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The Ultimate Winter Wonderland: How To Choose Between Banff and Canmore For Your Christmas Vacation

White, fluffy snow dusting the mountains, houses and roads; brightly coloured lights twinkling along rooftop edges and trees; hot cocoa steaming up your cheeks and making your nose rosy. This is Christmas in the Rockies, a perfect winter wonderland to spend your holidays.

The two most popular towns to visit in the Canadian Rockies are Canmore and Banff. Only a twenty-one-minute drive from one another, it’s easy to see why the decision on which to choose is well, not so easy. Both Banff and Canmore are charming towns tucked away in the Albertan mountains. But which one is right for you?

We’ve got four questions to help guide you towards making the best decision for experiencing a memorable winter holiday trip in the Rockies.

A building stands on the right, while snowcovered trees stand on the left, with mountains in the background and a low snow fog above in Canmore, Alberta at Spring Creek Vacations
The snow-covered Canmore, Alberta.

Do You Want To Deal With Fewer Tourists, Or Be In The Middle Of The Action?

While Banff has its perks, from its Banff National Park location to its variety of activities, it is much more of a “tourist” town than Canmore. Because of the crowds that come to see the park throughout the year, Banff can get busy quickly. This means that it will be harder to not only find accommodation, but to secure reservations at restaurants, or book tickets for activities. Banff can feel like a hub of buzzing activity, but if you want a more relaxed atmosphere or prefer fewer crowds of tourists, then Canmore is the place for you.

That twenty minutes of distance to Canmore can make a huge difference in the number of other people visiting the area. Canmore has a more “relaxed” feel than Banff during the high tourist season. With that short distance, you’ll still be close to the Banff National Park, but there’ll be fewer tourists to compete with for rentals, restaurants and other activities.

A large moose with big antlers licks salt off of a snowcovered road, surrounded by snow covered evergreen trees on a snowy, clouded day, in Jasper National Park, Alberta, near Canmore and Banff.
Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Are You Looking For Better Value and a More Unique Experience?

Are you looking for better value for your rental accommodation, restaurants and shopping, or is being at the centre of Banff National Park more important to you and your family? Deciding on what’s more important to you will help you decide if Canmore or Banff is right for you. If you’re looking to save a little money for your family Christmas vacation to the Rocky Mountains, or just better value overall, then Canmore is the best choice.

Banff costs more on average for a family of 4 than Canmore does. This is because Banff is a much busier tourist destination. The town is located within Banff National Park, while Canmore sits outside the park. Canmore is also built more for locals rather than tourists. With its location and residents in mind, this helps to keep its average price lower for visitors. And if the price is more important than proximity to the park, Canmore is an excellent option.

Visit Canmore to experience great value, with its excellent variety of unique boutique shops and restaurants to choose from. Some even say that Canmore’s selection of restaurants and shops is more interesting and better than Banff’s. And if you’re hoping to make this Christmas holiday extra special, you’ll get better value for luxury rentals than what you’ll find in Banff. Want to stay in comfortable luxury with your family for the holidays? These Canmore rentals are bound to check off your Christmas accommodation wishlist.

You’ll also find a wide assortment of delicious restaurants, cafes, and charming boutique shops. These restaurants and cafes are more unique and may feel like less of a tourist hive than those found in Banff. Bonus points for bagel lovers: Canmore even has its very own speciality bagel shop, Rocky Mountain Bagel Co!

A woman dressed in black with a red backpack walks through a road in snowy Canmore, Alberta, surrounded by brown buildings and homes covered in snow, with mountains in the background, on a sunny day.
Photo by Devon Hawkins on Unsplash

Location, Location, Location!

Is the location the most important factor for your holiday? And if so, what are you hoping to see? While it’s true that the town of Banff is central to the Banff National Park, Canmore is only twenty minutes away. It’s an easy and quick trip to make without completely compromising on location. It also means that you’ll save money, and won’t have to deal with huge crowds. Plus, Canmore has its own exclusive spots to visit that you won’t see from Banff.

Namely, the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park.

This breathtaking park was developed to host the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games. It is also one of the few Olympic Nordic skiing venues in the world that is still in operation. You can explore the very same trails as Olympic athletes, and get stunning views of Canmore and surrounding areas.

But the Canmore action doesn’t stop there. Other activities include the Canmore Museum, or a family-friendly Scavenger Hunt with Mystery Towns, and much more. Plus, you’re only a short drive away from all the sightseeing options in Banff, without the hassle of staying in the busy town.

A woman in a black outfit hikes through a Canmore forest covered in snow in Alberta on a sunny day.
Photo by Devon Hawkins on Unsplash

Are You Looking for Christmas Fun For The Whole Family?

There are plenty of Christmas activities that go on every year in both Banff and Canmore. With all the excitement of these events, the fluffy snow, and the atmosphere of cheer in the mountains, many people would enjoy a Christmas holiday in either town. But there’s no denying the special magic of Christmas in Canmore.

While both towns have their own special celebrations, Canmore’s Christmas charm makes the experience more cozy and enjoyable for everyone. Check out some of the Christmas events found in The Rotary Club of Canmore’s Festival of Trees, such as the Tree Viewing & Magical Candy Cane Lane, the Gingerbread House Contest, The Kids Holiday Extravanganza, or Breakfast with Santa. You could also see a special live performance of the classic A Christmas Carol to get your family in the holiday mood. And with the practical guarantee of a white Christmas, everything will have that extra touch of Christmas spirit.

Four kids ride on a toboggan getting pulled through the snow with trees and a wooden fence in the background, having some winter Christmas holiday fun
Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Canmore Vs Banff: Which Is The Perfect Holiday Destination?

For better value for your luxury rentals, more unique shops and restaurants, access to sightseeing and a true Christmas holiday feel, Canmore is the winner. You’ll feel like you’re right in the action of nearby Banff National Park, without the congestion of staying in a tourist town. As a truly memorable experience that will keep you coming back for years to come, Canmore will make you feel like you’re in a winter wonderland. If you’re wanting to make Canmore your Christmas in the Rockies holiday destination for the family this year, click here to view available Canmore rentals.

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