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Best Things To Do in Banff

Seasons dictate the popular activities of Banff. In the winter, skiing is king. In the summer, hiking, biking, scrambling (a mix of hiking and rock climbing) and fishing rule. If you make the trek to Banff, you probably have an outdoor sport in mind. Take advantage of the rugged terrain in whatever manner you see fit. On your day off, leave your posh resort to explore the stores and restaurants in downtown Banff, which encompasses just 1 ½ square miles and sits at an elevation of 4,537 feet, making it the highest town in Canada.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Banff

Located miles 11 miles west of Banff Town, Sunshine Village offers 12 lifts, more than 3,300 skiable acres and a peak elevation of 7,200 feet. And thanks to its location straddling the Continental Divide, Sunshine sees more snow than its neighbors, meaning the ski season here is long – typically from early November to late May. The powdery terrain beckons skiers of all levels (another point of praise from recent travelers), and the Sunshine Mountain Lodge offers a great setting for dinner and drinks after a day on the slopes. 
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Hiking Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Sunshine Village
Located miles 11 miles west of Banff Town, Sunshine Village offers 12 lifts, more than 3,300 skiable acres and a peak elevation of 7,200 feet. And thanks to its location straddling the Continental Divide, Sunshine sees more snow than its neighbors, meaning the ski season here is long – typically from early November to late May. The powdery terrain beckons skiers of all levels (another point of praise from recent travelers), and the Sunshine Mountain Lodge offers a great setting for dinner and drinks after a day on the slopes. 
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#2

#2 in Banff

The Banff Gondola is a relaxing way to experience the town's natural beauty. The eight-minute ride to the summit of 7,500-foot Sulphur Mountain leads to breathtaking views of the Bow River Valley and Banff, not to mention a boardwalk, a handful of eateries, a gift shop, interactive interpretive exhibits, a multi-sensory theater and a 360-degree rooftop observation deck.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Banff Gondola
The Banff Gondola is a relaxing way to experience the town's natural beauty. The eight-minute ride to the summit of 7,500-foot Sulphur Mountain leads to breathtaking views of the Bow River Valley and Banff, not to mention a boardwalk, a handful of eateries, a gift shop, interactive interpretive exhibits, a multi-sensory theater and a 360-degree rooftop observation deck.
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#3

#3 in Banff

Free
Located about an hour's drive north of town, Moraine Lake is the visual highlight of any Banff trip and labeled a must-see bucket list item by many recent visitors. Nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the lake mirrors the snowcapped peaks and is surrounded by backcountry hiking trails. The easiest trail is the flat Moraine Lakeshore path, which starts near Moraine Lake Lodge and takes about 45 minutes to complete (round-trip). As you walk along the lakeshore, you'll spot stunning views of Mount Fay and the Fay Glacier. If you've got a bit more time on your hands, consider embarking on the nearly 2-mile Consolation Lakes trail, which takes about two hours to complete. You'll encounter some elevation gains with this one, but you'll be rewarded with views of the high alpine meadows, enormous talus slopes and the Quadra Glacier. For a detailed list of all the available hikes in this area, visit the Parks Canada website.
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Hiking Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Moraine Lake
Located about an hour's drive north of town, Moraine Lake is the visual highlight of any Banff trip and labeled a must-see bucket list item by many recent visitors. Nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the lake mirrors the snowcapped peaks and is surrounded by backcountry hiking trails. The easiest trail is the flat Moraine Lakeshore path, which starts near Moraine Lake Lodge and takes about 45 minutes to complete (round-trip). As you walk along the lakeshore, you'll spot stunning views of Mount Fay and the Fay Glacier. If you've got a bit more time on your hands, consider embarking on the nearly 2-mile Consolation Lakes trail, which takes about two hours to complete. You'll encounter some elevation gains with this one, but you'll be rewarded with views of the high alpine meadows, enormous talus slopes and the Quadra Glacier. For a detailed list of all the available hikes in this area, visit the Parks Canada website.
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#4

