There are few places in the world that are more magical than Banff during the holiday season. There are Christmas lights, Christmas markets, special holiday events, winter sports and there’s even a permanent Christmas store!
This year, we’ve partnered with Banff Lake Louise Tourism to try a few Christmas experiences and put together a blog post about all the different things you can do during this festive season.
Special Holiday Season Events in Banff
The Hot Chocolate Trail
One of the best special events that the town puts on during the holiday season is the Hot Chocolate trail. It’s not an “event” per se, but dozens of restaurants and cafes in town participate by making a special hot chocolate creation.
You can find the full list of participants here, but it’s also quite fun to just walk into a random cafe and see if they have a seasonal hot chocolate! You’ll know which places are taking part by looking for the big purple sticker on the door!
Some of our personal favourites from this year (in no particular order):
- White chocolate and raspberry hot chocolate (Good Earth)
- Coconut Cloud: Vegan hot chocolate (Juniper Bistro)
- Peppermint and Lavender Hot Chocolate (Sky Bistro)
We’ve probably tried about half so far and won’t stop anytime soon! You can even get boozy ones in some restaurants (like the 3 Bears Bistro Banoffee hot chocolate)!
Hot Chocolate Trail runs from November 20 – January 1.
The Bear Street Holiday Market
Now that the Bear Street renovations are finally complete, Bear Street has become the perfect place to wander around and enjoy on foot. To make things even better, Bear Street has a small popup holiday market from November 19 – December 31.
It’s not huge, so don’t come expecting a European Christmas market, but there are some great local vendors with craft cocktails, cake pops, popcorn, bratwurst and much more. There are some great stocking stuffers for sale and it’s a good place to find a last minute Christmas gift and support a local business at the same time!
Bear Street is also probably the most festive street in town right now, with Christmas lights, live music and even a firepit to keep warm!
The Banff Gondola Mountaintop Christmas
The Banff Gondola has gone all our for Christmas this year. Aside from it having spectacular views of the snowy Christmas village below, there are a number of awesome Christmas activities up on top of Sulphur Mountain.
From December 20-25, the gondola station is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, and the best part? Kids go up for free before midday (one per paying adult).
Christmas activities include:
- Santa visits and photos (Dec 20 – 24, 11:30 AM – 4 PM)
- Cookie decorating
- Christmas films
- Christmas carolers
- Sugar shack maple toffee
- Craft decorating
All of these activities have specific availability times, so check here for more information.
The Sky bistro is also extremely festive right now. With amazing views of the town below and a beautiful Christmas tree, it’s the perfect place to enjoy their tasty lavender and peppermint hot chocolate.
Nightrise at the Banff Gondola
Between Dec 2, 2021 – Mar 12, 2022, you can also head up the Banff Gondola at night for an amazing after-dark experience. Put together in collaboration with the Stoney Nakoda, the show involves beautiful sounds and lights that are absolutely magical.
It’s a great place to learn a little about indigenous folklore and history, as well as experience some indigenous music. It’s a really beautiful experience, and actually, although it’s not technically a “christmassy” event, it did kind of make us feel a bit festive!
Make sure you dress warm though because it can be absolutely freezing and windy on top of Sulphur Mountain at the best of times!
In search of Christmas Spirit
The “In search of Christmas Spirit” event is probably the main headliner for Christmas in Banff this year. It’s a magical winter night walk through the Cascade of Time Garden in Banff, involving interactive animal sculptures, lights and noises.
The artwork is absolutely amazing, and each year is better than the last. This year there were more lights and more sculptures than ever! Tickets must be booked in advance, and they sell out quickly! Check here for availability or cancellations.
Even though this event is outdoors, you’ll still need valid proof of vaccination to enjoy this event.
Where: Check-in and start at Banff Park Museum before heading to Cascade of Time Garden
When: November 24, 2021 – January 1, 2022
Time: 5 p.m. – 10:30 pm
Other amazing things to do during the holiday season
Aside from holiday themed activities, December is also when the winter sports and activities start to get really good. We’ve written several more comprehensive posts about all the amazing things to do in Winter in Banff, which you can find here, but here are a few of the highlights:
It goes without saying that skiing in Banff is unbelievable. Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Norquay offer world class skiing with unbelievable variety and terrain options. They’re all completely different, so make sure you stop in at each one to experience the best we have to offer! Here is a list of our favourite ski hills in Banff, Alberta and Eastern BC
This one is a fan favourite with kids. There are two decent options in Banff; one is the hill by the Banff Springs Golf Course. There’s a sledding hill just beyond the bridge that locals absolutely love, and then there’s another fantastic little hill by Cascade Ponds. Make sure you check them out!
You can buy sleds from Canadian Tire in Canmore if you’re in a pinch.
Wild ice has been a bit challenging to find this year, but thankfully, the Town of Banff has built a couple of outdoor rinks this year. One is at the Fenlands recreation centre, behind the curling centre, and the other will be by the train station from January. Of course, there’s also the amazing outdoor rink at Lake Louise! Here’s a full list of amazing outdoor skating spots we’ve found in the past.
Until December 2021, ebikes were not allowed on trails in Banff. But a recent rule change means that e-bikes are definitely allowed on some trails around town. We recently went on a fat e-bike adventure with Claire from Bikescape in Banff, and it was honestly such a fun day out. Probably the next best thing to do on a powder day!
We spent 2 hours ripping around Banff at high speed, and it was honestly such an awesome way to spend the morning. It’s way less hard work than normal fat biking, and having a throttle allows you to punch your way out of almost any sticky spots.
Winter in Banff during Christmas and the holiday season is absolutely magical, and there are more than enough things to do to keep busy. Keep checking back here for more great seasonal ideas, and most importantly, happy holidays!