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Banff, AB

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Banff, AB

Banff is a town in the Alberta Rockies region of Alberta. It is the larger of the two towns in Banff National Park, nestled in the mountains, and is located about an hour and a half drive west of Calgary and four hours south of Jasper. The park is easily accessible for International travelers via Calgary International Airport, which has international scheduled and charter flights. Banff is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Banff is a tourist town full of seasonal workers from across Canada and around the world. It is a convenient place to see some spectacular scenery with minimal effort. However, with convenience come crowds. This is not the place to come for solitude or a true back-country experience. That being said, it is a great place to stay for any length of time. There are a wide variety of restaurants and clubs and plenty of tours and activities to keep... Read more

Banff, AB

Destination:

Banff is a town in the Alberta Rockies region of Alberta. It is the larger of the two towns in Banff National Park, nestled in the mountains, and is located about an hour and a half drive west of Calgary and four hours south of Jasper. The park is easily accessible for International travelers via Calgary International Airport, which has international scheduled and charter flights. Banff is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Banff is a tourist town full of seasonal workers from across Canada and around the world. It is a convenient place to see some spectacular scenery with minimal effort. However, with convenience come crowds. This is not the place to come for solitude or a true back-country experience. That being said, it is a great place to stay for any length of time. There are a wide variety of restaurants and clubs and plenty of tours and activities to keep you busy. Staying in Banff during the winter gives easy access to nearby ski areas of Norquay, Sunshine, Nakiska and Lake Louise.

History
Banff was first settled in the 1880s after the transcontinental railway was built through the Bow Valley. In 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled upon a series of natural hot springs on the side of Sulphur Mountain. In 1885, Canada established a federal reserve of 26 km2 (10 sq mi) around the Cave and Basin hot springs and began promoting the area as an international resort and spa as a way to support the new railway. In 1887, the reserve area was increased to 673 km2 (260 sq mi) and named "Rocky Mountain Park." This was the beginning of Canada's National Park system.

The area was named Banff in 1884 by George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, recalling his birthplace in Banff, Scotland. The Canadian Pacific built a series of grand hotels along the rail line and advertised the Banff Springs Hotel as an international tourist resort.

The Banff townsite was developed near the railway station as a service center for tourists visiting the park. It was administered by the Government of Canada's national parks system until 1990 when the Town of Banff became the only incorporated municipality within a Canadian national park.

An Internment camp was set up at Banff and Castle Mountain in Dominion Park from July 1915 to July 1917.

In 1985, the United Nations declared Banff National Park, as one of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, a World Heritage Site. Banff remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada.

One of the most notable figures of Banff was Norman Luxton, who was known as "Mr. Banff". He published the Crag and Canyon newspaper, built the King Edward Hotel and the Lux Theatre, and founded the Sign of the Goat Curio Shop, which led to the development of the Luxton Museum of Plains Indians, now the Buffalo Nations Museum. He and his family helped organize the Banff Indian Days and the Banff Winter Carnival.

In 1976, the International Astronomical Union's Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (IAU/WGPSN) officially adopted the name Banff for a crater on Mars, after the town in Alberta. The crater is at latitude 17.7° north and longitude 30.8° west. Its diameter is 5 km (3.1 mi).


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Get around Banff, AB


The Banff town site is small, and you can walk just about anywhere you want to go. Walking is quick, easy and is good for random adventures down to the river, through the forests, up the mountains. And all of these activities are within a 5 - 10-minute walking distance. Banff has an extensive public transit bus system 8 that runs through town. It connects up with all the area hotels and attractions. Taxi cabs are also available, which is handy if you are doing a grocery run.
Biking around town is popular too. There are several shops to rent bicycles if you are interested in either mountain biking, quick travel downtown or trail riding to the historical Hot Springs(The Cave and Basin). Banff is filled with trails that take you through forested areas, along streams and waterfalls, and ultimately lead to incredible lake and mountain views.

What to see in Banff, AB


The Canadian Rockies offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It may seem a daunting task to try and see it all in a limited amount of time.
Fortunately, there are a host of companies available that eliminate the hassle, giving you the opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy the view. The friendly guides offer fun and informative sightseeing tours in and around the Banff area in comfortable vehicles.

