Things to Do On A Winter Visit To Banff

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Advisor - Diana Turner
Curated By

Diana Turner

  • Banff

  • Active Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Outdoors

  • Mountains

  • Winters

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Curator’s statement

Banff is all about enjoying the great outdoors to the point of exhaustion and then collapsing fireside with some lovely Alpine treats. Only 90 minutes from Calgary, you can go skiing, dog sledding, have a schvitz at a natural hot spring and then settle in with some fondue and the best sleep you’ll ever have. Pack your swimsuit AND your parka!

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Where to stay in Banff

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Things to do in Banff

Pack of dogs sleighing on snowy ground.
  • Banff National Park: Whether you take a good hike or take advantage of one of the many cross-country trails, there are many ways to enjoy the park in the winter and feel as though you have it all to yourself!

  • Banff Upper Hot Springs: This historic site is maintained by the park and looks directly out onto the Rundle Range. The springs stay around 100ºF (38ºC) year-round - that’s equivalent to a comfy bathtub soak. There’s an onsite cafe, lockers and gift shop, and if you’re staying at the Rimrock Resort you can walk here from your hotel.

  • Snow Activities at Big 3: The Big 3 are Mt. Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay. From there, you can go skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snow tubing or rent snowmobiles. Feeling a little more low-key? Gondolas and restaurants aplenty are there to enjoy the apres-ski scene. If you’re staying in Banff proper, Mt. Banff Sunshine should meet most of your adventuring needs.

  • Nightrise at Banff Gondola: Entrance to this after-sunset event are included in your Banff Gondola tickets. Features digital art, light installations, live music, cocktails, dining and a unique nighttime view from the top of Sulphur Mountain.

  • Dog Sled Tours: Snowy Owl is a sled tour operator in Bow Valley who cares deeply about the health and care of their dogs. You can spend as much or as little time with these pups as you can handle - ranging from a two-hour tour to a two-day overnight tour, and choose to learn to steer your own sled or simply ride along under the care of an experienced guide.

  • Whyte Museum : The museum offers art, photography, history, and cultural exhibitions all celebrating the Canadian Rockies. You can purchase crafts from local Indigenous artisans in their gift shop. This is great quiet, down time in an otherwise activity-filled visit.

Day Trips

Lake Louise is 45 minutes west of Banff, but it has to be mentioned here. It’s a lovely winter excursion, with the Snow Days Festival featuring ice carving atop the frozen lake itself. If you’re comfortable on ice skates, you must make your way out here for a few turns on the ice, à la Elladj Baldé. One FOMO warning though - this lake is perhaps equally exquisite in the summer, when the glacier-fed lake is an unreal, turquoise blue and the hiking trails in the mountains looking onto it give a very alpine feel. If you do make the trek at any time of year, I suggest staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Places to eat & drink in Banff

Inside of a restaurant with snowy ground and mountains views from window.

The theme in Banff is definitely warm, filling comfort food - from casual to fine dining!

  • Rundle Bar at Banff Springs: There are several bars within the Banff Springs, but I think the most special is this beautifully crafted wooden bar with a cozy fireplace. If you’re feeling fancy but more in the mood for snacks than cocktails, they also offer an afternoon high tea. Ask to be directed here by hotel staff if you’re not sure where to find it. As you explore, make sure to note the marble staircase near the reception desks- you may glimpse a ghost of the bride said to haunt it!

  • Waldhaus Pub & Biergarten at Banff Springs: Overlooking Bow Falls, this is a good place to refill your tank with Bavarian-style food. More upscale than a normal pub, it’s not quite high-class either - think pretzels, bratwurst, beer and schnitzel rather than prime rib.

  • Eden at Rimrock Resort: Whether or not you’re staying at the hotel, it’s worth making a reservation at this restaurant for a special night out. You can order à la carte, but I would recommend the chef’s tasting menu to sample all the tricks up their sleeve. The platings are a feast for the eyes as well. I should mention that they do not offer a children’s menu, so be aware if you’re traveling with some picky eaters.

  • Grizzly Fondue: I can’t stop from smiling thinking about this kitschy retro fondue restaurant with a storied past off of the main street in Banff. My group chose this spot not knowing what we were getting into, and I’d encourage you to do the same - but ask your server about the history and the tableside amenities when you arrive. I’m only spoiling half the fun by telling you that, in addition to some lovely fondues, you can dine on almost any animal you can think of here. Elk, alligator, snake… inexplicably, they have it.

  • Park Distillery: The only distillery set within ANY Canadian park, they use glacier water and grains from local Albertan farmers. The cocktails veer towards traditional uses of their house-made spirits, and the dining menu is both healthy and hearty. There’s something for everyone, offering both a variety of steaks as well as a separate plant-based menu.

  • Crazyweed Bistro: Located in nearby Canmore, this restaurant boasts an elevated menu with a casual vibe - they encourage diners to make themselves at home in their ski or hiking gear. Their mains are big plates meant for sharing, with lots of veggie-forward sides to accompany.

Need to Know

  • If you’re looking for a souvenir, I personally love to bring back a local spirit, and the alpine-style gin and the maple-infused bourbon from Park Distillery hit the spot. Otherwise, Banff and nearby Canmore feature a few charming thrift shops that feature vintage sweaters and other winter gear.

  • A rental car isn’t completely necessary for a visit to Banff. If driving on icy roads doesn’t sound like a relaxing getaway, we can arrange a transfer from Calgary and you can reach the Big 3 ski resorts via shuttles from most hotels.

  • Alberta is closer than you think! Because oil is a primary industry for Alberta, there are a surprising amount of direct flights there from Texas. For example, I live in Austin and the daily 4-hour direct flight to Calgary from Dallas is a hop, skip and a jump for me. They also make border crossing very simple for American citizens  - they offer expedited entry with kiosks when you arrive in Calgary, and you actually go through US Customs & Immigration when you check in for your departure from the Calgary airport - streamlining any layovers or arrivals home to your airport.

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Mostar: A Cultural Gem Hours From Dubrovnik.

Advisor - Diana Turner

Travel Advisor

Diana Turner

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Banff.