From hikings trails and national parks, to the world famous Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, let our list of the best things to do in Banff, Canada help you plan your next visit.
The town of Banff, as well as the surrounding Banff National Park, is one of the most precious jewels in all of Canada, and North America for that matter.
The jagged peaks of the Canadian Rockies rise up in all directions, creating an awe-inspiring scene that beckons all who visit to get outdoors.
With Cascade Mountain rising above the town at one end, Mount Rundle drawing all eyes that land on it, and a number of quaint timber stores lining the streets, Banff is as close to a living fairy tale destination that you can find.
READ MORE: We’ve just published our complete Banff itinerary so you know which order to do things in. Make sure you check it out!
Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists from the United States and Canada flock to Banff to bask in its natural beauty and to tackle the huge number of activities and attractions that have grown over the years.
Located right in the Banff National Park, its landscapes are phenomenal. The nearby Lake Louise is an iconic sight, the ski resorts are top-notch, and it’s little wonder Banff is now one of Canada’s best adventure destinations.
Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Banff
- 1) Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain
- 2) Go Skiing or Hiking at Sunshine Village
- 3) Head to Moraine Lake for Sunrise
- 4) Tackle the Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay
- 5) Enjoy the Views from Mt Norquay Gondola
- 6) Go Whitewater Rafting on the Kicking Horse River
- 7) Drive the Legendary Icefields Parkway
- 8) Go Hiking on the Athabasca Glacier
- 9) Abseil into a Crevasse on the Glacier
- 10) Go Ice Climbing with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
- 11) Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
- 12) Check Out the Cave and Basin National Historic Site
- 13) Chase the Milky Way or Northern Lights
- 14) Enjoy S’Mores and Live Music at the Alpenglow Festival
- 15) Hike Around Lake Louise and the Nearby Teahouses
- 16) Explore the Falls at Johnston Canyon
- 17) Ride an E-Bike from Johnston Canyon to Banff
- 18) Shred the Slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort
- 19) Sample the Liquor at Park Distillery
- 20) Watch Sunset at Vermillion Lakes
- 21) Rent Some Ice Skates and Hit the Lakes
- 22) Hang Out at Lake Minnewanka
- 23) Climb Cascade Mountain
- 24) Keep an Eye Out for Banff’s Epic Wildlife
- 25) Brush Up on Your First Nations History at Buffalo Nation Luxton Museum
- Banff Travel Guide
- Where to Stay in Banff
- Best Restaurants in Banff
The Best Things to Do in Banff
There are a lot of things to do in Banff, as the natural landscapes are very accommodating for all sorts of activities, ranging from hiking to canoeing to skiing, and so much more.
While the town of Banff is quite small and can be explored in just a couple of days, the surrounding region is much more vibrant, and Banff National Park is where most of the magic happens.
Some of the sights in Banff National Park are world-famous, including the sapphire Lake Louise and other peaks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
READ MORE – Don’t miss out on our complete guide to the best Banff hikes.
Here is our list of the best things to do in Banff, which will hopefully help you start exploring this wonderful region.
1) Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain
There’s a very unique and scenic beauty to be found in this part of the Rocky Mountains, and that gorgeousness is most accessible when looking at it from high atop the mountains.
The nearby Sulphur Mountain offers truly epic views from its summit. The gondola is a great way to get to the top where those vistas become accessible to almost anybody.
No wonder it’s become one of the top things to do in Banff!
Riding the gondola isn’t just about getting to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The views along the way provide a very unique perspective of the scale of Banff and its surrounding region.
Its 7,500-foot tall peak of Sulphur Mountain includes interactive exhibits, a gift shop, places to eat, and even a 360-degree observational deck with views of Banff and the Bow River Valley below.
Hiking out toward the summit of Sulphur Mountain has you follow a well-built boardwalk, that can get icy, so make sure you bring proper footwear.
The short walk is well worth it though, and on a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views of the Bow Valley punctuated with soaring peaks.
