You’ll never have to dream of a white Christmas in Banff and Lake Louise, mother nature provides one every year. The towering mountains, snow covered trees, frozen lakes and outdoor skating rinks make spending the holidays in the Rocky Mountains quite special.
The town of Banff transforms into a Christmas village with colourful lights, decorations and horse drawn carriages taking visitors through the streets.
Lake Louise is a magical and unique place to spend Christmas with its stillness, feeling of solitude and blanket of glistening snow.
Both places have a variety of winter activities to partake in and several festive events leading up to Christmas and through the New Year. As the holidays approach the park becomes more active as people arrive to celebrate the holidays and hit the ski slopes. There’s world class skiing with choices of three mountains, Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise. Don’t worry if you’re not a skier, there’s lots of other things to do. Or you can simply relax with a book in front of a crackling fire at your hotel or soak your stress away in the Banff hot springs.
Things To See And Do During The Christmas Holiday Season
Browse the stores along Banff Avenue and throughout downtown Banff to find gifts for your loved ones. Don’t forget to include the Spirit of Christmas shop. It’s two floors stocked full of decorations and collectibles. Find a Rocky Mountain inspired ornament to have as a memory of your trip.
From early December until New Year’s you can enjoy nightly carolers in downtown Banff while you walk around and admire the Christmas lights and decorations.
Take a wander through the two lower levels of the Banff Springs Hotel that are open to the public. The hotel spends weeks getting their holiday displays and beautifully decorated Christmas trees put on display.
Check the current year’s schedule for the Canadian Pacific Holiday train to see when it passes through Banff’s historic train station. In 2016 it will be on December 12th at approximately 7pm. The light displays on the train are spectacular and when it stops one of the cars opens up to reveal a live band playing Christmas songs. It travels across Canada to raise money and awareness for the food banks. CP Holiday Train Schedule.
On Christmas day do like the locals do. It’s a tradition to hit the ski slopes. All three resorts are open, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay.
There’s an endless amount of winter activities in Banff and Lake Louise. See our posts below to get ideas for your visit.
Where To See Santa in Banff and Lake Louise
The Whyte Museum in downtown Banff hosts a free open house at 1pm on December 3, 2016. There’s craft making, cookies and carols as well as a visit from Santa! There location is in downtown Banff at 111 Bear Street.
Photos with Santa are available at the Spirit of Christmas store located at 133 Banff Avenue. For 2016 the dates are November 20th, 26th, 27th and December 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th, between 2 and 4pm. Photo’s are by Banff Photography Foto Source with a portion of the proceeds going to Santa’s anonymous.
Santa Clause hits the slopes and takes time out for photos at Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Ski Village. The 2016 dates at Sunshine Village are December 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th. At the Lake Louise Ski Resort on Dec. 23 and 24 from 10 am until noon at Lodge of Ten Peaks get a photo with Santa and he will send you a complimentary e-card, or greet him on the ski slopes on the hill between 2 and 3:30 pm.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – Enjoy a fabulous brunch buffet with Santa and his helpers every Saturday and Sunday through December at the Bow Valley Grill. Bring your camera and get a photo with him. Advance reservations required.
Banff Gondola Mountain Top Christmas – On Saturday December 3rd, 10th and 17th from 11:00 am – 1:45 pm. Included with the Banff gondola admission there is cookie decorating, Christmas craft making, writing letters to Santa and games in the interpretative center as well as a visit from Santa.
Booking Accommodation For The Holidays
The Christmas holiday season through to New Year’s is a busy time in the Rocky Mountains. Make sure you book your accommodation well in advance. The prices are not as high as in the summer months, but it is a peak time of the winter and the prices will reflect the demand. A descent hotel room on average will be between $200 and $250CAD a night. You might find some budget options below that and higher end properties will be in the $300 to $400 range a night and higher.
Hotel Meal or Ski Packages– deals that include a holiday dinner or brunch can be of good value and it might be easier to have Christmas dinner at your hotel instead of having to make reservations at another restaurant location. Whether a hotel/ski package will benefit you depends on your needs. Packages usually include 2 or 3 days of passes and shuttle services.
Condo style properties – For winter ski vacations and Christmas holidays the condo style properties are very popular. They are great for families offering more of a “home away from home” feel with separate bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms often with fireplaces. There are a limited number of these types of accommodation in Banff so book early. Some options are the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort, Hidden Ridge Resort, Douglas Fir Resort and Tunnel Mountain Resort. Due to their high demand these properties may need to be booked several months in advance, especially if you want to reserve specifically for Christmas or New Years.