What to do in Banff, AB


Like many mountain towns, Banff has a very different character in winter and summer. There is a decent selection of bars and restaurants but predictably a few too many souvenir shops and boutiques. European travelers especially will welcome the sidewalks allowing exploration of the town on foot. Parking can be tricky, but there is a free multilevel parkade near the center if you can find it.

Film Festival

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is an annual international film festival which occurs over two weeks in late October to early November. It features a collection of international films on outdoor adventure and mountain culture. It is a very popular event that is well attended by a diverse mix of backcountry enthusiasts, weekend warriors, and average Joes.

Year Round

  • Cave and Basin National Historic site. See the birthplace of Canada's National Park system. Where hot sulfur springs were found, and the original bathhouse was built in 1887. There are also a couple of short nature trails.
  • Banff Park Museum National Historic site. Come and see all the animals you missed on your trip to Banff. Guaranteed bear sightings.
  • Banff Upper Hot Springs. All the amenities of a modern facility are featured in this splendid, historic spa and bathhouse – against a backdrop of spectacular alpine scenery. You will luxuriate in the comfort of soothing hot water where travelers have come to "take the waters" for more than a century. For an extra Apres ski laugh, guys wishing to amuse can ask for a hilarious 'traditional style' bathing costume.
  • The Banff Centre is a globally respected arts and cultural center featuring performances and events with dance, music, theatre, opera, film, books, new media and visual arts.
  • Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies offers something for the whole family... art, culture and the human and natural history of the Canadian Rockies. Visit the heritage homes or take a guided walk.
  • Banff Gondola provides visitors with the most spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies and the town of Banff. The views become more and grander in the gondola ride as you climb 698m (2,292 ft) to an elevation of 2,281m (7,486 ft). Alternatively, you can take the 2-hour trail up Sulphur Mountain and catch the gondola down (highly recommended). The trail is steep but manage-able for those with a reasonable level of fitness. Guests will find a restaurant, gift shop, boardwalk, observation deck and unsurpassed photo opportunities at the summit of Sulphur Mountain.
  • Caving Discover the Rat's Nest Cave, a wild, undeveloped cave with no artificial lights, boardwalks or handrails under Grotto Mountain. No experience necessary.

Indoor activities

Banff does offer some indoor activities besides museums and galleries.

  • Waterslides at the Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets
  • Bowling at The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel offers five-pin bowling, glow in the dark bowling and an arcade.
  • Movie Theatre Lux Cinema Banff shows current movie listings and matinees. Independently owned and located downtown.
  • Recreation Centre in the Sally Borden 18 building at The Banff Centre offers a 25m pool, hot tub, steam room, climbing wall, squash courts, and various other programs.

Winter

Banff national park is home to three outstanding ski resorts 19, all within an easy drive of the Banff townsite. Driving to the hill is not strictly required, as most hotels offer a ski bus to take you from the hotel to the mountain of your choice and back again.

  • Lake Louise Mountain Resort. Likely the most well known, and hosts Men's and Women's world cup ski events every winter. As such, it is also the busiest and most touristy. It is located close to the Lake Louise townsite. The scenery is fantastic as is the terrain when there is fresh snow. Excellent all you can eat buffet breakfast served in the Whiskey Jack Lodge. If you're on the Club Snowboard/Ski program, get the early bus!
  • Sunshine Village. Located a few kilometers west of the Banff townsite. In recent years, this hill has improved greatly, with more expert terrain and better lifts, it is a personal favorite. It also receives more snow than the other two resorts and benefits from a higher elevation and a longer ski season. Also fantastic scenery. It is the only resort of the three to have on-hill accommodation. Again buffet breakfast served in the lodge at the bottom of the gondola - not much else until lunchtime once you get to the top. New Standish quad opens up some good terrain.
  • Ski Norquay. The closest mountain to the Banff townsite, and it is much used by the locals. The ski season is a little shorter at Norquay, because it is at a lower altitude than Sunshine and Lake Louise, and snowfall is less consistent. The trails here lean more towards steep and difficult, although there is still plenty of easy terrains. The Lodge is not much good for breakfast - lunch and beer on the deck can't beat however! Worth noting that Excaliber is North America's steepest groomed piste.

