We just got back from an amazing trip to Banff, Canada. It was our first family ski trip ever and our first family trip to Canada. Banff is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and we decided that we’d like to go back next year for spring break too. Next year, we will plan a longer trip because there are so many things to do Banff is a charming mountain town in the Canadian Rockies. Located in the province of Alberta, Banff is a resort town that sits within the Banff National Park. If you are planning a trip to Banff (and you should!) here is a bit about our Banff family trip to help you plan yours.
Things To Do Banff
1. Ski The Big 3
Skiing is actually the reason that we stumbled upon Banff as a destination. It is known for its incredible skiing with the ski season open from November-May. Not only does Banff offer some of the best skiing conditions and terrain in the world, the long ski season makes it ideal for spring skiing with amazing snow, warmer temperatures, and shorter lines. My husband discovered the best ski trip packages through skibig3.com. He said the prices were better than in the USA, our currency is strong in Canada right now, and we get the bonus of exploring a different country. I was all in and I packed for our ski trip right away!
We booked a 3 day pass ski trip package through SkiBig3 which gave us access to three amazing Banff Ski Areas- Mt. Norquay, Lake Louse Ski Resort, and Sunshine Village Ski Resort. It also gave us access to the daily shuttle buses, the hotel of our choice, ski rentals, and a one day pass to the hot springs (which I will tell you more about later).
We had a fabulous experience at all three of the Banff Ski Areas. Mount Norquay is the smallest skiing area and it was perfect for our first day where my husband was getting his ski legs back under him. The bunny slope was a perfect size to start my kids off skiing for their first time ever. My twelve year old daughter, Sierra, quickly got the hang of skiing and moved on to explore some green trails with her dad.
My nine year old son, Leo, really struggled to get the hang of skiing. He fell down over and over but he kept trying. He was frustrated but he didn’t give up. Leo showed only a small improvement that first day so I just stayed with him on the bunny trail and gave him moral support. Since it was only my second time skiing, I totally understood how hard it can be to pick up. Food Tip: Get the poutine at the Mount Norquay Cafe.
The second day we went skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort. It had a much larger bunny slope area that included 3 magic carpets and several different skiing slopes including one with a half pike trail. It was perfect for our second day where we were ready to advance our skiing but not quite ready for the green trials.
The kids and I spent the morning with a ski instructor (Jenny B.) and she was able to help take Leo from out of control to master of the bunny slopes and help Sierra advance her ski skills even more. They both did a green trail with their dad after they were done with their lessons. My husband had spent the morning exploring all their trails and getting a feel for their black diamonds. They have some super tricky double black diamonds there. It was a huge ski resort and he liked being able to explore the back side of the mountain. Food Tip: The Northface Bistro offers a meat and pasta buffet and the prime rib is amazing.
The third day we explored Sunshine Village Ski Resort. Lake Louise was bigger in actual size but the layout of the Sunshine Village Ski Resort made it feel bigger to me. There were three mountains to ski with lots of lifts, gondolas, and even a covered & heated ski lift! They had a trails for every ski level. The bunny slope was extremely small but that just meant that we got to hit the green trails with an instructor (Chris) right away. They have some nice tame green trails that a beginning skier like me really appreciates.
We had a great time with the instructor able to help us all advance, gain confidence, and enjoy skiing. He was really great at taking us on progressively harder trails without pushing us too far too fast. My husband had a great time exploring their mountains and trying out a variety of trails. I have to say that the view from each Banff ski area was gorgeous but I was almost overwhelmed by all the spectacular views of the mountain ranges at Sunshine Village Ski Resort. Food Tip: The Chimney Corner Fireside Dining offered amazing food and views. I loved the Elk Stew and my husband loved his Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich.
2. Banff Snow Tubing
Not so sure about skiing or you just want more fun things to do Banff? Try snow tubing. It is really a thrill but the kind where you feel safe. We did our snow tubing at Mount Norquay after a morning of skiing and it was the perfect way to change our focus a bit and sit back and relax and let the amazing views hurtle past us! You can snow tube individually or in groups by holding each other’s tubes. They can spin you or not. You can pick lower trails or higher trails. My son and I loved snow tubing was kind of like the thrill of an amusement park roller coaster but with the gorgeous scenery of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
3. Banff Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing is another of the fun things to do Banff. We took a Snowshoe Tour at Lake Louise Ski Resort after a morning of skiing. It involved a gondola trip up to the top so their were amazing views. I loved our guide (Jasmine) who was great at telling us about the history of the area and some fun animal facts. It was fairly easy to snowshoe, as in not hard to master, but still a bit of work to trudge through the snow especially when exploring fresh powder. It was a lot of fun though and we even enjoyed a hot chocolate break at one of the many view points. There was a wide age range of people in our group and the people were from all over from locals to someone from Brazil. Banff is a very international destination after all it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4. Banff Upper Hot Springs
The Banff Upper Hot Springs Bathhouse is a Registered Federal Heritage Building that has been restored to its 1932 appearance. You can soak in steamy hot mineral water while enjoying the mountain views. Whether it is raining or snowing, the hot springs feel great and it such a fun experience and felt so good after a day of skiing that we went twice. You can pay by the visit, get a free visit with a three day SkiBig3 package, or get free entrance with a Banff Alive Pass.