Sunshine Mountain Lodge – Banff’s only ski-in, ski-out hotel. They host a variety of festive events for the entire family on the mountain. Guests can build gingerbread houses, watch Christmas themed movies in the evenings or enjoy live entertainment at the Chimney Corner lounge every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Christmas Eve there’s a torch light parade where skiers come down the Strawberry face with lit torches.
For an alternative to Banff take a look at the Delta Hotel in Kananaskis. A beautiful part of the Eastern Rockies. They have a lot of family holiday specials.
Ultimate Holiday Experiences can be had at the high end resort properties such as the Banff Springs, Chateau Lake Louise and Rimrock Hotel. They offer memorable Christmas packages that include things like a decorated tree for your room, live entertainment, children’s activities, greetings with Santa and lavish turkey dinner buffets.
Christmas At The Castle – A Christmas at the Banff Springs is sure to be a holiday your family will remember, the hotel is decked out with beautiful Christmas trees and decorations. There are many festive dining experiences and activities like wilderness walks, gingerbread house and cookie decorating, children’s bedtime stories and family movie nights and skating on the hotel’s Waldhaus rink. The holiday events run from mid-December through January 1st, including their Grand New Year’s Eve Gala.
Chateau Lake Louise – The Chateau is also decked out with Christmas trees and beautiful decorations. The setting in nature’s winter wonderland is nothing short of spectacular. Activities include evening campfires with roasted marshmallows, Christmas craft workshops with hot chocolate and cookies, letters to Santa, sledding and outdoor winter games for children and story time and movie nights. Santa arrives by sleigh at the front of the hotel on the afternoon of the 24th.
Rimrock Hotel- A luxurious hotel in a beautiful setting on the side of Sulphur Mountain. There’s Family Christmas buffets and Christmas Eve celebrations. Activities include gift wrapping and children’s craft sessions. Santa makes an appearance on Christmas morning with beverages and chocolate banana bread.
Christmas Dining Options
Many hotels and restaurants offer Traditional Christmas Day and Christmas Eve Turkey dinners, festive menus and brunch buffets. Others may be open on Christmas Day offering their regular menus. Make your reservations early, the most popular places book up quickly.
The Banff Springs and the Rimrock are known for their fabulous buffets and Christmas dinners. It seems to change from year to year whether they offer reservations to non-guests, it’s worth checking with them.
Banff Restaurants Offering Christmas Menus
Below are some of the options for Christmas dining around the town of Banff.
- Sleeping Buffalo dining room at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge.
- The Maple Leaf Grill – Christmas dinner a la carte menu and chef’s traditional turkey dinner.
- The Juniper Hotel & Bistro –Christmas dinner and brunch,
- Chinook Restaurant at the Banff Park Lodge – Christmas day festive brunch and Christmas Day Dinner Buffet.
- The Bison Restaurant – Three course Rocky Mountain Christmas dinner.
- Evergreen Restaurant at the Delta Banff Royal Canadian Lodge – Festive Christmas dinner.
- Elk and Oarsmen – Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinner.
- Caribou Keg – Christmas day brunch and Christmas buffet dinner.
- The Park Distillery – Christmas dinner menu.
- Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – Brunch with Santa every Saturday and Sunday through December in the Bow Valley Grill. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day brunch, afternoon tea and dinner options.
- Rimrock Resort – Family Dinner Buffet Hawthorne Room, Semi-formal 4 course dinner in the Primrose room. Elegant dress code Christmas dinner in the Eden Restaurant.
Fairmont Chateau Hotel – Christmas day brunch, afternoon tea with special menu and Christmas dinner buffet. For something unique the Brewster company offers a country Christmas dinner and dance. It’s a Christmas country themed BBQ and hoedown held at the Lake Louise dance barn. The evening starts with a sleigh ride from the Chateau Lake Louise hotel and returns back afterwards. The dates for 2016 are December 23, 26, 28 and 30th.
Deer Lodge – Featuring a Christmas menu.
The Post Hotel – Christmas Eve special four course dinner and regular a la carte menu and on Christmas day a traditional Post Hotel turkey dinner. Limited seating for non-hotel guests on Christmas day.
If you are planning to be in the area through the New Year see our post on Banff New Years Eve Celebrations And Dining. It provides information for free events, restaurants offering New Year’s Eve menus and pubs and nightclubs that are hosting parties.