Things to Do in Banff, Canada
by Susan H. Green
Banff is located in Alberta, Canada, less than two hours by car from Calgary. The town of Banff consists of shops, hotels and restaurants. It is entirely contained within Canada's first national park of the same name. What began as a small railroad town is now one of Canada's most popular tourist destinations. There is plenty to do and see for everyone.
Banff National Park is known for its outdoor activities: skiing, hiking, biking, camping and rafting, to name few. Banff town center provides a starting point for all of these activities.
Skiing in Banff consists of Mount Norquay, 4 miles north of Banff's town center, and Sunshine Village, 5 miles west. There are shuttle buses from town to both areas. Sunshine Village is open to hiking and mountain biking in the summer, but Mount Norquay is closed. There is also winter cross-country skiing and snow-showing near Lake Minnewanka, the Banff Springs Hotel and the Banff Springs Golf Course.
Hiking and biking trails are seasonally available from Banff's town center as well as short drives to Lake Minnewanka, Castle Mountain or other areas. Stop at the Parks Canada visitors center to ask about trail conditions and to get recommendations on the best trails for your interests. Some of the trails have backcountry extensions for camping, and there are plenty of campsites in the town of Banff. There are multiple whitewater rafting options; ask your hotel's concierge or Parks Canada for more information about pick-up locations and prices. Wildlife tours are also available; keep in mind that Banff National Park is a natural and protected area.
After a day of outdoor activities, there are a number of spas to receive a massage and unwind. Downtown Banff also has plenty of bars and restaurants, just about every type of cuisine you could imagine. As with any tourist area, there is plenty of shopping and art galleries. There is also a theater that sponsors an annual film festival each fall. For the history buffs, Banff has several museums dedicated to its history and natural heritage.
While there is plenty to do in Banff, there are other nearby areas with comparable vistas and outdoor activities. Banff Hot Springs, just south of Banff's town center, combines indoor and outdoor activities with natural hot springs, one of the original attractions in Banff.
A trip to Banff would be incomplete without a trip to nearby Lake Louise, a 45-minute drive northwest. Lake Louise and neighbor Lake Moraine are among the most photographed places in Canada. For those who stay in Lake Louise, visit Yoho National Park, 17 miles west of Lake Louise.
For those able to add longer side trips, Jasper, Alberta, is a four-hour drive northwest of Banff and provides a small-town environment mixed with breathtaking views.