Enjoy a Mountaintop Christmas with Santa, cookie decorating, crafts, a holiday film, and the best views in Banff!
The Banff Gondola is beautiful year round, but there’s something special about visiting during the holidays. Maybe it’s Christmas magic brought by Santa and his elves or maybe it’s the snowcapped trees, decorations, and spiked coffee. Either way, with good eats, fun times, and stunning views, kids of all ages (including YOU) will love going to Mountaintop Christmas year after year. Here’s how to make the most of your visit to Mountaintop Christmas with kids, and make some beautiful memories.
Disclosure: Pursuit Banff & Jasper Collection hosted us, but all words and opinions are my own.
1. Check In Early(ish) at the Banff Gondola
Early bird gets the worm! Kids ride free before noon (one free child admission per paying adult), so it’s definitely worth heading over in the morning. Christmas activities start at 10 am and Santa arrives at 10:30 am. If you need a mid-morning pick-me-up, there’s a Starbucks at the Lower Terminal so you can get a coffee for the beautiful 8-minute gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain.
2. Visit Santa
Visit Santa while everyone is fresh and bright eyed… and before they get all messy from cookie decorating and eating! You can take photos with your own device (flash recommended), or purchase a digital photo which will be emailed to you. The décor is lovely, so you’re sure to get a great Christmas photo.
- While you wait, enjoy a boozy beverage from the bar.
- Kids who are too shy to talk to Santa can write him a letter. Look for the letter templates and mailbox at the Lower Terminal.
3. Visit Aurora the Bear, then enjoy Holiday Brunch
While you’re on the top floor, pop out onto the Observation Deck for panoramic mountain views. Get a selfie with Aurora the Bear; see if you can spot Lake Minnewanka, Tunnel (Sleeping Buffalo) Mountain, and The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel; then warm up at a firepit.
Next, head downstairs to Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen for a scrumptious Holiday Brunch (extra charge – not included with gondola admission) featuring slow braised beef brisket, honey ham, bacon, eggs, charcuterie, and several other delicious dishes. Save room for dessert – they have lots of yummy cakes and squares to choose from! Since it’s a buffet, you don’t have to wait for your meals, and will still have lots of time for Christmas fun.
Brunch is served 10 am – 2pm pm on Saturdays & Sundays from December 2-24, 2023; and daily from December 25-30, 2023.
4. Mountaintop Christmas Festivities (& Above Banff Interpretive Centre)
Kids will love decorating cookies, making a Christmas ornament or decorating a picture frame, watching a holiday film, and exploring Above Banff, the interpretive centre. The interpretive centre has hands-on exhibits including knot tying, a route-finding game, and more. Allow at least an hour to see and try everything.
5. Hike to Sanson’s Peak
Take the boardwalk and stairs – all 368 of them – to Sanson’s Peak, named for Norman Bethune Sanson who tended the peak’s weather station for almost 30 years (starting in 1903). It’s only 500 metres one way and the views are breathtaking. Six mountain ranges can be seen from the boardwalk, as well as two valleys (the Spray Valley and Bow Valley). Peek inside the window of the historic weather station and imagine hiking up here every day before the gondola and boardwalk were built. It would be quite the daily workout, especially in deep snow! Fortunately for us, it’s a short and scenic walk from the Upper Terminal, and we can warm up quickly once we’re back inside.
Mountaintop Christmas is on weekends (Saturdays & Sundays) from December 2-24, 2023; and daily from December 25-30, 2023.
Know Before You Go
- A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in Banff National Park.
- Early bird gets the worm: Kids go free before noon (one child per paying adult)! And you can get the best price by booking tickets online at least 48 hours in advance.
- There are 368 stairs on the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak, so wear good walking shoes (we recommend warm winter boots).
- The Banff Gondola and gondola facilities are wheelchair accessible.
- Strollers aren’t recommended due to limited space in the gondola and at the Upper Terminal.
- Dogs are not permitted on the Banff Gondola or in the Lower/Upper Terminal unless they are service dogs.
What to Bring
Disclosure: This section includes affiliate links through which I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our small family business!
It can be up to 10 degrees cooler at the summit and the gondola cabins aren’t heated, so an insulated ski jacket/parka, insulated winter boots, gloves / mittens, and a toque are must-haves. See our fall/winter hiking gear guide and Best Winter Gear for Kids for product recommendations.
The Banff Gondola is located 4.5 kilometres minutes from downtown Banff on ROAM Route 1 (the bus comes every half hour). Limited free parking is available onsite, so taking the bus is recommended.
For Tickets / More Information
For tickets or more information, visit Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection | Banff Gondola | Mountaintop Christmas.
Where to Stay
Elk + Avenue, conveniently located on Banff Avenue, is perfect for families with large, stylish suites, underground parking, and great onsite dining at Farm + Fire Restaurant. If you forgot anything, the grocery store is next door.