Banff at Christmas

With snow-capped mountain peaks and the soft glow of Christmas lights beneath snow-capped rooftops, the beauty of Banff at Christmas is something you must see for yourself.

View from Sulphur Mountain in Banff

If you’ve ever dreamed of a white Christmas, Banff is where you’ll find it. Right in time for Christmas, Banff receives its highest annual snowfall with an average of 44cm of snow. It doesn’t snow often though, with a daily chance of getting snowfall at roughly 10%. With some luck those light white flakes will be falling all around you on Christmas day!

Banff Christmas Activities

Note: the Banff Christmas season may look different in 2020, please check local websites before making plans.

You’ll love visiting Banff in December. The soft blanket of snow around town and on the mountaintops makes you feel like you are in a real-life snow globe. In town, it seems like everyone is in the spirit with Christmas lights and decorations everywhere you look.

There are plenty of fun things to do in Banff at Christmas and here are all our favorite ways to get in the Christmas spirit in Banff:

Santa Claus Parade of Lights

Late November is the start of the Christmas season in Banff and it’s kicked off with the popular Santa Claus Parade of Lights. The parade is a chance for kids to get a glimpse of Santa as he rides along Banff Avenue.

Banff Christmas Parade

Don’t be mistaken in thinking this is just for kids, this event is fun for both adults and children alike!

The Banff Christmas parade typically takes place in late November, but was cancelled for 2020.

Enjoy the Mountaintop Christmas

A trip up the Banff Gondola is the perfect way to celebrate Christmas in Banff. From getting a picture with Santa to decorating cookies, you’ll be filled with Christmas cheer. Don’t forget to take some time to walk the boardwalks for some of the most incredible views from the Sulphur Mountain summit!

Mountaintop Christmas in Banff

Warm Up with Hot Chocolate

Create your own hot chocolate trail as you visit local coffee shops that are open on Christmas day. The perfect way to warm up after a snowy adventure.

Visit a Christmas Market

Christmas markets are the perfect way to get some Christmas shopping done while letting your excitement for the holidays grow! In the Bow Valley, take some time to visit both the Banff Christmas Market and the Canmore Christmas Artisans Market.

Unfortunately Christmas markets are cancelled for 2020, but be sure to visit in 2021.

The Spirit of Christmas Store

While browsing through the shops along Banff Avenue, don’t forget a stop in the Spirit of Christmas. This store spreads Christmas cheer all year long and visiting at Christmas time is bound to put you in the Christmas spirit. Make sure to purchase an ornament to remind you of Christmas in Banff!

Country Christmas Dinner

Enjoy a sleigh ride from the Chateau Lake Louise to a cozy rustic barn where you will savor a delicious Christmas feast.

Santa Scavenger Hunt

Solve puzzles, riddles and find items from the scavenger hunt on this adventure through the Town of Banff. There’s even an option to add a private family visit with Santa at the end of the Santa Scavenger Hunt.

See Santa on the Slopes

Skiing in Banff at Christmas is the perfect way to get some Christmas cheer! Get a candy cane and a picture with Jolly Old St. Nick when he visits Sunshine Village on the weekends leading up to Christmas. In years past on Christmas day, dressing like Santa could get you a free day of skiing!

Check the Sunshine Village website for 2020 events.

Skiing in Banff at Christmas

Skating

Imagine ice skating with a mountain backdrop then warming up a cup of hot chocolate. That feels like Christmas. Skating in Banff would be the ideal thing to do after a Christmas dinner. You can safely skate at Lake Louise or Banff at night on one of the lit up rinks.

banff winter activities - Skating on Lake Louise

Snowshoeing

There’s nothing quite like snowshoeing in a winter wonderland, where the tree tops are covered in snow to get in the Christmas spirit. Make it even more cheerful by singing Christmas carols as you walk through what feels like a snow globe. This is the ideal activity to work off your Christmas brunch before indulging in Christmas dinner.

The views of the Spray Lakes from the Rummel Lake snowshoe trail in Kananaskis in December

If it happens to be one of those years where there just isn’t enough snow in Banff, enjoy one of these best winter hikes in Banff. Alternatively, you can find snow by doing one of these easy snowshoes in Kananaskis.

snowshoeing - banff winter activities

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing is a great alternative to snowshoeing, depending on what your family enjoys more. There are plenty of great beginner cross country ski trails in Banff and area for the whole family to enjoy. Even if this is a new sport to your family, that’s the perfect way to make some wonderful Christmas memories.

kids cross country skiing on the Great Divide Trail at Lake Louise, Banff

Ice Walk

If your family is looking for a unique outdoor experience while visiting Banff at Christmas, then why not try an ice walk? There’s nothing quite like walking on ice in a canyon and the frozen waterfalls you’ll see while visiting Johnston Canyon or Grotto Canyon are well worth it. You can do it on your own (don’t forget the spikes) or by joining an ice walk tour.