While the gondola trip to the top of Sulphur Mountain is a bit on the pricey side (CA$62 for adults 16 and up), it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Banff for good reason.
If you want to save some money you can also hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Allow 2 hours to climb if you have a reasonable level of fitness.
If you’re interested, the Bow Valley is also one of the top spot for horseback riding in Banff National Park. Visit one of the tourism offices in Banff town for tours and info.
2) Go Skiing or Hiking at Sunshine Village
No matter the season there’s always something incredible to do around Sunshine Village.
Just a 30-minute drive from the town of Banff, Sunshine Village is primarily a ski resort, and it’s often the first resort to open up in Canada every winter, and one of the last to close. The season lasts from November until May!
Sunshine Village boasts 3000 skiable acres and 12 chair lifts making it world-class. There’s terrain to suit skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Families will have a great time, and the ski school is one of the best in the country.
While Sunshine Village is not a budget-friendly destination, doing some excellent skiing all day and relaxing in the lodge with a hot drink in the evening makes Sunshine Village one of the coolest attractions in Banff.
But once the ski season is over, and June rolls around, the snow melts and the terrain reveals splendid hiking trails around Sunshine Village.
The Sunshine Meadows pop into life, and are considered some of the best hiking trails in the entire wider region. There are also some great mountain biking trails.
Hiking is completely free, and the scenery is stunning, which is why Sunshine Meadows is one of the best things to see in Banff.
READ MORE: Going elsewhere in the Rockies? Check out this list of the best things to do in Jasper!
3) Head to Moraine Lake for Sunrise
One of the most photographed places in all of Canada is the famous Moraine Lake, with its 10 peaks reflecting on the glistening, mirror-like water.
Moraine Lake is so famous that it was pictured on the old twenty dollar bill! So it’s little surprise that almost everyone visiting Banff makes an effort to see Moraine Lake with their own two eyes.
Moraine lake itself is only an hour drive from the town of Banff, and once you’re there you’ll find some of the finest hiking trails in the region.
There are hiking trails of varying difficulty, so even beginners will have an easy time adjusting to the terrain that surrounds the lake.
While the easiest hike is the flat Lakeshore Path, which lasts about 45 minutes round trip, a much more popular hike is Consolation Lakes trails, which is quite long at about 2 hours.
No matter which way you pick, however, you’ll witness the magnificent alpine beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and plenty of well-marked trails.
Just make sure to arrive earlier in the morning to catch a parking spot.
Book a Lake Moraine and Lake Louise sightseeing tour from Banff if you don’t have your own car!
4) Tackle the Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay
If you aren’t familiar with Via Ferrata, strap yourself in because we’re about to blow your mind.
Via Ferrata means ‘Iron Path’ in Italian, but is used to describe a hiking trail where you need to use a variety of man-made elements to climb a mountain or cliff face.
Things like chains, planks, ladders, suspension bridges and rebar to give you an idea.
It’s challenging, it’s fun, and it will get you up mountain peaks that are otherwise too dangerous for non-rock climbers.
Mount Norquay is home to some of the best Via Ferrata routes in North America, and you can now join a guided tour to try it out yourself.
Pick your length and challenge and then meet your guide at the bottom of the Mt Norquay Gondola before being shuttled to the base of the trails.
From here on out you scramble your way to the summit, wearing a harness and double-clipping your way into safety cables to ensure you don’t take a nasty fall.
There’s routes for all abilities, from short, easy trails right through to the all-day expedition that has you literally dangling off the edge of cliffs while hanging onto metal bars.
We’ve done Via Ferrata in a bunch of different countries, and this one on Mt Norquay was one of the best ever. Not to mention the views were out of this world!
5) Enjoy the Views from Mt Norquay Gondola
Would rather not strap yourself into a cable and scramble up a cliff face to enjoy Mt Norquay’s legendary views? You don’t have to!
