Banff is beautiful. If it’s not already, put it on your bucket list, ASAP.
We went in September 2016, but we stayed in Canmore, AB. It was one of my favorite trips to date, and I would go back every year. There’s plenty to see and do, and depending on the time of year, there are starkly different things to see and do.
The time of year you go to Banff, AB, really should be decided based on what you want to do while you’re there. Banff is an outdoorsman’s haven — hiking, camping, kayaking, and winter sports like skiing or ice-skating and snowshoeing.
From a budgetary standpoint, the shoulder season is prime: mid-September to mid-October. There are fewer people, less crowds, not to mention accommodation and airfare is (typically) less expensive.
Luxury: The Fairmont Banff Springs
Even if you just splurge on staying one night, it’s worth it; if you’re visiting the area for a special occasion, even if you don’t stay at the Fairmont, they have a luxurious spa experience that’s a can’t-miss.
Moderate: Blackstone Mountain Lodge
In Canmore, Blackstone is a nice alternative to staying in Banff. Canmore is just as charming as the neighboring Banff and only a scenic 20-minute drive away.
Budget: King Edward Inn
There are actually several budget options in Banff, as it is a popular destination for backpackers; however the King Edward Inn looks to be the best bang for your buck. It’s located in downtown Banff, which is amazingly convenient.
Activities + Experiences
- Banff Gondola (Pro tip: get tickets online at least a day or two beforehand)
- SUP, Kayak, or Canoe
- Two Jack Lake | Banff
- Bow Valley River | Banff River Canoe Co.
- Lake Louise | Banff
- Moraine Lake | Banff
- Grassi Lakes | Canmore
- Lake Agnes Teahouse | Banff
- Rockpile | Banff
- Tunnel Mountain | Banff
- Bike to Banff on the Legacy Trail. The Brave Little Cheesehead recommends renting bikes from Gear Up or Trail Sports in Canmore (and to remember to rent bear spray); ride around Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka for photos, and eat at Grizzly Bear for dinner. Bike back to Canmore.
- Raft Kicking Horse | Yoho National Park | British Columbia
- Helicopter Tour of Banff or Canmore | Banff Adventures Banff
- Dog Sledding | Mad Dogs and Englismen Expeditions | Banff
- Bow Valley Parkway | Banff
- Banff Upper Hot Springs | Banff
- Johnston Canyon (YES! This was a favorite of ours) | Banff
- Emerald Lake | Yoho National Park | British Columbia
- Peyto Lake | Banff
- Vermillion Lakes | Banff
Breakfast + Brunch
- Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. | Canmore
- Summit Cafe | Canmore
- Melissa’s Missteak | Banff
- Evelyn’s Coffee | Banff
Lunch + Dinner
- Safeway (great sandwiches for picnics and/or lunch on the go) | The Blissful Balance | Banff
- Grizzly Bear | Banff
- Grizzly Paw Brewing Co. | Canmore
- Saltlik Steakhouse | Banff & Calgary
- The Bison | Banff
- The Bear Street Tavern | Banff
Tips + Tricks
To visit any of Banff National Park, which surrounds the city of Banff itself, you will have to pay an entrance fee. Once you buy a pass (depending on the length of your stay), you can skip the toll stop. To learn more about the park passes and what that entails, visit the Parks Canada website.
In 2017, however, entrance to all parks in Canada is free!
Parks Canada is inviting Canadians and visitors from around the world to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary at our national treasures from coast to coast to coast.
To mark this special year, we’re offering free admission to all Parks Canada locations, and we want you to join us for the celebration.
The US dollar is stronger than the Canadian dollar as of 2016.
Most likely, you’ll fly into Calgary, which is about an hour and a half drive to Banff or Canmore, so you may want to stay the night in Calgary. It’s a big city, so there’s plenty to see and do!
When packing, remember it’s generally just a little bit colder than you might expect. Layers is the name of the game, and if you’re planning on hiking, proper footwear is necessary.
Weirdly, Banff has really great public restrooms (like in the middle of town).