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44 MAGICAL Things to do in Banff this Winter (2023/2024) including Hidden Gems

44 MAGICAL Things to do in Banff this Winter (2023/2024) including Hidden Gems

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Banff is as much a winter destination as a summer destination. In fact, I love Banff in the wintertime so much that I try to visit there every chance I get. I even moved to Canmore one winter in order to be closer to this breathtaking place.

Banff is located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. The town itself is surrounded by 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) of stunning national park that’s home to wildlife, epic mountain peaks, and so many lakes that it’s hard to count.

A lot of people visit Banff in the winter to go skiing and snowboarding, but that’ barely scratches only one of the many activities you can do in Banff in the winter!

If you’re looking for the ultimate winter vacation, Banff really has it all! And in this blog, I’ll share the best things to do on a winter visit to Banff that’ll make planning your upcoming visit easy! But first, some tips on visiting Banff in winter…

Table Of Contents
  1. About Banff in Winter
  2. What are the BEST Things to do in Banff in Winter?
  3. Where to Stay in Banff in Winter
  4. Thanks for reading!
  5. Why We Book Tours with Viator
  6. Renting a Car in Alberta

About Banff in Winter

A lady ice skates on Vermilion Lakes, Banff
Me, ice skating on Vermillion Lakes in Banff.

Winter in Banff technically runs from December until the end of February. However, the winter season can begin as early as October and finish as late as May depending on the weather. It’s not unheard of to get a skiff of snow in September or even June, either.

This makes Banff one of the longest ski seasons in Canada! The ski resorts in the area open as soon as possible, and on a good snow year, you could be hitting the slopes in early November and not packing up until May.

Banff also gets a lot of snow in the winter. The annual average snowfall is 4.6 meters or 182 inches! This makes it the perfect place for all of those winter activities.

Banff Winter Temperatures

view from a gondola at the Lake Louise Sightseeing winter gondola
The Lake Louise Ski Resort

Banff is a cold place in winter (like, really cold!) For that reason, it’s important to prepare yourself accordingly. In fact, without packing the right gear, you’ll struggle to enjoy many of the best things to do in Banff during the winter. I mean let’s face it, most of the best activities are outside.

So, how cold does it get?

In the peak winter season, from December through to February, temperatures are well below zero almost all the time. During the day expect averages of around -5 °C (23°F) and at night averages of -14 °C (6.8°F). With that said, daytime and nighttime temperatures can drop to -30 °C (-22°).

In fact, January is generally the coldest month and you should expect some -20 °C (-4°) to -30 °C (-22°F) weather.

Thankfully, Banff has a rather dry cold temperature, so with the right clothing, you can stay warm.

So what should you bring?

What to Pack for a Winter Holiday in Banff

Bailey sips a coffee at Morant's Curve along the Bow Valley Parkway
Morant’s Curve in winter – you can see I’ve got a few layers on!

Starting from the inside out, it’s best to have some really good underlayers. Long johns and a long-sleeved shirt that fits tight to the body will help a lot. Just make sure they are a good material such as merino wool. To go with your base layer some warm socks are necessary and you might even want two layers.

After your base layer, you’ll want some warm winter boots. Although hiking boots are okay, most aren’t insulated enough when you’re not active. Winter boots with good insulation are a lifesaver.

For pants, some days you can get away with jeans over your long johns, however, for the colder days ski pants work really well. A winter coat as well as some other jackets and hoodies so you can layer up and down. Last are gloves and a warm beanie (or a “toque” as we Canadians call it.)

Honestly, the more layers, the better.

What are the BEST Things to do in Banff in Winter?

1. Go skiing or snowboarding

a lady skis at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Skiing at Lake Louise!

Let’s start out with the most obvious and popular thing to do in Banff in winter – skiing and snowboarding! I ski and Daniel snowboards, and together we just love hitting the slopes around Banff. In Banff, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to world-class ski resorts.

There are three ski resorts in Banff National Park, they are:

Mt Norquay

view from the top of Cascade Chairlift at Mt Norquay ski resort
Mt Norquay is the smallest of all the ski resorts nearby.

Mt Norquay is the closest ski resort to Banff town. In fact, it’s only a 13-minute drive away. The ski hill offers some of the best views over Banff and is also open for night skiing. Mt Norquay isn’t the largest resort in the area and the runs to me aren’t the best. I find it suited to beginners or those not looking to ski an entire day.

Although not my favorite hill, the price for a full-day lift ticket is $124 CAD for adults, $93 for youth, $48 for children, and $93 for seniors – that’s cheap for Banff. If you buy early bird passes from guest services you can get lift tickets for as little as $50 CAD.

The closest hotel to the resort is The Juniper Hotel & Bistro.

Banff Sunshine

Sunshine Ski resort in Banff national Park
The epic views at Sunshine Ski Resort

Sunshine Ski Resort is located in the heart of Banff National Park 20 minutes from Banff. As the name suggests, they’re known for the sunny weather and have a wide variety of runs for beginners and experts alike. The ski resort (located at the top of the Banff Sunshine Gondola) is really good for advanced skiers and snowboarders with lots of black and double black runs. Although there are plenty of green runs too, most have flat spots which are not good if you’re still not comfortable going really fast.

A regular lift ticket costs $165 CAD for adults, $127 CAD for youth and seniors, $69 for children. You can also stay at the ski resort and ski in and ski out every day. The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a luxurious hotel only meters from the chairlifts, it’s a must-stay hotel if you’re visiting Banff for skiing.

Lake Louise Ski Resort

Bailey at the top of Lake Louise Ski Resort
On top of the world at Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Lake Louise is the furthest ski hill from Banff at 40 minutes away. With that said, it’s one of the largest in Canada with a 935-meter verticle descent, 7 ski lifts, and 142 kilometers of groomed ski runs. It’s perfect for beginners, intermediates, and pros. I love the tree runs around Lake Louise and with so much resort to explore it will keep you busy all day. Oh, and on the colder days, the gondola is a lifesaver!

Adult lift tickets start at $129 CAD with a half-day option at $99. Youths cost $99, children $49, and seniors $99. If you want to stay close to the resort you’ll need to book a hotel in Lake Louise Village.

Related Read: Skiing is also one of the best things to do in Whistler in winter!

2. Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs

The Banff Upper Hot Springs during winter
Relax in paradise!

The Banff Upper Hot Springs are a crowd favorite during winter in Banff. I mean, who wouldn’t want to warm up in a natural hot spring with breathtaking views over the Bow Valley?

