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What To Do In Banff: A Curated Travel Guide

Are you looking to visit Banff? I have the perfect curated travel guide to tell you all you need to know to experience all the highlights Banff has to offer.

Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a food lover, or a history buff, Banff has something for everyone!

In this travel guide, I’m going to share all the highlights and what to do in Banff. I’ll give you tips to make your Banff Itinerary trip planning efficient. So you can make the most of your time visiting Banff. Let’s start!

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HIGHLIGHTS & MUST-SEe in banff

What To Do In Banff

HOW TO VISIT BANFF

Best Way to Get To Banff

Getting to Banff

Banff National Park is located in western Canada, approximately 1.5 hours west of Calgary, Alberta. There are several options for getting to Banff, including:

The Best Tours to Banff

You can take a tour to see Banff if you don’t want to drive or rent a car.

Using Trains and Buses

The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury train that offers a unique scenic train ride through the Canadian Rockies, with a stop in Banff. This option is more expensive than flying or driving, but it offers a unique and unforgettable way to experience the area!

Renting a Car to Banff

Banff is easily accessible by car, with several major highways leading into the area. You can rent a car From Calgary, you can take the Trans-Canada Highway 1 west to Banff, a distance of approximately 130 km – 1.5 hours.

Flying Into Calgary

The closest major airport to Banff is Calgary International Airport. Located approximately 90 minutes away. You can rent a car or pre-book a transfer or shuttle.

WHERE TO STAY IN BANFF

The Best Place to Stay in Banff

Where should you stay in Banff? Visiting a beautiful place like Banff is about maximizing your time and being efficient with your itinerary. Therefore, proximity and convenience are top priorities!

Let’s talk about where you should stay in Banff; including Banff town, Canmore, and within the park itself

I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each area, as well as some of my top recommended accommodations in each location. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort or a secluded cabin in the woods, you’ll find the perfect place to stay during your trip to Banff. Just remember, Banff accommodations get snatched up fast, so booking 6 months or more ahead is best!

Banff National Park


The Most Convenient

$$$$

Staying in the park allows for easy access to all the natural attractions and outdoor activities that Banff has to offer.

Banff Town


Great midpoint

$$$

Easy access to shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Located 20 minutes from Banff National park

Canmore


A more affordable option

$$

Accommodations in include hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals. Canmore is located just 45 minutes outside of Banff National Park.

Calgary


The Furthest

Accommodations, including hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals. Calgary is located 80 minutes from Banff National Park

THE BEST HOTELS IN BANFF

Where To Stay In Banff

When curating this list, I consider three main points: reviews by other guests, the value of what you’re getting, as well as the proximity to all the highlights that Banff has to offer. Pricing is average for the area, but the closer you are to the attractions, the higher the price. So depending on what kind of trip and experience you’re seeking; you can’t go wrong with any of these top picks on where to stay in Banff.

POPULAR THINGS TO DO IN BANFF

Top Things To Do In Banff

Here is a curated list of Banff’s highlights and must-do activities, what Banff is known for, and the most popular and the best things to do in Banff ( Click on the down arrow to expand the panel)

Wildlife Tours: Banff National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, bears, and bighorn sheep. Wildlife tours offer the opportunity to view these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.

Sunrise Tours at the Lakes: Since the ban on personal vehicles, these sunrise tours are a great no hassle option to view Moraine Lake for Sunrise. Book in advance as they will sell out.

Hiking Tours: Banff National Park offers some of the best hiking in the world, with over 1,600 kilometers of trails. Guided hiking tours are available if you want the safety of a knowledgeable guide.

Canoe Tours: Canoe tours offer a unique and peaceful way to explore the stunning lakes of Banff National Park, including Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

Horseback Riding Tours: Horseback riding tours offer a unique and memorable way to explore the stunning scenery of Banff National Park.

Cultural Tours: Banff offers a rich history and cultural heritage, with tours available to explore the Banff Park Museum, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, and other cultural attractions.

Food and Drink Tours: Banff offers a variety of culinary experiences, with food and drink tours available to explore the local cuisine and beverages.