Instead take the Mt Norquay Gondola to be ferried up in a matter of minutes and enjoy the sensational vista from the lookout over Banff.
You don’t need to book the gondola. Just drive on up (it’s only 5 minutes from downtown) and purchase your ticket at the lodge.
6) Go Whitewater Rafting on the Kicking Horse River
For those of you that love to do your sightseeing with adrenaline flowing through your veins, one of the most exciting things to do in Banff National Park is whitewater rafting!
The famous Kicking Horse River is a short distance from the town of Banff and is known to have the best rafting opportunities in the entire country.
Charging through class 5 rapids, over waterfalls and between narrow gorges is guaranteed to get your blood pumping. But if this sounds a bit too much for you there’s always an option to take it slow and simply soak in the views.
There are numerous tours that operate in the region, and some of the more mellow options are the Kananaskis River, or the intermediate Horseshoe Canyon.
Whether you’re an experienced rafter or a complete newbie, you’re bound to fall in love with rafting which is arguably one of the best ways to experience Banff’s stunning nature.
7) Drive the Legendary Icefields Parkway
An experience that no person visiting Banff will ever want to miss is driving the Icefields Parkway, known as one of the best road trips on the planet.
Stretching 230km from just outside the Lake Louise area all the way to Jasper, Icefields Parkway is an iconic highway that weaves its way through the best mountain scenery in all of Canada.
Starting in the south you traverse through Banff National Park, past some of the most picturesque landscapes imaginable, including the impossibly blue Peyto Lake. Peyto Lake is definitely worth a stop in itself.
Eventually you hit Jasper National Park, with the glorious Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Glacier (more on that below), and the insanely impressive Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls.
Jagged peaks surround you on all sides and you’ll pass by more mirror-like lakes and rivers than you can count with plenty of options to stop along the way.
You may also have the pleasure of seeing some of the Canadian Rockies’ most amazing wildlife, such as bears, moose, and caribou.
The drive along Icefields Parkway is seriously mind-blowing and can be done either with your own rental car (which we recommend) or by joining a tour from Banff.
Even though it’s only 230km long, you can easily spend 5 (or more) hours driving the Icefields Parkway, especially if you stop off at all the highlights along the way or do any hikes.
If you prefer to make the most of your time, you can book a one-way sightseeing tour of the Icefields Parkway, picking you up in Banff National Park, taking you to all the main spots along the drive, then dropping you off near Jasper National Park.
8) Go Hiking on the Athabasca Glacier
The most-visited glacier in all of North America, the Athabasca Glacier is a part of the majestic Columbia Icefield, which is the largest body of ice in the Canadian Rockies.
Located nearly halfway along the Icefields Parkway, this magnificent glacier can be explored in a number of ways. The most popular way is a tour on the Ice Explorer, a specially designed expedition bus that drives directly on the glacier.
This trip lasts just over an hour and can be a great way to experience the glacier if you’re short on time or have some mobility issues.
But if you want to really have an adventure, then you need to hike on the glacier itself!
Athabasca Glacier Icewalk has been leading hiking trips for years, and runs an epic tour called the Ice Cubed where you don crampons and walk for 5km on the huge frozen river.
It lasts for 3 hours, starts in either the morning or afternoon and you do need a standard amount of fitness to take part.
Have some more time? Check out their Icewalk Deluxe tour, which goes for 5 hours. Definitely one of the best things to do near Banff!
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
9) Abseil into a Crevasse on the Glacier
If you want to really take things up a notch with your Athabasca Glacier tour, why not do what we did and actually abseil into a crevasse!
This incredible experience is run by the experienced mountaineers at Rockaboo Mountain Adventures, who not only get you up onto the glacier, but inside it.
The 4-hour tour starts in the carpark, and after a short hike you reach the toe of the glacier and begin the ascent.
Throw on some crampons (these are supplied) and hike further than any other group by following the guides.
