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Very merry holiday experiences in Banff


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The holiday season ought to be fun – even for us adults. That’s why it’s a good idea to plan a holiday escape; somewhere not too far away that you have to worry about quarantines and COVID tests, yet special enough to put you into the holiday spirit. For that, there’s no need to look further than the fairytale landscape of Banff National Park . Here’s a look at some enchanting experiences in our very own winter wonderland.

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Holiday experiences in Banff

You’re pretty much guaranteed lovely weather for a sleigh ride together in Banff National Park . Jingling bells and the clip clomping of hooves are the only sounds you’ll hear as you glide over the snow-clad landscape in either a private horse-drawn sleigh or on a group sleigh ride with Banff Trail Riders .

Christmas sleigh ride banff
Memorable experiences like this won’t soon be forgotten. Photo by Travel Alberta

Those in search of perfect presents ought to make a beeline to Bear Street for its new Holiday Market . Set along the pedestrian-friendly street are local artisans, retailers and food stalls on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Dec. 24.

banff holiday market
Let’s hope the Bear Street Market becomes an annual holiday tradition! Photo by Banff & Lake Louise Tourism/Robert Massey

Naturally, holiday shopping experiences are enhanced with decadent drinks. Follow Banff’s Hot Chocolate Trail to find holiday-themed hot chocolate from over 20 local businesses. Standouts include Nourish Bistro’s slightly spicy vegan infusion and the cocoa concoction of lavender and peppermint at Sky Bistro. Fans of Hedgehogs will want to sample the Hazelnut Bliss Hot Chocolate at STOCK Food & Drink.

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In Search Of Christmas
A Christmas story comes to life as told by the wildlife of Banff National Park. Photo by Banff & Lake Louise Tourism/ Shannon Martin

Sometimes last-minute decisions can work in your favour. While In Search of Christmas Spirit , another light and sound installation is sold out, visitors are encouraged to check online for cancellations as tickets to this free, outdoor event occasionally reappear.

During the darkest days of the year, we know all too well how the arrival of night shifts our perspective. Nightrise is a new, multi-sensory winter experience at Banff Gondola that takes full advantage of the night sky. Created by Moment Factory with the participation of the Stoney Nakoda Nation, immersive evenings combine dazzling light displays, storytelling and music throughout the summit building and its outdoor terraces.

light installation banff
Experience Nightrise at Banff Gondola. Photo by Nightrise at the Banff Gondola

Christmas at the Castle

Strolling along the grand hallways of Fairmont Banff Springs , where every archway is festooned in festive garland, you can’t help but catch the holiday spirit.

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Fairmont Banff Springs winter exterior
When you have an opportunity to experience Christmas at a castle, you want to take it. Photo by Chris Amat /Fairmont Banff Springs

Christmas at the Castle in the Rockies pulls out all the stops, taking guests back to the magic of Christmas past. Around every corner, you’re sure to find something to induce awe or delight.

Candy castle
Catch a whiff of gingerbread as you walk by the Candy Castle located on Mezzanine Level II. Photo by Fairmont Banff Springs/Chris Amat

If dozen upon dozens of fully dressed Christmas trees don’t make the spirit feel bright, you’re sure to stare in wonder at the impressive Candy Castle replica of Fairmont Banff Springs. There’s a letter-writing station to Santa (responses guaranteed to hotel guests) and holiday arts & crafts at the North Pole, located in the Gatehouse Foyer.

And starting Dec. 10, the Ramsay Bar will be taken over by the Thirsty Reindeer , a fun holiday pop-up bar serving up six festive craft cocktails for hotel guests.

holiday cocktails
Santa’s Night Cap is a boozy hot chocolate, while the Cherry French 75 is served in a coupe.

If live entertainment is something you’ve been missing, you’ll want to snag tickets for A Christmas Carol . With puppets and a set designed by Alberta artist Jason Carter, this holiday classic appeals to all ages. For hotel guests, a Christmas Concert Series is showcasing Canadian talent that jingles all the way through the holidays.

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Anyone hankering for maximum holiday hoopla ought to take this as their cue to suss out the Santa Suites at Fairmont Banff Springs. Seemingly straight out of a Hallmark movie, every corner has been touched by merry elves bedecking suites with twinkling lights, multiple Christmas trees and even presents from Santa.

holiday hotel guest room
There’s a variety of different Santa Suites to choose from. Photo by Chris Amat/Fairmont Banff Springs

Food is at the heart of any celebration, and there’s no better way to settle into the season than with a spot of afternoon tea in Rundle Bar. Festive additions to this refined tradition include a glass of bubbly, mini chocolate yule logs, mulled fruitcake marzipan and turkey finger sandwiches.

For a highly memorable dining experience, book into the 360° Dome, an igloo-shaped, see-through outdoor venue. Decked out with evergreen boughs, buffalo tartan and an electric fireplace, its wintery decor is not only Pinterest-worthy but the stuff dreams are made of. Dining inside a snow globe is pretty sought after, so be sure to book your family-style Christmas brunch or gourmet six-course meal well in advance.

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igloo dining dome
Now you can finally find out what it’s like to be inside a snow globe. Fairmont Banff Spring

For a classic Christmas meal, look no further than the bountiful buffets served up in The Vermillion Room, under the helm of talented Chef JP Comte. Diners are spoilt for choice with a lavish spread of seafood, turkey with all the trimmings and an array of sinful desserts.

Ensure you hit the holiday season well refreshed and centred with a restorative visit to Willow Stream Spa . Or, share your act of self-care with a private campfire experience.

The holidays can be a lot, but purposefully setting aside time to create meaningful experiences is a gift for everyone.

P.S. You also may be interested in The best spots to spend Christmas in Canada and How to have the best ever Christmas in Calgary .

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