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Things to do in
Banff

Surround yourself with beautiful walking trails and glistening lakes in this protected Canadian Rockies' town.

Our most recommended things to do in Banff

Banff: Banff Gondola Admission Ticket

1. Banff: Banff Gondola Admission Ticket

Climb aboard this iconic 4-person gondola cabin with large windows and relax. During the 8-minute ride to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, take in the views of the town of Banff, Bow Valley, and six different mountain ranges. While on the mountain's peak, be amazed by 360-degree views. Explore the interactive Above Banff Interpretive Center to learn about the early explorers, wildlife, and local area. Included in your ticket is the “Above Banff Theatre” where you soar above mountain peaks and through the Bow Valley on a cinematic journey that spans generations. Along the way you will encounter daring climbers, high-flying skiers and stunning shots of mountain wildlife. Several scenic hiking trails lead away from the summit complex. One of the most popular is the self-guided interpretive Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to Sanson's Peak and the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site. For a drink or snack at the top, visit the Castle Mountain Coffee Co.. If you are looking for a full meal, make a reservation at either the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen buffet-style restaurant or the Sky Bistro, serving elevated Canadian Cuisine. After the sun sets in the winter months (mid-November to the end of March) experience Nightrise - honoring the magic of these sacred mountains. Explore four immersive stations of light, sound and projections spread throughout the summit building - Cosmic Rays, Diamond Dust, Alpenglow and Frosted Waves.

Banff: Lake Minnewanka Cruise

2. Banff: Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Admire views of the Canadian Rockies as you cruise on the largest lake in Banff National Park. Get the chance to see sheep, deer, and mountain goats along the shore, and learn about the culture of the indigenous people who used to live in the area from your expert guide. Meet your guide and captain on the boat dock at Lake Minnewanka and begin your adventure. Glide through the crystal clear water of this glacier lake and soak up the views of the mountains and blue sky above you. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the lakeshore, including big-horned sheep, deer, mountain goats, and even the occasional bear. During the cruise, learn interesting facts and stories about the wildlife and vegetation that inhabit the Canadian Rockies from your guides. Dive into the culture of the indigenous people who used to call the area home and hear a lot of entertaining legends of the area.

Banff: Sunsets and Stars Evening Walking Tour

3. Banff: Sunsets and Stars Evening Walking Tour

Take an evening sunset walk and watch the stars come out while experiencing nature at remote trail locations. Watch a stunning mountain sunset and feel the awe of seeing the first stars appear. Explore Banff National Park like never before and see nature by night. Be escorted by professional mountain guides and see more of the area with the use of headlamps and lanterns. Hike along local trails around Banff and take the unique opportunity to watch the nocturnal world come to life.

From Banff: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour

4. From Banff: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour

Experience Banff’s famous lakes on a guided tour of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.  Keep your eyes peeled for animals such as deer, elk, and bears on your way, and admire views of Castle Mountain before arriving at the first lake of the day. Hear stories about Banff National Park, its history, and the local animals from your guide. Enjoy a 30-minute visit to Lake Louise. Wander the famous shoreline and take photos of the lake against the backdrop of the mountains and Victoria Glacier.  Admire the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel from the outside or inside. Explore Moraine Lake, set in the rugged Valley of the Ten Peaks with waterfalls and rock piles. Enjoy a short guided walk to the famous Valley of the Ten Peaks viewpoint, or relax and take in the lake from the shoreline. Enjoy water and maple cookies at one of the scenic stops. After a 30-minute break at the viewpoint, return back to Banff and drop you off at your hotel.

Banff National Park: 1-Hour Bow River Horseback Ride

5. Banff National Park: 1-Hour Bow River Horseback Ride

Start the tour in Banff where you will meet a member of the riding office, who will check you in and provide you a helmet for your ride. From here, walk back outside into the sunshine and meet your trusty horse. Using a step, climb onto your horse under the direction of your guide, and learn some basic horseback riding techniques. Follow your guide along the tranquil Bow River and past the historic Cave and Basin Hot springs - the original birthplace of Banff National Park. This area is home to wildlife in amongst the thick marshes and grassy meadows. Enjoy unspoiled views of the magnificent Rocky Mountains along the way. After 1 hour of scenic horseback riding, return to the stables, where you'll disembark and say goodbye to your horse with some farewell pats.

From Banff: Shuttle to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise

6. From Banff: Shuttle to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise

Book a one-way shuttle between Banff, Moraine Lake, and Lake Louise so you don't need to worry about driving, finding a taxi, or joining the crowds on big buses Ensure you easily visit Moraine Lake, which is closed to public vehicle access in 2023. With this shuttle service, you are guaranteed to visit Moraine Lake easily. Best of all, the voucher can also be used for a further transfer within the same day schedule if there are seats available. The return trip seats are guaranteed if you follow the bus schedule. Below is the designed shuttle schedule: Morning Route Schedule: Banff (8:30am) -- Lake Louise visitor center (9:15am) -- Lake Louise Commercial parking lot (9:30am to 10:30am) -- Moraine Lake (11:00am to 12:00pm) -- Lake Louise visitor center (12:30pm) -- Banff (13:30pm) Afternoon Route Schedule: Banff (14:00) -- Lake Louise visitor center (14:45) -- Lake Louise Commercial parking lot (15:00 to 16:00) -- Moraine Lake (16:30 to 17:30) -- Lake Louise visitor center (18:00) -- Banff (19:00) Hope you'll enjoy our hassle free shuttle service. NOTE: the schedule above is a general guide, bus can be delayed by bad road condition, traffic jam, unexpected events, bad weather, etc. We do our best to follow the schedule. Also, the guardians are required to provide the car seats or boosters if you have any infants or young kids based on the transportation regulation and this tour won't provide any car seats or boosters.