Walking on glaciers can be extremely dangerous, but these guys know the terrain like the backs of their hands and can navigate around safely.
If conditions allow they’ll also setup ice anchors and ropes to belay you into one of the large crevasses.
Being inside a crevasse (while secured to a rope of course) is such a surreal thing, and the deep blues are a colour you’ll never forget.
10) Go Ice Climbing with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
If you love adrenaline and trying something new, then one of the best things to do in Banff in winter is to go on an ice climbing tour with local experts Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.
When the temperatures drop in the Rocky Mountains, the waterfalls freeze, creating a new world of possibilities for those who love being active.
Summer is for rock climbing in Banff, and winter is for ice climbing, which is one of the most fun (and most badass) activities you can do.
Armed with ice axes and crampons, you climb vertically up frozen falls, hammering your ‘tool’ into the ice and kicking the points of your crampons in, meaning with strength, technique and a little bit of trust, you can ascend to dizzying heights.
We had never done this before, so we signed up for an introductory course with Yamnuska. We met our guide Jesse in Johnston Canyon, and he gave us all of our gear before hiking out to the distant falls.
Once at the end of the boardwalk we climbed down the approved-climbers-only section and got kitted up.
Jessee ran up an easy route, drilling anchors into the ice and connecting the rope before heading back down and giving us some detailed instructions on how to ice climb.
Then it was time to put the theory into practice!
We climbed up and down the same route 4 times, getting better and faster each time, and Jesse would constantly monitor our technique and give advice on how to improve.
Slamming the tool into the ice and feeling it grab hold was immensely satisfying, and we quickly fell in love with this sport. It was tiring though, and once we’d burned all our strength up it was time to head back to the car park.
The guys at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures run a bunch of different tours, from small introductory ones for beginners like us right up to intensive courses. If you’re wondering what to do in Banff in winter, we highly recommend this!
11) Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
The Banff Upper Hot Springs was once considered a place of holy healing waters by the First Nations. Today it is a place for resting and relaxation.
The unique properties of these natural hot springs make them one of the finest tourist attractions in Banff National Park, and they’re a great spot to visit all year round.
Each natural hot spring is akin to a public swimming pool, in that they’re equipped with all of the latest modern amenities such as railings, ladders, lockers, and even a café.
What sets them apart is that the pools are fed by natural hot springs, and this is the main reason they’re so relaxing.
Coupled with the fact that the surrounding scenery is stunning, these hot springs can easily relax both the body and the soul.
All of this makes the hot springs one of best places to visit in Banff.
12) Check Out the Cave and Basin National Historic Site
Cave and Basin National Historic Site is of the most fascinating aspects of Banff’s history.
There’s evidence of humans occupying the area of Banff for around 10,000 years, which goes to show that there’s a lot more to this place than meets the eye.
Being able to interact within a historical setting and context is always amazing, which is exactly what the Cave and Basin National Historic site offers to visitors.
This is the place that first put Banff on the modern map, and the reason it was designated as Canada’s first national park.
Inside the cave is a natural thermal hot spring, which is now closed to public swimming, and nowadays it’s an educational spot.
There are plenty of interactive displays that teach travellers about the importance of this location, and there’s a Discovery Tour designed specifically to help you immerse yourself in this place.
The cavern is utterly stunning, and definitely one of the coolest places to visit in Banff.
If you’re not in the mood to go trekking around Cave and Basin National Historic site, you can also go on a 1-hour guided ride!
13) Chase the Milky Way or Northern Lights
Banff has incredibly clear skies thanks to its lack of light pollution, making it one of the most accessible and best places to see the Milky Way in the Canadian Rockies.
You don’t have to go too far to see it either. Two Jack Lake is just 10 minutes from Banff and is incredible at any time of day or night.
You need to make sure it’s a clear night, so check the forecast (or just look outside your hotel window.
Banff also gets spectacular Northern Lights displays if the conditions are right.
