There is no shortage of amazing things to do in Banff. No matter what season, this bustling tourist destination and stunning mountain town sports fantastic events and stunning scenery. Whether you’re going with the entire family or just as a couple, you’ll find the perfect activity. Here’s a few of Banff’s best events and activities to check out for every season.
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Most Banff events tend to take place at the Banff Centre, one of the most unique arts and culture spaces in Canada. Supporting artists from across the country, Banff Centre offers residencies for these artists to grow their art and share it with the world, all while nestled in the Rocky Mountains.
That means, there’s always plenty of events and activities happening here. The entire list can be found on the Banff Centre Events calendar.
There’s always loads of musical evenings at Banff Centre as their concerts feature those who are studying at the centre. Towards the holiday season, there’s often holiday concerts at Banff Centre that are perfect for families.
In addition to musical guests, there’s often film and literature talks taking place at the Banff Centre. These events range from movie screenings to science lectures and book discussions.
There’s many Banff festivals that take place throughout the year. These are a great impetus to bring the family out to the mountains or to whisk your partner away on a romantic getaway.
In late October and early November, Banff Centre hosts the annual Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival. The festival runs each autumn with movie screenings, book talks and workshops like photography.
In winter, the former Ice Magic Festival is now a part of SnowDays. Ice Magic takes place in Lake Louise, less than an hour’s drive from Banff. Here, attendees witness some of the most beautiful ice sculptures and castles they’ve ever seen.
Ice sculptors from across the globe come to compete. They each get a block of ice and 48 hours to complete their sculpture. You’ll be amazed at what these talented artists are able to carve. The ice sculpture competition takes place in January, on the grounds of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Want to do an ice walk at Johnson Canyon? Here’s a good tour to check out.
If you’re looking for a couple’s getaway, there’s a bunch of Banff Festivals for adults. In November, Banff holds the Banff Craft Beer Festival. It features exclusively Alberta craft beer and is hosted in the hauntingly beautiful Cave and Basin National Historical Site.
You’ll be treated to the best beer Alberta has to offer, as well as opportunities to chat with the brewers themselves. Show up early for an exclusive lantern tour, and don’t forget to check out the before and after parties happening at Banff Brewing Co.
Banff in Fall
Fall is probably most Banff and Calgary local’s favourite time of year to explore. Naturally, there’s plenty of events running in fall.
Halloween takes over much of the events and discussions. If you’re heading to Banff over Halloween, make sure to check out the Halloween Bonfire. It’s put on by the Banff firefighters association and serves up free hot dogs, hot chocolate and a pyrotechnics show. Wear your costumes!
In November, visitors can take in the Remembrance Day Parade and cemetery tour. The parade leaves from and ends at the Legion. It begins at approximately 10:30 am and finishes with a wreath laying. Those looking to continue with the Remembrance Day proceedings can take part in the cemetery tour at the Old Banff Cemetery.
Banff over the holidays
There are few things as magical as the holiday season in Banff. The snow-capped Rockies and rich evergreens create the ultimate winter wonderland. The Town of Banff supplements the cheery atmosphere with plenty of events for the whole family. In the past few years they’ve added a hot chocolate trail and a dazzling light display going up at Central Park.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Santa Claus Parade, and the one in Banff is certainly special. It takes place during mid-November, the first weekend of the Banff Christmas Market.
During the day, children can get their pictures taken with Santa at the Banff Train Station. The real magic happens at dusk, when the parade begins on Banff Avenue. There’ll be stunning lights, floats and of course, Santa Claus himself! After the parade, head down to the Cascade Gardens for some carolling.
If a family sleigh ride is what you’re after, here’s a good Banff tour that’s affordably priced.
Banff’s Christmas Market features both European traditions and newer Bow Valley ones. Sample European delicacies, while perusing the works of local artisans. Like traditional Christmas Markets, adults can sip mulled wine at the Outdoor Lounge Bar while taking a break from your Christmas shopping.
One of the most magical ways to celebrate the Christmas season in Banff is through the annual Christmas at the Castle. This holiday tradition takes place at Fairmont Banff Springs, where they pull out all the stops to create the ultimate Christmas experience.
