30 Best Things to Do in Banff in the Summer and Winter

Banff National Park is my favorite park because there is so much to do there! In this blog I will show you the best things to do in Banff in both summer and winter so you can decide when you want to travel there.

Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is the oldest and most famous national park in Canada. Banff National Park attracts millions of visitors every year with its breathing taking landscape.

Most people think of the famous turquoise colored lakes when they think about Banff National Park, but in reality there are so many things to do in Banff outside of the touristy spots that are suitable for everyone.

At Banff National Park you can find incredible hiking trails for hikers, fun activities for families and kids, amazing slopes for snowboarders/skiers, romantic viewpoints for couples and relaxing spas and hot springs for everyone.

Banff Town is also delightful to walk around and explore, with colorful stores and great restaurants, bars and ice cream shop.

This blog will show you some of the best things to do in Banff all year round.

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Where Is Banff Located?

Banff National Park is located on the west side of Canada in the province of Alberta.

Banff is easily accessible by flying, car and train. It is only about 2 hours drive from Calgary and about 4 hours drive from Edmonton.

The easiest way to reach Banff National Park is to fly into Calgary and drive 1.5-2 hours to Banff. If you do not want to drive or can’t get a car, you can book a transfer between Calgary International Airport and Banff.

When we visited Banff we rented a car from Discovercars and got a pretty good deal.

Alternatively you can fly into Edmonton and drive 4 hours down. If you decide to drive, make sure to rent your cars from Calgary Airport ahead of time to get the best prices during peak summer season.

Vancouver is further from Banff (about 10 hours drive) but there is a rail option to get to Banff. The train takes 2 days 1 night to Banff but it is very scenic and relaxing. If you are not short on time then taking a train to Banff would be a good and relaxing option.

Can I go to Banff Outside of Summer Months?

There is something to do in Banff National Park any time of the year. But most people visit in the summer to see the lakes.

Banff National Park Weather and Rainfall

In the summer time, all the roads in Banff National Park should be open (unless there is construction work going on). From mid June to September, all the lakes are unfrozen, so you can see the postcard famous turquoise colors or enjoy the amazing hiking trails.

Due to its popularity, summer is of course the busiest time to visit Banff especially in July and August. This is when hotels are super expensive (and also booked up) and hard to get rental cars.

Spring and fall season are less crowded but in the spring the lakes are still frozen and there may already be snow fall in the fall. But you can expect a lot less crowd during these shoulder seasons at Banff.

Many people also visit Banff in the winter for winter sports and activities. If you decide to visit Banff in the winter, make sure you are comfortable driving in a snowy environment (and have the appropriate cars and tires).

Best Things to Do in Banff in the Summer

Lake hop in Banff National Park

Banff Itinerary - Lake louise
Lake Louise in the morning

The number one best thing to do in Banff is to visit all the beautiful and famous lakes in the summer.

The most famous lakes in Banff National Park are Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. You will see a large crowd there when you visit these two lakes, so try to visit early if possible (like really early).

Otherwise you will most likely not get a parking spot at Lake Louise if you visit after 8am. There are park shuttles that you can book to get to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake and you will need to book them in advance.

Banff itinerary: Moraine Lake

There are a number of other lakes that are definitely worth visiting when you are in Banff National Park. These lakes include Vermillion Lake, Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Johnson Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, and Consolation Lakes.

Some of the lakes may require a hike to get to while others have canoe rentals and cruise offerings.

3 days or 5 days in Banff Icefields Parkway Bow Lake
Bow Lake
Consolation Lakes Banff National Park
Consolation Lakes

Canoe on Lake Louise in Banff

Lake Louise, Banff National Park Canoe in the summer

Lake Louise is the most famous lake in Banff National Park if not the entire Canada. Its turquoise color attracts over 4 million visitors every year.

A visit to Lake Louise is almost like stepping into a fairy tale, with the beautiful chateau overlooking the lake and the surrounding peaks. It is no wonder tourists think visiting Lake Louise is truly one of the best things to do in Banff.

Most people walk around Lake Louise or take some photos then leave.

But a visit to Lake Louise is not complete without a paddle across this world-famous lake while enjoying the stunning scenery and the dramatic peaks of the Victoria Glacier.

