18 Fun Things to Do in Banff Town, Alberta

One of the biggest tourist destinations in Canada is Banff and with good reason.

Banff is a charming town nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and is a gateway to a world of adventure and exploration, from beautiful hikes to relaxing in the hot springs – you’ll find there are plenty of things to do in Banff. You took possession.

yellow trees next to turquoise bow river
amazing color

While most people visit Banff to explore the national park, we urge you to spend a few days exploring the town.

Many attractions in Banff are worth visiting, although they are often passed over for more iconic attractions like Lake Louise.

So if you’re not sure what to do in Banff, in this guide we share some of the top attractions and travel tips so you can arrive armed with the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.

Is Banff in Canada worth visiting?

People walking on the main road with a mountain at the end
Banff Main Street

Banff is a town known as the gateway to the Canadian Rockies, where you’ll find some of the best mountain scenery on the planet.

Banff is a charming town located within Banff National Canada’s first national park, and is known for its stunning mountain surroundings, turquoise lakes, and hot springs, and for being one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations.

The town of Banff has a vibrant downtown area with quaint streets, boutique shops, and a variety of cultural attractions, including art galleries and museums.

The city is a gateway to many outdoor adventures, like exploring pristine lakes, taking scenic drives, or going on thrilling wildlife tours.

Take advantage of the excellent opportunities to see wildlife (especially bears, deer, and elk), and plenty of activities to keep you busy during the day, followed by everything from budget to delicious food at night, and you’re You will find that Banff is worth a visit.

har banff
An elk so close we could almost smell his breath

Things to do in Banff Town

It is possible to spend 1-2 days in the city of Banff and see all the main attractions, but at the same time, you can spend a month in the general area and visit the national park.

However, below are the Banff town attractions that you should not miss.

1. Visit Banff Upper Hot Springs

Mountain and valley view from Banff Upper Hot Springs
View from Banff Upper Hot Springs

Relax your body in the 37-40C water found at the historic site Banff Upper Hot SpringsPerched on top of Sulfur Mountain while you enjoy views of Mount Rundle.

The springs have been used by indigenous people for many centuries but became popular in the late 1800s when they began to be used by railroad workers.

Open all year round it is an especially soothing place to visit on those cool, muggy days.

If you forgot to bring your bathing suit, don’t worry, you can also rent one.

2. Ride the Banff Gondola

Banff Gondola with mountain views

If you want to see the view from above, ride this Sulfur Mountain Gondola, The eight-minute ride takes you to the mountain peaks of Sulfur Mountain at an altitude of 2300 feet.

From here you can enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of Banff and the national park beyond.

Once at the top, take a one-kilometer interpretive walk along the Banff Skywalk, keeping an eye out for wildlife.

It is open daily in summer from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm or 9:00 pm depending on the month.

3. Boat Cruise on Lake Minnewanka

Boats at the pier on Lake Minnewanka

take a boat trip to Lake Minnewanka largest lake in the Canadian Rockies.

Not only do you get amazing views from the boat, but it’s also an opportunity to see wildlife like grizzly bears and elk from a safe distance.

You’ll also see some of Banff’s majestic waterfalls and learn about the history and ecology of the area through informative commentaries.

If you prefer to be more active on your vacation, you can also rent a motorboat, kayak, or canoe and explore Lake Minnewanka that way.

4. Visit the White Museum

Brick exterior of the White Museum
White Museum

go towards White Museum. These include extensive archives and libraries, visual arts with a Canadian Rockies theme, and a collection of historical relics used for skiing and snowboarding, mountaineering, guiding, packing, and more.

5. Visit Banff Park Museum

See stuffed animal models of moose, bears, foxes, and birds at the Banff Park Museum.

It is the oldest natural history museum in Canada. Built-in 1903, it uses decorative log construction and utilizes natural light.

6. Visit Hiking Trails

Hiking on the path to the little beehive

Go hiking and biking in Banff. There are so many trails to choose from that it’s worth chatting with a park ranger and seeing what they recommend based on your ability and time frame.

Their office is on Banff Avenue in the center of the city.

A bike and hike shuttle has started that will drop you off and pick you up at some nearby trailheads. You can rent mountain bikes in town from Backtracks.

7. Go skiing at Banff Ski Resorts

snowy sunny village

In winter there are two ski resorts within walking distance of Banff – Sunshine Village (brilliant when it’s sunny) and Mount Norquay (Standing) and both have shuttle buses.

One of the reasons Banff is so coveted for skiing is that you can ski for 7 months of the year, making it the longest-open ski resort in Canada.

Lake Louise Ski Resort is thirty minutes up the highway.

8. Visit Johnstone Canyon

river flowing through a snow covered valley
Heading up the snow-covered banks of Johnston Valley

I highly recommend a trip to Johnstone Canyon, about 25 minutes away, any time of year.

