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5 Nostalgic Christmas Activities to Experience in Banff and Lake Louise

Ignite your spirit and feel like a kid at Christmas once again.

Baking gingerbread men with our parents, singing carols on Christmas Eve, asking Santa for that perfect gift—we all have cherished holiday memories from our childhood. As we get older, it’s easy to forget how special this time of year is, especially when most of our time is spent at shopping malls or transiting from one family gathering to the next.

This year, there’s a way you can escape it all and rediscover the nostalgia of the season. Nestled  in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, hidden amongst towering fir trees and frozen lakes, lies the perfect escape: Banff & Lake Louise.

Every holiday season, Banff and Lake Louise transform into a winter wonderland filled with traditional winter experiences that everyone can enjoy. And since Christmas in Banff starts in November and lasts into the New Year, there’s something for you to see no matter when you visit.

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(Photo: Courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism)

Hop Aboard the CP Holiday Train

As kids, many of us dreamed of seeing a real life Polar Express. In Banff and Lake Louise this winter, you finally can. The CP Holiday Train, which will be coming through Banff on Monday, December 12 at 7 p.m., is decked out in a dazzling display of lights and colour. It’s one of two lit-up trains that travel from coast to coast across Canada and the U.S. raising donations for local food banks, so you can feel an extra dose of holiday cheer upon its arrival. Watching the train pull into the station and enjoying the live music that comes with it is the perfect new tradition to adopt into your family this holiday season and the ultimate way to kick off your vacation in Banff.

Ride in a Horse Drawn Sleigh

Once the snow starts to fall, Banff and Lake Louise come to life with holiday spirit. There’s no better way to see the thousands of Christmas lights that brighten up the town than from the comfort of a horse drawn sleigh. Grab a blanket and a thermos of hot cocoa and cuddle up with your loved ones as you ride around Lake Louise or through snowy downtown Banff. If you’re visiting on December 23, 26, 28 or 30, be sure to stop by the Country Christmas Dinner and Dance at Brewster Barn in Lake Louise for a night of good cheer and good food.

See Santa Claus

There are so many ways to see Santa in Banff and Lake Louise this season. You can first catch a glimpse of him on November 19, when he’ll be visiting the Banff Train Station before joining the Parade of Lights down Banff Avenue. When he’s not busy making toys in the lead up to Christmas, you’ll find him strolling around the Banff Christmas Market (November 25–27), visiting A Whyte Christmas at the Whyte Museum (December 3), or soaking at the Banff Upper Hot Springs Pools. He’ll also be taking photos at the ski hill (Sunshine Village on December 17, 18, 24 and 25 and Lake Louise Ski Resort on December 23 and 24). Join in on the fun on Christmas Day, when you can earn a free full-day pass at the Lake Louise Ski Resort by dressing up as Saint Nick.

Visit a Traditional Christmas Market

The Banff Christmas Market isn’t only a great place to see Saint Nick. It’s also the perfect place to pick up a unique, handmade gift for that special someone. From November 25 to 27, listen to carolers as you browse the various stalls housed in a charming, transformed barn. Taste local delicacies and sample flavours that take you right back to Christmas in your mom’s kitchen—before buying some treats to take home with you.

Sing Your Heart Out

Since not many people sing Christmas carols anymore, it’s easy to forget the feeling of joy and community they can inspire. If you’re feeling especially nostalgic, ignite your spirit and join in with Sing-Along Messiah and Seasonal Songs at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. The outdoor concert takes places on December 4 on a historic pool deck, but don’t let the cold night air scare you away. Visitors can enjoy warm drinks, wine and beer offered at the event, which should keep you nice and toasty long enough to see the colours of the Aurora Borealis come out to play.

During the holidays, Banff and Lake Louise become a celebration of live music. If you don’t make it to the Sing-Along (or you prefer listening to rather than belting out a holiday ballad), you can see a unique performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas, listen as Liona Boyd performs well-loved Christmas music from her album, or catch the East Coast dynamic duo David Myles and Jenn Grant mix contemporary music with classic Christmas songs.

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