Christmas in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta is one of the most epic Canadian traditions. This is where winter lives and with amazing scenery, fabulous cuisine, and classic Christmas experiences everywhere you look, Banff is the perfect place to spend a family weekend in Banff at Christmas.
Here’s a look at where you can stay with your family in Banff for a Christmas weekend, what you can do to celebrate the holidays, and some of the best places to eat.
Here’s how my family spends a weekend in Banff at Christmas
Where To Stay:
Elk + Avenue
The Elk + Avenue hotel was originally built in 1985 but went through a complete overhaul in 2016. The hotel has an upscale Scandinavian feel with natural woods and minimalist design throughout.
Despite the elegant looks, the hotel is still very affordable, the beds perfectly comfortable, and its location is second to none right on the edge of the central shopping district along Banff Avenue.
We have no problem spreading out in a couple of queen beds, larger families will want to look into one of the lofted suites for more elbow room.
What To Do:
Visit Santa at the top of the Banff Gondola on the Elf Express
The Elk + Avenue hotel is a pickup spot for the Elf Express. The decorated Open Top Tour cars are driven by some of Santa’s favourite elves who will tell you fun stories, get you prepped with festive song before delivering you to the base of the Banff Gondola where you can ride up to visit with the big guy.
When you get to the top, the kids can bring some ornament crafts and cookies home to decorate, sample maple taffy from a genuine cabane à sucre, and wander the top of Sulphur Mountain and take in some of the most spectacular views in the country.
It almost feels like you’re at the North Pole without going all the way North!
Go For A Skate
There’s not a more iconic Canadiana experience than going for a skate on a frozen lake in the Rockies. There are many great places to go for a skate near Banff.
You can check out the outdoor rink right in downtown Banff across from the Elk+Avenue. You can go behind the Waldhaus at the Banff Springs Hotel (it’s got a good toboggan hill too). But the best is to hop across the highway and head out to the wide open frozen space of Two Jack Lake (below) or Lake Minnewanka.
Wander the shops on Banff Avenue
Banff Avenue is the perfect place to grab some last minute Christmas gifts. Hudson’s Bay has a location featuring a wide selection of their classic striped line, Roots and Lululemon have locations here as well and there’s always a line outside The Spirit of Christmas to get personalized ornaments. Banff Ave also has a couple of great candy stores to stuff the stockings – and be sure to grab a Beaver Tail for the walk!
The Banff Gondola is running a new nighttime sensory experience called Nightrise at the peak of Sulphur Mountain. With the glowing lights of the town Banff below, the frosty peak is bathed in an interactive audio and light display that pays tribute to the stories and history of Stoney Nakoda Nation.
Farm and Fire
Located in the Elk + Avenue, Farm and Fire is a gorgeous restaurant and perfect place for brunch before you head out on your Santa experience. From classic and inventive poached egg dishes to sweet and satisfying french toasted baguettes, there’s something for everyone on the menu with a focus on local products.
There are two restaurants at the top of the Banff Gondola if you want to grab some eats with one of the best views around. You can pick around the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen or have a more formal sit down meal at the Sky Bistro.
Afternoon Tea at the Banff Springs
It is an annual tradition for our family to check out the gorgeous castle in the Rockies, the Banff Springs Hotel.
There’s always a wonderful gingerbread house in the lobby, they have massive Christmas trees with classic decorations, we love getting a family photo on the patio overlooking the Bow River, and afternoon tea is a big treat tradition for us.
However you decide to spend your family weekend in the Rockies at Christmas, you’re guaranteed a lifetime memory and the start of a wonderful tradition!