#4 in Banff

The Lake Louise Ski Area is one of Banff's most popular ski locales and one of the largest ski areas in North America. It encompasses three mountains, 145 runs – including a 3,250-foot vertical rise – 10 lifts and a terrain park, not to mention several lodges touting top-notch eateries. Plus, Lake Louise boasts one of the longest ski seasons in North America: The first chair runs in early November and doesn't stop until mid-May. Though Lake Louise is a skier's paradise, it also provides other activities, such as snowshoeing and tubing. And when the weather warms up, the resort offers guided hikes, a wildlife interpretative center and a sightseeing gondola.
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Hiking Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
Lake Louise Ski Resort
The Lake Louise Ski Area is one of Banff's most popular ski locales and one of the largest ski areas in North America. It encompasses three mountains, 145 runs – including a 3,250-foot vertical rise – 10 lifts and a terrain park, not to mention several lodges touting top-notch eateries. Plus, Lake Louise boasts one of the longest ski seasons in North America: The first chair runs in early November and doesn't stop until mid-May. Though Lake Louise is a skier's paradise, it also provides other activities, such as snowshoeing and tubing. And when the weather warms up, the resort offers guided hikes, a wildlife interpretative center and a sightseeing gondola.
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#5

#5 in Banff

Although it is the smallest of Banff's three ski areas, Mount Norquay is also the closest – it's about 5 miles northwest of Banff Town. Beyond its convenient location, the resort is also considered the area's best skiing locale for families because it offers daycare for children and ski and snowboard instruction for ages 3 and older. Mount Norquay is also home to the "North American," one of the steepest slopes on the continent; the ride to the summit offers a spectacular aerial view of Banff Town. You can get your adrenaline pumping with some of Mount Norquay's night skiing (available select days from December through March), or you can head off on one of the area's trails for a cross-country hike. Complete an adventure-filled day with a hearty meal at the Cascade Lodge.
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Skiing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Mount Norquay
Although it is the smallest of Banff's three ski areas, Mount Norquay is also the closest – it's about 5 miles northwest of Banff Town. Beyond its convenient location, the resort is also considered the area's best skiing locale for families because it offers daycare for children and ski and snowboard instruction for ages 3 and older. Mount Norquay is also home to the "North American," one of the steepest slopes on the continent; the ride to the summit offers a spectacular aerial view of Banff Town. You can get your adrenaline pumping with some of Mount Norquay's night skiing (available select days from December through March), or you can head off on one of the area's trails for a cross-country hike. Complete an adventure-filled day with a hearty meal at the Cascade Lodge.
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#6

#6 in Banff

When you're not admiring Banff's stunning scenery from a hiking trail or in the comfort of your car, get out on one of its rivers. Whether you're craving the excitement of a whitewater rafting adventure or just want to peacefully glide through the water, you'll find Banff tour operators satisfy a variety of interests.
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Recreation Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Whitewater Rafting & Float Trips
When you're not admiring Banff's stunning scenery from a hiking trail or in the comfort of your car, get out on one of its rivers. Whether you're craving the excitement of a whitewater rafting adventure or just want to peacefully glide through the water, you'll find Banff tour operators satisfy a variety of interests.
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#7
Hiking Free

#7 in Banff

Free
Though Banff is perhaps best known for its stellar slopes (it's considered one of the world's best ski destinations), its hiking trails are just as impressive – and free to access. No matter which trail you choose to tackle (there are a variety of options for all skill levels), you'll likely stumble upon indigo-tinted waters, fields of wildflowers and stunning alpine vistas.
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Hiking Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Hiking
Though Banff is perhaps best known for its stellar slopes (it's considered one of the world's best ski destinations), its hiking trails are just as impressive – and free to access. No matter which trail you choose to tackle (there are a variety of options for all skill levels), you'll likely stumble upon indigo-tinted waters, fields of wildflowers and stunning alpine vistas.
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#8