It’s an easy climb of 1.1 or 2.7 kilometers one way, depending on whether you want to see the lower or upper falls.

I would recommend wearing crampons or Yaktrax for a grip on snow in winter.

9. Check out restaurants in Banff

bakery items in cabinet
Some Healthy Options from Wild Flower Bakery

Try for breakfast and lunch Wild Dough Bakery Café, Jump Start or Timbers Food Company; All are within about three blocks of each other.

Probably the most expensive choice would be Saltlick Restaurant, a place that specializes in beef, although there are many other options.

what to do in banff
Saltlick Restaurant

Other places to try are Eddie’s Burgers Bar – for burgers but also poutine and deep-fried pickles. you can’t go wrong Earl’s For reasonably priced food and great ambiance.

Be sure to try the Alberta Beef and Buffalo, a Banff specialty.

We had a great farm-to-table experience at this Banff restaurant. field and fire The menu features only the freshest ingredients from local Canadian farmers, slow-roasted and cooked over a wood fire.

If eating with a group, make it a shared dining experience with your meat and side dishes. We got some rotisserie chicken to share and delicious dishes of mashed potatoes, succotash, roasted carrots, and cornbread.

10. Check out Banff Avenue Brewing for a pint

Banff Avenue Brewing is An ideal place for food and great beer.

This hidden gem offers a central hub where you can experience the dynamic community and be inspired by the majestic Rocky Mountains.

Whether you’re looking for a casual pub atmosphere or a cozy lodge setting, Banff Avenue Brewing Company has it all.

11. Go shopping on Banff Avenue

street in banff

Most shopping in Banff occurs on Banff Avenue. Unfortunately, I see it mainly as shops catering to tourists, although there are a few exceptions.

There is a store in Patagonia and there are also some galleries worth visiting – Canada House And Willock and Sachs Gallery, There are plenty of opportunities to pick up a T-shirt and maybe a chocolate mousse.

12. Attend a Festival in Banff

what to do in banff

Banff Film Festival One of the major events in Banff that takes place every year in late October and early November.

They have events running throughout the year but it’s best to check their website to see what’s coming up.

The main festival draws an international crowd of writers, filmmakers, and adventurers.

Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival This year it will take place on the weekend of May 4th and 5th. Sample wine, Scotch, beer, and delicious food prepared by local restaurants.

The Banff Summer Arts Festival takes place from June 21 to August 25. You’ll find artists performing from Canada and around the world, including Emmylou Harris this year.

The Banff National Park Dragon Boat Festival will take place on August 11 and 12 this year. With over 500 participants expected, it should be a fun weekend on Lake Minnewanka.

13. Hike to the Bow River

The turquoise Bow River flows under the bridge and is surrounded by yellow trees
Bow River in Banff

Travel to the Bow River; I like the trail out the back of the Banff Springs Hotel.

Park on a rock by the river bank and enjoy the peace of the place. You might even spot an elk.

Note from Caz: On my recent trip to Banff, I spent all day looking at the Bow River from high above the mountains, so when I reached downtown Banff, I wanted to wade down into those gorgeous turquoise waters and it did not disappoint.

It was especially beautiful because of the pop of yellow from the trees.

As soon as I crossed the main bridge, I turned right. If I turned left on the Bow River Trail, I would have a view of Surprise Corner and Bow Falls. Fairmont Banff another popular place to stay in Banff.

14. Visit Moraine Lake

people sitting on the rock looking at the view
a more open approach

You only need a few days to Banff. It’s super easy to explore the surrounding mountains and lakes during the day and return to Banff at night.

It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite side trip, but if you’ve never been to the area I think you should take the thirty-minute drive to Moraine Lake near Lake Louise and walk to the far end of the lake – phenomenal views. And the magnificent color of the lake.

15. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

Bow Valley Parkway

This scenic drive connects the Town of Banff with Lake Louise and is considered a quieter road than the Trans-Canada Highway.

As you drive this 51 km road from Banff to Lake Louise, you will be mesmerized by the lush forests, majestic mountains, and abundant wildlife that grace this scenic route.

Take your time to soak in the beauty of the Bow Valley.

Keep an eye out for wildlife bridges. They blend in with the mountain scenery (though are easily noticeable) and provide a safe way for wildlife to cross the highway.

Check out what it looks like in the reel below:

16. Visit Cave and Basin National Historic Site

View of Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff, Canada
Cave and Basin National Historic Site submit photos

Cave and Basin National Historic Site is a mesmerizing underground cave filled with thermal mineral waters that gave birth to the National Park System.

Visitors to this natural phenomenon benefit from learning about the significance of the site and its connection to the natural wonders of Banff.

Make sure not to miss this site to experience a unique blend of culture, conservation, and natural beauty.