This magical Alberta hot spring is run by Parks Canada and costs $16.50 CAD to visit, which makes it one of the more affordable activities in Banff. This, however, means it can get pretty crowded and my advice is to visit first thing in the morning when the springs open at 10 am. In fact, get in line at 9:45 am so you can get through the gates and enjoy the pools before the crowds arrive.

Alternatively, show up an hour or so before they close. This is when it is quieter as well.

The Banff Upper Hot Springs are open daily from 10 am to 10 pm with the last entry at 9:30 pm although these hours do change sometimes, so check the website before you go.)

The springs are located about a 5-minute drive away from Banff town, near the Banff Gondola parking lot. Although there is a large parking lot at the springs, it can fill up during busy periods.

Regardless, this is a must-do in Banff, especially during the colder months.

3. Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain

Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
The top of the Banff Gondola. This is the boardwalk you can walk.
view of Banff town from up above on the Banff Gondola
The view of Banff town!

At the top of Sulphur Mountain, you get arguably the most spectacular view of Banff town and the surrounding Mountains. Seriously, it’s a 360-degree view that gets better every time I go!

The easiest way to the top is to take the famous Banff Gondola. With it, you can give your legs a break and enjoy a 10-minute gondola ride up the side of a mountain. If you really want to stretch those legs, don’t worry, there’s a boardwalk at the top that leads to an old weather station and an even better view of the valley below.

Aside from the boardwalk, you can enjoy a meal at the Sky Bistro, let the kids explore the Above Banff interpretive center, visit the Above Banff Theater (free with a gondola ticket), get a coffee at Castle Mountain Coffee, or shop at the gift shop.

If you go skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, you can see how the Lake Louise Gondola compares to the Banff Gondola. However, we definitely think the Banff Gondola takes the cake when it comes to activity options at the top. You could spend several hours up here, in winter or summer.

The best place to buy Banff Gondola tickets is online in advance here. That way you can skip the ticket line when you arrive!

The Banff Gondola hours of operation have been changing recently, however, in winter the gondola opens at 10 am and closes at 9 pm on weekdays and 10 pm on weekends. They are also closed this year from November 6-17 for annual maintenance. You can check their updated hours here before you go.

Related Read: One of my favorite times to head up Sulphur Mountain is during fall in Banff.

4. Day trip to Lake Louise

Lake Louise frozen in winter with a mountain backdrop
Lake Louise!
Daniel stands on frozen Lake Louise with mountains behind him
It’s a stunning place!

Lake Louise is an alpine lake located within Banff National Park. Surrounded by mountains and wildlife, the lake and village nearby have become one of the most popular places to visit in Canada. In fact, because of all the amazing things to do, Lake Louise is a winter destination all on its own.

During winter, the lake freezes over and becomes one of the most beautiful places to ice skate in the world. The ice skating area is maintained by the Fairmont Château Lake Louise – one of the most luxurious hotels in the Rocky Mountains. Because of this, the ice is usually in great condition.

The best part is that if you have your own skates this activity is entirely free. If you don’t, be sure to rent them in Banff or at Alpine Social Rentals at the hotel. The ice skating rink usually opens in mid-December until mid-April, but of course, this is weather-dependent and changes each year.

While you’re there, be sure to enjoy the ice castle sculpture – it’s so neat! There is also a bar made of ice, too. Both the ice castle and ice car are located right near the skating area, you can’t miss them!

On top of that, you can cross-country ski around the lake (also free if you have your own skis, or rent them at the hotel for $30 CAD for 3 hours), enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride ($52 CAD for adults and $45 for children), have a coffee or meal at the hotel, or just enjoy the magnificent views.

It takes around 40 minutes to reach Lake Louise from Banff but the drive itself is beautiful. In fact, why not take the scenic route there and drive the Bow Valley Parkway – another epic thing to do on this list!

There is a lot of parking available at the Lake Lousie foreshore, though it can fill up during busy times (weekends and public holidays) although that’s not particularly normal during the winter. It is free to park here during the winter months.

A lady poses for a photo at the Lake Louise Ice sculptures
Skating on Lake Louise in the ice castles – how magical!

If you don’t have a car or would rather just have an epic day planned for you, you can’t pass up this guided tour from Banff. Not only will it take you to Lake Louise, but you’ll also get to hit some other iconic attractions on the Icefields Parkway as well as enjoy some time at Lake Minnewanka.

We love this tour because it takes care of the details and logistics of your day. These areas of Banff can get rather busy, even in the winter, and parking, entrance fees, and driving can easily put a damper on your vacation. Having a tour that plans the route and takes care of the logistics frees you up to simply enjoy the beautiful Lake Louise and surrounding areas. 

This full-day tour includes transportation from Banff and entrance fees. It doesn’t include lunch, so bring some extra cash for food and souvenirs! You can reserve this tour to Lake Louise here for $180 CAD. 

5. Dine in a Dome

a dome in the snow where people eat inside in Banff
Imagine eating a fine meal inside the dome! Photo Credit: Fairmont Banff Springs

Want a unique way to enjoy the winter wonderland around you while you eat? Well, then you simply must try the dome dining experience offered at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

From inside the dome, you’ll have a 360-degree view of the mountains and the beautiful castle that is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It’s a super unique experience that you can only have here in Banff.

Plus, the food is incredible! Breakfast, brunch, and dinner services are offered. Breakfast is a set menu of $75 CAD per person, brunch is $125 CAD, and dinner is $200 CAD with an optional extra for wine pairing. It certainly isn’t the cheapest meal you’ll have in Banff, but it is really a special experience.

Also, in the winter months, they have heaters in the domes so you won’t freeze while you’re enjoying your 5-star dining experience under the stars.

You must book this experience online in advance here.

6. Johnston Canyon Icewalk

Johnston Canyon lower waterfall in winter
Johnston Canyon lower waterfall in winter
Snow covered boardwalk in Johnston Canyon, Banff NP
The snow makes it more beautiful!

Another way to take in the spectacular wintertime scenery in Banff is to visit Johnston Canyon and do what we Canadians call an “icewalk”. This famous attraction is open all year round but without a doubt, winter is the best time to go.

To get to Johnston Canyon from Banff is about a 30-minute drive on the Bow Valley Parkway. From the parking lot, you’ll walk a 2.5-kilometer (1.6-mile) trail and boardwalk to the upper falls. You can also stop at the lower falls and turn around for a shorter, 1.3-kilometer (0.8-mile) walk.

Along the way, you’ll spot frozen waterfalls and huge icicles. Afterward, simply turn around and head back the way you came.