You can rent a canoe to paddle across Lake Louise on a first come first serve basis in the summer from 8:30am to 6pm. It is a bit pricey but it’s a once in a life time opportunity.

If you are a hotel guest at the world-famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, you have the opportunity to do a Sunrise Canoe Experience in the summer (till early September).

Check out the best photo spots in Banff and the Canadian Rockies.

Hike the amazing trails in Banff

Banff Itinerary Banff hiking plain of six glacier

If you are an avid hiker, then Banff National Park is the right place for you.

While most people visit Banff for its lakes, hiking is actually one of the best things to do in Banff because you get to see jaw dropping views and alpine lakes most tourists don’t see.

Lake Agnes Lake Louise trail banff national park
Lake Agnes

Banff has some pretty short/easy but rewarding hikes, such as Lake Agnes Teahouse at Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, Consolation Lakes Trail, Moraine Lake Lakeshore walk, Bow Summit Lookout and Parker Ridge.

Read this Lake Agnes Teahouse and Big Beehive Trail Guide at Lake Louise.

Parker ridge Icefields Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Drive HIke
Parker Ridge

Some of the longer or more difficult hikes at Banff are equally as amazing and you can expect fewer people on the trail.

Some of the most noteworthy ones include Plain of Six Glaciers at Lake Louise, Cory Pass, Sentinel Pass/Larch Valley and East End of Rundle.

Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley
Sentinel Pass
East End of Rundle Hike in Banff National Park
East End of Rundle

If you are willing to venture a little bit outside of Banff National Park, there are a lot of nice hikes near by in the surrounding areas. Some of the ones I think look amazing include Mount Jimmy Simpson, Mt. Smutwood, Vision Quest, Sarrail Ridge, etc.

Mt. Smutwood Banff Hike
Mt. Smutwood

When hiking in Banff, be sure to bring bear spray with you and go in groups. Some hikes even require that you have a group of 4 (minimum) to go together because of frequent bear sightings.

Take a stroll at Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon boardwalk trail

Even if you are not a hiker, you can still take a leisurely in Johnston Canyon, one of the most popular natural attractions and best things to do in Banff National Park.

Johnston Canyon is popular among all sorts of visitors. It is peaceful, beautiful, and family friendly. You can experience walking along the limestone cliffs in the deep canyon that’s formed by thousands of years of water erosion.

Johnston Canyon Lower Falls in Banff

You don’t have to make too much of an effort to see the two beautiful waterfalls and deep pools at Johnston Canyon.

The Lower falls is only about 1.1km walk on a very flat ground and the walk to the Upper Falls is about 2.7km. The path is mostly paved and I’ve seen people with strollers on it. The ease of access makes Johnston Canyon one of the most popular destinations in Banff.

There is limited parking at Johnson Canyon so be sure to try to get there before 9am to avoid disappointment.

Paddle across Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is one of the most visited lakes in Banff National Park in the summer.

Set in the rugged Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake is surrounded by snow capped mountains, majestic peaks, waterfalls and rock piles. Its beauty is so stunning that it almost feels unreal when you see it in person.

There are a number of activities you can do at Moraine Lake in the summer, such as taking a stroll along the lake, hike up the rock pile to see the lake in all its beauty, rent a canoe, hike a variety of trails, sip on beverages on a bench and relax.

There is a beautiful Moraine Lake Lodge offers hourly canoe rentals in the summer from mid-June to mid-September. There is no better way to enjoy Moraine Lake than to paddle from one end to the other and this indeed is one of the best things to do in Banff.

It is impossible to visit Moraine Lake in the winter due to road closure (it is at a higher elevation than Lake Louise), so the lake can only be visited in the summer and early fall. During the summer the small parking lot at Moraine Lake fills up by 7am if not earlier since everyone wants to see Moraine Lake.

Starting in 2023 you can no longer drive to Moraine Lake, so you will need to book a Parks Canada shuttle to visit. Alternatively, you can book a tour to visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

Drive the Icefields Parkway

Saskatcheewan-River-Crossing Icefields Parkway Photo Spots, Banff National Park

The Icefields Parkway is no ordinary highway, it is the most stunning drive in Canada if not in the world.