To see the Aurora Borealis you need to have a clear view facing north and no clouds.
It doesn’t happen often, and is never guaranteed, so check Aurora Watch to see if the forecast is looking good for your visit.
14) Enjoy S’Mores and Live Music at the Alpenglow Festival
During the winter months, the top of the mountain comes alive with the fun and vibrant Alpenglow Festival, and spending a few hours up here is a wonderful Banff winter activity.
The alpenglow refers to when the tops of the mountains turn red just after the sun sets, a phenomena that is truly beautiful (and makes for some awesome photos).
The Alpenglow Festival is a great event to check out in the late afternoon, as a variety of local musicians take the stage, delicious food is available and visitors are even given s’mores to cook up on the outdoor fires.
We went up on a cloudy day and weren’t blessed with the famous alpenglow, but that didn’t make the festival any less awesome. Definitely try some cocktails while you’re up there.
15) Hike Around Lake Louise and the Nearby Teahouses
One of the true gems of the region, Lake Louise is almost as iconic as Banff itself.
Located an hour east from the town in Banff National Park, Lake Louise is an absolutely spellbinding location, surrounded by scenery that can barely be matched by any other place in the world.
Lake Louise is a turquoise jewel surrounded by jagged peaks in Banff National Park. While Lake Louise isn’t the best for swimming, it’s ideal for canoeing!
Canoeing in Lake Louise while Mount Victoria majestically looms to the west is one of the best things to do in Banff National Park.
Hiking and exploring are also amazing options, and something that shouldn’t be missed is walking up to the nearby teahouses.
A popular and fairly easy trek is to Lake Agnes, which only takes around an hour and is well worth it to admire the alpine scenery and have a cup of coffee on the trail.
If you have more time you can head out to the teahouse at the end of the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail from Lake Louise. It can take up to 7 hours, but the views are simply unreal.
There are also mountain biking trails around Lake Louise that you can hit when you visit Banff!
With so much to see, you can easily spend a couple of days unearthing the nooks and crannies around Lake Louise.
Want an experience like no other? Consider staying a the Fairmont Lake Louise, one of the most famous hotels in Banff National Park and the entire world!
16) Explore the Falls at Johnston Canyon
By far the most popular day hike in Banff National Park is through the phenomenal Johnston Canyon, only 30 minutes from downtown Banff.
The easy 5km long jaunt to the Upper Falls and back will take you along the narrow gorge formed by Johnston Creek, part of the famous Bow River, and up to a collection of large cascades and pools.
Alternating between well-groomed trails and a boardwalk, it’s accessible for people of all ages and abilities. Don’t let the high number of visitors put you off though – its beauty is well worth dealing with the crowds.
If you happen to find yourself in town during the colder months you should definitely consider taking a mission out to Johnston Canyon, as seeing the place covered in fresh snow and ice is like stepping into a winter wonderland.
Strapping ice cleats and going on an evening icy hike to Johnston Canyon is a fantastic activity, as the entire region is one of the most beautiful things to see in Banff in winter.
The frozen waterfalls create a specific type of drama that makes them seem as if they’re straight out of a fairy tale.
17) Ride an E-Bike from Johnston Canyon to Banff
Why not make a whole morning out of your Johnston Canyon experience by e-biking back to town after a guided hike?
On our most recent trip to Banff we teamed up with the guys at White Mountain Adventures to try out their new activity, and it was one of the coolest days out we’d done in ages!
Meeting at their downtown office in the morning we got kitted up and jumped in a shuttle to the canyon.
At Johnston Canyon we hiked out to the Lower Falls, learning all about the geology and history of the area from our guide, then headed back to the carpark to grab our e-bikes.
Fitted out and matched to size, we then pedalled the 26km back to Banff along the stunning Bow Valley Parkway.
With the powerful e-bikes we barely broke a sweat. The views did take our breath away though, and to finish it off we joined the Legacy Trail next to Vermillion Lakes for the final stretch to Banff.