Banff: Evening Wildlife Safari Guided Tour

7. Banff: Evening Wildlife Safari Guided Tour

Go on an evening wildlife safari tour and discover the animals of Banff. Led by your expert guide, experience twilight wildlife encounters.  As the sun sets behind the craggy peaks, the wildlife of Banff National Park become more active in the cool hours before dark. Get the chance to be up close with some of Banff’s wildest residents. Spot an elk sauntering across a clearing or a bighorn sheep grazing in an alpine meadow. Sometimes, you may even see a grizzly bear snuffling through a berry bush.  Have your guide take you on a paved road bus tour where you are most likely to see Rocky Mountain creatures. Learn about how the park protects these animals and their natural habitat from many threats to the ecosystem.

Banff: Kananaskis River Whitewater Rafting Tour

8. Banff: Kananaskis River Whitewater Rafting Tour

The Kananaskis Whitewater Tour is a Whitewater Rafting experience that everyone can enjoy. From the playful waves to the scenic landscapes, punching through rapids, to fun filled games on calmer sections of the river; this tour has something for everyone. Don't let this Class 2-3 grade river, fool you, it delivers big splashes with heart pumping hits. We meet at our River Base, or hop on our complimentary shuttle from Canmore, where you'll be greeted and checkin with one of our awesome team members. We then gear up in the provided wetsuit, helmet, booties, splash jacket and life vest, gather around our demo raft to go over a safety briefing and load the buses for a 5 mins drive to the put in. At the put in you'll meet your fun and trusty guide. Pay close attention as they go over paddling commands and general instructions for your time on the river. Now hop in the raft and let's go rafting! After your full filled adventure you'll be reunited with our buses for a quick 10 min ride back to our River Base to change and grab a refreshing non alcoholic beverage. You'll also be provided the "how to" on where to view and purchase the photos from your tour. Your adventure has now come to an end, if you took our transport from Canmore we are ready to bring you back, if you met us at the River Base you are free to enjoy the rest of your time in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Don't be sad, we will be here whenever you are ready for more fun!

From Banff: Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield Day Trip

9. From Banff: Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield Day Trip

Discover the Athabasca Glacier on a guided tour from Banff. Journey along the scenic Icefields Parkway and climb into an Ice Explorer vehicle to explore the awesome glacier. Experience breathtaking views of the Sunwapta Valley as you step across the Glacier Skywalk. Get picked up from your Banff hotel in a modern mini bus by your friendly guide. Departing from Banff, your guide will welcome you on the tour with an overview of where you'll be headed as you sit back and enjoy the ride along the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most stunning scenic drives. Benefit from a tour where you don’t have to navigate or watch the road. Sit back, relax, and focus on the amphitheater of mountains towering above as you keep your eyes peeled for wildlife at the edges of the forest. Stop at the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre and board an Ice Explorer vehicle. Drive onto the Athabasca Glacier, learn about its history, and take some free time to soak up the views. Touch this ancient sheet of ice and even drink pure, cold water straight from the glacier. Head to the nearby glass floor Glacier Skywalk and follow the 1-kilometer walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. Witness the giant glaciers perched above you and admire the views of the spectacular Sunwapta Valley spread out below. Enjoy a scenic stop for a hearty packed lunch of a sandwich, juice, fruit, chips, and brownies. Visit iconic landmarks along the Icefields Parkway such as Bow Lake, the headwaters of the mighty Bow River before heading back to Banff.

Banff: Afternoon Kananaskis River Whitewater Rafting Tour

10. Banff: Afternoon Kananaskis River Whitewater Rafting Tour

Enjoy whitewater rafting down an idyllic stretch of the Kanaskasis River, the perfect excursion for families, groups, and newcomers to whitewater rafting. During the 4 hour experience, you will spend 1.5 - 2 hours on the river, exploring the pristine waterways of the Kananaskis River. Scout for local wildlife and enjoy the unrivaled beauty of the Canadian wilderness. Meet at the Nakoda Lakeside Lodge on Highway 1A. Start your rafting adventure with a 45-minute drive from Banff or Calgary. Enjoy the short scenic ride as you wind through the Canadian countryside. Once you're fitted with your wetsuits and other safety equipment, ride in a comfortable bus a short distance to the starting point on the Kananaskis River. Here, your guides will provide safety instructions and teach your paddle techniques. Feel equipped and ready to go as you prepare for the river. Board your raft and begin your journey. Admire the views during calm parts of the river. Practice different paddling techniques with your guide. Spot local wildlife such as soaring eagles, and deer who stroll along the banks of the river. Then, get ready to be splashed as your raft through class 2-3 rapids as you travel along a lovely forested area of the river. At the end of the journey enjoy a scenic float to the finish where you can swim and splash in the water. Return to the river base for high fives and snacks to celebrate your rafting adventure. This tour operates from mid-May to mid-September and is ideal for anyone that has never rafted before or does not know how to swim.