Generally people drive the entire Icefields Parkway when they travel from Banff to Jasper National Park. When you drive on Icefields Parkway, you will be surrounded by majestic snow capped peaks, green hills and turquoise lakes.

Big Bend Photo Stop on Icefields Parkway Banff National Park

There are numerous stops on Icefields Parkway, making this drive extremely fun and interesting. There are waterfalls, lakes, hiking trails and various photo spots on this drive. You can check out my blog on the best photo spots and attractions on the Icefields Parkway Drive.

You don’t have to drive the entire Icefields Parkway to enjoy it. Even just an hour or two drive from Lake Louise will show you plenty, namely the famous and Instagram worthy Peyto Lake (stop is called Bow Summit).

Banff and Jasper itinerary peyto lake view

Read my step-by-step instruction on how to find the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

If you do plan on spending some time in Jasper National Park, you should definitely budget an entire day on Icefields parkway because there are just so much to see (the actual drive is only 4 hours).

Enjoy horseback riding in Banff

Horseback riding in Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

Horseback riding is a popular activity among those who visit Banff National Park.

There are a number of ranches around Banff and Lake Louise area that offer lessons to multi-day tours in the Rockies backcountry. You can now explore the mountains, rivers and the wilderness with a guide while enjoying the tranquility around you.

You can even enjoy a private carriage ride through downtown Banff if you want the ultimate western sightseeing tour.

Be sure to check out this thrilling 3 hour horseback ride via Bow Valley or this 2 hour horseback ride along the Bow river and up Sulphur Mountain.

Visit Cave and Basin in Banff National Park

Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Things to do in Banff

If you want a family friendly and educational activity in Banff, then you definitely need to check out Cave and Basin, a museum located in the town of Banff.

Banff National Park is the first national park in Canada, and the creation of Banff National Park traces all the way back to 1883, when 3 railway workers found thermal springs in Banff.

Cave and Basin is a place dedicated to preserve the history and stories of the beginning of Banff National Park. In here you will find interactive exhibits, short films, seasonal activities and visit the Cave and Thermal Water Basin. This is one of the best things to do in Banff with children.

See Banff from a helicopter ride

Helicopter Tour over Banff National Park best things to do in Banff with amazing views of lake and mountains

The Canadian Rockies is not only stunning from the ground level but also from the air.

If you are looking for a different perspective of Banff National Park and also see things that even hikers cannot see, then a helicopter tour is an amazing activity in Banff for you.

There are various Helicopter tours that are offered in Banff, some are shorter while others are longer.

You can admire the panoramic views of the entire area, see stunning glaciers and the famous Columbia Icefields as well as waterfalls, lakes and snow capped peaks.

Some of the most popular Helicopter tours in Banff are this one and this one. You will be able to choose the length based on your preference.

Paddle boarding in Banff

Paddle Board in Banff on Lake Louise in the summer

You don’t have to be an avid hiker to enjoy Banff, there are a ton of activities for water lovers in Banff as well.

One of the most underrated experience in Banff is stand up paddle boarding. Most people don’t even know they could paddle board on the lakes and rivers in Banff National Park! Well you sure can.

You will have to bring your own stand up paddle board to the many lakes and rivers in Banff National Park, but there are a number of paddle board rental places all over Banff.

Once you have your board, you can enjoy an incredible stand up paddle board experience on any of these lakes in Banff: Lake Louise, Lake Moraine, Vermillion Lake, Johnson Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, Herbert Lake, Quarry Lake, Bow River, etc.

However make sure you know your own ability and the whether and water condition before attempting to paddle board in Banff.

If you are looking for paddle board rental places, check out Radventures and Banff Canoe Club.

Enjoy the view From Banff Gondola

The Banff Gondola is one of the most popular family friendly activities in Banff National Park.

Banff Gondola right before sunset

As the name implies, the Banff Gondola is a gondola located near Banff town center that takes you to the summit of Sulphur Mountain.

The Banff Sighting Seeing Gondola is an 8 minute ride that takes you 2281m (~7500ft) above ground to the summit of Sulphur Mountain in a 4 people cabin. Once on top, you can enjoy the 360 degree views of Bow Valley and a sweeping scene of 6 mountain ranges.

