Snow softly falls and brightly coloured lights strung up on light poles and interwoven within the branches of the pines twinkle in the fading light. Laughter and music can be heard as people stroll down the main street, the peaks of Cascade Mountain quietly observing the festive merriment. Smells of chocolate and peppermint permeate the air and the atmosphere is jovial.

The Canadian Rockies is the perfect setting for a classic Christmas vacation, and by combining that with VIA Rail’s nostalgic ‘The Canadian’ train, you have the ultimate Christmas in the Rockies tour.

On our 8-Day Rockies Winter Wonderland tour, you will make your way from Vancouver to Calgary, experiencing the best winter and seasonal activities that the Rockies have to offer. Below you will find some suggestions for each location of the tour to make the most of your holly-time holiday.

Christmas in the Rockies

Vancouver to Calgary

Christmas in Vancouver
Photographs courtesy of Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation

Spend some time in the beautiful coastal city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Start the tour without feeling rushed and plan for the first day to be just your arrival in the city. If you end up having an earlier flight, and have the time, you can take in the VanDusen Festival of Lights. With more than one million twinkling lights artfully arranged throughout the multi-acre site, you can enjoy the sights with festive music and warming treats. The VanDusen Festival of Lights runs daily during the holiday season from sunset until 22:00.

If you would like to spend more time in Vancouver here are some Christmas-time activities offered around the city to keep you entertained.

Spend the morning on a Vancouver sightseeing tour and then head to Canyon Lights at Capilano. The world-famous Capilano Suspension Bridge is lit end to end, and the Treetops Adventure is transformed into a glittering wonderland. This runs daily during the holiday season. I recommend going a little later in the afternoon so that you can really take in the beauty of the lights as the sun sets.

Another option for this day is the PNE Winter Fair. This runs on select dates in December and will give you plenty to do. The PNE Winter Fair offers games, Winter Lights presented by BC Hydro, the PNE Holiday Express, Ice Bumper Cars, and live programming like Nutcracker on Ice and the Magic of Santa.

Photographs courtesy of Capilano Group and PNE

Photographs courtesy of Kipling Media and the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund

Explore the Vancouver Christmas Market and then enjoy Bright Nights in Stanley Park. The Vancouver Christmas Market is an outdoor holiday marketplace with over eighty vendors selling traditional European food and products. There is also holiday entertainment, a Christmas Carousel, and a market-wide scavenger hunt. The market runs daily until December 24.

Bright Nights in Stanley Park, which runs in the evenings throughout the holiday season, offers visitors Christmas-themed illuminations, food trucks, live performances, and a chance to ride on the miniature train. Admission to the event is by donation, and all proceeds go towards the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.

You can see some behind-the-scenes with the BC Burn Fund by following the link, or you can click here to purchase their Bright Nights 50/50 Tickets.

As all these holiday events are outdoors you will want to make sure you dress for the weather. You will want a waterproof jacket as both months tend to see the highest amount of rainfall, and you might even see a little snow in December. Here is a link to prepare you for Vancouver’s weather:


Christmas on a Train

You will have the next morning to relax and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading to the train station to board VIA Rail’s ‘The Canadian’’.

Enjoy a wonderful dinner in the dining car and make sure to take full advantage of both the Park Car and Skyline Car. There is a bar available for those who wish to partake in libations and events, such as bingo, tastings, and historical talks.

As there is no Wi-Fi available onboard, I recommend bringing a book or a movie pre-downloaded onto your device if you want to unwind in your cabin at night. Below you will find some suggestions of books and movies that combine train travel with Christmas.


The Polar Express

By Chris Van Allsburg

Late one Christmas Eve, a boy boards the mysterious train that waits for him: the Polar Express bound for the North Pole.

4.32 ★ Goodreads

The Christmas Train

By David Baldacci

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon is forced to travel by train from Washington D.C. to L.A. to make it in time for Christmas. He begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures and holiday magic.

3.61 ★ Goodreads

Tales from Christmas Trains: 1830-2030

By James F Kaserman and Sarah Jane Kaserman

A rare literary treat and a fitting tribute to the history of the railroad and the spirit of Christmas with a collection of short stories.

4.50 ★ Goodreads


The Polar Express

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg, a boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

(2004, Rated G)

Last Train to Christmas

Directed by Julian Kemp

A nightclub manager is thrown forward and backward in time on a Christmas Eve train home for a family reunion.

(2021, Not Rated)

The Christmas Train

Directed by Ron Oliver

Based on the book by David Baldacci, a cynical journalist decides to take a train from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles for Christmas to get inspiration for a story in honour of his late father.

(2017, Rated TV-G)

Christmas in the Rockies

Directed by Amy Force and Justin G Dyck

Although not featuring a train, this movie will get you excited for the Rockies.

After her father is hurt in a timber accident Katie Jolly enters a lumberjack competition to save her family’s business but ends up competing against the paramedic who saved her father’s life.

(2020, TV Movie)

Christmas in Jasper

You should arrive at Jasper, your first stop in the Canadian Rockies, around noon, although keep in mind that delays are often a part of rail travel.