5. Banff Sightseeing Gondola
At the ski resorts, I had already been on a few gondolas so I wondered if the Banff Sightseeing Gondola was worth it. When I asked my ski instructor, he said it was a must see on any list of things to do Banff. He said the views are different and you could see the lakes and rivers from up there. The Banff Gondola seats up to 4 and takes you to an altitude of 7,486 feet. You can get out at the top to enjoy panoramic views, restaurants, cafes, shopping, and hiking trails. You can even walk along the ridge line of Sulphur Mountain to see the Cosmic Ray Station. Word to the wise: Pay attention to the daily hours of operation as they close rather early on Sundays and Mondays.
We ate well. There is plenty to try from fine dining to grab and go shops.
Breakfast- TooLouLous was so good we ate there twice. Once I went savory and the other time sweet. We approved of each dish of the seven dishes we ordered and found them VERY satisfactory. We also ate at the White Bark Cafe- the almond cheesecake was the stand out there (yes, for breakfast, but how could we resist!) Evelyn’s coffee bar had delish pastries and coffee as well.
Lunch- We ate at the ski resorts.
Dinner- Rose & Crown was a relaxed pub type experience. They had a great kids menu with real food choices- my daughter loved the Shepherd’s Pie and my son loved the fish and chips.
Coyote’s Southwestern Grill was also a relaxed dining experience with an eclectic menu. I enjoyed my apple BBQ braised beef tacos and my husband’s fresh apple gorgonzola flatbread was so good- even my daughter liked it and she doesn’t like gorgonzola. The Maple Leaf Grill was an upscale dining experience. It was quite good and one my ski instructor’s favorite Banff restaurants. He recommended the duck and salmon but we got the Seafood Buccatini and Alberta Prime New York- both delish. My personal favorite was the Park Distillery Restaurant. Upscale dining with a modern flare. My husband loved his 25 Dollar Burger that came with an enormous beef rib that was so flavorful, tender, and delish. I enjoyed my fish and chips and my daughter had an amazing beet salad.
Dessert- Stop at Beavertails to fit in a fried up pastry treat loaded with your favorite treats.
Plenty of amazing restaurants in Banff!
The main strip of Banff is just full of cute shops with typical tourist souvenirs and high end shop. Fun for window shopping, gearing up, or picking up some big brand clothing. Look for the original Canadian art, handcrafted jewelry, and native crafts.
I gotta tell you that was just about all the fun things to do Banff we could fit into our visit this time around since we only scheduled 3 full days and two days for travel. However, I saw so many more things I wanted to do and that we plan to do next time around. Here is a short tidbit about those.
8. Buffalo Nations Museum
I find the culture of the First Nations to be fascinating. I would love to visit the Buffalo Nations Museum and learn about the indigenous people of the area and see the artifacts.
9. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
One of my ski instructors said it was pretty cool to see the cave and the original source of the thermal springs. Caves are always a pretty unique sight to see and I hear there are plenty of great hiking trails around if you visit during the warmer months.
10. Ice Skating
I heard from three sources that ice skating on Lake Louise is beautiful and worth the 45 minute trip. I also heard that there were kids playing hockey on the lake and people ice fishing so if sounds like a fun trip any way around. You can get ice skate rentals in Banff or Lake Louise.
If you are looking for crazy extreme sports, there plenty of things to do Banff- like Wafterfall Ice Climbing and Heli Skiing! You can also arrange snowmobile, dogsled, or sleigh tours.
If you visit in the summer, things to do Banff include hiking some of the most amazing trails ever, biking, horseback riding, fishing, and more. It is no wonder that Canada was Lonely Planet‘s #1 Country in Best in Travel 2017 Picks.
Word of warning: All these things to do Banff can really wear a person out! LOL
You can also visit the Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Site for more ideas on things to do Banff. Have you been to Banff before? What were your favorite things to do? Which of the things I suggested sound the most fun to you?