Banff Gondola view from above with canadian flag

There are 2 restaurants, cafes, an interpretive center and short hiking trails at the Sulphur Mountain Board Walk. Kids go free before 12pm with the Family Experience. Kids age 5 and under are free to ride the Banff Gondola but still require a ticket. Tickets are refundable up to 48 hours of travel date.

The Banff Gondola also has a real time webcam to show you the condition on the summit (this is almost like a preview of what you will see once you are up there).

We went after dinner and there weren’t as many people so we didn’t actually have to book tickets ahead of time.

Open air adventure with Mt. Norquay chairlift

Mt. Norquay sightseeing chairlift

If you think The Banff Gondola is too tame for you, or you want a different view of Banff, then perhaps Mt. Norquay Chairlift is the best Banff activity for you.

Norquay’s famous Sightseeing Chairlift is an open air chairlift that takes you 7000 ft in elevation to the natural bear habitat at Mount Norquay.

During this 10 minute open air ride, you will get one of the best views of Banff and Bow Valley from above. You will discover the legendary panoramic view above the clouds during the ride and get a chance to indulge yourself in the delicious food, cocktails, craft beer at the historic Cliffhouse Bistro.

Similar to the Banff Gondola, you can see the conditions up the mountain peak with a series of web cams.

Play golf in Banff and Lake Louise

Banff Canada GolF things to do in Banff

Golf? In a national park? The best thing about Banff is that it really is for everybody.

The famous Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is the perfect golf vacation in a fairytale like environment. It really is the ultimate luxury experience in Banff with breathtaking view in every direction and a magnificent layout for all golf lovers.

You can challenge yourself with the award-winning design but watchout for the intriguing optical illusions created by the surrounding mountains.

Aside from Banff Springs Golf Course, there are a few other amazing golf courses near Banff with sweeping mountain views such as Canmore Golf and Curling Club, Silvertip Golf Course, Stewart Creek Golf & Country Club, Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch Golf Course, etc.

See wildlife in Banff

Things to do in Banff see Wildlife grizzly bear in the flower field

The Rocky Mountains are home to an array of wild animals and birds. Banff National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, over 800 species of plants, and over 50 types of animals.

The most common wildlife you will see in Banff National Park includes grizzly bears, wolves, cougars, elks, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, etc.

Even as you are driving around Banff National Park, you may oftentimes come across animals on the side of the road. It is fine to look at these animals from afar but try not to approach them or feed them. You definitely should not get out of your car trying to take photos of them up close.

There are a number of tours that will take you to see wildlife such as the Grizzly Bear Refuge, a Canoe tour on bow river to see wildlife or an evening wildlife safari.

Walk on Athabasca Glacier at Columbia Icefield

Columbia Icefield Icefields Parkway Jasper National Park Itinerary

Columbia Icefield is one of the best activities for families at Banff National Park/ Jasper National Park. You can experience riding on a massive Ice Explorer all-terrain vehicle to the Athabasca Glacier (it’s over 10,000 years old!). Once you are on the glacier, you are able to walk around and even drink from the glacier.

Walking on Athabasca Glacier was one of the most memorable experiences I had the first time I visited Banff so this place holds a special place in my heart.

Once you finish visiting the glacier itself, you can also get the trilling experience of walking on the glass-floored Skywalk at the cliff’s edge. You will get the jaw dropping view and experience this magical place.

Skywalk at Athabasca Glacier Columbia Icefield Banff National Park best things to do

Even if you do not drive you can still visit Columbia Icefield from Banff by taking a tour while enjoy the view along the way.

Do a Via Ferrata climb

Things to do in Banff: Mount Norquay Via Ferrata Climb

Via Ferrata means “Iron Path” in Italian; it is a protected climbing route originally existed in the Alps in Europe. During the First World war, these iron paths became more popular in Dolomites, nowadays northern Italy. These paths were built to help move troops at high altitude in difficult conditions.

Now Via Ferratas are used for guided tours for those who are seeking adrenaline adventures.

The Via Ferrata Climb at Mount Norquay is perhaps the most thrilling thing to do in Banff National Park. It is the only Via Ferrata route in the area and requires a tour to access.