Lake Louise: One of the most iconic destinations in Banff National Park, Lake Louise is known for its turquoise waters and stunning mountain scenery.

Moraine Lake: Another iconic destination in Banff, Moraine Lake offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and is a popular spot for hiking and canoeing.

read these related articles:

20 Tips to Visiting Lake Moraine for Sunrise

What to do at Lake Moraine

How to get parking at Moraine Lake 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Canada’s Most Scenic Routes: Icefields Parkway Drive

Banff Gondola: The Banff Gondola offers a scenic ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Banff Upper Hot Springs: The Banff Upper Hot Springs offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, with natural hot springs set against the stunning mountain scenery.

Icefields Parkway: One of the most scenic drives in the world, the Icefields Parkway offers breathtaking views of glaciers, lakes, and mountains. Leave your car and take a tour of the Icefields Parkway.

Banff Park Museum: The Banff Park Museum offers a fascinating look at the history and natural wonders of Banff National Park.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site: The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is the birthplace of Canada’s national parks system and offers a look at the history and geology of the area.

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity: The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is a world-renowned center for arts and culture, offering performances, exhibits, and workshops.

Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies: The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies offers a look at the history and culture of the Canadian Rockies, with exhibits on art, history, and natural wonders.

Explore the Lakes: Banff National Park is known for its stunning turquoise lakes, including Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Peyto Lake. Visitors can enjoy hiking, canoeing, or simply admiring the breathtaking scenery.

Go Hiking: With over 1,600 kilometers of trails, Banff National Park offers some of the best hiking in the world. From easy walks to challenging mountain hikes, there is a trail for every level of experience.

Visit the Hot Springs: The Banff Upper Hot Springs offers a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, with natural hot springs set against the stunning mountain scenery.

Take a Scenic Drive: The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the world, offering breathtaking views of glaciers, lakes, and mountains.

Go Wildlife Viewing: Banff National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, bears, and bighorn sheep. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a safe distance in several areas of the park.

Explore Banff Town: Banff town offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions, including the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

Take a Guided Tour: There are several guided tours available in Banff National Park, including hiking tours, wildlife tours, and scenic drives.

Go Skiing or Snowboarding: Banff National Park is home to several world-class ski resorts, including Banff Mount Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Sunshine Village.

Banff Avenue: the heart of downtown Banff with many shops to peruse.

Sipping on a hot cup of coffee is the perfect way to start your day in Banff, and luckily, there is no shortage of amazing coffee shops to choose from. From cozy cafes to trendy roasteries, Banff has something for every coffee lover. In this guide, we will explore the best coffee shops in Banff and help you find your new favorite spot.

Whitebark Cafe

Located inside the iconic Banff Springs Hotel, Whitebark Cafe is the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee before heading out to explore the town. They serve a wide variety of coffee drinks, from classic drip coffee to creative lattes, and their pastries are always fresh and delicious. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make this a must-visit spot.

Wild Flour Bakery

Their coffee is roasted in-house, and their baked goods are always fresh and tasty. The rustic decor and comfortable seating make this a great place to spend a rainy afternoon.

Evelyn’s Coffee Bar

Evelyn’s Coffee Bar is a trendy spot located in the heart of Banff’s downtown area. They serve a variety of coffee drinks, including espresso-based drinks, pour-overs, and cold brew. Their baked goods are made fresh every day, and their menu also includes a variety of breakfast and lunch options. The minimalist decor and friendly staff make this a great place to hang out with friends or get some work done.

Good Earth Coffeehouse

Good Earth Coffeehouse is a popular Canadian chain that has a location in Banff. They serve a variety of organic and fair trade coffee drinks, as well as a variety of tea and baked goods. Their cozy seating area and friendly staff make this a great place to relax after a long day of exploring the town.

Balkan

If you’re looking for something a little different, Balkan is the perfect spot. This Mediterranean-style cafe serves a variety of coffee drinks, as well as delicious pastries and sandwiches. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make this a great place to spend an afternoon.

