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Author: Joanne Elves

Her grade school report card said Joanne asks a lot of questions. She took that as a compliment and with family in tow, continues to ask as she travels the province in search of exciting adventures and interesting destinations.

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In Alberta, we don’t just sing about a white Christmas – we live it and love it! In the Canadian Rockies, picturesque towns like Canmore and Banff embrace the festive season with gusto. The stars of the show are Banff’s WinterStart and Christmas in Canmore.

Combine your alpine adventures with a few extra days exploring the festivals, which run for several weeks ahead of Christmas. Many hotels in Banff and Canmore offer special deals during this time. 

Christmas in Canmore

Just an hour west of Calgary, downtown Canmore shines bright for the Christmas holidays. Beginning in early December, there are skating parties, decorating contests, games and guided shopping tours. Husband- and baby-sitting available! 

Depending on the weekend, Santa visits with the kids at the NWMP Barracks on Main Street or meets everyone at the pond for a skating party. There’s hot chocolate for all and candy canes for the kids. And you have up until December 24 to take in the resplendent Festival of Trees.

The Gingerbread House is full of crafts and cookie decorating. The kids can make their own tree ornaments, or maybe pen a last minute letter to Santa. A storyteller in the corner enchants with renditions of classic Christmas tales. As the sun dips behind the mountain peaks, an outdoor movie screen comes to life with traditional holiday favorites.

The town is beautifully decorated. Every lamp post, gate, awning and tree is laced with Christmas lights and glitter. And if it’s snowing, it's magical - like a tiny village in a snow globe! The store windows glow with wonderful gift ideas. Look for Canadian jewelry and artwork, beaded moccasins and cozy winter clothing.

Banff’s WinterStart Festival

Fifteen minutes west of Canmore in Banff National Park, the town of Banff has its own holiday magic. The WinterStart festival kicks off in late November and celebrates all things winter, including Christmas.

Take your skis and head to Lake Louise Ski Resort for the World Cup races. It’s thrilling to see the world’s best downhill skiers, and there are lots of activities at the ski lodge to keep you entertained. The next day, try a Canadian-style adventure like dog sledding or hiking on snowshoes through the countryside.

Santa Claus Parade

The whole town turns out for the Santa Claus Parade of Lights & Festive Fun. You can spend the entire day on Banff Avenue enjoying the Christmas Courtyard activities, spending some time in the Cascade Shops to make crafts and play carnival games, and doing some Christmas shopping. As the sun gets ready to set, find a curbside spot and wait for the parade.

The parade is my personal favorite. It’s beautiful, with everything aglow. Every float, truck and person in the parade is lit up with glowing Christmas lights. As people walk by, they hand out treats and stickers to the kids. Visitors and townsfolk alike are caught up in the spirit, smiling and waving.

When the last twinkling float goes by, carry on celebrating the season by heading for a late supper in any of downtown Banff’s fine restaurants at a table by the fire. Don’t be surprised if roving carolers come by to serenade you while you eat. It’s perfectly normal here.

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