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Banff, Canada, when to go, what to see, and more travel tips

Story by: Erin Burns     Date: 14 May 2022    Image by: Unsplash | Andy Holmes

5 minutes reading time Canada

A picturesque town nestled amid the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada is Banff. It is a bustling but small town of just over 8,300 residents. Banff is located entirely within the boundaries of Banff National Park. The park is Canada’s oldest and most famous national park. People from across the globe seek out Banff for its thrills and incredible vistas.

The surrounding area offers something for every type of vacationer. You can spend your days relaxing at the spa or playing a game of golf. Or, if you’re more of a thrill-seeking type the mountains offer skiing and mounting biking. There are also plenty of activities for children and young families.

Calgary International Airport

How to get to Banff

The best way to get to Banff is to get a flight into Calgary, Alberta. The Calgary International Airport is a large international hub and has services from many locations and airlines. The scenic and exciting drive to Banff takes only 90 minutes from the airport. A shuttle is available from the airport to Banff, or you may choose to rent a car. While a rental car is the easiest way to get around, as the areas to explore are vast, it is not necessary. Many hotels offer shuttles to popular destinations in and around Banff National Park. The town also offers a public bus system.

Banff National Park, Canada in the summer

When to visit Banff

Summer is the most popular time to visit Banff. In the summer the weather is pleasant during the day and cool at night. Banff is among the mountains and can be cool to chilly, even in the height of summer. At an elevation of 4,537 feet, the average high temperate in July is 64° Fahrenheit. Weather changes fast at high elevations. You should pack for the possibility of rain, wind, and even snow.

Banff Hiking Adventures

Hiking and other stuff to do

Popular activities in the summer include hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, and more. For hikers of all abilities, the Lake Louise Shoreline Trail guides you around one of the most photographed lakes in the world. For more advanced hikers, check out the Big Beehive hike. The reward for this strenuous 6.2-mile hike is the magnificent view of the Bow River Valley, including Lake Louise. If the vibrant blue waters of the alpine lakes attract you, Emerald Lake, Moraine Lake, and Lake Louise offer canoe rentals.

For more family-friendly fun, take a wildlife safari or a tour of the Cascade of Time Garden. A ride of the Banff Gondola will give the entire family, kids and adults alike, memories that last.

Lake Louise winter festival

Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise

You might be surprised to find that Banff is a town that is busy in the winter too. One of the most magnificent events is the Ice Magic Festival which occurs each winter. The festival brings together the world’s best ice carvers in a competition. The impressive ice carvings are on display for several days during the festival. At night, they’re even more spectacular lit up. Continue the winter fun by ice skating at Lake Louise. Finish the day with a stop at the nearby Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to warm up and sip on decadent hot chocolate.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Where to stay in Banff

There are lodging options in Banff for every budget. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise mentioned above is 5-star luxury accommodation. This hotel sits right on the banks of the lake and offers extravagant amenities. Relish a full-service spa, upscale restaurant, indoor pool, babysitting services, and much more. The sister hotel, The Fairmont Banff Springs, offers a similar elegant experience, located in the town of Banff.

There are many reasonably priced hotels in Banff and nearby Canmore if you’re looking for a budget-friendly stay. Places like Canmore Inn and Suites and Blackstone Mountain Lodge offer comfortable options. You can expect typical hotel amenities at these locations. Travelers looking to stretch their dollars should book the YWCA or Samesun Banff. Both offer hostel-type accommodations at inexpensive rates.

Banff Restaurants

Best places to eat in Banff

If you want house-made spirits and campfire-inspired cuisine, head over to Park Distillery. Their menu features craft cocktails, beer, and unique offerings like a bison burger and kale hummus. Roast chicken and s’mores dessert fit well with their camp-themed decor and menu.

Sky Bistro offers a dining experience at the top of Sulphur Peak, which you can reach by the Banff Gondola. Imagine the sunset views as you sip wine and devour braised beef short rib.

For a casual lunch, head to Bear Street Tavern and enjoy pulled pork nachos, fresh-made pizza, and beer. They offer salads too if healthy eating is your preference.

Your vacation simply would not be complete without a pastry and coffee from Wild Flour. They use free-range eggs and fresh ingredients, and everything is made in-house, so you know it is going to be good. If you plan to hike later, grab some sandwiches to-go for a lunch you can enjoy on a mountaintop.

Banff National Park

Banff is a world-renowned travel destination for a reason. There is so much to do, see, and explore that you can pack your vacation to the brim. You will also fit right in if you want to have a slow and relaxing vacation soaking in all nature has to offer. This little mountain town truly has it all.

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