I have to admit, before last fall, I had no idea Banff even existed. I thought we would just go to check it off of our Places We’ve Been list. Little did I know, it quickly rose to the very top of my Favorite Places list (have I mentioned that I love a good list?) and we were already planning our Next Trip Back before we reached the airport. There truly is something for everyone in Banff. As I have mentioned, we will likely never qualify as outdoor adventurers. However, if you do meet the qualifications, there will plenty for you do in Banff. If, on the other hand, your resume does not include rock climbing or kayaking, you will have an equally amazing time. When we were there, age ranges in Banff included babies to 85-year old grandparents. I’ll say it again… There is something for everyone in Banff. So what did we do? See below.
Fairmont at Banff Springs: If you never left the hotel, you would still love Banff from the Fairmont. Who wouldn’t love staying in a castle with fabulous service, mineral pools, a spa, people walking the hallways in their white hotel robes, restaurants overlooking mountains and streams? There is a good amount of shopping and restaurants on the hotel grounds. Walk down a short trail to the Waldhaus to sit on the deck for a drink and appetizer.Get a savory Indian dinner while over looking the mountains at Indian Summer (which was a pop-up restaurant for the summer/early fall season), get (another) drink on the patio surrounded by pink and purple flowers with the mountains on 3 sides of you and the castle on the fourth. Downtown Banff: Should you decide that you would like to venture out (and you really should… even if you thought you would just read your book and catch up on some Fixer Upper and maybe get back some of that sleep you lost when you had insomniac infants in the house,you really, really should leave the hotel), downtown Banff again has something for everyone. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, ranging from Greek to Irish to Chinese; fancier dining to breweries and coffee shops. There are plenty of tourist shops but also places where you could pick something up if you forgot it at home or if the weather took a sudden turn (e.g., Lululemon, Lole, Patagonia, North Face). We found maple syrup to bring home, as well as Rocky Mountain soaps, and hilariously adorable pajamas for the kids from Little Blue House by Hatley. We even picked up some Banff Starbuck’s mugs for those in our family who are collectors.
Road Trip- Go to Lake Louise. Just do it. I can’t imagine you would regret it. Ever. It was so breathtaking that my eyes welled up. And this was on a rainy, 45 degree day. You can rent a canoe and row to the middle of the lake, or simply take a walk on the trail by the lake. Or, if you are more adventurous, hike the trails into the woods by the lake. Or, just take a lot of pictures. So many pictures that you need to give your camera to the person you came with because you just can’t seem to stop clicking. It is easy to see why this could very well be the most photographed lake in the world. Finish up with lunch or a drink at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on one end of the lake. (And, if you have enough energy and time, head to Lake Lorraine. It is at the top of my list for next time.)
Hike- Again, just do it. You likely won’t regret it. You may not run up the mountain. You may ask the concierge for the trail on which you are least likely to see any wildlife and what to do should you see, say, a bear. You may not be an outdoor adventurer. And it may take you half a day to get up the mountain. But it is worth it. The views are stunning and just breathing in the mountain air and seeing nature (minus said wildlife) make every step worth it. Next time, we will be even more adventurous and hike up the mountain with the gondola going back down. Because, there will absolutely be a next time.
In the meantime, here are some random things to consider when planning your trip to Banff:
- When we go back, we will try to shoot for early September/late August. When we were there in mid-September for 4 days, the temperature fluctuated between 40 degrees and 80 degrees.
- Bring running/hiking gear (and other outfits, of course). This is such an outdoor community that even if you don’t run/hike, you could still just wear your athletic wear around (you know, just in case inspiration strikes). You could even check into your hotel services regarding gear. At the Fairmont, they had a program with Reebok, and you could rent hiking clothes/shoes. You will likely also want to bring warmer athletic-ish jackets/fleeces, at least one with a hood. Maybe bring one nicer outfit like a knit dress or jeans and a nice top. And a sweater. Just because, in my opinion, you can never be too prepared for cold weather. (If you are going when the weather is warmer or if you plan to check out the hot springs or mineral pool, bring a swimsuit. Obviously.)
- If you are the kind of person who needs to know/be on top of things, you may want to review exchange rates, kilometer vs miles, and Celsius verser Fahrenheit.
- Rent a car with GPS built in. It made the trip from the airport and the day trip to Lake Louise so much easier.
- Research altitude sickness if you are coming from an almost-sea level departure city into Banff.
Oh, Banff, I can’t wait to visit you again!
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