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A family walking down Banff Avenue with Christmas lights and mountains behind them
Kelly MacDonald
The Real Banff / Published: Thu, 10/28/2021 - 17:00

Winter Itinerary: 3 Days of Family Magic in Banff and Lake Louise

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Driving into Banff, you'll be greeted by twinkling white Christmas lights adorning the trees of Banff Avenue. They offer a warm welcome and signal that the spirit of the holiday season is thriving in this mountain town. Let the lights guide your way down Banff's main street and across the historic Bow River Bridge up to the Fairmont Banff Springs, your family's holiday home away from home for the weekend. 

Here in the Canadian Rockies, Christmas spirit meets mountain magic. It's equally enchanting for the young and the young at heart. This is a place where imagination reigns free, and through the eyes of little ones, the holiday season truly comes to life.  

Day 1: Uncover the Magic of Christmas 

Embrace the enthusiasm of a snow day by kickstarting your holiday getaway at the hotel's Winter Wonderland zone. When the instinctive draw to play in the snow is satiated, and boisterous energy has been spent, head into downtown Banff and check out the Hot Chocolate Trail. You may well find yourselves sampling a different concoction each day and starting your own family Christmas tradition.  

A family enjoying hot chocolate next to a fireplace
Noel Hendrickson

Stop into the shops and galleries of Banff Avenue and nearby Bear Street to find mountain-inspired gifts from local artisans that each tell their own story. Christmas shopping is a joy rather than a task here, and with a visit to the must-see Spirit of Christmas store, it's a family-friendly event.  

Before darkness falls over Banff, make your way to the Cave and Basin  – the birthplace of Canada's first national park. Arrive by late afternoon to ensure there's time to visit the lantern-lit cave and hear the legends of the past. Children can run free on the snowy boardwalks, wrinkling their noses at the natural sulphur scent that rises from hot spring ponds.  

Returning to the "castle in the Rockies" that is the Fairmont Banff Springs, roam the beautifully decorated stone halls for an impromptu game of hide and seek. Don't be surprised if the kids find their way to the North Pole – a magical place where gingerbread house decorating gives way to the shared giggles of a classic holiday movie.  

A father and daughter smiling and holding a Christmas gift next to a decorated Christmas tree
Kelly MacDonald

Day 2: Explore the Wonders of Winter 

Banff National Park is a playground for winter adventurers. Bundle up for a day of family magic in the great outdoors and head west along the picture-perfect Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon. Join a guided Icewalk with Discover Banff Tours or White Mountain Adventures, designed to let your family explore a frozen canyon, unlike anything you've seen before. Even the kids are likely to fall speechless as they marvel at towering pillars of ice from frozen waterfalls.  

In the hamlet of Lake Louise, pick up skate rentals at Wilson Mountain Sports and head to what is undeniably one of the world's most stunning natural skating arenas. The frozen surface of Lake Louise is transformed into a skating rink that beckons to the whole family.  

Then it's back to Banff for dinner before an evening at the immersive event In Search of Christmas Spirit. Watch the kids' eyes light up as they grab a lantern and follow life-size animal puppets along the snow-lined paths of Banff's Cascade Gardens. Around each corner is a new surprise that's part of this interactive storytelling experience beneath the night sky.  

A family holding a lantern in the evening with a light up owl ahead of them and mountains in the background
Paul Zizka//Travel Alberta

Day 3: Snowflakes, Sleigh Rides and Santa Claus 

Wake up to falling snow and delight your family with a trip to the Mount Norquay or Lake Louise snow tube parks. The slopes of these ski resorts are also home to sledding zones complete with mechanized "magic carpets" for a leisurely ride up and well-groomed tube runs down that often have adults squealing with joy as much as the kids.  

Take a well-deserved rest while enjoying a cozy sleigh ride with Banff Trail Riders. Kids can say hello to the friendly horses before bundling up in the sleigh to venture into the wilderness at the edge of Banff. Then it's time for a ride up the Banff Gondola to take in the views from the summit of Sulphur Mountain. Your family will emerge from the Gondola cabin elated with the ride and find yourselves surrounded by Santa's elves at Mountaintop Christmas. It's an event that will capture everyone's imaginations with arts and crafts, cookie decorating and a visit with Santa himself.  

Returning to the hotel, your family will likely be drawn back to the joyful North Pole at the heart of the castle. The laughter of children mingles with snowflakes drifting down outside the glowing windows, each one representing a memory to be treasured for years to come.  

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