All the ski hills are busier on the weekends. Lake Louise tends to get icy if it hasn't snowed in a while, but with fresh snow is hard to beat. Sunshine Village has been giving them some competition with their new terrain and improvements, however. Especially in the early season, pay attention to how many runs are open and how much recent snow has been received in the snow reports - they are better indications of the conditions than the generic conditions ratings given by the hills (the conditions are always at least 'good' according to their ratings). If you only have a few hours and want to ski where the locals ski check out Ski Norquay, it has nice long open runs with great views of the town.
If you arrive before December 31 and you intend to ski at least three days at Sunshine Village, or a combination of three days at Sunshine and Marmot Basin in Jasper, consider buying a Sunshine-Marmot card. The card costs about the same price as one lift ticket. The first, fourth and seventh times you use the card you get a free lift ticket, all other times you get $10 off (you are ahead quite a bit by the third day). These cards can be purchased on the hill (either Sunshine or Marmot Basin), or also at Safeway stores in Edmonton and Calgary, and are valid at Sunshine Village in Banff and Marmot Basin ski resort in Jasper. The Sunshine-Marmot cards are available for purchase until December 31st but can be used all season. Or you can purchase a Tri-Area Pass 23 for Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Mountain Resort, and Norquay. This ticket includes the bus transportation and can be used at any of the three hills at any time.

  • Ski rentals There are some great places in the Town of Banff that will rent high-quality ski, snowboards, boots, along with clothing and accessories. Try Ultimate Ski & ride 24, 206 Banff Av., (403) 760-7583. If you are not staying close to this location, they will pay your taxi for ease.
  • Club Snowboard/Ski, 119 Banff Av., 762-4754. A top notch Snowboard/Ski school with small groups of 4-6. Snowboard methods do vary from European; they tend to teach you to "surf" on snow rather than carve as you would on skis. Craig Gaunce has the patience of a saint and will get you smoothly linking turns on blacks - concentration is adaptability to terrain rather than speed - if you can adapt then nothing's going to faze you!

Apres Ski

  • Red Earth Spa is a full-service spa with six treatment rooms including one dedicated to hydrotherapy. The Spa also features an aesthetics room with a manicure station and two pedicure chairs (great for those mother and daughter spa days). Spa clients also have full access to the hot pool, steam room and exercise room at the Banff Caribou Lodge. The spa has some areas for clients to relax before, in-between or after a treatment. Join us at Banff's only full-service Spa on Banff Avenue.
  • Evening Icewalk & Campfire. A chance to go for an evening moonlit walk around the shoreline of Lake Minnewanka, warm up afterward with hot chocolate around the roaring campfire.
  • Snowshoeing. Strap on snowshoes and walk through pristine snow as the trappers did in days gone by a true winter experience.
  • Icewalks. Get out to see the stunning winter wonderland of frozen waterfalls and rivers. Make sure you wrap up warm. It can be chilly.

Summer

Summer in Banff, just like winter, is stunning. There are plenty of hiking trails accessible from the main town, as well as tours for horseback riding, white water rafting, mountain biking and more. Be warned though - some smaller tour companies are not as professional as the larger tour companies. If they are overbooked, they may pass your credit card details along to a third party without your knowledge and book another tour on your behalf (not always at the same price, and not always the same tour!).

  • Canoeing. 3 minutes walk from the center of Banff you can find the Blue Canoe docks, where you can take a tranquil canoe journey on the Bow River. There is also canoeing available on Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
  • Columbia Icefield Glacier Experience. Climb aboard a massive Ice Explorer and journey across a glacier over 350 meters thick. The Columbia Icefield is the largest sub-polar body of ice in North America.
  • Hiking, Banff has the most beautiful trails surrounding it, you can pick-up a free trail map at the Visitor center, please check the trail reports with the Parks Canada desk before you go. Another option is to go with a hiking guide and group; different locations are available.
  • Wildlife Viewing, While in the area always keep your eyes peeled as there are so many animals to spot in the summer in Banff, but please keep your distance as wildlife is wild, and they should be kept that way, they can be dangerous too! Learn more and have someone show you around can be a great way to see wildlife too.
  • Banff Rafting Association. Excitement for all ages, loads of fun with four rivers to choose from, makes whitewater rafting a must do when you're in Banff.