17. View Two Jacks Lake

Island in the middle of Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake is one of the lesser-known lakes near Banff, which is why you should visit it.

With its emerald-green waters and the backdrop of Mount Rundle, this picturesque lake offers a tranquil escape from the crowds you see in the city.

It’s also connected to Lake Minnewanka, so you can visit both lakes at once.

18. Climb Mount Norquay via Ferrata

Are you looking for more adventurous things to do in Banff? Then enjoy the unique ferrata climbing experience on Mount Norquay.

As you climb the cliffs along one of four thrilling routes, you’ll be immersed in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, with panoramic views of Banff and the valleys below.

The Via Ferrata is an exciting way to conquer the summit, although it is not for the faint of heart.

People who are afraid of heights are not able to enjoy this experience. See more about Caz’s experience on the Via Ferrata in his post-Top Things to Do in Banff National Park

19. Admire the views from Mount Norquay Viewpoint

Christina and Caz looking at the Banff viewpoint
Admire the scenes with Christina | Picture Christa from Our Wild Wanderers

If you didn’t get enough views of the Bow River Valley and downtown Banff while hanging from Mount Norquay, there is a viewpoint on the drive down from the Mount Norquay area.

After some switchbacks, you’ll reach a stone wall and a large grassy area known as the Green Spot.

View of the Bo River flowing through the valley
bighorn sheep roadside
picture: Christa from our wild wanderers

This is where you have to park and walk across the grass to reach the lookout point. We saw them on the road just before reaching this Banff viewpoint.

From the parking area, you can walk across green meadows to some stunning views of the Banff Townsite, the Bow River, Vermillion Lake, and the Bow Valley.

Vermilion Lakes in the Valley
Canyon train crossing Vermilion Lakes

As an extremely long freight train passed through the valley with its bright red freight boxes, we timed it right. It was a striking contrast to the yellows, greens, and blues of the valley’s natural autumn landscapes.

I also heard there is the Jupiter Hotel nearby which is a great place to stop for a patio, a meal, or even a drink. As a place to live in Banff.

Getting to and around Banff

The building at the end of the road is surrounded by fallen trees

fly in Calgary and then climb on one shuttle Bus (Free WiFi on Brewster buses) or rent a car.

The drive from the airport to Banff takes approximately 1¾ hours. Banff is not close to any other major cities. It will be about a 5-hour drive from Edmonton or closer to a 9-hour drive Vancouver.

It’s easy to get around Banff on foot or by bike – provided you have a bike. There are some bike rentals here.

but there is one transit system On location and for $2 you can tour the entire town – from the Gondola at Sulfur Mountain to Tunnel Lake Campground.

Buses start running at 6:15 am and the last pickup is at 11:30 pm.

Best time to visit Banff

Banff is truly a year-round destination, although my personal opinion is that it is at its most beautiful in July, August, and September.

The ski season lasts from late November to May.

where to stay in Banff

Bridge over the Bow River with autumn leaves and mountains in the background

There are plenty of options for places to stay in Banff to suit all budgets. Additionally, there is camping on nearby Tunnel Mountain after the snow disappears.

If money is no object I would recommend staying at Iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel,

The current 778-room hotel was built in 1928 and is modeled after a Scottish Colonial castle.

It’s also just minutes away from a hot spring spa.

You may like this Castle and History Dining Tour within the Banff Springs Hotel.

Banff Springs Hotel exterior
Banff Springs Hotel

Buffalo Mountain Lodge Another expensive lodge features post and beam construction. It is about a 15-minute walk from downtown Banff.

is at the other end of the spectrum YWCA Banff Hotel in the past Banff Wye Mountain Lodge,

They have dorm rooms available at a good price (for Banff), with beds available.

They also have private rooms, including a family room. And the manager told me that a third of his customers were from Australia.

final thoughts

Cage sitting on planter box in downtown Banff

Although Banff is the most popular destination in Canada, it still boasts a relaxing atmosphere and tempts you to unplug from your computer.

I never get tired of the scenery and I love the variety of activities available in a small town.

It’s all about enjoying the day out and then rewarding yourself with a great meal at the end.

We hope this guide helped you plan what to do in Banff and gave you some inspiration for your trip!

bio- Leigh lives in Calgary, Alberta, only an hour’s drive from the mountains. She is happiest being out in nature, whether it’s hiking, riding a bike, or sailing in a sea kayak. Follow his journey on his blog, hike bike tour on Twitter @hikebiketravel, or on Facebook.

Sightseeing in Banff

For those who prefer multi-day tours with a touch of luxury, consider the Canadian Rockies Tour offered by our favorite tour company, Globus. Watch their Western Canada tour here.

Globus discounts are just for you!

We’ve got a special travel discount: Save $100 per person On select 2023 and 2024 Globus and Avalon Waterways vacations.

Leave a Comment