You’ll need a pair of ice cleats (also known as spikes or crampons) to do this trail. Honestly, without them, you’re pretty much guaranteed to slip and fall.

If you don’t have your own gear or transport, then you’re best option is to book this guided Johnston Canyon Icewalk. The tour will pick you up in Banff before making your way to the beginning of the trail. All the gear you’ll need including ice cleats and hiking poles are provided. Plus, you’re expert guide is full of knowledge about the area!

You’ll enjoy the views of frozen waterfalls and icicles while walking along the steel walkway. The tour is $95 CAD and includes a hot chocolate and a maple cookie snack at the end! You can check availability and book online here.

7. Go ice climbing in Johnston Canyon

A person Ice Climbs in Johnston Canyon
The views from an ice climbing tour in Banff

If simply walking on ice is not intense enough for you, why not try ice climbing?! Ice climbing can be challenging and dangerous if not approached carefully, so joining a tour is the only way to do it safely for beginners.

This tour is a full-day adventure that helps people of all experience levels try out ice climbing. An expert guide will walk you through all the basics of the gear and how to climb, and then you’ll climb a frozen waterfall yourself.

The tour costs $215 CAD and leaves from Banff town. You’ll set off at 8 am and the tour lasts around 7 hours. You can read all about it, check availability, and book online here.

8. Go snow tubing at Mt Norquay

The tube park at Mt Norquay
Seriously the tube park at Mt Norquay is so much fun! Photo credit: Mt Norquay

Not a skier or snowboarder, but still want to hit the slopes? Then be sure to head up to Mt Norquay and get yourself a ticket for their mountain snow tubing! I myself was skiing away when I saw it and just had to give it a go. I loved it!

Mt Norquay has the longest tube lanes in Alberta and you get some serious speed! It’s also a great activity for families – kids as young as four years old can give ita try!

The best part is the entrance to the tube park is only $45 CAD for adults, $38 CAD for youths (ages 13-17), and $29 for children (ages 4-12). With that, you can pretty much go as many times as you want during your chosen timeslot – either morning, afternoon, or evening session.

The tube park is open during winter from 9 am to 4 pm every day with night tubing from 5 pm to 8 pm on Friday and Saturday. This can change so always check before you go.

Hot Tip: Planning a visit to Lake Louise Ski Resort? They also have a snow tube park that is slightly cheaper and allows you to ride all day (not just morning or afternoon sessions.) Children ages 3-5 also ride free at Lake Louise.

9. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

A lady poses for a photo at Morant's Curve on the Bow Valley Parkway during winter in Banff National Park
The gorgeous Morant’s Curve!

The Bow Valley Parkway is a highway that stretches between Banff and Lake Louise and is one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Canada. The 50-kilometer-long (31-mile) highway takes around one hour to drive without stopping, but allowing half a day is recommended if you want to check out some of the attractions.

Above, I already talked about Johnston Canyon, but below are other amazing stops on the Bow Valley Parkway that are worth checking out in winter:

  • Castle Mountain Viewpoint – Castle Mountain is one of those mountains you simply can’t miss. At the roadside viewpoint, you get amazing views, however, those who want a closer look can hike 6.5 km (4 miles) out and back to another viewpoint.
  • Morant’s Curve – In winter, this is my favorite place to photograph. Morant’s Curve is a famous viewpoint (pictured above) in the Bow Valley where the train passes through the valley. It’s stunning and a must-visit!
  • Baker Creek Mountain Resort – Looking for a beautiful cabin getaway? The Baker Creek Mountain Resort is the perfect place to stay on the Bow Valley Parkway. Choose a romantic Jacuzzi Suite for couples or a one-bedroom loft for families!

In winter, you should drive the Bow Valley Parkway with caution, and winter tires are required.

10. Enjoy a meal with a view

People eat at the Sky Bistro at the top of the Banff Gondola
The Sky Bistro at the top of the Banff Gondola. Photo Credit – Banff Gondola by Pursuit.

Do yourself a favor and escape the cold by heading inside for a warm meal. The best part is that a meal in Banff inside doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice those epic mountain views. In fact, there are a few restaurants where you can dine with a view (no patio required!)

One of our favorite restaurants that also offers arguably the best “drive to” view in Banff is the Juniper Bistro. Located at the Juniper Hotel, which is just on the outskirts of Banff town at the beginning of Mt Norquay Road, the Juniper serves incredible food with a menu that changes seasonally, alongside some classic Canadian favorites.

It’s also won awards for the best view from any restaurant in Banff! This is worth considering for anybody on a honeymoon in Banff or a romantic couple’s trip.

The Juniper Bistro is open for breakfast and lunch daily, with dinner service from Wednesdays to Sundays. During peak seasons and on the weekends, you should book a table in advance to avoid disappointment.

For another restaurant with an amazing view, you can’t miss the Sky Bistro that’s located at the top of the Banff Gondola. The view from this restaurant is incredible since you’re up so high in the mountains! And the food is also top-notch.

The only problem with the Sky Bistro is that it is so good that it is almost impossible to snag a booking. You must book a table online in advance here, otherwise, you’re not likely to get a table. You also must ride the Banff Gondola to get up to the restaurant and that comes at your own cost (unless you book a package deal.) Banff Gondola tickets can be purchased online here.

11. Go on a scenic flight

A helicopter sits on a mountain in Banff National Park in winter with two people
Get up and explore parts of Banff few get to! Photo credit: Banff Adventures

Want to see the Rockies from the best seat in the house? Then book yourself a scenic flight and soar high above the mountains in a helicopter.

In winter, there are a few different tours you can do with Banff Adventures over the Rockies. The cheapest is the Three Sisters Helicopter Flight which takes you from Banff over to the famous Three Sisters Mountain Range in Canmore. This tour lasts for 25 minutes and costs $290 CAD.

If you want a longer tour, the Continental Divide Helicopter Flight is a great option. At 45 minutes long, you’ll get to take in breathtaking views for twice as long as you pass over Banff National Park, the Sundance Valley Mountain ranges, and Goat Pass Range.

There are also lots of other tours available depending on your budget but personally, I’d pick a flight longer than 30 minutes so you can truly enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

12. Visit Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake during winter in Banff
Two Jack Lake is gorgeous in winter!

Two Jack Lake is one of the most popular lakes to kayak and SUP in Banff in the summer. However, in winter, the lake freezes over, and although less popular to visit, the lake is the perfect place to explore!

