Best Things to Do in Banff During Winter
The idea of traveling to Canada and spending Christmas in Banff came from our good friends who used to live in Canada. One night at dinner, while we were chatting about the best places to go for Christmas in the US or Canada, our friends suggested visiting Banff, Canada. Banff is a town within Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.
Since we live in Scottsdale, Arizona, we don’t get to experience a “real snowy winter”. LOL! Believe it or not, our little girls (Valentina and Alina), have never seen snow! hahaha!
This is why we decided to take them to a fun place with snow so they could experience a snowy Christmas and meet Santa Claus! It turned out to be a FANTASTIC idea!!
Christmas in Banff can be a really wonderful experience, especially during the winter when the town is decked out in festive decorations.
In this post, I will share the best things to do in Banff during winter (especially Christmas time), from skiing and snowboarding to shopping dining, relaxing at hot springs, and more!
#1: Stay at Fairmont Banff Springs to Experience the Christmas Magic at the Castle
We were SO glad that we stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs for the holiday season. There is Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Banff Springs. These gorgeous Fairmont hotels are about 45 minutes away from each other.
After doing a lot of research online and talking to our friends who live in Canada, we realized that Fairmont Banff Springs offered so much more during the Christmas holiday.
Both resorts have the most incredible spirit of Christmas, however, the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel has been constantly ranked as one of the most perfect places to visit for the Christmas season.
The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, “The Castle of the Rockies”, is located in the middle of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It truly reminds you of the Harry Potter castle! hahaha!
It has the coolest exterior as well as the interior. If you are looking to stay in a hotel with the most breathtaking winter wonderland views, you need to consider booking at the Fairmont Banff Springs. This hotel is also only 10-minute drive from the town of Banff which is wonderful!
Which is a perfect place to shop from the local artisans and there are many other cute boutiques (I will explain more in detail below).
This hotel during the festive season of Christmas has unlimited Christmas decorations in every corner! They offer plenty of activities for hotel guests!
Everything from Christmas crafts for kids, to the holiday movie screening, ice bar, live Christmas story with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, a private photo session with Santa Claus, campfire rental, gingerbread house decorating and SO much more!!! You can visit Christmasatthecastle.ca to get a lot more information about their activities.
If you like ice skating, then Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the perfect place to stay! However, Fairmont Banff Springs also offers ice skating.
No matter which Fairmont you choose to stay in, if you are in search of Christmas spirit, you will easily find it at these two beautiful properties.
#2- Ski and Snowboard | Christmas in Banff
Matt and I skied on Christmas Day and it was such an unforgettable experience! We originally planned on skiing at Lake Louise. However. since it was Christmas Day, we had a hard time booking direct transport to the Lake Louise ski resort.
Our hotel concierge recommended going to Sunshine Village ski resort where we could easily hop on the ski shuttle from our resort and get there within 20 minutes. At first, we were very disappointed that we couldn’t ski at the Lake Louise ski resort.
We heard that Lake Louise offers one of the most breathtaking views. However, Sunshine Village did not disappoint, it also offered stunning views besides the incredible deep powder ski runs!
If you are considering skiing or snowboarding in Banff, Alberta, there are three incredible world-class ski hills to choose from.!! Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and the Lake Louise Ski Area.
It depends on which resort or Airbnb you are staying in, all three mountains are just a short drive from Banff town. They all offer shuttle service so you can get to your favorite slope quickly.
Sunshine Village ski resort
Banff Sunshine Village offers skiers more than 3,300 acres of skiable terrain. Sunshine tends to get the most snow of the Banff ski resorts due to its high elevation.
It is a good size ski resort, and it offers easy beginner runs, as well as extremely difficult mountain runs for very advanced skiers and snowboarders.
Lake Louise ski resort
When you consider skiing in Alberta- Canada, you always wonder if skiing is better in Banff or Lake Louise. We asked this question from our hotel’s concierge and several other skiers at our hotel.
The answer is both resorts are comparable as far as the snow quality, great terrain parks, and there are decent dining/restaurants available on the mountains. They can both be pretty cold and windy, however, Lake Louise resort can be easier to “escape” the wind!
