For an unforgettable experience, take the Elf Express to the base of Sulphur Mountain, then enjoy Mountaintop Christmas festivities at the Banff Gondola. Make it a weekend with a stay at Elk + Avenue Hotel!
All Aboard the Elf Express
As we cruise down Banff Avenue in a vintage coach, Holly the Elf tells us about life at the North Pole. Her story involves a lot of name dropping – of the fat man in the red suit, of course – and passenger participation. Every time we hear “Santa,” we must give a hearty “Ho, ho, ho!” We are also tasked with making wiggly reindeer antlers every time we hear the word “reindeer” and in no time, kids are giggling at the jazz hands on people’s heads.
Disclosure: This story was written in partnership with Pursuit Banff & Jasper Collection, but all words and opinions are my own.
The festive Open Top Touring ride, aka the Elf Express, is a unique experience offered by Pursuit for the holiday season. An elf-driven coach provides entertaining door to door service from Elk + Avenue Hotel or the Mount Royal Hotel to the Banff Gondola, where elevated holiday fun awaits. Your return trip to town, Banff gondola admission, a family Santa photo, and souvenir for each child are also included.
At the end of Holly the Elf’s story, she turns the music up and a little girl in the back calls out, “I know this song!” Holly says, “Me too!” and invites everyone to sing along. Baubles swing in the windows as we sway in time to the music and sing. It’s a treat to sit back and enjoy the ride, and get dropped off at the door (no need to look for parking!).
Mountaintop Christmas at the Banff Gondola
The scenic 8-minute Banff Gondola ride soars 698 vertical metres (over 1,560 metres) to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Tunnel Mountain and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel grow smaller, while Lake Minnewanka and the Bow Valley come into sight. Snowcapped peaks and marshmallow trees are pretty as a postcard, but the view from the summit is even more spectacular.
After getting a photo with Santa on the top floor, we pop out onto the Observation Deck for a bird’s eye view of Banff. A blanket of snow covers the land, and everything sparkles, especially Aurora the summit bear. A brisk breeze is blowing, but we dare not go back inside until we’ve tried fresh maple taffy. I ask what the secret to making it is and learn you need packable snow and 235 F degree maple syrup. It’s the perfect winter treat!
Back inside, we warm up with a cup of hot cocoa, and learn to tie knots and navigate with a compass at the Above Banff Interpretive Centre. Next, we collect cookie decorating and ornament decorating kits (one per child), check out the Christmas decorations, then head to the theatre to watch A Christmas Carol. We’re feeling festive and can’t wait to decorate cookies when we get home!
At our designated pickup time, Noelle the Elf is waiting for us at the base of gondola. She has a story for us too, plus a little parting gift “straight from Santa” for all the boys and girls. The Elf Express added to the Mountaintop Christmas magic and made for a truly memorable experience. Recommended for kids of all ages!
Where to Stay
Elk + Avenue Hotel boasts stylish and spacious rooms in downtown Banff. For families, we recommend the loft suites with two queen beds on the upper level and a pull-out sofa bed and dining area on the lower level.
The onsite restaurant, Farm + Fire, makes farm-to-fork goodness and has lots of gluten/dairy/nut-free and vegan options. Treat yourself to a morning mocktail and flank steak with poached eggs and roast potatoes! Looking for lighter fare? They have eggs bennies, pancakes, and French toast too.
More Information & Tickets
To book your Elf Express tickets now, or get more information, visit Banff Gondola Mountaintop Christmas.