Grab a coffee at one of the amazing local cafes in Banff and then drive out to Two Jack Lake to enjoy the gorgeous views. Stop at the day-use area and catch spectacular views of Mt Rundle, then, continue onto Lake Minnewanaka!

13. Then head to Lake Minnewanka

Daniel skates on the snow covered Lake Minnewanka with mountains in the background
What a place to go skating!

Lake Minnewanaka is one of my favorite lakes to visit during winter in Banff. This huge lake freezes over with sections over 2 feet thick. The ice is so solid it turns a dark color and under the snow and you can even see some small patches of methane bubbles here.

Lake Minnewanaka is very popular for ice skating and almost every day throughout the winter you’ll find people skating here. Although the lake gets a lot of snow, people bring down shovels to clear it. When I lived in Canmore I spent many afternoons skating on the lake and enjoying the spectacular views!

Of course, you do need to be careful not to skate in areas near flowing water or thin ice. The safest way to do it is to stay close to the boat ramp area and don’t skate early or late in the winter season.

After you’re done skating, take the short walk from Lake Minnewanaka to Stewart Canyon. The trail is fairly flat and it’s one of the best easy hikes in Banff. The 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) return trail takes around 2 hours to complete if you walk the entire trail.

Related Read: Come back in the summer to get out on the lake and take a cruise on Lake Minnewanka!

14. Spot winter wildlife

An Elk in Banff National Park in winter
There’s plenty of wildlife around, you just need to know where to look!

Banff National Park is famous for its abundance of wildlife. I’ve seen plenty of cool wildlife in Banff including bears, moose, and tons of elk. I’ve not yet seen a wolf in the wild but it’s on my bucket list!

As a visitor, it would be such a shame to come all this way and miss out on the opportunity to see at least some wildlife in person. By simply enjoying the outdoors you’ll have plenty of chances to see wildlife, however, if you’re finding yourself not so lucky then join a wildlife tour. And honestly, spotting animals in the winter is even trickier!

This specific wildlife tour lasts for 3 hours and includes 4 main stops around Banff National Park. Your expert guide knows where to spot Banff’s unique wildlife so you’ll have the best chance possible of seeing them. During winter in Banff, there is still lots to see!

On top of that, it’s also a sightseeing tour that includes your transport around the national park. For only $88 CAD that’s a pretty good deal, especially for Banff! You can check availability and book easily online here.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, read our complete Viator review to learn more about what we think about Viator.

15. Take a short drive to Vermillion Lakes

People Ice skating on Vermillion Lakes near Banff
At sunset, the sky glows off the ice!

The closest lake to Banff town is Vermillion Lakes. From Banff town, you can reach the lakes in 5 minutes by heading down Vermillion Lakes Road. From here, drive along the lakes stopping where you please.

If you’re visiting in the middle of winter most of the lake will be frozen; however, there are sections where the water flows, and here you can get magical reflections of Mt Rundle – Banff’s most famous mountain.

The views are spectacular and I recommend coming here for sunrise or sunset. It’s so close to town that you can be inside enjoying a beverage within minutes afterward!

Vermillion Lakes is also one of our favorite places to go wild ice skating during the winter months in Banff. Just be sure the ice is thick enough before you go (I always ask at the Banff Visitor Center in town just to be sure.)

16. Walk the Hoodoos Trail

Views from the Hoodoos Trail in winter, Banff
The viewpoint at the end of the Hoodoos Trail!

I didn’t know Banff had its own hoodoos until my 6th visit! For some reason, they remain off the typical tourist trail and that’s such a shame. Although the hoodoos themselves aren’t the most spectacular, it’s the views from the short, easy trail that make this must-visit in winter.

You can reach the hoodoos two ways. The first is to drive up to the parking lot on Tunnel Mountain Road. From here, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the viewpoint at which point you can turn around and head back. This is what I usually do simply because it’s so convenient.

The second way is to hike from Suprise Corner (next on this list) walking the Hoodoos Trail to the viewpoint. The entire trail is actually a loop that you can start and end in Banff town, but this means you need to walk back on Tunnel Mountain Road. Instead, walk from Suprise Corner and return via the same trail. It’s about a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) walk that takes 3 hours.

17. Visit Surprise Corner

the view from Surprise Corner in Banff during winter
The view is even more impressive in the middle of winter when everything is covered in deep snow!

One of the most famous viewpoints in Banff town is Suprise Corner. Overlooking the Spray Valley and Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, you’ll fall in love with the view and many proposals happen at Suprise Corner each year. Although, that’s not how the viewpoint got its name.

At the viewpoint, there is a small parking lot that can fit around 12 vehicles so it can be best to walk from town if you’re going during peak periods. Regardless, this is one viewpoint every visitor to Banff should visit. If you can visit after a light dust of snow, the views are even more spectacular!

18. Go bowling

Bailey bowls at High Rollers in Banff
This is such a fun bowling alley!
bailey with a beer at High Rollers in Banff
What’s bowling without beer?

Did you know there’s bowling in Banff? Well, there is! And it is actually better than even your “normal” bowling alley since there’s also a bar and pizza restaurant on-site too.

High Rollers Banff is located right on Banff Ave and their motto is “Pins. Pints. Pizza.” I mean, what more could you really ask for? They have six bowling lanes, a huge bar offering 48 different craft beers on tap, 3 pool tables, and serve delicious (and affordable) pizza.

It should come as no surprise that this place gets busy – especially when it’s very cold in Banff. In fact, the bowling lanes are almost always booked in advance, so be sure to book yours too.

The price for hiring a lane out does depend on the day you go, either $59 CAD per hour on Saturdays or $49 CAD on all other days (for a group of up to 8 people). Bowling shoes are required and you can rent them for $6 CAD per person.

Sometimes, especially during the week, they also have discounted prices on bowling, food, and drinks.

19. Wander Banff Ave and shop til’ you drop

Shopping in banff
Me, shopping in Banff at a store on Banff Ave.

Banff town is a vibrant place filled with awesome opportunities to catch up on your Christmas shopping or simply spoil yourself while on holiday. I love walking Banff Ave and just exploring the many places to eat, drink, and shop.

One of my favorite stops is always COWS. Now I know they sell ice cream but Canadians actually eat more ice cream during winter than summer – that’s a fact! So if you’re Canadian, then keep the tradition going, and if you’re a visitor, do as we do and enjoy an ice cream that won’t melt!

If you love souvenir shops, then you’ll be in heaven on Banff Ave. There are so many that it’s hard to count. I myself even shop at them and love my bear paw short shorts. I wear them everywhere. You can also buy cool mugs, shirts, and jewelry.

