No matter what time of year you’re visiting, there’s a ton of things to do in Banff! You may know Banff as the place to be for skiing and snowboarding, or maybe for the hiking, but the town offers way more than just that.
Between the stunning views, unique experiences and countless things to do in Banff, it’s one of Canada’s most popular destinations for travellers (and even for locals!).
Ready to find out what the 16 best things to do in Banff are? Keep reading to find out, and get ready for some serious travel dreaming.
1. Skate on Lake Louise
You may be surprised we’re not starting with skiing, but we have to give a huge shout out to what skating on Lake Louise is like. You’ve probably seen pictures of Lake Louise in the summer, but when that lake is frozen over it becomes a winter wonderland! As you skate along the ice, you’ll be seeing some incredible mountain views at every single angle. What does it feel like? Well, it basically feels like you’re in the middle of a Disney fairytale (no, we’re not exaggerating!). That’s why it’s got to be on your to-do list as one of the things to do in Banff if you’re going in the winter!
Image source:Alec Favale / Unsplash
2. Soak it up at the Banff Upper Hot Springs
Fancy yourself a hot bath after a long day on the hill? Or, maybe taking a day off from skiing or hiking? We suggest heading straight to the Banff Upper Hot Springs! These mineral-rich hot springs work their healing powers while you sit back, relax and gaze up at the famous snow-capped mountains. We can guarantee you’ll be feeling nice and rejuvenated!
3. Walk along the famous Columbia Icefield
Sure, it may not be right in town but one of the best things to do in Banff is to do a day trip and walk along the icefield! Formed about 240,000 years ago, the Columbia Icefield is the largest in the Canadian Rockies. About a 2.5-hour journey from Banff, the trip is well worth it. Besides stepping back in time, you can experience other attractions on-site including an epic glass-bottomed Skywalk! Make sure to dress warm (you’re walking on glaciers after all) and pack that camera!
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4. Visit Johnson Lake
Johnson Lake is great in both the winter, and summertime. If you’re headed there in the winter one of the most popular things to do in Banff is snowshoe, and doing it at Johnson Lake is a must! More of a summer person? If you’re looking for a day off from hiking it’s where the locals head when they want to sit back, relax and soak up some sun. Or if you’re not looking to relax, walk the simple 2.8km loop for a quick afternoon adventure!
How do you get there? Head onto the TransCanada Highway and exit right at Lake Minnewanka.
5. Take in the views at Sulphur Mountain
If you’re visiting Banff, you can’t miss Sulphur Mountain. Not only is it stunning to look at from street level, but when you get to the top you have a full incredible view of the town making it one of the must things to do in Banff!
The best part? There’s two ways to get up. Feeling adventurous? In the summertime, do the hike to the top and relax up top. It’s one of the best hikes in Banff if you’re a first-timer!
Visiting in the winter or just don’t feel like a hike? No worries, you can hop on the gondola to see all the views on the way up.
If you have time to explore more of Sulphur Mountain, consider visiting Cave and Basin National Historic Site – a natural thermal spring cave.
Image source:Sonya Brady / Unsplash
6. Explore downtown Banff
You can’t leave Banff without exploring downtown! This cute, picturesque town is an iconic spot perfect for a bit of walking. Window shopping, eating great food and finding a cozy spot for a drink is one of the best things to do in Banff while you’re visiting. With cute coffee shops, restaurants and views at every corner you could spend all day wandering around.
7. Walk up Johnston’s Canyon
Ahh Johnston Canyon, no matter if you’re visiting in summer or winter it’s a place you need to visit! It’s dramatically beautiful in every way, and you’ll get new views that will make your jaw drop every step of the way.
Yes, that means this involves some activity (but the hike is not difficult!).
One of the best things to do in Banff in the summertime is hike the canyon. It’s a simple one so just make sure you have a water bottle with you and some good shows. What will you see? Gorgeous waterfalls, rivers and stunning canyons.
What’s it look like in the winter? Well, it’s completely frozen over! So, you can still do the hike and see everything completely still. It’s just as beautiful as the summer and something you definitely don’t see every day.
Feeling even more adventurous in the winter? Try out ice climbing at Johnston Canyon’s Upper Falls. When these falls freeze over, many people go ice climbing on it! You’ll just want to make sure you have the proper equipment and book a guided tour — or just join our Banff trip and we’ll take care of all the details!