Grotto Canyon - winter hiking kananaskis

The Bow Valley Parkway is closed for the 2020 Christmas season, so you’ll need to join a tour to do the ice walk at Johnston Canyon.

Dog Sledding

Just one more way to enjoy the stunning winter scenery around Banff at Christmastime. Treat the family to a fun outing like dog sledding. Dog sledding can be done either from Lake Louise or Canmore. The Canmore dog sledding tours take place in the Spray Lakes Provincial Park just outside of Canmore.

dogsledding - banff things to do winter

The Search for Santa

Cancelled for 2020, but check back for more details on this fun event in 2021.

Christmas Day Brunch

Start your Christmas day with a Christmas brunch. The Banff Springs Hotel offers an incredible Christmas brunch, but be sure to get booked in early as it fills in quickly.

Restaurants are closed for the 2020 Christmas season in Alberta.

Christmas Dinner Without the Fuss

There are many incredible restaurants in Banff and area that serve up a Christmas dinner. Even in 2020, enjoy a Christmas Dinner without the fuss by getting Christmas dinner to-go by supporting one of the local restaurants.

Go on a Tour of Lights

Is there anything more Christmas-y than twinkling lights? Take your own sparkle tour while walking the streets of Banff. The perfect Christmas Eve activity in Banff!

Sleigh Ride

If you aren’t up for more walking after a day of skiing or snowshoeing, treat yourself to a sleigh ride through Banff or at Lake Louise. Enjoy the peacefulness of this experience as you sit in awe of the stunning mountain views surrounding Banff or Lake Louise.

sleigh ride at Lake Louise in December

Visit the Fairmont Banff Springs

Marvel at the Christmas decorations while taking a leisurely walk (with hot chocolate in hand) through the stunning Banff Springs Hotel.

In 2020, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is only accessible to hotel guests.

Check the Banff & Lake Louise Christmas events page for updates on things to do for Christmas in Banff.

Best Places to Stay in Banff at Christmas

Banff Springs Hotel

The Banff Springs Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Banff in December

There are few places more magical than the Banff Springs Hotel at Christmas. This iconic Banff hotel is incredible any time of year, but when it is decorated for Christmas it’s a place you won’t soon forget.

The Banff Springs Hotel goes all-out at Christmas. The Christmas at the Castle package even includes a Christmas tree in your room! Guests can enjoy a variety of special Christmas events including Bedtime Stories with Mrs. Claus, private photo sessions with Santa, Holiday Crafts with Mrs. Claus and the Snowflake Scavenger Hunt.

Chateau Lake Louise

The Chateau Lake Louise is one of the best places to stay in Banff in December

Lake Louise in December is incredible. Between the Lake Louise ski resort, the cross-country ski trails, the cleared skating rink on Lake Louise, snowshoeing, dog sled tours etc., there are simply too many excellent winter activities to choose from.

The best place to base your visit to Lake Louise in December is the iconic Chateau Lake Louise. Special Christmas experiences at the Chateau Lake Louise include sleigh rides, sipping a cocktail at the Ice Bar, toasting s’mores at the lakefront campfire and decorating gingerbread houses,

Frequently Asked Questions about Banff at Christmas

What is there to do in Banff at Christmas time?

There are so many incredible things to do in Banff at Christmas time, that you’ll have trouble choosing. Some of the best things to do in Banff in the winter include skiing, snowshoeing, skating and cross country skiing. Dog sledding, ice walks and sleigh rides are also popular with visitors to Banff in December and at Christmas time.

Does it snow in Banff at Christmas?

While it’s very likely to see snow at Christmas in Banff, there’s no guarantee that it will snow on Christmas Day. Even if it doesn’t snow, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the snow in Banff and the surrounding area at Christmas.

Is Banff open Christmas Day?

Banff National Park is open on Christmas Day. While some places may be closed, there will still be plenty of places open to get hot chocolate, Christmas dinner and anything else you’ll need.

Note: 2020 will look different in Banff, please check local websites before planning your visit.

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All the best things to do in Banff at Christmas. From skiing to pictures with Santa, you'll feel the Christmas cheer in Banff like no other place.