One of my favourite things about visiting Banff is listening to the people – this couple is speaking German, that group of teenagers is speaking Japanese, our waiter has an Australian accent and turns out to be from Melbourne, and, hmm…is that family speaking Hindi? French, of course, because this is Canada. And British accents because we’re part of the Commonwealth. And every type of American: Southern, Northern, New York, California, Midwest. Because this small mountain town is a place the world flocks to.
If you’re going to explore the Canadian Rockies, the town of Banff is a perfect base for your adventures. There’s plenty to do in town and then you can venture out to Lake Louise or Lake Moraine, take a tour of the Icefield Parkway, or bike the Legacy Trail to check out the local flavour in nearby Canmore.
The heart of town
A stroll down Banff Avenue is a nice way to get in your steps, get acquainted with the town, and scope out a place to have dinner. Whether your looking for designer sandals or a new parka (hey, sometimes you might wear both on the same day!) you can find it here. While here, don’t skip the Visitors Centre – while many such places are just dumping grounds for brochures, this one is staffed with friendly locals who can help you find the perfect tour or the perfect hike. Then you can gather up your brochures and go in search of a coffee. Yes, there is a Starbucks, but we prefer Wild Flour Bakery or Evelyn’s Coffee Bar for our caffeine and baked goods fix.
Be sure you check out the side streets as well, where you will find smaller local shops and art galleries. Here you’ll also find The Bison, an elegant farm-to-table restaurant featuring seasonal and regional dishes, including bison as well as many plant-based dishes. They also have live music on Thursday evenings and at Sunday brunch.
So much to do
Where to start? Maybe take the Banff Gondola up to enjoy a the spectacular view. (If you walk up the mountain, the ride down the gondola is free.) And enjoy a meal at the Sky Bistro while you’re there. Or rent bicycles. Or take a raft trip. Or a guided hike. Or wander around the Banff Springs Hotel, checking out the art gallery while you’re there, or play a round of golf with the deer watching.
In the winter, you’re probably here to ski. Sunshine, Norquay, Nakiska and Lake Louise are all nearby. And if you’re more adventurous, heli-skiing is available. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also popular. Or try out a dog sled ride.