To be honest, for us (visiting from Arizona), we did not think the Sunshine Village ski resort was crazy cold. Or it could be simply because we had enough layers while skiing! hahaha!
Mount Norquay ski resort
Banff Norquay is perfect for beginners and intermediates. If you are an advanced skier, this hill will be less challenging for you! This mountain offers 190 acres and offers 60 skiable runs. It is also known for being “less crowded” which is great!
Overall, I think you will be happy choosing any of these beautiful resorts. Banff has the longest ski season in North America and has incredible deep powder ski hills! Many professional skiers believe that skiing in Banff National Park is second to none.
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The scenic backdrops of the Canadian Rockies and the natural beauty of Banff’s surrounding lakes and mountains truly take your breath away! When I think of another ski trip, I will always put the Banff three beautiful ski resorts on top of my list, and you should too!
3- Gingerbread House Decorating at the Castle | Christmas in Banff
At the Castle in Fairmont Banff Springs, gingerbread houses are a big part of the holiday season. The turrets, balconies, and other features of this landmark hotel are decked out with intricate gingerbread designs.
Gingerbread house decorating is next level and was one of our favorite afternoon activities as a family! Valentina and Aline LOVED decorating their little gingerbread houses while snacking on lots of Christmas cookies! hahaha. I honestly think this was a really fun Christmas activity even for adults!
If you’re looking to add a little extra magic to your Christmas celebration, I highly recommend visiting the gingerbread house decorating at the Castle.
I’m not sure if you need to be staying at the hotel in order to be able to participate in this fun holiday activity. I would call the hotel to get the information you need.
4- Relax at Banff Upper Hot Springs | Christmas in Banff
If you stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs, you really do not need to make an extra trip to the Banff Hot Spring. This resort offers the most beautiful outdoor hot pool with the most breathtaking views. However, if you do not stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs, make sure to visit the Banff upper hot springs,
Banff Hot Springs is a world-famous commercially developed hot springs located in the heart of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Many travelers and even locals believe that this place is worth the trip.
The natural water temperature is around 104 degrees. It is very clean and very quiet which helps to relax! The Banff Hot Springs is one of those must-do things to do in Banff National Park (especially during the winter months).
If you had a long day of skiing or hiking, you really need to consider relaxing at the breathtaking Banff hot springs! The surrounding landscape offers stunning views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and is located in Jasper, Kootenay, and Banff National parks.
5- Snow Tubing in Banff and Lake Louise
Banff and Lake Louise are two of the most popular destinations in Canada for snow tubing. Not only is the scenery absolutely beautiful, but there’s also a ton to do while you’re there.
From hiking to enjoying some delicious food, there’s really nothing that this destination can’t offer!
The snow tube park at Mt Norquay is the largest in Alberta. It is just five minutes from downtown Banff! Unfortunately, we could not go snow tubing since our little Alina is only 3 years old.
Your child must be at least 4 years old or 42 inches tall to be able to participate in snow tubing.
If you are traveling with your family and have young children, you may have to skip the snow tubing and instead book the sledding (like what we did)!
6- Dog Sledding and Husky Tours in Banff and Lake Louise
We did not go dog sledding. We went “dog team free” sledding at our hotel (Fairmont Banff Springs). Our hotel offered cute sleds and toboggans for kids and adults.
Alina (being a 3-year-old), was scared out of her mind (LOL), but Valentina (7-year-old), LOVED the sledding!
Banff National Park is a beautiful place to visit. Dog sledding and husky tours are amazing ways to experience this park during the winter months. You can cozy up and don’t have to do any work.
A team of four to six highly trained dogs or huskies will drive you through snowy forests and across frozen lakes.
If you like dog sledding and looking for a fun activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family, consider this incredible winter activity in Banff and Lake Louise.
7- Enjoy A Christmas Carol at the Castle | Christmas in Banff
If you are planning a Christmas in Banff, then you need to make sure to book the Christmas Carol at the castle! This is a special performance on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day which take place at the Fairmont Hotel Banff Springs.