All up it took about 4 hours and we highly recommend this tour for not only a great way to see a lot of the area in a fun way, but also for the insights from the local guide too.
18) Shred the Slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Towering mountains, high snowfall, long winters and amazing infrastructure makes Canada one of the world’s most famous skiing and snowboarding destinations.
Home to some of the best ski resorts on the planet, like Whistler Blackcomb and Revelstoke Mountain Resort, people travel from far and wide to carve turns on the legendary slopes.
Alberta has a number of world-class ski resorts, and the pinnacle of them all is Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park.
With 4200 skiable acres and 10 chair lifts servicing 145 runs, there’s little wonder that people flock to Lake Louise to shred the terrain.
The slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort cater to skiers of all skill levels, and whether you’re learning on the bunny hill or hucking back 5’s off of cliffs, you’re guaranteed to find something to keep you satisfied.
If you’ve already fallen in love with Banff and want to extend your stay and explore the region, make sure to read our Canada Travel Guide.
19) Sample the Liquor at Park Distillery
If you love the taste of a fine gin or tasty rye, then you simply can’t miss Park Distillery when wondering what to do in Banff!
Located in downtown Banff on Banff Avenue, this awesome local distillery makes some of the best liquor in the country, and they’re not afraid to experiment either!
Chilli vodka? Hell yea. Maple rye? Of course! Want a gin infused with Canadian spruce? Why not?
Park Distillery has been experimenting with various liquors for the last few years and has proudly become one of the best Banff attractions around.
They have an excellent restaurant and a fully-functioning bar (boasting delectable cocktails), but if you really love their liquor make sure you sign up for the free distillery tour.
20) Watch Sunset at Vermillion Lakes
One of the best places to watch sunset in Banff is actually 5 minutes from downtown at Vermillion Lakes.
This large wetlands has incredible views of Mount Rundle, which lights up spectacularly as the sun dips down.
It’s a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, so grab some drinks and head on down.
21) Rent Some Ice Skates and Hit the Lakes
Once winter rolls around and the temperatures drop, many of Banff’s wonderful waters freeze over.
Those seeking true adventure amongst the mountain peaks might not find this favourite local past time of interest, but when it comes to Banff winter activities, ice-skating is hard to beat.
Ice skating on the frozen lakes of Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, Bow Lake, Lake Minnewaka, and even the legendary Lake Louise, while you’re surrounded by majestic alpine peaks is nothing to scoff about.
Lake Louise itself is considered the safest of the bunch to ice skate on, as it’s regularly maintained and cleared of snow.
You can bring your own gear with you, but if you want you can also rent decent equipment from local shops when you visit Banff.
22) Hang Out at Lake Minnewanka
It’s hard to write a list of the best Banff attractions without mentioning Lake Minnewanka, the 21km long spectacle just outside of town.
This is the kind of place where you could get lost for days. People who love being active will find solace in the kayak and canoe rentals down at the main pier, or you can take on any one of a number of gorgeous hikes in the area.
Rather relax with friends and family? Lake Minnewanka is the perfect place to come down for a picnic, or you can take a boat cruise, which is arguably one of the best things to do in Banff in summer. There is no better place to soak in the Banff sunshine than on the shores of a lake.
The fun doesn’t stop there. It’s also a popular fishing destination, with large trout and whitefish waiting to be hooked by the keen angler.
One thing that few people know is that you can actually go scuba diving in Lake Minnewanka as well. Yes, the water is cold, but the underwater flora is quite amazing.
23) Climb Cascade Mountain
The overwhelming majesty of Cascade Mountain looms over the town of Banff like a guardian angel, and its presence has been wowing visitors for decades.
It’s hard to not stop and take thousands of pictures of the mountain from every angle of town, but if you’re feeling up to a challenge you can even consider climbing to its summit!
The top of Cascade Mountain sits at 2998m above sea level, and the trail to the top is definitely no walk in the park.