What to eat and drink in Banff, AB


Eat

Banff is an exciting place to visit on all fronts, and the palate is not excluded. There are pubs, fast-food, fine dining, steakhouses (It is Alberta!!), traditional fare from around the world, candy shops and more.
Banff can be an expensive place to dine as tourism is always high.

  • Balkan Restaurant. 120 Banff Avenue, tel: +1403 762-3454. The Balkan restaurant first fired up its grill on Banff Avenue in 1982. The restaurant was the creation of Greek families out of their element in the cold Canadian Rockies who wished to bring the authentic flavors and warm festive atmosphere of the Mediterranean to this high mountain town. 25 years later they're still at it with authentic Greek cuisine. Be sure to check out their Tuesday and Thursday night "Greek Night" with live belly dancing, Greek dancing, and plate smashing.
  • The Keg Steakhouse and Lounge, two locations; 521 Banff Av. at the Banff Caribou Lodge and 117 Banff Av, tel+1 403 762-4442, or +1 403 760-3030. Great steaks, a casual ambiance and friendly, very knowledgeable staff are the proud and reliable trademarks of the Keg Steakhouse and Lounge.
  • The Meatball Pizza & Pasta, 337 Banff Av., tel: +1 403 762-3667. Located at the Banff Ptarmigan Inn, The Meatball offers a menu featuring delicious Italian influences.
  • Wildfire Grill, 600 Banff Av., tel: +1 403 762-4581. Great food, reasonable prices, attentive staff, and fantastic mountain views.
  • The Maple Leaf. A four-diamond restaurant caters to an elite crowd with impressive wine selections and pricey entrees.
  • Saltlik Steakhouse. Features unique cocktails and a varied wine menu downstairs and a full on steakhouse upstairs.
  • Magpie and Stump. A Mexican restaurant that specializes in Margaritas and typical Mexican dishes. There is usually at least one night per week where Margarita’s are half-price, and if you go in early, you are almost guaranteed to leave late.
  • Grizzly House. A must-see, this was once a swinger's bar this unique shaped restaurant right downtown has telephones at every table with placemats that serve as a map so you can call tables to chat through your dinner. It is a laid-back, fun atmosphere and the food does not disappoint. A typical meal may consist of a Caesar salad to start; then a cheese fondue served with freshly steamed veggies and mouth-watering bread for dipping. The second course is where things get exciting; opt for the 'hot-rock' style of fondue. Rocks are brought to the table and heated to a whopping 300 degrees. Each rock gets its pot of garlic butter smeared on, first by your server and then by you; each person receives a customized plate of raw fish, chicken, bison, frog legs, AAA-beef, SHARK, SNAKE...whatever you wish or dare, to try. Accompanying the exotic mix of possibilities are dipping sauces like chipotle and teriyaki.
  • Seoul Korean Restaurant. This Korean BBQ restaurant smells fantastic as you enter. Value for money. 
  • Nesters Market, Bear Street. 8 AM - 11 PM. For those that need a supermarket instead of a restaurant, Nesters has a great range of organic products. 
  • Barpa Bill's Souvlaki, 223 Bear St., ☎ +1 403 762-0377. The best Greek food this side of Greece. If you can find this legendary hole-in-the-wall, you can enjoy one of the best and cheapest meals in Banff. 
  • Eden, Located at The Rimrock Resort Hotel, ☎ 403-762-3356. Our AAA Five Diamond award-winning restaurant is an exquisite dining experience, offering French cuisine with regional accents. Combined with Eden’s Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence and ALTO Award winning service, this restaurant provides each guest with the finest in dining, service and scenic views in Banff. Sommeliers are on staff to offer the best wine pairing to compliment the experience. Eden is closed Monday and Tuesday each week. 
  • Primrose, Located at The Rimrock Resort Hotel. Breakfast & Dinner. Breakfast and dinner are served at our Primrose restaurant. Enjoy the morning sun through floor to ceiling windows, and beautiful floral paintings of renowned French artist of the millennium, Michel Henry. Featuring local and international cuisine prepared and served by our ALTO Award winning staff.
  • Larkspur Lounge, Located at The Rimrock Resort Hotel, 36. Open 11 am daily. Relax near our grand fireplace and dine for lunch, a light snack or a comfortable dinner while surrounded by two-story windows framing the splendor of the Rundle Mountain Range. 