Even if you don’t have any climbing experience you can still enjoy this climb and see the panoramic mountain views. You will cross suspension bridges and climb buttresses, all while being safely harnessed to a steel cable.

Stop by Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park is a national park in the Canadian Rockies just west of Banff that is known for its geological features, beautiful alpine lakes, amazing hiking slopes and wildlife. It is much more secluded and quiet than the popular Banff National Park.

Yoho national Park Lake O'Hara in the morning

Most first time visitors do not know about Yoho National Park and they are definitely missing out! There are many wonderful things to do and see in Yoho National Park that you could dedicate at least a day there.

The most famous lakes in Yoho National Park are Emerald Lake and Lake O’Hara.

Canoe on Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is a family friendly area that you can easily drive to. Many people walk around the lake, canoe on the lake and do some light hiking near the lake.

Lake O'Hara Prospect Point in Yoho National Park

Lake O’Hara is a pristine lake in Yoho National Park that you need to enter a lottery in order to get on the bus to visit (or you have to walk about 3 hours to access the lake). Many avid hikers walk 3 hours in order to hike to the Lake O’Hara view point.

There are a variety of powerful waterfalls at Yoho National Park, such as Wapta Falls, Takakkaw Falls, and the natural bridge at Kicking Horse River.

Have 3 days in Banff? Check out this comprehensive 3 Day Banff Itinerary.

White water rafting in Banff

best things to do in banff - white water rafting in banff with view of mountains and peaks

Another adrenaline inducing fun activity in Banff National Park is to raft through class 2-4 rapids in the Canadian Rockies.

There are several white water rafting tours that operate in Banff through the picturesque landscape of the Canadian Rockies. There are family-friendly rapids as well as exciting class 3-4 rapids with big waves. You can keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife sightings and enjoy the beautiful outdoor beautify during these trips.

Some of the tours even offer cliff jumping into the glacier-fed waters and also includes snack. Here are the whitewater rafting trip I would recommend:

Immerse in the history of Banff

Things to do in Banff: visit a museum. Banff Park Museum

Banff National Park is the oldest national park in Canada so there is a lot of historical and cultural site for visitors to explore.

There are several museums in Banff where the entire family can immerse themselves in the history and culture of Banff with interesting collections, exhibitions and interactive plays.

Some of the most noteworthy museums in Banff include the Banff Park Museum (the oldest natural history museum in western Canada), Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, The Historic Luxton Museum, and Cave and Basin National Historic Site that I mentioned above.

Visit Bankhead Ghost Town

Things to do in Banff: Bankhead Ghost Town

A fun way to immerse yourself in the history of Banff is to pay a visit to the Bankhead Ghost town, located just south of Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park. Most people don’t know about this ghost town but it’s a really fun thing to do in Banff for the entire family.

Bankhead is called a ghost town because this flourishing mining town once had nearly 1000 citizens but now it’s empty with the remains of what the town once was.

In the 1900s, Bandhead was the center of a mining operation due to the discovery of high quality coal. Unfortunately in 1922 the Bankhead coal mine closed and companies and its residents all moved to Banff, Canmore and Calgary.

Today you can walk through this abandoned ming town and even do an easy hike at the Lower Bankhead trail and learn about the history of the town.

Stop by Cascade of Time Gardens

Free things to do in Banff: Cascade of Times Garden

Cascade of Times Gardens is one of the best free things to do in Banff. This oasis is walking distance from the busy downtown Banff and it is the perfect place to enjoy the view of the mountains and beautiful flowers during blooming season.

Cascade of Times Garden is a free 4-acre park that was built in the 1930s and features gardens terraced into the hillside with rocky steps . It is located just behind the Park Administrative building.

During the summer months you can see the beauty of blooming flowers set against the back drop of the towering peaks. There are ticketed performances during the summer that the entire family can enjoy.

The park features many water features, various species of flowers, stone pavilions and several gazebos. It generally takes about an hour to explore the entire park.

Only have 1 day in Banff? Check out this 1 Day Banff Itinerary.

Walk on Canada’s highest suspension bridge and zip line across the canyon

Golden Skybridge new thing to do in Banff
Photo credit: getyourguide.com

One of the newest things to do in Banff is the Golden Skybridge that opened in May 2021. The Golden Skybridge is the highest suspension bridge in Canada while it sits on top of the Columbia Valley.

