Escape to the natural beauty and adventure of Banff, a historic town in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. With picturesque alpine lakes, scenic hiking trails, and a host of outdoor activities, Banff offers a wealth of experiences for visitors.
Plenty to Do, Inside and Out
Banff offers plenty of things to do indoors as well. It can be challenging to decide what to do and see, but this list is here to help. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or prefer to see amazing views from a fine dining restaurant, we’ve got you covered with a list of the best things to do in Banff, including must-visit sights, hidden gems, and seasonal activities.
1. Enjoy an Open Top Tour
Exploring Banff’s stunning natural scenery and attractions is made easy with Open Top Tours. These sightseeing tours provide visitors with a unique and exciting way to see Banff from an open-top bus. Sit back and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies, crystal clear lakes, and rugged terrain as you learn about Banff’s rich history and culture. With a variety of tour options available, including visits to iconic landmarks like Lake Louise and the Banff Gondola, Open Top Tours is a great way to experience Banff’s natural beauty and top attractions all in one go.
2. Explore Banff Avenue
Wander along Banff Avenue, the lively main street of Banff, where you’ll find many charming boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Explore popular shops such as The Tin Box or The Bear and the Butterfly, or grab a bite to eat at Good Earth Coffee House.
3. Visit Lake Louise
Just a short 40-minute drive from Banff, Lake Louise is a stunning alpine lake surrounded by majestic mountains. Stroll along the shoreline, hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers, or rent a canoe and paddle across the Instragram-famous turquoise waters.
4. Take a Gondola Ride
Hop on the Banff Gondola and ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Take in the breathtaking panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies. Explore the boardwalk, visit the interpretive center, and enjoy a meal at Sky Bistro, which offers an elevated dining experience, especially at sunset!
5. Hike to Johnston Canyon
Follow a winding trail through Johnston Canyon. This natural wonder features cascading waterfalls and stunning rock formations. Hike to the Lower Falls, Upper Falls, or the Ink Pots, which are mineral pools that bubble with color.
6. Go Skiing
Banff is home to three world-renowned ski resorts: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mount Norquay. With over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain, visitors can enjoy downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and more.
7. Go Wildlife Spotting
Keep your eyes peeled for Banff’s resident wildlife, such as elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears. Visit popular wildlife areas like the Bow Valley Parkway or take a guided tour with Banff Wildlife Tours for the best chance of spotting wildlife.
8. Take a Helicopter Tour
Get a bird’s-eye view of Banff’s stunning landscape on an unforgettable helicopter tour. Take in breathtaking views of glaciers, waterfalls, and peaks, and experience the Canadian Rockies like never before.
9. Relax at a Spa
Unwind and rejuvenate at one of Banff’s luxurious spas, where you can indulge in a range of treatments and therapies. Visit the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs or the Red Earth Spa at the Banff Caribou Lodge.
10. Get in the Spirit of Christmas
“The Spirit of Christmas” store is a charming holiday shop filled with festive decorations, gifts, and souvenirs. Visitors can find everything from classic ornaments to unique gifts that are sure to bring joy and cheer to anyone. A must-visit destination for anyone looking to get into the holiday spirit.
11. Take a Scenic Drive
Drive along the breathtaking Icefields Parkway that winds through the heart of the Canadian Rockies and offers stunning views of glaciers, waterfalls, and towering peaks. Stop at popular viewpoints like Bow Lake or Athabasca Glacier for unforgettable photo opportunities.
12. Go Ice Skating
Strap on your skates and glide across the picturesque outdoor rink at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Take in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains while enjoying this quintessential Canadian winter activity.
13. Visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site
Learn about the history of Banff’s hot springs at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, which features interpretive exhibits and guided tours. Discover how the hot springs led to the creation of Banff National Park, and explore the cave where it all began.
14. Go White-Water Rafting
Get your adrenaline pumping on a white-water rafting trip down the Kicking Horse River or the Bow River. With experienced guides and thrilling rapids, this activity is perfect for adventure seekers looking for an exciting experience.
15. Attend a Festival
Banff is home to several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival and the Banff Craft Beer Festival. Enjoy live music, food and drink, and celebrate the vibrant culture of Banff.
16. Visit Bridal Veil Falls
Take a short hike to Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful waterfall just outside Banff National Park. Surrounded by lush greenery and towering rock formations, this natural wonder is a must-see for any nature lover.
17. Go Canoeing on Lake Minnewanka
Rent a canoe and paddle on the crystal clear waters of Lake Minnewanka, one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park. Enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains, and keep an eye out for wildlife like bald eagles or mountain goats.
18. Take a Horseback Riding Tour
Explore the stunning beauty of Banff on horseback with guided tours that take you through scenic trails and valleys. Enjoy the serene beauty of the Bow River Valley, or take a trip to Banff’s backcountry for a truly unique experience.
19. Go Caving
Discover the underground world of Rat’s Nest Cave, a wild cave system located just outside of Banff. Explore narrow passages, climb rock walls, and rappel through underground chambers with experienced guides.
20. Enjoy a Scenic Picnic
Pack a picnic and find a peaceful spot to relax and take in the stunning mountain views. Head to popular picnic areas like the Bow River picnic area or Vermilion Lakes picnic area, or explore off-the-beaten-path locations for a truly secluded experience.
21. Dine at Top-Rated Restaurants
Banff is home to some of the best restaurants in Canada, featuring delicious cuisine and breathtaking views. Indulge in culinary delights at renowned establishments such as Brazen, Farm and Fire, or Sky Bistro, where you can savor locally sourced ingredients while admiring the stunning panoramic views of the mountains.
22. Watch the Sunset at Vermilion Lakes
Head to Vermilion Lakes, a series of three stunning lakes with unbeatable views of the surrounding mountains. Watch the sun set over the horizon, painting the sky with spectacular colors. This peaceful and serene location is the perfect spot to end a day of adventure in Banff.
24. Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
Soothe your senses in the natural mineral-rich waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs while taking in the breathtaking mountain views. Located in Banff National Park, this famous hot springs facility is a must-visit destination for any traveler.
25. Take a Boat Cruise
Hop aboard the Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise – Choose from one of their acclaimed cruises and explore under the lead of a knowledgeable guide on a heated, covered boat.
26. Even More Options for Sightseeing Tours
Enjoy a Brewster sightseeing tour – With convenient pick-up at drop-off locations, our tours take guests to the most exceptional locations for photos, wildlife viewing, and nature walks.
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This article was produced by Our Woven Journey.
Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.