Drink

Banff has a large variety of places to sit and enjoy a drink whether it is après ski or a patio.
Most of the pubs have live music, both open mike and hired bands. Dancing is encouraged!

  • St. James Gate, 207 Wolf Street, tel: +1 403 762-9355. Irish pub.
  • Wild Bill's Legendary Saloon, 201 Banff Ave, tel: +1 403 762-0333. Wild Bill's offers bands, a dance hall, line dancing & two stepping. Can accommodate groups of all sizes.
  • Rose and Crown, 202 Banff Av. upstairs, tel: +1 403 762-2121. English pub.
  • Elk and Oarsman, 1119 Banff Av. 2nd floor, tel: +1 403 762-4616. Canadian style pubs.
  • Aurora Nightclub and Hoodoo Lounge, tel: +1 403 760-8636.
  • The Beaver, tel: +1 403 762-4499. Banff's liveliest and most central Backpacker bar. 
  • Pump and Tap Tavern, 215 Banff Av., tel: +1 403 760-6610. Looking to watch the footie game or cricket match?
  • Bear's Den Pub at the Inns of Banff, 600 Banff Av. 5PM-midnight. Features a wide selection of locally brewed beers and pub fare food.
  • Dancing Sasquatch, 120 Banff Avenue, ☎ +1 403 762-4002, 44. 9PM-2: 30 AM daily. Banff's newest nightclub. 
  • Divas, Located at The Rimrock Resort Hotel, 45. This elegant room is a perfect getaway; our bartenders will create a specialty martini or delicious cocktail that will make you want to have another one. Enjoy watching your favorite sporting event in front of the fireplace. Divas is a great place for larger groups to gather and interact. Divas is open seasonally.  

Shopping in Banff, AB


Enjoy strolling alongside locals and world-travelers as you discover a cosmopolitan collection of galleries, boutiques, and cafés. Shops range from internationally recognized clothiers or independently-owned establishments to Canada's oldest department store. A recommended way to experience the highlights is to start on Banff Avenue at the Cascade Plaza mall, do a quick circuit of the shops there, then head down Banff Avenue towards the Bow River. This is the retail, cafe, and restaurant heart of Banff. Once you get near the river, turn around and head back on the other side of Banff Avenue to complete the Banff shopping loop.

Safety in Banff, AB


Banff has a lot of wildlife roaming in and around the city. Be careful of deer when driving. Bears used to be quite common within the city but conservation efforts have largely fixed this problem.
Garbage within the city is still kept in "Bear-Proof" containers. Respect the wildlife.
Never feed or approach a bear or any animal for that matter, pay attention to the animals mannerisms, especially larger Elk and Deer that have been known to charge tourists who get too close. Keep a reasonable distance.
It is also worth noting that Friday and Saturday nights in Banff can get quite rowdy with many intoxicated visitors frequenting the many bar and night club options on Banff Avenue, while this rarely leads to violence, it is always good to keep your wits about you in who might be getting out of hand in your immediate vicinity.

LOCAL TIME

10:14 pm
December 14, 2018
America/Edmonton

CURRENT WEATHER

-1.91 °C / 28.562 °F
light snow
Sat

-9.46 °C/15 °F
light snow
Sun

-9.65 °C/15 °F
light snow
Mon

-0.82 °C/31 °F
sky is clear
Tue

0.92 °C/34 °F
light snow

LOCAL CURRENCY

CAD

1 USD = 1.34 CAD
1 EUR = 1.51 CAD
1 GBP = 1.68 CAD
1 AUD = 0.96 CAD

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