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8. Eat Breakfast at Wild Flour
On a morning where you’re moving a bit slower and just want to grab a coffee with breakfast, you’ll want to head to Wild Flour.
This bakery is a local favourite and has some of the most incredible baked goods in Banff. Grab a coffee and wander around, or take a seat to see how incredible the community is for yourself!
9. Have a meal at the historic Banff Springs Hotel
Castles are cool. And the historic Banff Springs Hotel (now owned by Fairmont) is an iconic castle-like experience like no other! This charming property is over 100 years old and is nestled at the base of Rundle Mountain. Just a few minutes away from downtown Banff makes it the perfect base for all your activities. If you can’t stay here, lunch might be a good alternative.
Dine on Banff’s best patio, the Lookout Patio, for the very best views and scenery. Or, if you’re looking for a local’s favourite at the Banff Springs Hotel, eat at the Waldhaus Restaurant, upstairs is the classy dinner scene and downstairs is where the locals go to grab a boot of beer and some soft pretzels.
Image source:Zachary Kyra-Derksen
10. Hit the Slopes
If there’s one thing Banff is known for, it’s unforgettable mountain peaks and adventures — like skiing and snowboarding. Travellers across the globe flock to Banff each and every year to take on the slopes, making it one of the best things to do in Banff.
If you’ve never experienced the slopes in the Rocky Mountains, this is the best place to start. The towering mountains offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one you’ll never forget. With epic views around even corner, you’ll be gliding down on fresh snow making your ride smooth and incredible.
Want to hit the mountains and ski while there? Join us on our Ski Banff trip!
11. Wander around Lake Minnewanka
This glacial lake is one of the best things to do in Banff. Lake Minnewanka is just about 5km from Banff’s downtown, so the trip out isn’t far at all! It’s worth it to visit. The 21km long lake, making it the 2nd longest lake in the Canadian Rockies!
Want to really take in the sights? Walk the Lake Minnewanka trail for some amazing views of the lake and treat yourself to a delicious Eddie Burger downtown Banff afterwards!
12. Eat a unique burger at Eddie’s
If you talk to any local, they’ll tell you that one the their favourite things to do in Banff is grab a burger from Eddie Burger Bar. Why? Because they combine the best flavours, with unique meats for the best foodie experience out there.
We recommend trying out The Real Hawaiian which has pineapple and bacon, or if you’re feeling crazy give The Rocky Mountain a try (it’s made of Elk meat!). By the way, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, they have two incredible options for that!
13. Visit Moraine Lake
You’ve probably seen this absolutely breathtaking lake from photos, and it’s because Moraine Lake is a must thing to do in Banff.
The best part about it is that it’s on your way to Lake Louise! As you head to Lake Louise, you’ll find yourself driving up a hill, and about halfway up that hill is Moraine Lake, the gem is absolutely worth the stop. Hike up the stairs to get the best views and some incredible photos for your Instagram!
Image source:Alayna Tam from Unsplash
14. Hike to the Tea House
Want the best view possible of Lake Louise? Yeah we know you do. That’s why one of the best things to do in Banff is get your hiking boots on and head up to the Tea House. It’s truly one of the most epic hikes in Banff.
This hike is one of the most popular and takes you up to a tea house that sits (close to) the top of the mountain. Here, you can grab a tea and some lunch while overlooking Lake Louise from above.
Local’s tip? Keep trekking up to what’s called the Big Beehive and get even more epic views and less crowds. It won’t disappoint, but you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for this one with solid hiking shoes, snacks and water.
15. Learn about the History
Wondering where you can learn all about the history of the mountains in Banff? Head over to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Here, you can learn all about the natural, and cultural history of the beauty that’s surrounding you on your adventure.
What’s great is you have options. You can enjoy this on your own or take a guided tour so that you can learn everything!
Psst. If you hop on any of Contiki’s trips that include Banff as a stop, you can learn all about the history from your guide!
There you have it! Just a teaser of the things you can do in Banff even if you don’t ski. Ready to book? Contiki’s Ski Banff doesn’t include ski passes – so you can customize your next Banff adventure your way.