The 18km return hike to the summit climbs a total of 1325m in elevation. And while you don’t need mountaineering skills to conquer the peak, there is a fair amount of scrambling at times, and the trail can be sketchy.
The trailhead starts at the ski lodge on Mount Norquay. Start early and allow yourself a full day to reach the top and descend safely.
Do not attempt this hike if conditions are wet or snowy, and monitor the weather before you start and as you are climbing.
An alternative to hiking is a helicopter tour over the Canadian Rockies, one of the best Banff attractions.
24) Keep an Eye Out for Banff’s Epic Wildlife
Banff is home to a lot more than just busloads of tourists and a sizeable working holiday crowd. The most famous residents of Banff are the wildlife!
Home to animals of all shapes and sizes, spotting a critter is a highlight of many people’s visit to town, and often it isn’t that hard.
Deer are commonly seen wandering around the village, and occasionally elk and caribou make an appearance.
If you head into Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park, your chance of seeing some wildlife goes up drastically. Here you may have the chance to cast your eyes on moose or even black bears.
Some of the most elusive creatures are grizzly bears, wolves, and cougars, and you should consider yourself lucky if you see one.
It’s very important to keep in mind that these are wild animals and can be extremely dangerous. If you see one in the wild do not approach it, and if you come across one when driving do not get out of your car.
Give them plenty of space and chances are they won’t be spooked, meaning you can observe them safely from a distance for quite a long time.
If you’re a nature enthusiast you can also consider booking a wildlife safari tour when you visit Banff. Exploring with a knowledgeable guide will increase your chances of seeing some animals!
If you enjoy photographing wildlife, check out our list of the best travel cameras for all budgets.
25) Brush Up on Your First Nations History at Buffalo Nation Luxton Museum
No trip to Canada is complete without learning about its fascinating First Nations culture, and this amazing museum in downtown Banff does a great job at it.
It’s been open since the 1950s, and since then the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum has dedicated itself to teaching everyone about all of the contributions of the native people to the surrounding lands.
This museum is a great Banff attraction, especially for those interested in history and culture. It’s not a very large museum and can be explored in about an hour.
The museum is open every day of the week from 10 am to 7 pm, and the entry fee is CA$10.
Banff Travel Guide
Now that you know what to do in Banff and the surrounding Banff National Park, we wish to help you with another very important planning aspect of your Canadian adventure – finding the perfect accommodation!
Where to Stay in Banff
Being such a tourist hotspot, the town of Banff has a huge number of great accommodation options for all travellers.
As a complete disclaimer, hotels in downtown Banff are very expensive, so before you come make sure you have enough room in your budget to accommodate your stay here.
Luckily there’s a whole range of free things to do in Banff when you get here to help keep the rest of your costs down.
Best Hostel in Banff – Samesun Hostel
The Samesun Hostel has become a bit of an institution across western Canada, and if you’re looking to visit Banff on a budget then this is the spot to be.
Having moved to a new location closer to downtown Banff a couple of years ago, it has some of the best facilities of any hostel in the region.
Clean dorm rooms with lockers, an amazing common area, fast wifi, the famous Beaver Bar and discounts on all kinds of Banff activities make it the best cheap accommodation in town. The staff are super friendly and they’ll help you make arrangements for getting to the national parks and hikes.
Best Boutique Motel in Banff – The Dorothy Motel
Finding accommodation in Banff can be hard even in the shoulder season, so on our most recent visit we were running out of options and ended up booking the Dorothy Motel last minute.
It was a blessing, because it turns out the Dorothy Motel is Banff’s first boutique hotel and was actually superb.
Located on the edge of town it’s nice and quiet, and the rooms are modern and very clean.
The motel style exterior has been revamped, and the inside is beautiful. Huge, comfortable beds, coffee machines, massive showers and lots of storage space make this a perfect place to base yourself on a visit to Banff.
