This Canadian town turns into a magical Christmas village this month

Nov 20 2018, 5:38 am

A tinge of frost on your morning commute. Eggnog in your latte. A scarf and gloves at the ready in your bag. You know what all this means — it’s time to start celebrating Christmas!

Embrace the season and banish “bah-humbug” Scroogery with a trip to the place with arguably the most holiday cheer in the country: Banff and Lake Louise.

This summertime favourite, known for its stunning views, transforms into a winter playground once the snow starts to fall, offering killer holiday shopping, adventurous winter activities, and the coziest accommodations around.

The main strip in the town of Banff itself is indistinguishable from those classic Christmas movies everyone loves to watch this time of year, complete with lights, seasonal wreaths, and a sprinkling of holiday magic here and there. Here are just a few of the amazing holiday experiences on offer in Banff and Lake Louise.

1. Get festive at the Santa Claus Parade

Hubert Kang/Travel Alberta

Kick off the season with Christmas wishes and twinkling lights during Santa Claus Parade Day and experience the town gussied up in its seasonal best. During the day, you can get in touch with your inner child by getting your photo taken with the big man himself.

Then, as the sun sets, watch as a spellbinding collection of floats and performers make their way down Banff Avenue. We guarantee your kids won’t be the only ones entranced.

When: November 17

2. Visit the Banff Christmas Market

Rewind to Christmases past with a visit to the Banff Christmas Market, a traditional European-style Christmas market with more warmth and liveliness than even the most Christmas-crazed person could ask for.

The Banff Christmas Market is the best way to take in the sights and sounds of the season while getting a jump on that all-important holiday shopping. Sip on mulled wine, browse the unique, local artisanal crafts, and enjoy the entertainment along the way. It’s the perfect date night!

When: November 22 to November 25

3. Take a sleigh ride through the Rockies

Paul Zizka Photography/Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Does anything say “Christmas” more than breathing in the bracing alpine air while listening to the sound of jingling bells? Take your holiday celebrations to the next level with a sleigh ride through the Canadian Rockies.

The horses will clip-clop you around a frozen lake and past enormous glaciers and frosty mountain peaks as you cozy up with your loved ones. It’s truly the best way to take in nature this time of year.

When: Daily; reservations recommended

4. Take in a festive show

Whether you prefer to read Dickens’ classic tale or see it performed, you can’t deny that A Christmas Carol is the quintessential holiday story — but have you ever seen it performed in a castle? The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel serves as the fairytale setting for this not-to-be-missed show. Sit back and let the talented cast remind you what the true meaning of Christmas is.

When: December 7-9, 11-16, and 19-25

5. Cross some items off your Christmas shopping list

Noel Hendrickson/Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Why go shopping at the mall when you can wander through a mountain street aglow with the light of dozens of quaint shops? Banff and Lake Louise are jam-packed with great local stores that will satisfy even the pickiest person on your list.

Get your adventure gear at family-owned Monod Sports, fill up with holiday cheer (and stocking stuffers!) at The Spirit of Christmas store, and get cozy at Banff Tea Co. and Rocky Mountain Flannel. Finish your shopping day with a well-deserved beverage at Banff Ave Brewing Co. or a tour of the award-winning  Park Distillery.

6. Carve some fresh lines

Banff and Lake Louise are perfect for skiers and snowboarders in search of some of the best early season snow in North America. Shredders and bunny hill lovers alike can come to three different world-class ski resorts — Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay —each offering huge variety for every age and ability.

Plus, the Rocky Mountains make for the most stunning backdrop imaginable. So get out there and start carving!

7. Snuggle up in a cozy cabin

The holiday season is also peak #cabinlife time. Whether you use it as a base camp for other adventures or you spend all day reading by the fire, cabin living will make you feel like Cameron Diaz in The Holiday.

If you choose a frontcountry cabin, you can drive your vehicle right to the door while still feeling like you’re off the beaten path. To get to the backcountry cabins, throw on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and leave the bustle of Banff behind for a while. A warm fire, blanket, and hot chocolate await.

8. Take in the mountain view by gondola

Want to take in a sweeping of the Rockies without strapping on your skis? Try one of Banff and Lake Louise’s four sightseeing gondolas and chairlifts. These tours are sure to carry you up, up, and away, where you can experience the true majesty of the mountains during their most breathtaking season.

Whether you love the holidays for their warm, cozy indoor activities, or you long to get out there and experience all that the great outdoors has to offer, Banff and Lake Louise will ignite your festive spirit. Visit to start planning your holiday trip today.

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