Looking for the best things to see and do in Banff in December?
A white Christmas in the mountains is a dream for guests and a reality for locals in Banff. The quintessential Christmas destination comes alive with ice rinks, carolers, lights, and sleigh rides. Take a snowy sleigh ride from Banff’s Warner Stables, or jump on a full-day tour and spend the day enjoying Lake Louise’s winter wonderland. Sitting in a sleigh is romantic, warm, and cozy – and it’s even better behind trained sled dogs. Dogsledding and horse-drawn sleigh rides book up quick so reserve in advance to avoid disappointment!
1. Take a snowy sleigh ride
Is there anything more magical than a winter sleigh ride in the Canadian Rockies? Grab your family, friends and loved ones and take a 40-minute snowy ride through Banff’s mountain meadows. New this year, groups of up to four people can enjoy a private family sleigh ride and snuggle up under warm blankets. For that special occasion, take a private sleigh ride just for two on a one-horse open sleigh complete with delicious alcoholic beverages, a warm blanket (yours to keep!) and a s’mores kit to enjoy by the fire after your ride.
COVID-19 Update: Masks are required at all times for all guests aged 2 years and up. Blankets and marshmallows are not provided on public sleigh rides, but can be purchased at the stables.
2. Skate on a frozen lake
As winter sets in the lakes freeze and some are even set up as outdoor ice skating rinks! Timing can vary but typically ice skating season starts in mid December, so grab your skates or rent them in Banff – we recommend Snowtips in town who will give you a 10% discount if you mention us. Our favourite spots are Lake Louise, the Banff High School grounds and the Vermillion Lawn at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (skate rentals are available at nearby Chateau Mountain Sports).
COVID 19 Update: Bring your own skates or rent them in town in advance, as both Fairmont hotels are not currently permitting people to enter the hotels unless they are hotel guests.
3. Experience the thrill of dogsledding
Have you felt the thrill of mushing your own sled along a snowy trail with the wind in your hair and mountain peaks in every direction? This is the most popular winter activity – and dogsledding tours can book out months in advance so we highly recommend booking ahead! In December guests can choose from an instructor-driven sled on the 1.5 hour Great Divide Dogsledding Tour in Lake Louise, and an instructor-driven or self-driven sled on the 2 hour Powder Hound Express Dogsledding Tour in Spray Lakes, near Canmore.
COVID-19 Update: Face masks are required, and guests on instructor-driven sleds will not have an option to try driving the sled due to distancing requirements.
4. Slide down Alberta’s largest tube park
Opening in mid December, Mt Norquay is located 10 minutes from Banff (with a free shuttle bus from downtown Banff) and is home to Alberta’s largest tube park! With eight lanes of high speed fun, jump on the magic carpet with your inflatable snow tube and hold on tight as you slide, spin and speed across the snow.
COVID-19 Update: In 2020, guests will purchase a set timeslot for tubing with capacity restrictions in place. Face coverings and distancing is required in the line-up and in the lodge. All tubes will be sanitized between sessions.
5. Get into the Christmas spirit
Bundle up and get into the holiday mood at the new In Search of Christmas Spirit production, a live Christmas story delivered by a sensory extravaganza of light and sound at Cascade Gardens. This free event runs on various evenings throughout the month of December, and requires tickets to be booked in advance.
The Banff Gondola is celebrating Christmas from December 19 onwards with cookie decorating, Christmas movie screenings, a craft decorating station, an Adult beverage bar with mulled wine and hot chocolate and more!
COVID-19 Update: The Banff Gondola has delayed the start date for Mountaintop Christmas to December 19 due to provincial restrictions, and face masks are required in all indoor public spaces and wherever a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained from other guests.
6. Stomp through fresh snow
Have you run through fresh, deep powdery snow? The Canadian Rockies is the perfect place for snowshoeing, and playing in the snow is an experience like no other. Take a half day snowshoeing tour with a friendly local guide who will show you how to walk in our easy-to-use snowshoes, as you explore winding forest trails and open snowy areas of fresh powder.
COVID 19 Update: In 2020, these tours are operating on a small group public basis. Masks are required for guides and guests, read more on our safety measures.