Getaway Guide: Banff, Alberta
Where to eat, stay and play in this small, relaxed mountain town.
Since the discovery of natural hot springs by three CP Rail workers in 1883, Banff National Park—now a UNESCO World Heritage Site—has become one of the world’s top destinations. In the stunning Rockies, visitors come to explore the mountains, valleys, rivers and glaciers, and the tiny town of Banff in the middle of it all. With so many skiers, hikers and cyclists in the area, you can visit most any place in town in heels or hiking boots and feel comfortable and welcome.
Park Distillery, on the busy main drag, is only the second distillery in North America to open with a restaurant attached. Join a free tour and learn how their glacier-to-glass vodka, gin and rye are made, before (or after) sitting down to some campfire-inspired breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or, for a taste of seasonal Canadian cuisine, visit the open-concept kitchen at the Bison for a hearty mountain breakfast—they’re known for their Benedicts. In summer, their open terrace is a great place to be. For dessert or a sweet treat while hiking or sightseeing, the Fudgery is a Banff icon, making fudge, caramels and other classic confections by hand in the front window until 11 p.m. every night.
The Banff Gondola has undergone a dramatic $26-million overhaul, with a stunning observation deck and hands-on interactive interpretive centre. The Banff Upper Hot Springs at the end of Mountain Avenue sits at an elevation of 1,585 metres, the highest hot springs in Canada. For over a century, visitors have come to take a dip in the 40˚C water—a perfect way to unwind after a hike or day of sightseeing. And the esteemed Banff Centre is a draw for artistic types, with year-round exhibitions, workshops and live performances. You can even stay onsite in one of their 320 rooms and suites in the Professional Development Centre or in Lloyd Hall (which include admission to the Walter Philips Gallery) or dine at one of the three restaurants, each with panoramic mountain views.
4 Must-Try Restaurants in Banff
The Fairmont Banff Springs has been an iconic stop in the Canadian Rockies for more than 125 years. In summer there’s an renowned golf course and indoor-outdoor pool, and visitors come just for the waterfalls and mineral pools in the award-winning Willow Stream Spa. The Douglas Fir Resort is geared toward families, with rooms and cabins equipped with full kitchens, wood-burning fireplaces, hide-a-beds and lofts to sleep larger groups. They have year-round outdoor barbecues, Banff’s only indoor waterpark and a two-storey playzone for kids to lose themselves in. Or, for a rustic mountain cabin experience, Buffalo Mountain Lodge offers cozy yet exquisite accommodations as well as one of the best restaurants in town, serving up seasonal, indigenous produce, Canadian grains and smoked, cured and roasted wild game from their own Canadian Rocky Mountain Resort ranches.