Tips for Finding the Best Coffee in Banff

  • Ask locals: Locals are often the best resource when it comes to finding hidden gems in a town. Ask your hotel staff or anyone you meet on the street for their favorite coffee shops in Banff.
  • Look for freshly roasted coffee: Many of the best coffee shops in Banff roast their own coffee, which ensures that the coffee is always fresh and flavorful.
  • Consider the atmosphere: Whether you’re looking for a cozy spot to relax or a trendy spot to people-watch, there is a coffee shop in Banff for you. Consider the atmosphere and seating options when choosing your coffee spot.

If you’re up for a fun night out in Banff after exploring all day, Banff also has a thriving nightlife scene. From cozy bars to lively nightclubs, Banff has something for everyone. Here are some of the best places to experience the nightlife in Banff.

The Dancing Sasquatch

The Dancing Sasquatch, such a fitting name, is nightclub located in the heart of Banff. They feature a variety of music, from top 40 hits to EDM, and their lively atmosphere and friendly staff. If you’re looking for a night of dancing and fun, The Dancing Sasquatch is the perfect spot!

High Rollers

High Rollers is a popular spot for those looking for a night of fun and games. They feature a variety of arcade games, as well as bowling and ping pong. They also have a menu of delicious pizzas and cocktails, making it the perfect spot for a night out with friends.

The Elk & Oarsman

The Elk & Oarsman is a classic Canadian-style pub located on Banff Avenue. They feature a menu of classic pub food and a variety of beers on tap. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make it a great spot to relax with friends after a day of skiing or hiking.

WHERE TO EAT IN BANFF

The Best Restaurants in Banff

Here is a curated list of my personal favorites best places to eat in Banff. Some are the most popular, unique, and highly rated restaurants and experiences in Banff and some are gems I stumbled upon when I was visiting,

(CLICK ON THE DOWNWARD ARROW TO EXPAND THE PANEL)

Poutine: There’s probably nothing as quintessential Canadian must-try food as poutine. Don’t sleep on Mcdonald’s poutine. It’s delicious! If you want a more official Poutine spot, try  Beavertail .

Evelyn’s Coffee Bar

Evelyn’s Coffee Bar is a trendy spot located in the heart of Banff’s downtown area. They serve a variety of breakfast dishes, including avocado toast, breakfast sandwiches, and yogurt bowls. They also have a variety of coffee drinks and baked goods, making it the perfect spot for a morning pick-me-up.

Wild Flour Bakery

Wild Flour Bakery is a cozy spot located on Banff Avenue. They specialize in fresh-baked goods, including croissants, muffins, and scones. They also serve a variety of breakfast sandwiches and quiches, as well as coffee and tea.

Tooloulou’s

If you’re looking for something a little different, Tooloulou’s is the perfect spot. They specialize in Cajun and Creole cuisine, with dishes like jambalaya, gumbo, and beignets. They also serve a variety of classic breakfast dishes, including eggs benedict and pancakes. The funky decor and friendly staff make it a great spot for a laid-back breakfast.

Melissa’s Missteak

if you’re looking for a classic breakfast spot, Melissa’s Missteak is the perfect choice. They specialize in hearty breakfast dishes, including omelets, pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make it a great spot to start your day.

Eden

At the Rimrock Hotel serves french modern cuisine. It’s the only Five-Diamond Restaurant in all of Western Canada. It’s a treat to your senses and taste buds.

Banff Ave Brewing Co

Locally brewed craft beer. Grab a cold one and a delicious plate to go with it.

Ramen Arashi

Their take on ramen to warm your soul after a long day of exploring is just what you need.

The Grizzly House

come here for the fondue, and stay for the exotic selection of meat! Serving up bison, elk and even ostrich. Finish the meal with a hearty chocolate fondue.

Shoku Izakaya

a classic Japanese izakaya serving some of the tried but true dishes like sashimi, sushi, and yakitori.

Rose & Crown

The Rose & Crown is a classic British-style pub located on Banff Avenue. They feature a wide variety of beers on tap and a menu of traditional pub food. The cozy atmosphere makes it a great spot to relax with friends after a long day of exploring Banff.