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Frequently asked questions about Banff

What top attractions are a must-see in Banff?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Banff?

The best day trips and excursions from Banff are:

Jasper

What are the best indoor activities in Banff for rainy days?

What are the most popular museums and exhibitions in Banff?

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Banff

Mayuri is the founder of ToSomePlaceNew, which covers European destinations and cultural travel. A history graduate and an MBA by qualification, she found her true calling in digging a city’s past and discovering their unique nuances. She is based in Canada, and travels with her husband. Find more on her blog about Banff.

What should I do on my first trip to Banff?

For your very first trip to Banff, consider booking a centrally located hotel - maybe a suite with mountain views. Do check out the town centre, and thereafter ride the Banff Sightseeing Gondola to soak the entire valley, and its iconic landmarks from an elevation of 2,281 m (7,486 feet) above sea level. From Banff, embark on hikes, or enjoy a canoe ride on Vermillion Lakes, or the picturesque Lake Louise. Don’t miss out on a sightseeing cruise on Lake Minnewanka.

What are some hidden gems to see in Banff?

Banff is all about the iconic views, but you can make it unique. Like you can soak in mountain views from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel whilst enjoying an afternoon tea or castle food experience. Another favorite attraction in Banff town that often gets missed is the Cascade of Time Gardens. These beautifully manicured gardens are located just a few minutes away from the town centre, and it is a stunning place to admire the mountains and greenery (and it's all for free!)

How much time should I spend in Banff?

A weekend is perfect to enjoy the highlights of Banff National Park. Set aside a day to wander the town centre, cultural sites like museums and walking trails nearby. On the second day, go hiking. There are a lot of easy to challenging hikes near Banff to choose from. If you are not into hiking, enjoy a day of lakes and explore Minnewanka, Two Jack and Lake Louise on a quick day trip from Banff!

What food is Banff known for?

You must try a good steak or bison when you visit Banff National Park. You can easily order Alberta steak in any of the restaurants at the town centre. For drinks, try a local brewery such as Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar. There are a lot of cafes and bistros inside the national park to enjoy coffee, bagel and cakes.

What is the best way to get around Banff?

The best way to explore Banff is by car. Rental cars can be picked up at the Calgary International Airport (nearest airport), and then you can drive to Banff. There are transit buses (called ROAM buses) that you can use to get to various attractions inside the national park. One way tickets start at $2 CAD for adults.

What are the best months to visit Banff?

Summer and fall are the best times to visit Banff National Park. In the summer months, all the outdoorsy activities are open from camping, canoeing, hiking to easy road tripping. Only thing to be mindful of is that Banff gets super busy in the summers - so plan ahead to make reservations. Visiting Banff in the fall is also perfect as you can go on hikes and see all the fall foliage, minus the crowds and expensive accommodation!

What is Banff Avenue known for?

Banff Avenue is the central hub of the national park. This is where you will find restaurants, resorts and hotels, shops, and tour agencies. Many of the iconic photo spots are located in Banff town - you won’t have to try too hard to get a glimpse of the mountains!

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

The best place for food in Banff is in the Main Street neighbourhood. This area is home to local breweries, amazing bistros, restaurants and shops. For restaurants with mountain views, reserve a table at the Banff Gondola - Sky Bistro or the Juniper Bistro & Hotel. For those who love to check local produce and crafts, plan to visit the Banff Mountain Market, which is held in the summer months in the heart of Banff town.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Banff Avenue is the Main Street for all things souvenir and essential shopping. Banff Avenue is lined with athletics, fashion, local crafts, and souvenir shops.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Banff?

For quick access to amenities and sightseeing, staying at the main street of Banff is a good idea. During summers, it can be a little expensive to find accommodation inside the National Park. In that case choose to stay in Canmore, which is located 20 minutes outside of Banff or in Calgary - situated 1 hour’s drive away.

Other Sightseeing Options in Banff

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What people are saying about Banff

Overall rating

4.7
(2,300 reviews)

Really enjoyed the day trip with stunning winter views and hiking across frozen lake Louise! Tito was super friendly and helpful with photos, knowledge and also took us to a couple of ‘surprise spots’ because we were making good time. 10/10 for the play list and for the calming serene views!

I had a great tour guide (Gordon) and was really happy with the whole trip. We were also only a small group, I liked that. Will definitely visit Lake Louise again in summer but it’s gorgeous in winter as well :)

It was a great experience!!! I was so happy i could meet new people had fun! Murray guided us all the way and made sure we were comfortable and safe!! Thank you Murray!!

The trip was a lot of fun! Our guide, Gordon, was very friendly and personable. The group members were nice. And perhaps most importantly, the views were spectacular.

It was really nice, with good guide, interesting information and amazing nature!