It doesn’t always feel like Christmas in Vancouver. Instead of glistening fields of freshly fallen snow, we get rain. Instead of crisp winter nights spent cuddling by the fire, we get rain. And instead of chopping down our Christmas tree in a snow-covered glen, we get to do it in the rain.
We’re not complaining – after all, it’s far better to suffer through a little rain than the howling winds and nine-foot snowdrifts than hem the rest of Canada. But sometimes we can’t help but think it would be nice to have a real Christmas.
This year you can.
Banff is the quintessential Christmas town, nestled in the evergreen forests and the Canadian Rockies dividing British Columbia and Alberta. This year, Banff is offering a series of festive events leading up to the holiday season. Like the advent calendars of your youth, these activities are guaranteed to keep you excited for Christmas all season long.
Prepare to be transported to your childhood when you open up the first door in Banff’s advent calendar of events. The Santa Claus Parade of Lights starts at 6 pm on November 19, an hour after the sun goes down and the festive Christmas displays light up the streets. Line the streets with other spectators on Banff Avenue to watch the parade or enjoy the view from the comfort of a street-front restaurant.
The best – or worst – part of the holiday season is shopping for your loved ones. Finding the perfect gift is elation, but spending hours looking at Amazon or braving crowded malls can be torture. The Banff Christmas Market makes this all better. The market brings together a number of vendors that offer unique, handcrafted items so you can find something special for everyone on your list. Instead of struggling with other disgruntled customers, you can relax and enjoy the sounds of carollers while sampling locally-made food as you browse.
Nothing feels more like Christmas than the music that surrounds us during the season – and as the Banff advent countdown continues, it’s time to indulge in those traditions. At the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, you can enjoy an outdoor concert on a historic pool deck. Bring a blanket to cozy up in, and enjoy the beer, wine, and hot beverages this concert has to offer. If you’re feeling brave or you’ve enjoyed enough mulled wine – join in with the Christmas Choir and sing your favourite songs.
At 7 pm, you can watch a train pull in to the Banff train station, festooned in Christmas lights. The doors slide open, and the concert begins. Two Vancouver artists, country star Dallas Smith and alternative pop group the Odds, will play for about 30 minutes before the train moves on to its next destination. The CP Holiday Train is part of campaign to raise awareness and donations for food banks across Canada and the United States – so be sure to bring some healthy food donations to drop off while you enjoy the music.
In Vancouver, you might not get a chance to indulge your inner cowboy very often, but Brewster Adventures is giving you the opportunity. After being picked up at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in a horse-drawn sleigh, you’ll be taken to Brewster’s Lake Louise Stable & Dance Barn for an unforgettable meal of baked potatoes, beans, salad, dessert, and the famous Brewster “Hip of Beef.” Dress up in your plaid and cowboy boots and dance to classic Western music. Can’t make it on the 23rd? Don’t worry. You can stop by on December 26, 28, and 30, too.
In the last few days before Christmas, fill up your advent calendar with the most iconic of all Christmas traditions: getting your picture taken with Santa. Even though you’re an adult, there’s nothing like pulling off a photo shoot with your friends. Visit him at the Lodge of Ten Peaks at Lake Louise Ski Resort from 10 am until noon both days, or greet him at the top of the ski hill between 2 and 3:30 pm. He’ll also be at the Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort on December 17, 18, 24, and 25.
So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Canada’s ideal Christmas town and experience all the wonder and merriment Banff has to offer.