Everything New We Want to Check Out in Banff
A new rooftop patio hot-tub situation with stunning mountain views isn’t even the half of it.
The tiny town of Banff, inside its namesake national park, has been a destination for Canadians and visitors from around the world since the 1880s, when the transcontinental railway was built, running through the Bow Valley. With plenty of classic hotels, restaurants and attractions, it has had a few updates in recent years—Park Distillery opened up on Main Street in the space that for decades was Giorgio’s, and Chuck’s took over a second-storey corner on Banff Ave. that for 36 years was Le Beaujolais. There’s a new bowling alley that serves pizza and the iconic Mexican eatery Magpie and Stump—which has always been shrouded in dark wood—opened a hip, brightly coloured rooftop patio. And this summer has seen even more significant new beginnings.
This spring, the Fairmont Banff Springs’ Bow Valley Grill was reworked and made over into the Vermillion Room, a classic, graceful brasserie with a bustling atmosphere, French elegance and Canadian charm. The menu is approachable, but unmistakably classic French bistro—steak frites, mussels, baked onion soup and daily specials like coquille St. Jaques and coq au vin. Naturally, everything is made from scratch with the same care the culinary team pays to all its dining rooms, with premium Alberta Angus beef, pork, and lamb butchered in-house, organically grown vegetables largely sourced from local farms, and herbs grown in urban cultivators on the property.
“We have access to some amazing small farms, producers and artisans here in Alberta, passionate about the food items they grow and create. This passion inspires our chefs to celebrate our land through some truly exceptional flavours,” said Executive Chef Robert Ash, who has recently taken the helm, overseeing the Banff Springs’ many dining options, from the Vermillion Room to the 1888 Chop House, Waldhaus, Grapes wine bar and Rundle Lounge.
The spectacular new room, reimagined by Calgary’s Frank Architecture, is dressed in deep indigo with gold trim, with clean lines, and sleek but comfortable chairs. Subtle sliding walls provide the option of enclosing a table or three for a private dinner or event, and can make the dining area smaller during the off season or on days when they’re not as busy. With an intriguing wine list, innovative cocktails (try the celery gimlet, with house-made celery syrup) and locally brewed beers, including their own custom Ghost Bride Lager, the Vermillion is already becoming a destination for locals and visitors alike—for the food, the vibe, and the view.
Having stood for a century at its downtown Banff Avenue location, the historic Mount Royal Hotel has finally reopened following a complete transformation forced by a fire that closed the building two years ago. The essence of the original building has been captured in the redesign, which is classic-modern, sleek and art déco. A tiny museum in the lobby introduces guests to the history of the area in a unique way, while offering locals a refresher; in the second floor library, you’ll find books and games, and occasionally a wine tasting or historic tales told over hot cider. On the rooftop, there are two hot tubs to soak in, with a fireplace, indoor and outdoor seating area, and it’s all a lounge, with beer, wine, nonalcoholic beverages and snacks on offer.
Down below street level, Toque Canadian Pub is the perfect place to catch up with friends, catch a game over a pint or two, and taste your way through a menu inspired from coast to coast. (There’s poutine with traditional Quebec cheese curds, Montreal smoked meat, Okanagan vegetable dip with bannock, butter chicken and a bison burger with Alberta Gouda and saskatoon berry preserve.) Their extensive craft beer list provides a virtual brewery tour of Canada, with a collection from Alberta and across the country.
If you’re after breathtaking mountain views—and why wouldn’t you be, while in the heart of the Rockies?—Sulphur Mountain Gondola, rebranded as the Banff Gondola, now has a shiny new reason to make the 10-minute trek up top; the Sky Bistro offers unique prairie-inspired dining at 7,510 feet, perched on the summit of Sulphur Mountain. They do a delicious job of showcasing Canadian cuisine, with meats, cheeses and produce sourced from Alberta farms, and beers and spirits from local breweries and distilleries. And if you’re heading up, you can combine the cost of your meal and the experience with a package that includes the Banff Gondola admission and your choice of appetizer and entrée for one great price. Besides the eatery, which has floor to ceiling windows overlooking six of the most stunning mountain ranges in the Rockies, there are rooftop fire pits, an interpretive centre and theatre, and often live entertainment or an astrologer with a telescope to help you venture even further toward the stars.
Whether you live nearby or are looking for a getaway in our Canadian backyard, Banff has always had nostalgia going for it, but this fall, there are so many gorgeous new places to explore.