If you’re visiting Banff around Christmas, then you simply must go to the Spirit of Christmas store. This store is huge and sells all things Christmas! The funny thing is that it actually stays open all year round, and it’s usually pretty busy.

If you love a good soap (like me), then head to Rocky Mountain Soap Company for the best soaps in the Rockies. Seriously, the smells in here will blow you away.

These are just a few places but there are tons more. Just walk Banff Ave and enjoy the atmosphere with a little retail therapy!

20. Try snowshoeing

Snowshoeing in Banff National Park
Don’t let the snow hold you back from exploring!

Snowshoeing is a classic winter activity that you can enjoy in Banff on more trails than you’ll have time for. One of the most popular and great introductions for beginner snowshoers is the Johnson Lake Snowshoe Trail. This 3.1-kilometer (1.9-mile) loop follows the edge of Johnston Lake with views of Mt Rundle and Cascade Mountain.

Another trail I love is Fairview Lookout. This trail is in Lake Louise and begins from the foreshore and is only 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) out and back. With that said, it’s a rather steep climb to the top, and snowshoes really help. The views over Lake Louise and the Fairmont Hotel are breathtaking!

Of course, there are plenty more snowshoe trails around Banff, but these are a few to get you started.

If you don’t have your own snowshoes, you can rent them in Banff from Banff Adventures for just $18 CAD per day.

If you’ve never snowshoed before then it is probably best to join a tour. On a guided tour, you’ll get all your gear included as well as an expert guide who can teach you the best technique. Plus, tours will only take you on safe trails (you need to be aware of avalanche terrain in Banff, it’s a serious danger.)

There are two different snowshoeing tours that we would recommend in Banff:

  • Snowshoe tour at the top of the Banff Gondola – This tour offers the most epic views, and honestly, it’s one that wouldn’t be safe for you to do on your own. Take the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphir mountain before meeting your guide to explore off-the-beaten-path.
  • Snowshoe Tour at the Paint Pots – I love this tour because it actually takes you out of Banff and into a less-explored park called Kootenay National Park. Transport is included, and the drive out there is gorgeous. You’ll snowshoe at the Paint Pots, which is a stunning and fairly easy trail.

21. Ride a fat bike

Fat biking in Canada
Fat biking is the best way to ride through the snow!

A fat bike is just a normal mountain bike with really fat tires built for riding through the snow – perfect for the winter in Banff! It makes trails that would be otherwise impossible to ride, rather easy. Around Banff, there are quite a few trails that are perfect for fat biking.

One of the most famous trails for fat biking is the Goat Creek Trail which runs from Banff all the way to Canmore. You can enjoy the 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) ride there and then get the roam bus back with your bike. You can also ride the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Lake Louise or Moraine Lake Road in Lake Louise.

You can rent fat bikes in Banff at Snowtips Bactrax and they can also show you more trails around Banff suited to your ability.

Alternatively, why not join a guided fat bike tour? This tour actually incudes the use of an electric fat bike! That’s right, so you can ride uphill with ease (a requirement in the mountains, if you ask me!) The expert guide will show you around the trails around Banff and you’ll even get a warm drink at a special viewpoint.

This fat biking tour lasts for about two hours and is limited to a small group of up to 8 people. The tour costs $147 CAD and can be reserved online here.

22. Visit Park Distillery for a drink or a tour

Bailey drinks a cocktail Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar
The cocktails are delicious!

Park Distillery is Banff’s very own craft distillery. Home to some of the best pub food and cocktails in Banff, it’s a crowd favorite and I love enjoying a meal and a drink (or three!) here.

The distillery is located on Banff Ave and they have a small sales counter as well as a restaurant. I love the chicken sandwich and seared BC salmon! For cocktails be sure to try a few but my favorites are the Sawback and the Summit.

You can expect to pay about $30 CAD for a main and $15 CAD for a cocktail here. It isn’t the cheapest place to eat in Banff, but trust us, it’s worth it!

In fact, Parks Distillery is so popular that you often need a reservation to get a table. If you want to visit during peak times, booking a table in advance is highly reccommended.

If you’re more interested in how the spirits are made, then you should consider joining their distillery tour, which is daily at 3:15 pm. The tour costs $22 CAD and includes 6 tastings of their spirits which are made onsite.

23. Ride on a horse-drawn sleigh

Horse-drawn sleigh, Banff
This is a really unique activity in Banff!

What could be a more relaxing winter activity in Banff than riding in a horse-drawn sleigh? This unique activity is one of the top tours in Banff and is perfect for couples and even young families. The best part is it doesn’t have to be overly expensive.

In Banff, this group horse-drawn sleigh ride is the perfect way to enjoy the winter wonderland that is Banff. It’s also an activity that kids will enjoy, too.

The sleigh ride starts from these stables just on the edge of town. It’s a 40-minute ride that offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies as you wind your way through snow-covered pine trees. Don’t worry about getting cold either because there are wool blankets on the sleigh!

After your sleigh ride, you will return to the stables for a fire, hot drinks, and s’mores for a quintessential winter day in Banff.

This experience is available from mid-December to mid-March so there’s enough snow on the ground. You can reserve a spot for $49 CAD per adult and $38 CAD per child aged 4-12 and little ones 3 and under are free. Tours are offered on the hour in the late morning and early afternoon, so check your schedule and secure your spot for an unforgettable horse-drawn sleigh ride!

24. Enjoy craft beer (and even go to the Craft Beer Festival!)

Drinking beer at Three Bears Brewery
Three Bears Brewery is one of the places to check out!

Dan and I are suckers for craft beer, so it should come as no surprise that whenever we visit Banff, we go to Banff Ave Brewing. The brewery is located (as the name suggests) right on Banff Ave, and they have a pretty diverse menu that’s full of delicious beer. You can’t go wrong with one of their IPAs, but be sure to ask about their seasonal taps too – they are always so creative!

Banff Ave Brewing isn’t the only brewery in Banff; in fact, another brewery opened and there are actually now two breweries in Banff! Three Bears Brewery and Restaurant is located on Bear Street in town and offers a trendy atmosphere and plenty of tasty beer. Be sure to try their tea-infused beers – so delicious!

For real beer lovers, you must check out The Banff Craft Beer Festival. It’s held every year in early December (dates can change so check before you go) during what’s known as “Craft Beer Week”. It’s a celebration of all things craft beer and at the event, over 40 vendors from around Alberta (yep, only Alberta) come together to showcase their new brews.

