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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: Lake Minnewanka Cruise

2. Banff: Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Admire views of the Canadian Rockies as you cruise on the largest lake in Banff National Park. Meet your guide and captain on the boat dock at Lake Minnewanka and begin your 1-hour adventure. Glide through the crystal clear water of this glacier lake and soak up the views of the mountains and blue sky above you. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the lakeshore, including big-horned sheep, deer, mountain goats, and even the occasional bear. During your cruise, interpretive guides will share interesting facts and stories about the wildlife and vegetation that inhabit the Canadian Rockies. Learn about the culture of the indigenous people who used to call the area home and hear a lot of entertaining legends of the area.

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

3. 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 National Park: 1-Hour Spray River Horseback Ride

4. Banff National Park: 1-Hour Spray River Horseback Ride

Embark on a horseback riding adventure as you breathe in the pine-spiced mountain air. Approach the Bow Falls and enjoy spectacular views. Pass by the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course known as one of the most immaculately manicured courses in Canada. Continue along the edge of the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course and cross through the waters once more. A partial climb up Sulphur Mountain brings you through a wooded residential area and back to the corrals. Enjoy a unique experience and cross the Spray River. On hotter days, your horse may even decide to cool itself off by splashing water onto its belly. Have an experience unlike anything else.

Banff: Mount Norquay 2.5 or 4-Hour Guided Via Ferrata Climb

5. Banff: Mount Norquay 2.5 or 4-Hour Guided Via Ferrata Climb

Join this fun alpine climbing tour that's perfect for all abilities, including those with no previous experience. Experience the thrill of climbing a via ferrata with an expert guide and delight in bird’s-eye views of Banff National Park.  Choose between a 2.5-hour Explorer Route or a 4-hour Ridgewalker Route. Upon arrival to Mount Norquay, located just 10 minutes from Banff, check in and meet your guide. Get equipped with a harness, lanyards, and helmet, then ride the sightseeing chairlift to where your adventure begins.  After an equipment check and training is complete, take a short 5-minute walk to your first via ferrata buttress to climb. The 2.5-hour Explorer Route is a great choice for those who are slightly limited on time or looking for an introduction to via ferrata. Spend some time with your guide and get introduced to the equipment before heading up a few pitches and crossing the suspension bridge.  You will reach 2,235 meters (7,332 feet) above sea level. The tour lasts 2-2.5 hours, covers 1 kilometer (3,280 feet), and involves an elevation gain of 145 meters (475 feet). Select the 4-hour Ridgewalker Route to get a greater feel for heights and experience the via ferrata in full.  Get comfortable with the equipment on a practice wall, then continue on the Norquay cliffs, climbing the memorial, sunrise and vista buttresses — and, of course, traversing the suspension bridge. The route heads up to the Ridgewalker Summit, 2,300 meters (7,545 feet) above sea level. At the top, enjoy incredible views and snap some photos before descending back to the starting point.  The tour lasts 3.5-4 hours, covers 1.4 kilometers (4,593 feet), and involves an elevation gain of 260 meters (853 feet).

Banff: Sunsets and Stars Evening Walking Tour

6. Banff: Sunsets and Stars Evening Walking Tour

Take an evening sunset walk and watch the stars come out while experiencing nature at remote trail locations. Watch a stunning mountain sunset and feel the awe of seeing the first stars appear. Explore Banff National Park like never before and see nature by night. Be escorted by professional mountain guides and see more of the area with the use of headlamps and lanterns. Hike along local trails around Banff and take the unique opportunity to watch the nocturnal world come to life.

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.