I recommend staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, as this is where you will find most of the seasonal activities. Activities offered at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge include Smores’ Under the Stars, Candy Cane Lake in the Mary Schaffer Ballroom, Christmas crafts and games, a Christmas Pool Party, Christmas movies, Santa’s Cabin, and drink tastings.

Photographs courtesy of Accor

Photographs courtesy of Tourism Jasper, with photo credit also to Pursuit and Mike Gere

If you are travelling in mid-December, you will be able to take a sleigh ride on Pyramid Lake, something offered by the Jasper Riding Stables. These typically run seven times a day, every half hour in the afternoon.

During your full day in Jasper, you can head to the ski slopes of Marmot Basin and take advantage of the abundance of dry, light, and fluffy snow. For those who do not ski or snowboard, I recommend the Maligne Canyon Icewalk Tour. You’ll explore frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and ice formations. Boots, ice cleats, and helmets are provided for your safety.

For more ideas on what you can do during a full day in Jasper, you can check out Tourism Jasper.

Christmas in Lake Louise

The next day you will depart Jasper in the morning, arriving at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise around 13:00. You will be able to skate on the lake from mid-December to mid-April, depending on conditions, and snowfall is cleared daily. The area is also lit every evening, so you are not limited to just the afternoon. Skate rentals are available at Chateau Ski and Snow, which is in the hotel near the lobby. You are also able to rent snowshoes and cross-country skis, so if you have snow but the lake isn’t frozen enough for skating, you will still have some outdoor activities to keep you entertained.

Photographs courtesy of Fairmont

Photographs courtesy of Fairmont

Also available at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from mid-December to mid-April is the Ice Bar. Comprised of 20 blocks of ice, each weighing 300 lbs., the bar is walk-in basis, with priority service given to hotel guests. Their signature drink is the Mulled Wine.

For those who would rather stay indoors, there is the luxury day spa and an afternoon tea, which is offered daily.

If you would like to spend more time in Lake Louise, we can always include an additional night.

Christmas in Banff

Leaving Lake Louise, you will arrive in Banff and will have the afternoon to explore the town. Until December 31, you can explore the more culinary side of town through the Hot Chocolate Trail. There are more than 20 restaurants and cafes offering limited-time festive hot chocolates, both family-friendly and adult-only.

After sunset, you can then head to the Banff Gondola to experience Nightrise, where you will be immersed in lights, sounds, and projections honouring the magic of the mountains. Make your way through the summit building, from the lower terrace to the top floor patio, and take in the Four Wonders: Cosmic Ray, Diamond Dust, Alpenglow, and Frosted Waves.

Photographs courtesy of Nicalene Groshko

Photographs courtesy of Rochelle Byiers and Nicalene Groshko

On your first full day in Banff, you can spend some time on the ski slopes at Banff Sunshine or Mount Norquay, either skiing, snowboarding, or tubing, or rent some snowshoes or cross-country skis at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel or downtown.

If you would like something that isn’t quite as strenuous, but still allows you to spend some time in nature, another option is dogsledding. Howling Dog Tours is a reputable company that offers shuttles from Banff right to their site.

End your day by soaking in the warm waters at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. The Hot Springs are open daily. Tickets cost CAD $16.50 per adult and can only be purchased on site. Swimsuits and towels are also available for rent.

If you would like to spend more time in Banff, you can include an extra night and get into the Christmas spirit by exploring the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. From festive afternoon tea and brunch offerings to Castle Carolers roaming the halls while you marvel at the gingerbread houses, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel will leave you feeling festive. You can also spend the evening watching the Carter-Ryan Theatre Productions’ now annual performance of A Christmas Carol.

If you are in Banff on a weekend, another option for your evening is In Search of Christmas Spirit, an annual event at the Cascade of Time Garden that tells the story of the wildlife of Banff National Park through illuminated sculptures and storytelling. This event takes place on Fridays and Saturdays from mid-November to the end of December and is free to attend. However, you will still need to book a ticket in advance. In Search of Christmas Spirit takes place outdoors and the site is not accessible.

Also, if you are in Banff on a weekend at the end of November or early December you can check out the Banff Christmas Market at Warner Stables. Tickets are required for entry, and the market offers more than 100 artisanal vendors, live music, an outdoor fire lounge, pictures with Santa, and festive treats.

Photographs courtesy of Nicalene Groshko

Christmas in Calgary

Your tour concludes with a two hour transfer to the Calgary Airport, however, if you would like to include a night in Calgary, the perfect way to end your Christmas time tour is with the Calgary Zoo’s Zoolights. Presented by Olympia Trust Company, this event has over one million lights with over 200 light figures to experience, as well as offering guests ice skating, axe throwing, and hot chocolate.

If you find yourself in Calgary on a Saturday or Sunday on the last weekend of November to the third weekend of December, I recommend either leaving Banff in the morning, or spending an additional night in Calgary, and going to Heritage Park for their Once Upon a Christmas event. This event offers guests a taste of a traditional, historic Christmas. With horse-drawn wagon rides, crafts, a Christmas market, entertainment, and Santa, this is the perfect place to experience the holiday magic.

If you would like to book this tour you can request a quote at [email protected]

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