For the breweries, it’s a chance to get put on the map. For you, well, it’s the perfect time to try amazing craft beer from all over the province in one place. Seriously, this is one winter festival you won’t want to miss and one of the best events to check out if you happen to be visiting Banff in December.

Related read: Visiting Calgary? One of the best winter activities in Calgary is to drink craft beer at one of the many breweries!

25. See a frozen waterfall (or three!)

Frozen waterfall in Grotto Canyon
Just one frozen waterfall in Grotto Canyon.

When the temperatures drop, the waterfalls around Banff become frozen in time… literally! If you haven’t already, be sure to take a trip out to at least one of these waterfalls to stare in awe at their beauty.

I’ve already talked about Johnston Canyon, which is one of my favorites, but there are plenty of others you can explore nearby too.

One of the best and least known is the frozen waterfall at the end of Lake Louise. To reach it, simply walk across the lake until you reach the end of the lake or follow the shoreline trail. The huge frozen waterfall extends up the mountain and on a sunny day, shines blue and white.

If you don’t mind driving you can also visit Troll Falls. This famous waterfall sits in Kananaskis Country and is a favorite among families because of the short, easy walk to the base of the falls. Hiking here is one of my favorite things to do in the Kananaskis in winter.

Nearby in Canmore, you can also visit Grotto Canyon (see #32 below for more into!) and find frozen waterfalls along the hike. People actually come ice climbing here too!

In Banff town, head to the Bow Falls Lookout. This usually violent waterfall sits still with breathtaking surroundings.

26. Hike Tunnel Mountain

View from the top of Tunnel Mountain
I never get sick of this view!

One of the most popular hikes in Banff is the Tunnel Mountain Trail. This short 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) hike takes you from Banff town up Tunnel Mountain to a viewpoint over the town and valley.

The views are something out of a postcard and this trail is perfect for everyone with a reasonable level of fitness. In fact, as the smallest mountain in the area, the climb is only 300 meters in elevation.

Because the trail is so popular, snowshoes are not required, however, ice cleats or crampons really help with the slippery, compact snow.

27. Visit Abraham Lake to see the ice bubbles

Ice bubbles at Abraham Lake
The ice bubbles at Abraham Lake are really cool to see in the winter months.
Bailey sits on the ice on Abraham Lake, lacing up her skates with mountains behind her
Just getting my skates on and then I’ll be ready to go!

Abraham Lake is easily one of the most impressive winter destinations in Canada. Although it’s not in Banff National Park, this lake is well worth checking put if you’re up for a road trip and an adventure! To get to Abraham Lake from Banff town, it’ll be just over a two hour drive.

What makes Abraham Lake so special to visit in the winter is the methane bubble that you’ll see in the ice. It’s a really neat phenomenon and makes for some cool photos. It’s not uncommon for photographers to travel from all over the world just to see this.

The lake is also great for ice skating and on a clear day, the views of the surrounding mountains are magnificent.

For something extra special, you can join this guided helicopter tour at Abraham Lake. It also includes a guided snowshoeing experience and well, the views from a helicopter over the Canadian Rockies are out of this world! The tour helicopter departs just down the road from the lake, so it’s a really great add-on to an already adventurous day. You can book it online here.

If you don’t have your own wheels, or just can’t be bothered driving yourself so far, why not book this guided tour instead? This tour departs from Banff and takes you for a scenic drive on the Icefields Parkway, stopping at the stunning Peyto Lake along the way. Once you arrive at Abraham Lake, your guide will show you the best spots to see the ice bubbles and you can even skate if you want (BYO skates.)

The tour is a full-day at about 8 hours long. It includes your transport, an expert guide, and guarantees a small group. It costs $244 CAD per person. You can check availability and book online here.

28. Visit the Buffalo Nations Museum

A lady poses for a photo with a display at the Buffalo Nations Museum, Banff
You’ll learn so much at the Buffalo Nations Museum!

Admittedly, I’m not usually much of a museum lover, but the last time I was in Banff I decided to check out the Buffalo Nations Museum because I really want to learn more about First Nations cultures.

The Buffalo Nations Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of the First Nations people who once called this area home. In the museum, there is lots to see and the displays are very visual which I loved. You’ll learn all about the life, history, and culture of the first nations people.

The museum costs $12 CAD per adult and I spent around an hour there. It is the perfect thing to do in Banff in winter, especially on those really cold days!

29. Visit a couple other museums

The underground pool at the Cave and Basin historic site in Banff
The underground pool at the Cave and Basin historic site in Banff

Aside from the Buffalo Nations Museum that I mentioned above, there are plenty of other museums to discover in Banff.

The Banff Park Museum National Historic Site is one of the best and showcases an array of taxidermy specimens of plants and animals you’ll find in Banff National Park. The building itself is the oldest park facility in the national park system and was built in 1903. It’s an interesting museum and very educational. Entry is only $4.25 CAD per person.

For art lovers, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is a popular museum. This rather small museum showcases a mix of local art, First Nations artifacts, and information about the arrival of European settlers and their development of the area. You can get a good feel for Banff’s history here. Entry costs $12 CAD for adults, and children under 12 are free.

Last is the Cave and Basin Historic Site. This once very popular hot spring was the reason Banff became a national park in the first place, and it was the first protected area in the park. The hot springs are now closed to the public for swimming to protect the rare Banff Snail. Nowadays you can visit the hot springs and explore the museum.

The museum is the main attraction and is very interactive and fun, especially for kids. You’ll find lots of information about Banff and the surrounding area. Entry is also only $8.50 CAD for adults, youth are free!

30. Visit Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake in the winter on the Icefields Parkway
Peyto Lake just before the lake freezes completely for the winter.

What’s the most beautiful lake in the Rocky Mountains? Although a very hard question to answer, Peyto Lake would probably be my top choice (up there with Moraine Lake, which is unfortunately closed in the winter.)

Located on the Icefields Parkway, Peyto Lake is most commonly visited by driving to the viewpoint above the lake which is just off the main Icefields Parkway. From here, you can stare down at Peyto and the surrounding mountains. You’re basically visiting an epic viewpoint above the valley without actually needing to hike… cool right!

From Banff, it takes just over an hour to reach the lake so my advice is to visit when you are in Lake Louise which is much closer. Obviously, if you plan on driving the Icefields Parkway (next on this list) then just visit Peyto Lake as part of your Icefields Parkway itinerary!

