Banff National Park is one of Canada’s national treasures, and a world-renowned destination to visit. Banff brings in millions of visitors every year. The area is home to the stunning Rocky Mountains, beautiful lakes such as Lake Louise, and a wide range of summer and winter activities.
The Town of Banff is the nerve center of the national park, and the main hub where people stay. The town has amazing hotels such as the Fairmont and Rimrock, a wide range of nightlife, and an exceptional collection of restaurants.
We’re going to take a look at the best things to do in Banff – in the winter, summer, and year-round.
Things to do in Banff (Year-round)
There is a reason that Banff is a world-renowned tourist destination. There is just so much to do in the area regardless of when you visit. The range of options can be overwhelming for a new visitor, so here are our favorite ones.
Banff Upper Hot Springs. The hot springs are one of Banff’s greatest attractions. Soaking in the hot, mineral-rich water while looking out over the mountains has an unbelievably calming effect. This is a magical experience that has drawn visitors from all over the world to Banff.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. This hotel is a landmark in the Town of Banff, and is an iconic castle built in the 1800’s. From the location, architecture, and grandeur you can tell that no expense was spared when it was initially constructed. It’s also pretty crazy to think about how they got that much construction material to the middle of nowhere back in the 1800’s. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, it is worth it to drop by for brunch or even just a coffee to take in the sights. For the braver souls, there is even a haunted room that has since been sealed off (leave a comment if you’d like to know where it is).
Banff Gondola. This gondola will take you to the top of Sulfur mountain. On the way up you’ll be able to see six mountain ranges, the Bow Valley, and the entire town of Banff. Once you’re at the top, there’s a good selection of food options as well as a boardwalk. This is a great family activity.
Restaurants and Nightlife. There’s no shortage of delicious food and vibrant bars downtown that can be found with a quick Google search. The two that we recommend you must check out are The Grizzly House (food) and the Dancing Sasquatch (bar).
Things to do in Banff (Summer)
Unless you’re an avid skier, then summer is probably the best season to visit Banff. There is a tons of stuff to do in Banff during the summer, and you won’t be freezing walking around the town at night. Here are our favorite activities for summer in Banff.
Hiking. There are an unbelievable amount of hiking options available in the park. Our five favorite ones are Johnston Canyon, Parker Ridge, Wilcox Pass, Lake Agnes Tea House, and Healy Pass.
Golf. There are some world-class golf courses in and around the Banff area. If you’ve never golfed in the mountains, then you are in for the experience of a lifetime. Our favorite courses in the area are Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, Silvertip Resort Course, Kananaskis Country Golf Course, and Stewart Creek Golf Club. If you’re coming from an area close to sea level, then you’ll likely notice your mid-irons going about 5-10 yards further in Banff.
Icefields Parkway. This is one of the most beautiful alpine drives in the world. The Icefields Parkway (also known as Highway 93) will take you through stunning mountains roads that connect Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. On this drive be prepared to see lots of wildlife including goats, bears, wolves, elks, moose, and bighorn sheep.
Explore the pristine lakes: If you’re in town for more than three days, then we would recommend seeing Lake Louise, Moraine, and Minnewanka. All three of these lakes offer postcard (are those still a thing?) perfect views. If you can only pick one, then definitely go to Lake Louise as it is just one of those places you have to visit if you’re in Banff.
Things to do in Banff (Winter)
There is no shortage of winter activities in Banff. It doesn’t matter if you’re a thrill seeker or enjoy just lounging around. Banff has got you covered even in the winter.
Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition. Ice Magic is a premier ice carving competition held at Lake Louise inside Banff National Park. Over the course of nine days, top carvers from all over the world will create amazing sculptures in a bid to win the top prize.
Skiing. If you love skiing or snowboarding, then you are in for a treat. There are three top-tier resorts within reasonable driving distance of the Town of Banff. Banff Sunshine Ski Resort is known for their amazing snow. Lake Louise Ski Resort’s signature is their view of the glaciers. Norquay Ski Resort has less intense runs, and is better for family outings.
Sleigh Rides. The horse drawn sleigh rides are a pretty unique experience. This hour-long ride is a great way to explore the region in a group or a private sleigh.