#8 in Banff

Covering 130 square miles on the southern edge of Banff National Park, the Columbia Icefield is the largest body of ice in the Canadian Rockies. It's a bit of a drive from Banff Town (about 2 ½ hours), but you'll quickly find the views are well worth the trip. Seasonal tour buses are available from Banff Town (such as this one offered by Discover Banff Tours and Brewster Sightseeing), but consider driving the Icefields Parkway (Route 93) north from Banff to enjoy the stunning trip, which is considered among the most scenic drives in the world. Along the way, you'll spot turquoise lakes, rushing waterfalls and impressive glaciers.
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Natural Wonders Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Columbia Icefield
Covering 130 square miles on the southern edge of Banff National Park, the Columbia Icefield is the largest body of ice in the Canadian Rockies. It's a bit of a drive from Banff Town (about 2 ½ hours), but you'll quickly find the views are well worth the trip. Seasonal tour buses are available from Banff Town (such as this one offered by Discover Banff Tours and Brewster Sightseeing), but consider driving the Icefields Parkway (Route 93) north from Banff to enjoy the stunning trip, which is considered among the most scenic drives in the world. Along the way, you'll spot turquoise lakes, rushing waterfalls and impressive glaciers.
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#9

#9 in Banff

These springs, which were first discovered by Canada's First Nations people prior to the 1880s, were regarded as sacred waters that could cure illness and maintain health. Now, the springs are a popular tourist attraction thanks to their serene atmosphere and stunning alpine views. The facility, which is akin to Budapest's thermal baths, features all of the modern amenities you would expect from a public swimming pool (such as railings, ladders, lockers, changing areas, a cafe and a gift shop), but the water is kept at 98 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and is infused with minerals like sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium and sodium.
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Spas Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Banff Upper Hot Springs
These springs, which were first discovered by Canada's First Nations people prior to the 1880s, were regarded as sacred waters that could cure illness and maintain health. Now, the springs are a popular tourist attraction thanks to their serene atmosphere and stunning alpine views. The facility, which is akin to Budapest's thermal baths, features all of the modern amenities you would expect from a public swimming pool (such as railings, ladders, lockers, changing areas, a cafe and a gift shop), but the water is kept at 98 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and is infused with minerals like sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium and sodium.
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#10

#10 in Banff

This is a popular attraction among nature lovers and history buffs alike. Experts refer to this site as the birthplace of Banff National Park and the natural hot springs have lured travelers in search of solace for years. Although the original springs are no longer open to the public (the Banff Upper Hot Springs are the new hot spot for comfort-seekers), the Cave and Basin National Historic Site does feature interactive displays educating visitors on local wildlife and the history behind the park's establishment.
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Natural Wonders Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
This is a popular attraction among nature lovers and history buffs alike. Experts refer to this site as the birthplace of Banff National Park and the natural hot springs have lured travelers in search of solace for years. Although the original springs are no longer open to the public (the Banff Upper Hot Springs are the new hot spot for comfort-seekers), the Cave and Basin National Historic Site does feature interactive displays educating visitors on local wildlife and the history behind the park's establishment.
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#11

#11 in Banff

Located just a block back from Banff Avenue on Bear Street, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is the only museum of its kind. Named after its patrons, Peter and Catharine Whyte – who were determined to enhance Banff's cultural life – the museum is dedicated to portraying the art and culture of the Canadian Rockies. Here, you'll get a healthy dose of art, history and local folklore. If you're a fan of landscapes, you've come to the right place; the Whyte's loved landscape paintings, both historic and contemporary. 
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Located just a block back from Banff Avenue on Bear Street, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is the only museum of its kind. Named after its patrons, Peter and Catharine Whyte – who were determined to enhance Banff's cultural life – the museum is dedicated to portraying the art and culture of the Canadian Rockies. Here, you'll get a healthy dose of art, history and local folklore. If you're a fan of landscapes, you've come to the right place; the Whyte's loved landscape paintings, both historic and contemporary. 
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#12

#12 in Banff

Having opened in 1952, the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum has dedicated more than 50 years to educating visitors about the contributions made by native people in the area. Brace yourself if you're a history buff or culture hound; there are numerous displays exhibiting domestic routines, hunting tactics and daily life of the region's inhabitants prior to their encounter with European culture, and how they continued to adapt with European influences.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum
Having opened in 1952, the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum has dedicated more than 50 years to educating visitors about the contributions made by native people in the area. Brace yourself if you're a history buff or culture hound; there are numerous displays exhibiting domestic routines, hunting tactics and daily life of the region's inhabitants prior to their encounter with European culture, and how they continued to adapt with European influences.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
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Free
Hiking Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

Free
Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
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