Approximately one hour from Lake Louise, the Golden Skybridge is actually 2 suspension bridges that offer jaw-dropping views along with thrilling adventure for the entire family.

There are Canyon Edge challenge courses that test your strength, balance and stamina while there are also mini-adventure parks including tree forts and slides for kids to run around in.

For those who are seeking more adventure, Gold Skybridge also offers 4 thrilling zip lines that are 500 feet in the air. You can zip line 1000 feet across canyon with an incredible birds-eye view. They also offer a giant Canyon Swing experience (designed for two) that sends brave adventurers free-falling over the canyon edge.

If you are an adrenaline junky, then a visit to the Golden Skybridge area is the best things to do in Banff.

Best Things to Do in Banff in the Winter

Relax in a spa in Banff

best things to do in Banff in the winter. Spa treatment

Whether you are skiing/ snowboarding in Banff in the winter or hiking in Banff in the summer, there is always room for some relaxation!

The good thing about Banff is that there are a lot of different spas that you can choose from. The most luxurious/famous spa would be the Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Banff Springs. You can get massages, full body treatment and facial and salon services at the Fairmont. You can also enjoy the cold, warm and hot plunge pools there to relieve muscle ache and increase circulation.

Another highly rated spa in Banff is Cedar & Sage, a lofty mountain oasis offering premium holistic health care. This spa specializes in massage therapy, including deep tissue, sports therapy, relaxation and pre/post natal care. There is also infrared sauna available at the spa.

Other highly rated spas in Banff include Meadow Spa & Pools at The Moose Hotel, Red Earth Spa, Remedy Skincare & Spa, Body Concepts, Bliss Valley Massage & Wellness, etc.

Take an ice climbing course in Banff

Ice climbing in Banff National Park - things to do in Banff in the winter

While most people visit Banff in the summer, Banff in winter holds its own magical charm. Surrounded entirely by snow and ice, Banff turns into a winter wonderland between November to April.

In this winter wonderland, you can have a truly unique experience of ice climbing up a frozen waterfall. In fact even a beginning can enjoy this unbelievably exhilarating sport, making waterfall ice climbing one of the best things to do in Banff in the winter.

Most of the ice climbing takes places in Canmore, Grotto Falls, Kanaskis and Johnston Canyon. There are a couple of companies (Banff Adventures and Yamnuska) in Banff that offer guided ice climbing lessons. They will provide all the equipments and gears.

Ice skate on Lake Louise

Best things to do in Banff in the winter is to ice skate on Lake Louise and see the ice sculptures

Ice skating on Lake Louise is one of the best things to do in Banff in the winter. Lake Louise has been labeled as one of the most beautiful ice skating rinks in the world and it is easy to see why. With the backdrop of snowcapped peaks and glaciers, you simply cannot find a better ice rink view anywhere else.

Every winter around mid/late December to early April, when the top layer of the ice reaches a certain thickness, Lake Louise opens to the public for ice skating.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise takes great care of the ice, making it smooth and pristine every winter. It is free to ice skate on Lake Louise if you bring your own skates, or you can rent a pair for less than $20. There are skate rentals in Banff Downtown or in Lake Louise Town.

If you visit Lake Louise during the Ice Magic Festival in January, you will see beautiful 3D ice sculptures on Lake Louise. Every year Fairmont invites ice-sculpture artists from around the world to create these ice masterpieces.

After ice skating on Lake Louise, you should grab a cup of hot coco or coffee and a slice of cheesecake at Fairmont Chateau and enjoy the amazing view.

Soak in a hot spring

One of the geological features of Banff National Park (as well as Jasper National Park) is that it sits on top of some of the best hot springs in the world.

Banff has the highest-elevation hot spring that’s open to the public in the world. After a long day of winter activities, you can soak in this historical hot spring while enjoying the majestic panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

The Banff Upper Hot Springs is open year-round. During the winter the temperature can be as hot as 47C (116F). The hot spring cannot be reserved in advance and it is recommended to stay for no more than an hour there. There are rental swimsuits and towels and there is a gift shop and cafe on site.

First time in Banff? Follow my massive 5 day Banff itinerary and see it all.

