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 Interpretative Center to learn about the early explorers, wildlife, and local area. Hike across the Sulphur Mountain boardwalk to explore the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site. Then stop at the coffee shops, restaurants, and gift shops.

Banff: Family Friendly Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride

2. Banff: Family Friendly Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride

Start your tour in Banff, where you will meet a member of the riding office, who will check you in for your sleigh ride. Now it's time to climb into the sleigh and get cozy with your loved ones under a cozy wool blanket. Hear the tinkling of sleigh bells, as the horses lead you on a journey through Banff's mountain meadows. Along the way, listen to stories from your guide and soak in the spectacular views of the valley and surrounding mountains, while keeping your eyes peeled for local wildlife, such as elk and deer. Finish your memorable excursion with a fireside warm-up stop after the ride with a hot drink back at the stables.

From Banff: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour

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

Experience Banff’s famous lakes on a guided tour to 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. After a 30-minute stop here, your guide will transport you back to Banff and drop you off at your hotel.

Banff National Park: Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Day-Pass

4. Banff National Park: Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Day-Pass

Maximize your time in Banff National Park with this Hop-On-Hop-Off Pass and see all the main sights at your own pace. The stops include Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise Gondola (admission is not included). There are 3 departures from Banff, so you can start early and see everything, or sleep in and enjoy a tour along the famous Bow Valley Parkway to Moraine Lake before your return to Banff. • Stop 1 - Banff - The tour departs at 07:45 AM, 9:30 AM, and 12:15 PM daily • Stop 2 - Johnston Canyon - Hop off here to hike up to the beautiful Upper and Lower Falls or even go all the way up to the famous Ink Pots • Stop 3 - Lake Louise Gondola - Soar by gondola or chairlift to the most stunning views on the Lake Louise Gondola • Stop 4 & Stop 5 - Lake Louise - Make sure to hop-off here to enjoy Lake Louise and all that it has to offer. Check out Lake Agnes Teahouse and the breathtaking Plain of Six Glaciers • Stop 6 - Moraine Lake - the most stunning lake in the Rockies. Experience the absolutely breathtaking Valley of the Ten Peaks that surround the lake. Return to Banff as early as 1:45 PM or enjoy all the stops and come back to the town at 6 PM. On your way back to Banff open the windows and watch for wildlife along the famous Bow Valley Parkway. Grizzly bears, black bears, elk, bighorn sheep have all been spotted here. Your bus will stop for photos at any sighting. Enjoy your tour on the original yellow school bus style with a professional driver and a tour guide. All the buses all guaranteed to be 5 years old or newer. Guides on board each bus will help you plan your day on a 1 on 1 basis and give you a personalized itinerary that matches what you want to do. They also have extensive knowledge of nearly everything you would ever want to know about Banff and can help you with hiking suggestions, or even just great places to eat.

Banff: Morning or Afternoon Johnston Canyon Icewalk

5. Banff: Morning or Afternoon Johnston Canyon Icewalk

Start with pickup from Banff and travel in a modern minibus along the Bow Valley Parkway to the Canyon. On arrival at the Johnston Canyon trailhead, your guide will show you how to put on ice cleats over your winter boots, as well as give you some tips on winter hiking. From here, start the moderate 2.7 kilometer hike with 135 meter elevation to the Upper Falls. Walk along the steel catwalks built into the canyon walls which allows a spectacular view down the canyon walls to the ice and river below. Along the way you'll learn the clues to how Johnston Canyon was formed and stop at the Lower Falls, where you'll have the option to walk through a natural cave feature for a unique view. At the Upper Falls, enjoy a brief stop on the upper deck with a small refreshment break to enjoy the views. These gigantic pillars of ice are the tour highlight and ice climbers can often be seen scaling the frozen columns. Once you've finished your hot chocolate, hike back down and your guide will transport you back to Banff and drop you at your hotel.