While enjoying some wine, cocktails, and appetizers, we watched this beautiful performance on Christmas Eve. It was truly magical! The performance was so beautiful that even small children glowed in their chairs (including our 3-year-old Alina). LOL!
They ended this lovely performance with a lovely Christmas dinner, drinks, hot cocoa, Christmas cookies, and desserts.
They also had a HUGE decorated Christmas tree in the corner of the room… Which was a perfect little spot for families, couples, and friends to take memorable holiday pictures.
If you are staying at Fairmont Banff, the Christmas Carol is included as part of your stay. If you don’t stay at this resort, then you can purchase a ticket to join this beautiful event during Christmas. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to get into the festive mood.
8- Book a Campfire Rental in the Heart of the Canadian Rockies
Another incredible and festive way to spend the holidays is by booking/renting a campfire l in the heart of the Canadian Rockies! Those fire pits are perfect for making s’mores, roasting marshmallows, and making the coolest memories around a warm fire.
We got to enjoy the campfire after a full day of snow fun and sledding with Valentina and Alina! There were several hotel guests that were sitting around the campfire, drinking hot cocoa, socializing, and enjoying the most breathtaking views!
I honestly can’t think of a better way to relax than being around a campfire with friends and family! This festive activity not only offers incredible views of the night sky (if you decide to book at nighttime), but it’s also very fun and entertaining.
If this sounds like something you would enjoy, then consider renting one of the campsites in the Heart of the Canadian Rockies during Christmas!
9. Banff Christmas Market | Christmas in Banff
The Banff Christmas market usually starts in mid-November and ends in early December. Unfortunately, this beautiful Christmas market was over by the time we arrived in Banff for Christmas!
We were pretty upset about it. There are many wonderful Christmas markets in the world. Banff Christmas market has been named 5th best Christmas market in Canada and is truly one of the most magical markets of the season.
There are a lot of fun things to do there! Happy hour in the fire lounge, fun “Christmassy drinks”, campfires, Christmas lights, and live music!
Santa will be waiting for you in Santa’s house and reindeer stables every day from 11 am. There are also many talented artists selling jewelry, art, clothing, decor, food, and drinks in this market!
If you travel to Banff during the Christmas market time, make sure to check it out! We heard so many wonderful things about this lovely market!
10. Shopping at Downtown Banff Boutiques | Christmas in Banff
There are many reasons to visit downtown Banff during Christmas, but one of the main ones is that the city is decorated with festive lights. Banff avenue is a great place to start!
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You’ll find so many shops and restaurants open until the evening and some later at night. There’s always something happening – from live entertainment to special events like Santa Claus appearances.
Here are some shopping areas in Banff:
- Banff Avenue
- Clock Tower Village Mall
- Bison Courtyard
- Cascades Shops
- Town Center Mall
- Sundance Mall
11- Dine at Some of the Best Restaurants in Banff with a View!
Dine in some of the best restaurants in Banff with a view! Whether you’re looking for an intimate dinner party or want to enjoy a romantic meal overlooking the mountains, there are plenty of options available.
Here are five of the best restaurants with a view in Banff that was recommended to us prior to our trip:
- Rundle Bar
- Cliff house Bistro
- Sky Bistro
- Juniper Bistro
- Lakeview Lounge
- La Terrazza
- Waldhaus Restaurant
- Eden at Rimrock
- The Vermillion Room
- 360 Dome Experience Fairmont Banff Springs
12- Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride in Lake Louise | Christmas in Banff
There’s just something about a horse-drawn sleigh ride that makes Christmas feel even more special. And what could be better than spending the day surrounded by all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season while being carefree and enjoying some beautiful scenery?
If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, then look into booking Lake Louise’s horse-drawn sleigh ride. You’ll get to enjoy breathtaking views of ice falls at the end of the lake or the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on evening rides as your sleigh smoothly glides through the snow-covered forests.
We booked our sleigh ride for the whole family two weeks prior to our trip to Banff. Unfortunately, our little Alina got sick the night before our horse-drawn sleigh ride, so we missed this incredible festive experience for Christmas! You don’t need to only enjoy the sleigh ride during Christmas. You can enjoy it the entire winter season!