Get on the slope

Banff ski resorts view of mountain and slope - things to do in banff

Did you know that Banff and Lake Louise are home to some of the best world-class ski resorts? There are actually 3 amazing ski and snowboard resorts in Banff, making Banff a wonderful winter destination for those who love to get on the slope.

The Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay offer different terrain, scenery and experiences for those who want to ski or snowboard in Banff.

Mt. Norquay is the closest resort to Banff town, making it super convenient for the entire family to get on the slope together. It is the oldest ski resort in Banff, offering ski school, Alberta’s longest tube lanes, night skiing, etc. for unlimited fun.

The Lake Louise Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in North America, with over 4200 acres of diverse terrain over 4 mountain faces and 160 runs for all people of all skill levels. It is only about 5 minute drive from Lake Louise. There is a terrain park where you can work on jumps and tricks as well as a tubing park for some family fun. Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola, Guided snowshoe tours as well as day care center make this the most perfect winter oasis for families (or parents that want to get rid of their kids temporarily).

Banff Sunshine Village is the tallest of the 3 ski resorts and it is only about 15 minutes drive from Banff town. It offers 3 mountains off diverse terrain and has a variety of terrains and runs for beginners to advanced skill level. Banff Sunshine Village is the only ski-in, ski-out hotel in Banff. They offer lessons for kids and adults as well as equipment rentals. Visiting one of these 3 ski resorts really is one of the best things to do in Banff in the winter.

Take a sleigh ride in Banff

Sleigh ride in Banff in the winter
Photo credit: getyourguide.com

A fun family activity in Banff in the winter is to take a horse drawn sleigh ride across the meadows in the Canadian Rockies. You can sit back and enjoy the view of the snowy landscape while cozily snug under warm blankets.

During the sleigh ride your guide will point out the peaks and wildlife while you learn the history of Banff. The ride can also take you along the shores of Lake Louise and through the snow-covered valley in this magical experience.

You can even get a 2 person private romantic ride and take in the breathtaking view of towering peaks during the holiday season.

Enjoy the restaurants and bars in Banff Town

Banff town has a number of great restaurants and bars for you to enjoy after a long day exploring the area regardless of the season.

Some of my favorite places include the following:

  • Tooloulou’s: a popular brunch place but they also have Canjun seafood for dinner. It has an extensive brunch list so you will definitely find something you like.
  • Eddie Burger & Bar: this is a cute burger joint with specialty burger and beer. Their truffle fries smell so delicious you can smell it from a block away.
  • The Bison Restaurant: known for its dine dining, the Bison restaurant features locally grown, organic and sustainably farmed protein and produce.
  • Whitebar Cafe: the best cafe in Banff town with tons of pastries and warm drinks.

Spend a night at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel

If you ever want to step inside a fairytale then staying at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise would be a dream come true.

Fairmont Chateau is a world-famous hotel located at the edge of Lake Louise. Originally built over 100 years ago, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a year-round luxury mountain resort offering summer and winter activities, tours, luxury spa, kid’s camp and exceptional dining experiences.

By staying at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Lake Louise is literally in your backyard. You also get exclusive access to do a Sunrise Canoe Experience in the summer (till early September).

Other Things You Should Know Before Visiting Banff

There are so many amazing things you can do in Banff that you literally would need weeks in order to do them all. However, depending on your schedule, if you only have 1 day in Banff, you can still see some of the highlights like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. If you have a little more time like 3 Days in Banff, you can definitely do a lot more including hiking and exploring more areas.

You will need to have a valid Canada Park Pass when you visit Banff, and you can purchase it online before you arrive.

If you plan to hike in Banff, especially on the less popular hikes, be sure to bring bear mace with you and have a large group in case of bear encounters. If you do see a bear, stay back and leave the area as soon as possible. There are many hikes in Banff that require at least 4 people to be in a group to proceed.

It is a good idea to get travel insurance when you go to Banff to protect yourself and your family.

World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

For more information on how to plan a trip to Banff, Banff itineraries and other information, be sure to check out my other Banff blogs:

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Best things to do in Banff National Park
Best summer and winter things to do in Banff
Amazing things to do in Banff in the winter and in the summer