Moving
Walking is a wonderful way to see the sights, get some exercise, and spend time with family and friends of all ages. Our favourite spots include Banff Avenue (where Christmas decorations abound), the Bow River trail system in Banff, the Lake Louise shoreline, and Tunnel Mountain (bring micro-spikes!). Check out our guide to winter hiking for more ideas!
Go for a Christmas Day Cross-Country Ski
With track-set trails throughout Banff and Lake Louise, you can go for as short or long a loop as you like on both peaceful wooded trails or routes with more alpine views. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and candy canes for a special treat along the way. Check out 5 Cross Country Ski Trails in Banff National Park to get started!
Have a Merry Hot Spring Soak
A soak in the thermal waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs is particularly special on a cold day, and Christmas Day is no exception. This family-friendly activity will ease any muscle tension from your outdoor activities and warm you to the core. Head there when the sun goes down for an unforgettable soak under the stars.
Have a Christmas Dinner to Remember
Leave the cooking and dishes to the professionals this Christmas and indulge in one of the many delicious restaurants in both Banff and Lake Louise. From traditional Swiss fondues to Canadian-style turkey dinners, you’ll leave the table with a happy heart and full belly. Here is a list of where to eat on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Finish the Day Outdoors
One of the best feelings after a big meal is a breath of fresh air, so hit the streets or trails once more. View the lights on Banff Avenue, book a horse-drawn wagon ride, walk the lakeshore trail at Lake Louise, or head out for some stargazing at Vermilion Lakes. Christmas Day isn’t over until your head hits the pillow.