The Devil’s Gap

If you’re looking for a unique experience, The Devil’s Gap is the perfect spot. This speakeasy-style bar is hidden behind a false wall inside the Bear Street Tavern. They feature a variety of craft cocktails and a cozy atmosphere that is perfect for a night out with friends.

Banff Boba: Surprisingly delicious boba spot in the heart of downtown Banff! I loved the quality here.

HELPFUL TIPS FOR VISITING BAFF

Things You Need To Know Visiting Banff

Here are the highlights and recommend things to do

LANGUAGE

English is the predominant language spoken in Banff. Most locals and business owners speak English fluently, and all signs and menus are written in English. However, Banff is located in a bilingual province, and many locals also speak French.

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ELECTRICAL OUTLETS

Banff, like the rest of Canada, uses Type A and Type B electrical outlets. These are the same outlets used in the United States and are compatible with most North American electronic devices. T

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AIRPORT

YYC -Aiport code
The Nearest airport is in Calgary, Alberta about 90 mins from Banff.

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WEATHER

weather varies by the season. See below at FAQ’s for a full answer

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CURRENCY

credit cards and USD are widely accepted. The official currency is the Canadian Dollar

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FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

Best Time to Visit Banff

I visited in September and it was a great in-between season with warm temperatures still and long days. The crowds and costs were about the same as the busy summer season but it worked out great. No matter what season you chose, there will be something unique to experience!

Here are some things to consider when deciding the best time to visit Banff:

Summer (June-August):

  • Summer is the peak season in Banff National Park, with warm weather and long daylight hours.
  • This is the best time to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and water sports.
  • Expect crowds and higher prices for accommodations and activities.

Fall (September-November):

  • Fall offers cooler temperatures and beautiful fall foliage.
  • This is a great time to visit for those who prefer quieter trails and less crowded attractions.
  • Some activities and attractions may be closed or have limited hours.

Winter (December-February):

  • Winter in Banff National Park offers a winter wonderland experience, with snow-covered mountains and frozen lakes.
  • This is the best time for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating.
  • Winter also offers the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.
  • Expect colder temperatures and shorter daylight hours.

Spring (March-May):

  • Spring offers milder temperatures and longer daylight hours.
  • This is a great time to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and wildlife viewing.
  • Some attractions and roads may be closed or have limited hours.

I recommend 3-5 days in Banff to see all the highlights for a moderate speed of travel. Allowing one day for each of the main lakes is ideal.

I recommend Banff for its closer proximity to all the main attractions. Staying in Calgary is doable but it is about 90 mins drive each way.

Distance between Lake Louise and Banff

Lake Louise is located approximately 36 miles (58 kilometers) northwest of Banff. The two destinations are connected by the scenic Bow Valley Parkway, which is a popular route for road trips and sightseeing.

There is not Uber service in Banff. However, there are Taxi services.

Although it is completely possible to see Banff without a car. It may offer more flexibility and convenience to have one if you plan on seeing sites at your own pace. Although it’s possible to take a hands-off approach and let the expert do all the driving! Book a Tour, take a luxury train, there are many options.

Weather in Banff by Season

Spring (March – May): Spring in Banff can be a mix of snow, rain, and sunshine. Temperatures range from about 20°F to 60°F (-7°C to 16°C), with occasional snowfall and chilly evenings.

Summer (June – August): Summer in Banff is generally warm and sunny, with temperatures ranging from about 50°F to 80°F (10°C to 27°C). The days are long, with up to 16 hours of daylight, making it the perfect time for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and kayaking.

Fall (September – November): Fall in Banff is marked by crisp, cool weather and stunning fall foliage. Temperatures range from about 20°F to 60°F (-7°C to 16°C), and the days begin to shorten as winter approaches.

Winter (December – February): Winter in Banff is cold and snowy, with temperatures ranging from about -10°F to 30°F (-23°C to -1°C). Heavy snowfall is common, making it the perfect time for winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

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