For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit Banff. I remember having a book given to me as a teenager which was amazing places in the world and one of the images I remember from there was the river in Banff, as well as Lake Louise, but that’s a whole other article! It was the colour of the water I recall being so memorable, alongside this image of mountains all around.
This summer, at 42, I managed to get to Banff with my family. It was very much worth the wait.
There are tons of things in and around Banff to do, but I actually think that visiting Banff is more about just soaking it up and enjoying some of the basic things. We didn’t have long there as we were just passing through. Given more time I’d probably focus on the hiking in the area as there are so many incredible trails and the scenery is stunning.
I’ve included below some of the things to do in Banff with a family if you are visiting.
We intended on heading up the Banff Gondola whilst we we there, but unfortunately there was a mix up with our tickets and when we tried to re-book they were full (it’s a very popular attraction) so frustratingly that will have to stay on the list of things to do. If you love a good view like me, get this on your list of things to do whilst there.
We absolutely LOVED Banff town. It was so nice to potter up and down a few times. The children picked up a few souvenirs and we were able to sit outside a lovely bar and enjoy a drink in the sunshine.
The main street in Banff is pedestrianised, so it feels super safe with the children. It was busy, but not overcrowded. There is a lovely mix of shops, bars and restaurants and it’s a delightful place to spend a couple of hours.
Paddle in the river
Do not leave Banff without putting your feet in the river. When we were there there was a man who dived in for a swim. It took him a while to warm up afterwards but he said he felt really invigorated.
Just look how clear the water is! It was of course very cold, but it was a hot day and very welcome. There is something very grounding about having your feet in such icy water – and well, just look at that view! It’s a stunning place.
Try a Beavertail
Whilst we were in Banff the children tried the famous Canadian Beavertail. There were tons of toppings and flavours to choose from, this one was a Reese’s Beavertail and was thoroughly devoured.
For anyone who isn’t sure what these are, basically it’s a bit like a doughnut, so imagine going for doughnuts and having a choice of yummy toppings and you are about there.
Visit Banff Sweet Shop
There is a traditional sweet shop in Banff, called Banff Sweet Shoppe, spelt the traditional way. It’s been on Banff Avenue (the pedestrianised street) for 17 years now. It is full to the brim of all sorts of wonderful sweet treats and the children were really thrilled to have a potter around in there.
There are some really wonderful displays in the shop and it’s so worth a look. They also have a big range of home made fudge and hand made chocolates.
Take a walk along The Bow River Trail
We had a lovely walk along the Bow River Trail whilst in Banff. This quiet riverside trail, mostly paved, is only a few steps away from downtown. Plenty of benches allow you to take in the views or enjoy a picnic lunch. Bow River Trail is pushchair and wheelchair-friendly from the Muskrat Street access to the northwest end of this trail.
We stopped so the children could have a play on the park, walked a bit more, look at the art work and enjoyed being beside the river, it really was a gentle but glorious walk that allows you to soak Banff in.
Take a photo at the Banff sign
Before you leave and head to Lake Louise (please don’t miss that) stop and take a photo at the Banff sign (just as you are leaving the town) it makes for a fun family photo!
You can sit or lean on the letters, stand between them, crawl underneath etc. You may have to queue to get a photo (there were others doing the same when we were there).
Have fun at the waterpark
We stayed in the Douglas Fir Resort, just outside Banff. There is an onsite waterpark which is open to the public. So, no matter where you are staying in Banff you can enjoy the waterslides and outdoor jacuzzies/hot pools.
If you are heading to Alberta, you really MUST go to Banff!