13- Santa Claus Parade of Lights| Christmas in Banff
The Santa Claus Parade of Lights is a yearly event that takes place in Banff, Alberta. This incredible parade puts you into the Christmas mood in the middle of the Canadian Rockies!
The parade usually starts on the 3rd Saturday in November and brings so much excitement to the streets of Banff. It has thousands of participants who march through the streets to celebrate Christmas.
The parade travels through the town of Banff and features more than 100 illuminated floats, marching bands, clowns, horses, and other festive attractions.
It’s definitely an event not to be missed during the Christmas season! If you are in Banff during this season, make sure to check out this incredible event. This is such a festive and one of the best Banff Christmas events.
14- CP Holiday Train Decorated with Thousands of Lights
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will make more than 20 stops in Alberta from early to mid-December. This beautiful train decorated with hundreds of thousands of LED lights will head out to raise money and food donations for local food banks. This is a great cause and a reminder to help those who are less fortunate, especially during the holiday season.
As I mentioned, there are thousands of lights lining the railway tracks there, making it a perfect place to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year while taking in the beautiful landscape. You can also find festive decorations and Christmas trees at many of the shops and restaurants in town.
15- Banff Gondola’s Mountaintop | Take Picture with Santa
Do not miss Santa’s workshop at top of Sulphur Mountain. I really wish we could take our little girls, Valentina and Alina to Banff’s gondola mountaintop Christmas activities! To be honest, the Fairmont Banff Springs had so much to offer that we did not have time to cover all the Christmas activities outside of the resort! hahaha!
However, if you visit Banff during this season, consider purchasing the gondola admission. You can enjoy the Christmas fun with Santa while enjoying some Christmas cookies and taking pictures with Santa! All those fun activities are included in your gondola admission!
16- Go for the Festive Hot Chocolate Trail | Christmas in Banff
Another fun thing to do during the Christmas season is to go to the festive hot chocolate trail in Banff! This trail winds its way through town, taking visitors on a tour of some of the best hot chocolate spots in town.
Banff and Lake Louise Hot Chocolate Trail is a map of awesome restaurants in Banff that each offer holiday-themed hot chocolate! This is a great way to make lots of stops at different restaurants and try out the best hot chocolates in town.
The Festive Hot Chocolate Trail will take you on a delicious journey through some of Banff’s most iconic cafes and restaurants, all serving up hot chocolate in different ways!
If you’re feeling really festive, try out one of the specialty drinks like a pumpkin spice latte or peppermint mocha Frappuccino. This is also an excellent opportunity to support local businesses.
17- Ice Skating on Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise | Christmas in Banff
If you’re looking for an unforgettable ice-skating experience and the most beautiful scenic winter outing, consider Lake Louise in Canada’s Alberta province. You will truly enjoy the stunning views of the Rockies while skating on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Ice skating in Lake Louise is available from mid-December to mid-April, depending on conditions. While January is usually the coldest month at Lake Louise, you will be 100% guaranteed that the lake is frozen, and you will easily be able to ice skate on this breathtaking lake!
One of the most popular trails is Moraine Lake Road near Lake Louise. This trail is groomed perfectly for skate skiing. If you are staying at the Fairmont Chateau resort, you can easily rent your skates at the Chateau ski and snow rentals near the hotel lobby (it’s very convenient)! If not, there are many other skate ski rental shops near Lake Louise where you can easily rent your equipment.
18- Cave Tour | Christmas in Banff
We thought Cave tours are too cold during the Christmas season for our 3-year-old Alina! This is why we decided to skip it! However, if we go back to Banff in the summer, we will certainly take the kids with us for this wonderful experience!
There are several fun and exciting cave tours available in Banff, Alberta. Cave walks are perfect for those who want to explore something new.
You can tour the cave with a big or small group of people! The caving experience is also great for people of all ages – from kids just starting out exploring caves for the first time, to seniors looking for an adventure close to home.
Most tours run throughout the day so you can enjoy plenty of activities while still enjoying some festive cheer! If you have the time, definitely consider checking out the cave tours in Banff during the holiday season!
19 -Bottom Line, Have Fun with Your Loved Ones!