Note: You can also visit Peyto Lake on this guided tour. It’s a great option for those who don;t want to drive themselves. IT is a full-day Icefields PArkway tour from Banff with a stop at Peyto Lake and a few other iconic attractions. You can read all about it and book online here.

31. Drive the Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway in winter
The magnificent views on the Icefields Parkway!

Don’t let winter stop you from going on a road trip! The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in Canada (and possibly the world, if you ask us) so you shouldn’t miss this chance.

The 232 km (144 mi) stretch of highway travels from Lake Louise all the way to Jasper. It takes around 3 hours to drive the whole thing without stopping in winter, however, I’d allow an entire day if you plan on stopping along the way.

Some of the best places to stop on the Icefields Parkway include Crow Foot Glacier Lookout, Bow Lake Viewpoint, Peyto Lake Viewpoint, Weeping Wall, Big Bend, Athabasca Glacier, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Falls.

For those not heading to Jasper, a great section to drive is until you reach Peyto Lake. This is only 70 minutes from Banff and after visiting, you can turn around and head back, visiting Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier on the way too. Although only 3 stops, you’ll also get those breathtaking views!

Lower part of Athabasca Falls in winter
Lower Athabasca Falls in winter!

With that said, if you have time then I’d drive the whole thing and stay a couple of nights in Jasper – there are lots of fun things to do in Jasper in the winter too! We also love adding on a couple winter tours in Jasper like stargazing or exploring frozen waterfalls.

Winter tires are a requirement on the Icefields Parkway and you need to be careful and alert while driving this highway in winter. Parks Canada will close the highway over the pass (after Big Bend) during bad weather so check ahead of time for road closures.

If you’re not a confident winter driver, then you should book this guided tour instead. It is a full-day tour of the Icefields Parkway with hotel pick-up in Banff. This tour really is the ultimate tour of attractions in Banff National Park as it hits all the main spots including Lake Minnewanka, Lake Louise, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake – talk about crossing a few things off your to-do list!

This is a smaller group tour that’s limited to 22 people. The tour lasts for about 8 hours and costs $180 CAD per person. It is one of the more popular winter tours in Banff, so you should secure your spot online in advance here.

Related Read: One of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter is to drive the Sea to Sky Highway – another one of Canada’s most scenic drives!

32. Get festive for Christmas in Banff

visiting banff ave during Christma
I love Christmas in Banff!

In the lead-up to Christmas, there’s plenty to do in Banff. If you’re lucky enough to be in Banff around tis festive time in year then you’re in for a treat!

Families will love the Santa Claus Celebration of Lights held on November 18, this year (2023.) During the day Santa is on hand to take photos with the kids and when the sun sets, all of Banff Ave lights up! There are also street preformers and plenty of fun festivities to get involved in.

The Banff Christmas Market is another popular event held on the last two weekends of November as well as the first weekend of December this year (2023.) At the event, you’ll find over 100 local vendors, an outdoor fire lounge, live music, Christmas treats, and warm drinks, as well as Santa’s House and Reindeer Stables. It’s a market the entire family will enjoy and just the thing to get you in the Christmas spirit!

This only just scrapes the surface of all the ways to enjoy Christmas season in Banff, check out our guide to Banff in December for all of the details!

33. Cross-country skiing

 Cross country skiing in Canada
Groomed trails make cross-country skiing easy!

Cross-country skiing isn’t something I fell in love with right away. In fact, I only started so I could get some exercise in the winter. However, after a few times, I began to enjoy the sport. It’s fun, community-based, and a great workout!

In Banff, you can cross-country in the most beautiful places including groomed runs. The Castle Junction area on the Bow Valley Parkway offers 9.5 kilometers (5.9 miles) of single-track groomed trails suited to all levels.

A popular spot close to town is Cascade Valley. There are two trails here, one 6.3 kilometers (3.9 miles) one way and the other 15.1 kilometers (9.4 miles) one way.

You can rent skis and get trail advice from Snowtips Bactrax in Banff and Wilson Mountain Sport in Lake Louise.

If you’re new to cross-country skiing, don’t worry, you can do a lesson at Lake Louise! This particular lesson includes an expert guide who will teach you all of the basics including the essential things like how to fall down and get back up with ease. By the end of the lesson, you’ll be gliding along the snow like a pro!

This lesson includes all gear, a guide, and it lasts for about 5 hours. It costs $150 CAD per person and can be booked easily online here.

34. Grotto Canyon Icewalk

Hiking through a the frozen Grotto Canyon in winter
See all the ice below me?

Another awesome hike that is better in the winter than the summer is Grotto Canyon! The Grotto Canyon Icewalk is a 4.4 km (2.7-mile) trail, and in the winter, you’ll actually walk right on a frozen river through the canyon!

To begin the trail, drive out to the parking lot at Grotto Mountain Pond. From here, it takes around 1.5 hours each way if you allow time to explore the canyon and take some photos. It takes 30 minutes of walking until you reach the canyon, and from here on out you’ll follow the frozen river up the canyon to frozen waterfalls and an Inukshuk Garden. Along the way, there are also indigenous pictographs (but you’ll need a keen eye to spot them!)

If you’re worried you’ll miss the hard-to-find attractions in the canyon such as the pictographs you can actually join this tour through Grotto Canyon. You’ll explore all the cool rock formations, frozen waterfalls, and learn about the history and geology of the area.

IThe tour is also very handy because it includes return transport from Banff as well as all of your gear (ice cleats/crampons are essential!) They even provide hot chocolate so you can stay toasty warm! The tour costs $98 CAD and can be booked online here.

35. Go dog sledding

Dog sledding in Canada
I loved dog sledding but meeting the dogs was the best part!

If you are looking for a truly unique experience, dog sledding should be on your list. It’s fast-paced, fun, and the best way to experience the winter wonderland of Banff National Park. 

The only way to go on this kind of adventure is on a tour. Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours offers some amazing sledding tours from Banff in winter. They offer a 2-hour tour, 4-hour tour, 8-hour tour, and even an overnight tour!

I actually did my dog sledding tour in Canmore, but most tours are similar. The important part is choosing a great company that cares for their dogs (the most important part of the experience!)

On the trip, we took a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) trail through Spray Lakes Provincial Park stopping halfway along the way to meet the dogs and play with them. Then after a quick hot chocolate, we made our way back. I was really sad to say goodbye to our crew.

Pricing starts at $287 CAD/person (based on two people going) for a 2-hour tour. You can read more about dog sledding in Banff here.

