Banff and its sister community, Lake Louise, are two of the most beautiful and vibrant mountain vacation destinations anywhere in the world. They are located in Canada’s oldest national park. Banff National Park is famous for its scenery, top-notch accommodations, restaurants, adventure travel opportunities, and more recently its unique cultural offerings.Getting To / Around
Once you’ve arrived in the town of Banff you'll find much of the town readily accessible on foot or bicycle. Many Banff hotels offer complimentary shuttle service within the Banff townsite. Inquire with your hotel. You can hire a taxi (Banff Taxi / Taxi Taxi 403.762.0000) or take the Banff Roam public transit system. Day Passes and single trip fares can be bought on the bus. There are numerous walking/biking trails in the surrounding area. Once you’ve explored the Town of Banff consider taking a sightseeing tour, hiring a car or renting an RV to continue to see the amazing sites within the park itself.Things to Do
Banff Springs Hotel – the "Castle in the Rockies," is a quintessential Banff experience. Steeped in magnificent old-world charm, it offers several eateries and bars in a gorgeous setting.
Cave and Basin – This steamy cave, discovered in 1883, led to the beginnings of Banff. Today its location is a national historic site. In addition to the cave and original swimming pool, see Edwardian-era exhibits, historic photo galleries and stroll the interpretive nature boardwalk.
Lake Louise – a "gem of beauty" sitting beneath the Victoria Glacier, is one of the most photographed and iconic settings in the Rockies. It’s a four season wilderness playground combining rugged outdoor beauty with first-class amenities. With one of Canada’s best downhill ski hills, sightseeing and a variety of relaxation opportunities, put Lake Louise on your Banff itinerary and enjoy the drive on the scenic Bow Valley Parkway.
Icefields Parkway and Columbia Icefields – rated one of the Top 10 drives in the world by National Geographic magazine, the Icefields Parkway is a must-do. Many use it to get to Banff’s sister park, Jasper and vice versa. look at these 360° panoramas to see for yourselfIn addition to pristine lakes, forests and massive glaciers, there's a good chance of seeing wildlife such as bear, moose and mountain goats. Stop at the Icefields Centre for a break, snack and an insight into glaciers at the interpretive centre. It is also the base for Ice Explorer tours onto the glacier itself.
Family Friendly – Banff is a popular travel destination for families who enjoy the outdoors. In addition to outdoor adventure and interpretive programs however, Banff's museums are family-oriented so there is alway something to see on a rainy day.
Lake Agnes and Tearoom – The trail head for this hike lies an hour west of Banff, on the shores of spectacular Lake Louise. Lake Agnes is one of the area's most popular hikes for a reason. For a relatively modest effort (4km or 2.5 mi), you’ll view a sub-alpine lake and waterfall as well as the "lake in the clouds." A bowl of soup or snack on the rustic tea-house porch later, and the kids will have the energy to continue to the "Beehives" nearby.
Gondolas – For those who want ultimate Rocky Mountain views without the sweat, the gondolas at Sulphur Mountain and Lake Louise both fit the bill. Wear appropriate footwear for the short strolls at the top and bring your camera!
Hiking and Climbing – Banff is known as a hiker’s mecca, its trails and summits cited as vacation "highlights" from many foreign visitors. There are a vast number of hiking trails to explore. Even novices can manage Tunnel Mountain however, accessible within Banff townsite. Grab a map, a bag lunch and enjoy a day hike. Those who want more of a challenge may strap on a pack, hire a guide and explore the backcountry. Want to learn the ropes of technical climbing? Take a mountaineering course! Or, take it to the next level with heli-hiking. Get up to the moment info about trail conditions from Parks Canada.
Biking – Enthusiasts will find plenty of road biking and mountain biking in the Banff area, from a flat paved path next to the Bow River to challenging climbs and steep descents.
Canoeing, Rafting, Floating – Paddle in a crystal-clear mountain lake. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are just two of several canoeing opportunities. Alternatively, be exhilarated by rafting or just float in relaxation on a guided river tour.
Golf – Golfing in and around Banff is a unique pleasure, though with breath-taking scenery all around and elk cruising the fairways, some report having trouble concentrating on the ball. Try one of the excellent golf courses in the Banff area.
Fishing – Fly-fish the world-famous Bow River for trout or try your luck in one of the local lakes. Hire one of the area’s expert fishing guides to ensure you’ll be within casting distance.
Horseback Riding – a classic way to experience the mountains is on horseback, through a guide or outfitter. Options are many and flexible, from half-day outings to overnight, some combining the experience with rustic backcountry lodges or campfire cookouts and a bedroll under the stars. Saddle up!
Skiing – Come to one of the world’s top destinations for downhill, heli-skiing and snow-cat skiing. Choose from Sunshine Village, with its extra-long season, Lake Louise, Canada’s largest single ski area with four mountain faces and deep powder, or join locals for a night of family skiing on Mt. Norquay. Read more about skiing in Alberta's Rockies.
In addition to skiing and boarding you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, take a sleigh ride, skate on a frozen lake or learn to mush a dog team. Christmas in Banff can be a romantic or family-friendly adventure, it's your choice.Museums, Culture and Festivals
Banff’s thriving arts and culture scene takes a back seat to its splendid setting only for those who haven’t had the chance to experience it.
The Whyte Museum, Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum and Banff Park museum are dedicated respectively to mountain culture and history, First Nations traditional activities and culture and flora and fauna of the region. All are fascinating, family-friendly treasure troves of photos, artifacts, and oral and visual history. Or, for a sporty change of pace, check out the ski museum!
The Banff Centre’s Summer Arts Festival offers world-class performances and events but Banff offers performing arts events all year long. Festivals include diverse offerings from mountain literature and film to food and wine and even ice carving. Take Banff’s Culture Walk and get an insider’s view or peruse the highly acclaimed art and photography galleries.Spa and Wellness
Visitors have been coming to Banff for a hundred years to nourish their body and spirit with treatments and the tradition continues, from full-service luxury pampering to rejuvenating day spa treatments. Browse the spa and wellness options.Shopping
From souvenirs to mountain-themed literature to maple-flavoured candy, high-tech outdoor clothing and gear to après-ski wear and jewellery, shopping in Banff and Lake Louise is a sport unto itself.Restaurants and Nightlife
Banff has a wide variety of restaurants, bakeries and cafes to choose from, ranging from elegant and innovative to casually inspired. Sample Alberta bison or wild B.C. salmon; many restaurants are locally focused but the town caters as much to an international clientele. After dark, dance the night away in a nightclub or relax those trail or ski-weary legs in a comfortable lounge.
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Photo credits: Lake Louise window courtesy of Glen Larson; Interior with fireplace courtesy of Travel Alberta
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