Throughout the holiday season, Fairmont Banff Springs puts on plenty of Christmas events, including letter writing to Santa, hotel tours, scavenger hunts and more. Visitors can also book a holiday stay at Fairmont Banff Springs with their Christmas Holiday Package. This package includes a 3ft fully decorated Christmas tree in your own hotel room! Sounds like the perfect Christmas getaway, does it not?
Things to Do in Banff in Winter
There are plenty of things to do in Banff in winter, especially if you don’t limit yourself to the townsite. There’s loads of fun activities in the whole National Park, especially in Lake Louise. But you want to be prepared, so read this advice on tips for visiting Banff in winter.
For those looking to get in some skiing, a quick trip out to Lake Louise is a good bet. Because Lake Louise in winter means major amounts of snow.
There’s tons of options for downhill skiing and snowboarding at Lake Louise Ski Resort and you can cross-country around the Chateau. Don’t have skis? Rent some from Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise!
For a cool family activity, try a dog sledding tour. There’s lots of tour options, many of which provide transportation from most Banff hotels.
If you want to check out The Great Divide near Lake Louise, try Kingmik Dogsled tours. Not only is dogsledding a great way to enjoy the winter weather and landscapes, it’s definitely something that you can’t do in your own backyard!
Banff in Spring
Spring in Banff is beautiful, even though it might not shake the cold weather as fast as some of Alberta’s cities. There’s plenty of Banff events each spring, both indoors and outdoors to let you enjoy this lovely town.
Although it’s starting to get warmer, you can still ski in Banff throughout the entire spring. Most ski resorts stay open until at least the end of April, if not into May!
The official last weekend for skiing in the area is the May Long Weekend, which is capped off with Slush Cup at Sunshine Village. You don’t have to be a skier or snowboarder to enjoy the Slush Cup. Visitors are welcome to watch the participants through the slush at the bottom of the course. If you think you’ve got what it takes, show up early on the first day to register for the event.
Animal sightseeing is one of the best Banff events in Spring. Critters are just starting to come out of hibernation and are ready to chow down on spring food and berries. There’s plenty of ways to see these creatures, but one of the coolest is by far an aerial tour. Alpine Helicopter Tours whisk you across valleys and over mountaintops for all your sightseeing needs.
For all of the yogis out there, you’ll want to check out the Banff Yoga Festival which happens each May. Indoor classes are held at Fenlands Arena, which offers stunning mountain views. The outdoor classes take place at breathtaking spots such as Mt. Norquay, along the Bow River and at Tunnel Mountain.
Banff might be known for its wintertime experiences, but there are plenty of happening going on in summer. Between taking in turquoise hued lakes and rivers, hiking and biking and spotting Alberta’s wildlife, there’s no shortage of things to do in the summer!
If you want to check off both hiking and wildlife viewing on your vacation, take a trip up the Banff Gondola. The Gondola whisks visitors up Sulphur Mountain, which overlooks the town. (You can also hike it in under 2 hrs if you’re reasonably fit.)
Having been recently renovated, the summit has plenty of brand-new features, like an interactive discovery centre. During summer, visitors can take in the Sunset Festival, complete with music, fire pits and plenty of patio drinks!
If you’re looking to get on the water, Banff Canoe Club, located just 5 minutes from downtown Banff, rents kayaks and canoes. If you aren’t experienced, they also provide guided tours. Feeling more adventurous? Add on white water rafting to your package.
When it comes to hiking, there’s plenty of amazing trails to choose from in the Banff area. Sunshine Meadows was named Canada’s #1 hike by Lonely Planet.
While it’s crazy busy, the Johnston Canyon hike, where you traverse catwalks and staircases as you climb beside two stunning waterfalls, is bucket-list worthy. The lower falls is a short 1 km hike. If you want to keep going, there’s two more vantage points for the upper falls.
Further up, hikers can take in the Ink Pots, which are funky little mineral springs that bubble to the surface. Further still is Moose Meadows. The Moose Meadows trail meets up with the Johnston Canyon one above the falls.
Often during the summer, the Johnston Canyon trail is packed with tourists, so the Moose Meadows hike is a good alternative, as visitors can take the Johnston Canyon hike back down. These views can’t be missed.
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Which season do you think has the most going on in Banff?