Banff Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in BanffWhere to Stay
As a world-class destination, Banff boasts a host of world-class accommodations. Within the township, you can find everything from full-service resorts to quaint bed and breakfasts, many within walking distance to quaint shops, fabulous restaurants and exciting nightlife. If you're looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life, outside of town offers a great selection of back-country lodges and rustic cabins. Wherever you stay, you can count on fabulous views of the majestic Rocky Mountains.
Caution: Book well in advance. Hotels in Banff fill up quickly and can be booked for months ahead.
What to Eat
Touring the vast wilderness of Banff National Park does not mean giving up gourmet dining. Some of the best restaurants in Canada can be found here. Banff is famous for its innovative and sophisticated takes on preparing fresh and local ingredients. Budget-conscious travelers will also find plenty to tempt their palate with friendly pizza joints, cozy diners and trendy coffee-houses lining the streets. Most in-town restaurants are within walking distance, but some of the trendy resort restaurants may require a short drive.
Be Sure to Sample: Banff's famous Rocky Mountain cuisine featuring local fish and wild game.
Things to See
Exploring the great outdoors and reveling in the amazing scenery of the Rocky Mountains is Banff’s greatest attraction. Whatever outdoor activity you enjoy (and some you've never heard of) can be experienced here, summer or winter. Summer activities include hiking, biking, caving, rock climbing and canoeing. Winter activities include downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding and ice climbing. All of these activities are easily accessed from Banff Township and can be self-guided, or you can take advantage of one of the many guide and tour companies in town.
Caution: Make sure you pack warm clothes as the weather in Banff is fickle and you may see snow, even in the summer months.
Hot Tips: After a strenuous day enjoying the great outdoors, you can soothe your muscles at Banff's Upper Hot Springs.
Places to Party
Banff has a well-deserved reputation as a party town and there is lots to keep you occupied after the sun goes down. From English-style pubs to Wild-West saloons to trendy nightclubs, there is something for everyone. Most nighttime activities are located in the resorts or are within easy walking distance of downtown. If that’s not your cup of tea, Banff has a more cultured side with theatre, dance and music events offered by the world-famous Banff Centre for the Arts.
Take It or Leave It: Saturdays are the most popular days for tourists to party. To get to know the locals, head out on a Sunday or Thursday night.
Where to Shop
The streets of downtown Banff are jam-packed with unique and eclectic shops. Souvenir hunters have a wide variety of gift stores to choose from. There are also several galleries highlighting First Nations artwork or illustrating the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Specialty shops abound, offering everything from gourmet chocolates to hand-made soap. There are also a number of outdoor shops to outfit you for your mountain adventures.
Best Local Souvenir: The locally-made stone carvings are beautiful and reflective of the wildlife found in Banff National Park.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
It is largely serendipitous that Banff exists at all today. In 1883, prospecting railway workers happened upon a heated mineral spring that became known as the Cave and Basin. Promoted as therapeutic, the spring began to draw visitors, and the area around it was named a nature reserve. It was later to become Banff National Park. To attract and accommodate tourists, the Canadian Pacific Railway erected a train station and the spectacular Banff Springs Hotel, and the town mushroomed. Nowadays, the spring is secondary to the area's ski slopes, art galleries and stylish hotels. The charming village caters to an upscale clientele with terrific restaurants, fashionable shopping, and cultural opportunities. Its natural beauty draws tourists throughout the year, and the village is close enough to Calgary to be a wonderful getaway for the city's residents.