As I mentioned earlier in this post, a friend of ours recommended Banff to us for a memorable Christmas/winter trip. Since we have been back from our trip, we have recommended this breathtaking winter destination to many of our other friends and families!!!
There is a reason that Banff is one of the most popular destinations in Alberta during the winter and Christmas seasons! The beautiful sceneries and unlimited festive activities and events make this place an incredible destination for your winter trip!
Christmas in Banff
Where can I spend Christmas in Banff?
- You can choose to stay in a hotel or lodge, or even stay with family or friends.
- There are plenty of activities available such as skiing, snowboarding, x-country skiing, and more.
- Some popular places to stay include Banff Springs Resort, Banff Centre, and Lake Louise Chalet.
- You can also visit the Banff Centre for Arts and Nature or take a stroll down the town’s main street.
- There are also a number of restaurants and cafes that will be open during the holiday season.
Does Banff have snow at Christmas?
Yes!!! Banff receives its highest monthly snowfall in December with an average of 1.4 foot (44C). This makes a beautiful time to visit for Christmas.
Is it worth going to Banff in the winter?
If you ask me, I say: ABSOLUTELY!!! However, while there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question, many people find the scenery and climate at Banff to be a wonderful experience during the winter. The ski season typically runs from December through March. During peak season (December through February), expect long lines and crowded slopes.
Is Banff closed on Christmas?
Many of restaurants, bars and shops in the city of Banff are open for business on Christmas. However, there are various attractions and activities that are typically closed on Christmas Day.
Can you see the northern lights in Banff in December?
Generally, the northern lights in Banff shine their brightest during the winter months of December to February.
What is Lake Louise like in December?
If you’re looking for a scenic walk or ski trip in the frosty months, Lake Louise is definitely worth considering. In December, temperatures at Lake Louise can reach below freezing, so make sure to bring proper gear (hats, mittens, heavy coats) if you plan on spending time outdoors.
Additionally, during the Christmas season the town of Lake Louise doubles up as an epicenter for festive activities and events. From live music concerts to lighted displays adorning local businesses and homes, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during this special time of year!
Is Lake Louise open on Christmas Day?
Yes! Lake Louise is open year-round, but due to the heavy tourist traffic that comes during Christmas season, it may be a bit crowded. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds and enjoy some quiet time at the park, then try visiting in January or February.
What should I pack for Banff in December?
- You should pack a heavy coat as the weather can get quite cold in Banff in December.
- You might also want to bring a winter hat, scarf, and gloves to keep yourself warm.
- A warm blanket or sleeping bag is a must as the nights can be quite chilly.
- And lastly, make sure you pack your favorite snacks and drinks to keep you going during those long hours spent outdoors!
- And finally, layers, layers and layers!!! I can’t emphasis this enough!!! This is how you can keep your body warm during the daytime and night times.
Which gondola is better Lake Louise or Banff?
While Lake Louise and Banff are both beautiful locations, there is no clear winner when it comes to which gondola is better. Both of these places have some amazing ski slopes that offer a variety of different ski disciplines. Ultimately, it just depends on your personal preferences.
If you’re looking for an adventure and want to explore new areas, then Lake Louise may be the better option. However, if you’re more relaxed and prefer staying within familiar surroundings, then Banff may be a better choice for you. Either way, make sure to visit both locations during your stay in Canada!
What can you do in Banff if you don’t ski in the winter?
Banff is known for its many attractions, but if you’re not a fan of skiing in the winter, there are other activities that you can enjoy. One option is hiking and biking trails that run throughout the town. Another option is touring the Banff Valley Museum or visiting one of the many hot springs located in and around Banff. And lastly, don’t forget to go shopping! There’s always something new to experience in this beautiful town.
Is Banff good at Christmas?
Banff is definitely a great place to celebrate Christmas. The town features many festive decorations and events, including tree lighting ceremonies, caroling events, and Santa visits. In addition to all the fun and festivities, Banff also has some of the best accommodations in the area for guests who are looking to stay close by during their holiday break.
I hope this post was helpful for planning your next trip to Banff, Alberta in Canada.