Banff National Park is one of Canada’s great national treasures, attracting millions of visitors every year. Encompassing a portion of the Rocky Mountains, the park is home to beautiful turquoise lakes mirroring the snow-covered peaks, along with glaciers and forests. Since 1985, it has been included in UNESCO’s list of protected natural and cultural monuments. Get a head start on your visit by reviewing our list of the top attractions in Banff National Park in Canada.
The Best Things To Do In Banff National Park, Canada
WALK AROUND DOWNTOWN, A FUN THING TO DO IN BANFF
Downtown Banff, Canada is the first place you’ll see when you get to the national park. It’s a small area with a charming atmosphere, and the locals are warm and friendly.
Along with hotels and shops, there are several museums and historical sites. Go to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies to learn more about the history of the mountains or stop by the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, which focuses on the indigenous First Nations people.
There are other cool things to do in Banff, such as visiting Central Park along the Bow River. Across the river is the Banff Indian Trading Post, where you can find unique gifts and indigenous products.
If you’re here during the summer, the Cascade of Time Garden is a tranquil place to go in Banff. It’s a small place, but it’s worth seeing, and it can be a romantic place to go as a couple. The garden has beautifully manicured lawns, flower beds, and butterflies that you can watch from a shady bench.
For dinner and drinks, head to Park Distillery or Rose and Crown, the oldest pub in Banff. Then, get a good night’s sleep so you can explore the national park!
CAVE AND BASIN NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, A CAN’T-MISS ATTRACTION IN BANFF
Cave and Basin National Historic Site is one of the coolest places to visit in downtown Banff, Canada. It’s a historic site because it’s near the hot springs where the national park was established. Cave and Basin is also the only cavern large enough to accommodate several groups of people.
The site is near the Marsh Loop Trailhead, a beautiful scenic spot. From there, you have to walk through a manmade tunnel to the natural grotto. You’ll pass a restored 1916 swimming pool along the way.
Visiting this area is a good thing to do in Banff as a family, and you can go on your own or take a guided tour. As you get closer to the hot springs, you start to smell the minerals and feel the temperature change.
The odor of Sulphur may throw you off, but the place is worth seeing. This is one of the best kid-friendly activities in Banff, as there are interpretive displays about the geology of the area. It’s also a pretty place to see, and something unique to do in Banff National Park.
VISIT THE INSANELY BLUE PEYTO LAKE
When people see a picture of this lake, they don’t believe the color is real and think the pictures must have been edited in Photoshop. The lake is easily accessible from the parking lot along the Icefields Parkway. Watch for a sign for Bow Summit (100 km from Banff). You would want to see the color yourself. A lookout point is a popular place and you can even hike to the lake itself! Read more about this natural phenomenon below.
Banff Springs Hotel
One of the main highlights in Banff is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. This historic hotel was built in 1888 and is today the emblem of Banff. Once planned to be the largest hotel complex in the world, this traditionally-designed, castle-like grand hotel still preserves much of the glamour of the early days of railway tourism. In those days, only well-to-do travelers could afford to make the journey into the then still remote region of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The hotel is set off on its own in a wooded area with lovely views of the surroundings. Below the Banff Springs Hotel, easily reached on foot from downtown Banff, the Bow River tumbles over a cliff-like rise.
Go Deeper with Guided Tours
Banff National Park’s wonderful hikes and vistas are available to all, but local tour operators open up the wilderness for a safe and memorable experience. For an adrenaline rush, ice-climbing trips with Banff Alpine Guides (banffalpineguides.com) in winter and Mount Norquay’s Via Ferrata (banffnorquay.com) assisted-climbing excursions in summer don’t disappoint. Both come with expert instruction and all the necessary safety gear, no experience required. Additionally, canoeing along the Bow River with The Banff Canoe Club (banffcanoeclub.com) seamlessly combines a history lesson and a leisurely journey.