Banff: Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield Parkway Tour

6. Banff: Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield Parkway Tour

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 National Park: Big Canoe River Explorer Tour

7. Banff National Park: Big Canoe River Explorer Tour

Enjoy the serenity of the Bow River on a family-friendly canoe tour. Get ready to be amazed by extraordinary views of Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies around you. This sightseeing tour is perfect for the whole family and doesn't require any previous experience. Meet at the Banff Canoe Club, just a 5-minute walk from downtown Banff. As you journey upstream, your expert guide will entertain you with stories of the past, history of canoeing, and interesting local facts. Admire the scenery around you, while learning how to paddle as a team. After 1 and a half hours of fun, enjoy a complimentary, refreshing lemonade on the shore.

Banff: Afternoon Kananaskis River Whitewater Rafting Tour

8. 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. Explore 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.

Banff: Eat the Castle Food Experience at Banff Springs Hotel

9. Banff: Eat the Castle Food Experience at Banff Springs Hotel

Meet your guide inside the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and begin with a welcome tasting with all in-house prepared breads, meats and preserves plus a beverage pairing. Take a tour the greenhouse or micro-greenery, and mingle with the culinary team as you go behind-the-scenes to learn some pastry arts. Head to a closed to the public dining room for a formal sit down seafood and wine pairing. Meander the hallways to learn about history, art and architecture with your storytelling guide. Cozy up in the wine cellar for a private tasting and food pairing.  Access the photo archives to get a glimpse into Banff as it used to be. Receive a special parting gift and get tips on other great things to do in the area.

Banff: Grizzly Bear Refuge Tour with Lunch

10. Banff: Grizzly Bear Refuge Tour with Lunch

Get picked up from a meeting point at the Mt Royal Hotel in a modern minibus by your friendly guide. Departing from Banff, head to Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park (when access permits), to see Canada's 2nd highest waterfall tumbling 254m (830 feet) in one stretch and 384m (1,260 feet) in total. The falls can be admired from the parking area or from an optional short 0.5km (¹⁄₃ mile) walk on a paved trail from the parking area to the base of the impressive falls. Then, continue on to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to take an enclosed sightseeing gondola with glass windows. Travel up to 7,700 feet s you admire the panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia River Wetlands, and the quaint town of Golden. At the top, enjoy a gourmet lunch from your choice of menu items with a non-alcoholic beverage and dessert at Eagle's Eye restaurant, Canada's highest restaurant. After a leisurely lunch and enjoying the mountain top views, descend back down the sightseeing gondola, and take a 4-person open-chairlift chairlift partway up the mountain to the Grizzly Bear Refuge, the largest enclosed grizzly bear habitat in the world. At the refuge, meet Boo, a bear with paws the size of hubcaps, a mouth full of sharp teeth, and enormous muscles moving beneath his shaggy fur, in his 20-acre habitat in the Rocky Mountain bush. Hear his personal story and learn about grizzly bear behavior from the knowledgeable guide. Watch him explore, hunt, and forage just like his wild cousins. After the tour, descend back down the open-air chairlift and have a brief stop at stunning Emerald Lake on the return journey to Banff. This tour has a guaranteed grizzly bear sighting or your next tour is free.

Frequently asked questions about 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 / 5

based on 1,888 reviews

The gondola ride was great but once you get to the top there are lots to do. The roof top view, the restaurants, theatre, and of course the views! Don’t let the look of the the walk discourage you, there are lots of spots to rest along the way and enjoy yet another amazing view !

Amaan was my driver and tour guide. He was beyond fantastic! Amaan made sure to stop on various viewpoints and helped take photos for me. He was very knowledgeable and kind. Thank you for a magical day and memories I will treasure forever.

Our driver was so helpful and knowledgeable. We had a fabulous day, he knew just where best photos could be taken and we avoided the crowds and we went at our own pace. Thanks Manny.

Our guide Tim was fantastic would recommend to anyone looking for a way to check out the surrounding wild life and spots of Banff

Efficient staff. Loading and unloading very easy. Gorgeous views.