Canada offers three special places for an unforgettable Christmas escape. Whether you are a Canadian or a foreign visitor in need of a currency converter, some holiday prices may seem steep. However, sometimes budgets can be relaxed at Christmas, and all three towns do provide great return in memories made.
Throughout the winter, the beautiful town of Banff is a wonderland of seasonal activities and breathtaking scenery. At Christmas time, however, it is truly magical. Two hotels are at the center of the magic.
The Banff Springs Hotel is a castle in the Rockies and, at Christmas, bustles with activity. Families can enjoy stories and songs by a fire. There are cookie and gingerbread house workshops. Letters to Santa mailed in the lobby receive a reply the next day, and Santa leads a parade throughout the halls of the hotel. On Christmas Eve, Santa gets a send off from Mrs. Claus. Later, carols are sung and there is a midnight Christmas service.
For those with specific interests, there are watercolor and photography workshops, bowling and bingo events, tours of the historic hotel and its kitchen. Outdoor activities include lessons in curling, snowshoeing, ice skating and wilderness walks. Frosty the Snowman himself skates on Christmas Day.
There are special brunches on Christmas, Boxing and New Year’s Days. On Christmas, there is afternoon tea. Guests can choose between a buffet featuring children’s entertainment or one without. On New Year’s Eve, families can eat early and join a skating party or attend the evening gala. Teenagers are welcome while younger guests have their own celebration. Adult dining events are held on December 24, 25 and 26.
Christmas Day festivities end with a traditional English Boar’s Head Parade throughout the various restaurants and the lighting of the traditional Yule Log. All of this magic happens amid glorious decorations throughout the hotel.
Not to be outdone, the nearby Rimrock Hotel offers its own panoply of Christmas doings with Christmas Eve carolers, a Christmas morning arrival of Santa, and Christmas and New Year’s brunches, buffets and gala dinners.
Christmas visitors at other establishments will also enjoy their trip to Banff. White Christmases are assured in Banff and the town is dressed in Christmas finery. The slopes have skiers indulging in the local tradition of Christmas Day skiing. Many restaurants are open on Christmas Day. Most have gala New Year’s Eve meals planned.
Christmas in Banff is truly a magical memory for one and all.
Whistler, British Columbia
Further west, the world class ski resort of Whistler celebrates Christmas in world class style. Santa appears on the slopes and on the skating rinks. The free Fire and Ice Show of fireworks, fire spinners and ski jumpers begins at Christmas time in Whistler Village. There is a lantern making workshop along with a chance to display at the Whistler Arts Council’s Festival of Lights Art Exhibit. There is a Christmas morning service on Whistler Mountain. The Whistler Holiday Experience is a free community event providing an indoor family fun zone for the two week holiday period. Kids can enjoy putting, bouncing castles, crafts, air hockey and video games. New Year’s Eve is celebrated with indoor and outdoor activities in Whistler Village culminating in a fireworks display at midnight.
The Chateau Whistler, owned by the same Fairmont group as Banff Springs, sets the standard for hotel Christmas revelry in Whistler. A family fun room is available throughout the holiday period. There are gingerbread house and Christmas ornament workshops. Just before the big day, children can enjoy tea, milk and cookies with Mrs. Claus. Christmas eve, there are carol singing and gift wrapping sessions, a special kids buffet and sleigh rides and a fondue dinner with Santa. Caroling continues Christmas Day along with visits from Santa. The day’s activities close with a traditional Christmas buffet and dance. On New Year’s Eve, there is a choice of buffets with live entertainment in the lobby. A special New Year’s Day breakfast begins at 7 AM for those who want to get an early start on the slopes.
Québec City, Québec
Eastern Canada has its own magical Christmas town. Québec City shines with its old world French charm throughout the season. There are horse drawn sleigh rides available as well as walking tours of old Québec accompanied by an authentic character from New France explaining the culture’s 400 year history.
Old Québec is dominated by the Chateau Frontenac Hotel, another property of the Fairmont chain. It celebrates Christmas and New Year’s Eves and Days in grand style with special brunches, buffets and reveillons, holiday dinners in the French tradition.
Various neighborhoods invite walkers to stroll their historic streets decked with special Christmas finery. The cobblestoned streets of the Quartier Petit Champlain, some of the oldest in North America, are located in the Old Port area and are particularly festive and quaint. A European style Christmas market, where fine wines, cheeses and other Québec products can be found, is also located in Old Port.
The city itself becomes the canvas as Christmas light shows are presented in several locations. A Ferris wheel is specially assembled to allow views of the city.
Visitors who extend their escape until late January can enjoy Québec Winter Carnival. It is presided over by Bonhomme, its snowman mascot with his signature red cap and colorful sash, for whom an ice palace is built. All kinds of winter activities are available, parades are held day and night, and the celebration continues for 17 days.