If you are staying here you also get a free transport pass to use on the buses around town.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Banff – Moose Hotel and Suites
If you have the money to splurge when you visit Banff we highly recommend the Moose Hotel and Suites.
We stayed here on one of our visits to Banff after taking the Rocky Mountaineer train journey from Vancouver, and loved our stay.
This traditional-style lodge has a great bar and restaurant, and the rooms are spacious and stylish.
Best Luxury Hotel in Banff – Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
The Fairmont Banff Springs is one of the most iconic luxury hotels in Canada, and if you can afford it, you won’t regret staying in this world-famous accommodation.
Located just outside of town near Bow Falls, this towering complex is over 125 years old and is a truly beautiful place to see.
The property can best be described as decadent, and the rooms are stately and tastefully decorated.
The bars and restaurants are some of the best in the country too, so even if you can’t afford to stay here, it’s worth coming out for a drink or a bite to eat.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is another incredible luxury hotel located right on the lake. It’s not as close to downtown Banff as Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, but it’s a more secluded option.
So there are nice luxury options no matter where you want to stay in the Banff and Lake Louise area.
Best Restaurants in Banff
We’ve eaten at a lot of the best restaurants in Banff, and here are our absolute favourites:
The best sushi in town is right here at Hello Sunshine. It also has an incredible bar and lounge area, and if you feel like doing karaoke there’s a spot just for you.
- Website: https://www.hellosunshinebanff.com/
Farm & Fire
Farm-to-fork food and delicious cocktails. Make sure you book ahead if you want to eat at Farm & Fire.
Nourish Bistro Banff
If you are craving good vegetarian meals then Nourish Bistro is the place to go. They also do great coffee.
- Website: https://www.nourishbistro.com/
Do you like steak? Sorry, do you love steak? Then you’ll need to grab yourself a table at Chuck’s for an experience like no other.
- Website: https://www.chuckssteakhouse.ca/
Three Bear’s Brewery
Hearty pizzas, delicious burgers and excellent craft beer. What more do you need? Swing on by Three Bear’s for a fantastic Banff night out.
- Website: https://threebearsbanff.com/
The Eddie Burger + Bar
Our local friend took us here for dinner one night and the burgers were absolute diving. Massive, tasty and fresh ingredients, as well as great cocktails.
- Website: https://www.eddieburgerbar.ca/
Bluebird Restaurant and Lobby Bar
Arguably the best coffee in Banff (and that’s coming from us as coffee snobs). They also do decent vegetarian pastries for breakfast.
- Website: https://www.bluebirdbanff.com/
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11 thoughts on “25 AWESOME Things to Do in Banff, Canada”
I love your blog! Lots of useful travel information and lots of inspiring photos.
Thank you so much. We appreciate it. 🙂
We’ve see all of the US as 70-year-old motorcyclists but this trip to Banff/Lake Louise we’re going to leave our Wrangler at home and rent a Jeep in Calgary. Because photography is our reason to travel, we’d like to know when you think the weather and the crowds would be most conducive to photos. BTW, we loved every word of your Banff blog!
Thank you for sharing.
From a fellow Aussie planning a few weeks in the area for 3 people all your info was really clear and helpful loved the point form and also what to see on the Icefields Parkway even accomm recommendations just perfect it has made my job so much easier. Only one problem think we will need a month instead of 2 weeks!
Glad the article was helpful. There is so much to see in the area so one day you will have to return. Definitely pick out what you definitely want to see and do so you do not miss out. It is a stunning area. Have a great trip
Love to be there! Amazing post…thanks for sharing
Great article! Just a note, that’s actually an elk in your picture, not a caribou.
hahaha thank you. Silly Australians we are. 🙂
What a useful and clear guide of handy hints and travel information.
There are a lot of other travel information websites out there but yours is easy and simple and gets straight to the point. Great job !
Thank you so much Maureen. We are glad the article was helpful. Have a great time in Banff. It is a magical place.