Canadian Rockies: Helicopter Flight with Exploration Hike

8. Canadian Rockies: Helicopter Flight with Exploration Hike

Get ready for an awe-inspiring experience of the Rocky Mountain with this scenic helicopter flight and hiking tour. See the Rockies from a bird's-eye view. Admire the stunning views of the mountains, lakes, and glaciers from above. Then explore the region’s natural beauty on foot. Choose from a 20, 30, or 55-minute scenic flight. Each option includes incredible panoramas of waterfalls, emerald-green lakes, and mountain ridges. With the 55-minute flight, approach the Columbia Icefield, the largest expanse of ice in the Rocky Mountains. After the flight, land at the confluence of the Cline River and Waterfalls Creek. Continue to explore the wild beauty of this region on foot, hiking to the Twin Falls waterfall. Then climb back on board the helicopter and fly back to the heliport, enjoying the fantastic views of Abraham Lake.

Banff: Morning Whitewater Rafting Tour in Horseshoe Canyon

9. Banff: Morning Whitewater Rafting Tour in Horseshoe Canyon

Embark on an exciting rafting trip through class 3-4 rapids and with big waves meaning you will get soaked and have lots of fun. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife sightings and enjoy the stunning outdoor beauty of the Horseshoe Canyon section of the Bow River. Start your rafting adventure with an optional pick-up in Banff or Canmore and enjoy the short scenic ride as it winds its way through the Canadian countryside. Once you're fitted with your wetsuits and other safety equipment, be transported in a comfortable bus a short distance to the starting point on the Bow River. Here, your guides will go through safety instructions and paddle techniques ready for your time on the river. Then it's time to jump aboard to start your journey. Admire the views during calm parts of the river and learn from your guide as they lead the group through different paddling techniques. Make sure to watch for the area’s local wildlife, including eagles soaring above and deer strolling along the river banks. Then, the river comes to life, kicking up a series of frothy rapids that will get your heart pumping. Hang tight and listen for your guide's instructions as he helps you navigate the whitewater through the shale cliffs. At the midway point, stop for an optional cliff jump into the glacier-fed waters of the Bow River. Depending on your adventure level you can choose from a medium or a big cliff jump, or simply enjoy watching the others take the plunge. After the thrill of cliff jumping, continue rafting until you reach the endpoint. Return to the river base for high fives, snacks, and optional return transport. This tour operates from mid May to early September, with transport available from late May onwards on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Banff: Sightseeing Chairlift Ride High Above Banff

10. Banff: Sightseeing Chairlift Ride High Above Banff

Treat yourself to the best seat in Banff National Park and possibly the whole of Canada. More than just a chairlift ride, this famous scenic journey is your ticket to an unforgettable, open-air experience.  Take in legendary, panoramic views as you glide above the clouds. Cruise over wilderness which teams with life and natural splendor. Revel in the endless, picture-perfect scenery stretching out over the horizon.  Soar to nearly 7,000 feet and then settle in for a high-alpine dining experience at the Cliffhouse Bistro. Keep an eye out for some of the more wild neighbors, among them black and grizzly bears, as well as bighorn sheep, elk, and deer.

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

Want to discover all there is to do in Banff? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Banff

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 1,888 reviews

My wife and I were traveling to Banff for the first time and had no idea where to go. We booked the hop on hop off tour and it worked out great. Our guide James was very interesting and quite funny at times. We also had a motorhome and no car so it was almost impossible to get into some areas. If you're not a fan of heavy traffic or circling parking lots for a spot I recommend letting them do the driving and explain what's at each stop.

Not your usual hop on hop off bus experience! James helped us decide which stops to get off at and how long we’d need there to ensure we could fit in all activities that were important to us - a tailor made bus trip! James & Bobby (driver and tour guide) were good fun and knew so much about the area - it was an informative and entertaining journey.

Tyler and Dominique provided personalized services even if it was a hop-on hop-off tour which I never encountered whenever I use hop-on hop off. Ron and the other lady driver is an amazing driver as well who keeps us safe during the entire trip.

The ride was very smooth and the views from the top are amazing! It was not very crowded, so we enjoyed some snacks and drinks while watching the sunset!

Very good tour guide named Gina. Captain Travis was our Captain. Very interesting and willing to answer questions. I would recommend