If you type “Canada travel” into Google image search, guess what you’ll find? Images of the stunning, blue-green lakes and snowcapped peaks of Banff National Park.
People all over the world automatically envision Banff and Lake Louise when they think of Canada – a destination idea that inspires the ultimate Canadian holiday experience. So, here are some ideas of places to visit and things to try in Banff, to make the most of your visit.
1. VISIT CANADA’S FIRST NATIONAL PARK
It all started in 1883 when three Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled upon an exquisite hot spring cave on Sulphur Mountain. They tried to claim ownership of the springs, sparking a chain of events that led to the formation of Banff National Park in 1885 – the first reserve of natural beauty in Canada.
2. SIP ON SPIRITS FROM A NATIONAL PARK DISTILLERY
Park Distillery uses glacier fresh water to ensure its small-batch gin, vodka and rye divulge the true flavors of the mountains. Stop by to sample the proprietary maple rye, bird’s eye chili vodka, or alpine dry gin, but don’t leave without trying Shaft on Draft; a coffee-laced delight that locals were drinking long before espresso martinis were a thing.
3. EXPLORE FIRST NATIONS HERITAGE AT THE BUFFALO NATIONS LUXTON MUSEUM
Dive into the world of the Buffalo Nations people, who once moved their camp seasonally through the stunning landscapes of Banff National Park, following the great buffalo herds. From richly ornamented regalia to unique hunting equipment, explore a mesmerizing cultural celebration of Banff and Lake Louise.
4. EMBRACE ALBERTA’S COWBOY SPIRIT ON A TRAIL RIDE
Saddle-up partner, you’re headed out on a horseback adventure through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Banff Trail Riders can take customize your experience, taking you on a leisurely carriage ride through town or whisking you into the wild on a multi-day horseback campout or lodge stay.
5. SPOT CANADA’S FAVOURITE WILDLIFE
If you visit at the right time of year it’s highly likely you’ll spot a bear in Banff National Park, but these furry favorites are just the beginning. Elk and deer are a common sighting on the streets of Banff and Lake Louise, and mountain goats and big horned sheep are often seen on the roads to the ski resorts.
You may even be lucky enough to spot a moose or hear the slap of a beaver’s tail on the waters of the Bow River. Remember to keep your distance and help keep our wildlife wild.
6. STAY IN A MOUNTAIN CABIN
Here’s another chance to put yourself in a scene from a Canadian postcard; stay at a rustic cabin nestled amidst the soaring evergreens of Banff National Park.
We love Baker Creek Mountain Resort, Castle Mountain Chalets, Storm Mountain Lodge, and Emerald Lake Lodge, accessible by car but worlds away from reality.
If you’re feeling adventurous, ski into Skoki Lodge or hike to Sundance Lodge for a backcountry experience.
7. REVEL IN SOME OF CANADA’S MOST BEAUTIFUL WATER
We’ve all experienced FOMO thanks to that iconic image of the red canoe paddling across aqua-colored waters, but in Banff National Park it’s easy to put yourself in the picture. Rent a canoe from the Banff Canoe Club and paddle along Banff’s Bow River.
8. CYCLE THE BOW VALLEY PARKWAY
A section of the Bow Valley Parkway has recently been closed to cars, meaning cyclists and pedestrians can explore this scenic stretch of road at their leisure. It’s a renowned wildlife sighting hotspot, so keep your camera handy.
9. VISIT CANADA’S HIGHEST ALPINE COMMUNITY
Feel like getting high? Wander through the hamlet of Lake Louise, the most elevated community in Canada. With the Lake Louise Ski Resort and Summer Gondola in one direction and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in the other, you really can’t go wrong in this gorgeous mountain town.
10. APPRECIATE AWE-INSPIRING MOMENTS
You don’t have to be an extreme adventurer to enjoy Banff National Park. The powerful beauty of this place is easy to experience, whether you’re goggling at Castle Mountain on a scenic drive, taking an easy paddle on blue-green waters, or browsing the shops and galleries of Bear Street.
11. GOLF AT ONE OF THE MOST SCENIC COURSES IN THE WORLD
The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is commonly listed among the most beautiful golf courses in the world. As you tee off towards Mount Rundle or drive your cart beside the rushing Bow River you can’t help but agree. Wrap up your day on this designer golf course with a drink on the balcony of the Waldhaus Pub & Biergarten.
12. MARVEL AT THE PHENOMENON OF ALPENGLOW
Catch the Banff Gondola to the summit of Sulphur Mountain for the ultimate sunset experience. In summer you’ll be treated to live music as you marvel at the mountain views, but the wonder of alpenglow is yours to enjoy all year round. Check sunset times before you visit, as it can vary from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. throughout the year.
13. SKI AT CANADA’S BEST RESORT
In 2019 the Lake Louise Ski Resort was voted Canada’s Best Ski Resort in the renowned World Ski Awards, the sixth time the family-owned resort has enjoyed this honor. Spend a day amidst the epic terrain, fluffy snow, and jaw-dropping views of Whitehorn Mountain and you’ll soon discover why.
14. VISIT THE CASTLE IN THE ROCKIES
The spires of the Fairmont Banff Springs rise above the tops of the evergreens like those of a fairytale castle. You can book a suite at this luxurious hotel, or visit for the day to take a foodie tour, explore the haunted staircase and browse a range of shops and art galleries.
15. CRUISE ONE OF THE LARGEST LAKES IN THE CANADIAN ROCKY MOUNTAINS
Deep blue waters and a horizon ringed with majestic peaks are the calling cards of Lake Minnewanka or Lake of the Spirits. For an unforgettable perspective, enjoy the smooth sailing of a Lake Minnewanka Cruise, offered every day in the warmer months of the year.