36. Treat yourself to a day at a spa

a hot pool with a mountain view at Meadow Spa and Pools
At Meadow Spa and Pools, you can relax in this hot pool before or after your treatment. Photo Credit: Meadow Spa and Pools

After all that adventure and outdoor activity, you could probably use some RnR. I mean, you are on holiday, right?!

A day spa is the perfect way to warm up, relax, and unwind. Luckily, there are a couple of amazing day spas in Banff to choose from. A couple that we have heard good things about are:

  • The Fairmont Banff Springs Spa – Even if you aren’t a guest at the luxurious Banff Fairmont Hotel, you can still visit their day spa! Although not the cheapest place, it is the perfect spa if you’re looking to spoil yourself a little. It’s a huge spa with a ton of services including multiple whirlpools (my favorite is the outdoor one.)
  • Cedar & Sage Co. – This is the place to go for massages in Banff; that is their specialty. However, they also offer a few other services including infrared sauna treatments, Reiki sessions, or even a relaxing yoga class. This spa is located right on Banff Ave, so it’s nice and convenient.
  • Meadow Spa & Pools – This day spa is located inside the Moose Hotel & Suites Hotel. They offer a range of services including massages, facials, nail services, and other body treatments. They also have a private outdoor hot pool for spa guests to relax after treatment. You will also get access to the hotel’s sauna, fitness center, and rooftop pools.

37. Go ice skating

Ice skating on Vermillion Lakes
Wild ice skating on Vermillion Lakes!

Ice skating is one of the classic Canadian winter experiences. Of course, you can simply go to Lake Louise (mentioned above), however, there are a lot of places much closer to Banff where you can ice skate, too.

One of the closest is the Downtown Rink at Banff Community High School. The outdoor rink is completely free to visit (one of the best free activities in Banff) and it’s located right in the heart of town. With Banff’s mountain views all around you, you’ll feel like you’re wild ice skating.

At the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre, you can also go ice skating indoors if you want to avoid the cold. Entry to the rink is $7 CAD.

On top of skating at the official rinks, you can also go wild ice skating during certain conditions. Vermilion Lakes, Johnson Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, and Cascade Ponds are popular choices. Of course, heavy snowfall can interrupt this but early in the season, or if people have cleared some of the snow, these lakes are perfect. Above, you can see me ice skating at Vermillion Lakes – how beautiful!

Important: Skating on frozen lakes is dangerous without the right experience. Only skate on ice thick enough to hold your weight and skate at your own risk. If you’re unsure, don’t go onto the ice. I always ask the Visitor Centre in Banff before I leave to skate on any lake to find out about the ice conditions and thickness.

38. Adventure to Kootenay National Park

Emerald Lake in winter is so beautiful!
Marble Canyon in winter is so beautiful!

Kootenay National Park is Banff’s neighbour. It’s much less popular than Banff, but equally as beautiful, which makes it the perfect place to go exploring for a day.

There are a few awesome winter attractions in Kootenay National Park including:

  • Marble Canyon – The canyon is gorgeous and thousands of years of erosion have created a deep cut in the earth with smooth walls. In winter, the water freezes, and the surrounding area becomes covered in snow. Visitors can walk to a 1-kilometer trail along the canyon staring down into a winter wonderland. At the end of the trail, there is a huge frozen waterfall. Just make sure t bring your snowshoes as the snow can be very deep here!
  • Paint Pots – These are small mineral pools known for their bright orsnge color (that was actually used as paint back in the day.) In the summer, the pools are easy enough to reach on your own, but in the winter, the trail is hard to naviagate and you won’t find them. Take this snowshoe tour from Banff to explore the Paint Pots in the winter months.
  • Radium Hot Springs – If you don’t mind the 2-hour drive from Banff, these hot springs are well worth a visit. Like the Banff Upper Hot Springs, Radium Hot Springs are owned and opereated by Parks Canada. It costs $16.50 CAD to visit. After you’re done soaking, check out the cute town of Radium, there are a few fun things to do here, too.

39. Party the night away on Banff Ave

dan drinks at the irish bar in Banff (1)
Dan, enjoying a drink at one of our favorite pubs in Banff, St. James Gate

Head out on Banff Ave and party the night away or enjoy some après ski drinks. Banff is without a doubt a lively place. With the majority of visitors on holiday, it’s no wonder so many want to let their hair down.

When it comes to partying, some crowd-favorite places to start your night are Tommy’s Neighborhood Pub and Banff Ave Brewing. Both offer a social atmosphere perfect for pre-drinks and this is likely where you’ll find most of the party crowd. We also love having drinks at the Irish pub, St. James Gate. It’s always a fun place and the drinks and service are top notch.

Afterward, everyone heads to the Dancing Sasquatch to dance the night away.

For après ski, your options are endless. The Rose and Crown is a favorite of mine because they often have live music. For those who like a more upscale bar, the Juniper Bistro is a top choice. If you really want to keep the fun going, head to High Rollers. Not only do they have 48 beers on tap, but they also have an onsite 10 pin bowling alley!

40. Spend a night at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Fairmont Hotel in Banff, Canada
Photo credit – Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

I’m going to cover some great places to stay below from budget hotels all the way up to luxury hotels. However, the Fairmont Banff Springs is not just a hotel, but an experience on its own!

Not only is the hotel 5 stars and comes with some of the most breathtaking views in Banff, but there’s also an onsite golf course, wellness spa, bowling and entertainment center, fitness and aquatic center, as well as 6 restaurants. Oh, and did I mention the building itself looks like a castle?!

If you aren’t able to afford a night at the hotel then you can actually join a guided food tour of the hotel’s restaurants. The tour is 2.5 hours and includes all your food as well as a local guide.

41. Visit Canmore

Views on the Hoodoo Trail in Canmore
Views of Canmore from the Hoodoos Trail!

Canmore is just as much a bucket list winter destination as Banff. Not only are there a ton of winter activities in Canmore, but the surrounding mountains and lively town create such a fun atmosphere.

When I lived in Canmore, I spent most of my afternoons enjoying outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, hiking, fat biking, and taking amazing photos of the scenery.

Some of the things I recommend doing include exploring downtown, walking the Bow River Loop, hiking up to Grassi Lakes, checking out the local breweries, visiting Wild Life Distillery, and even go for breakfast at Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. Seriously, this just scrapes the surface of Canmore, so make a day of it and explore!

42. Go caving

group of people staring down a cavern in a narrow cave in Canmore, Alberta
This is one of the best adventure tours near Banff! Photo Credit: Canmore Cave Tours

While we’re on the topic of Canmore, did you know that there is an epic cave just on the outskirts of town?! It’s the perfect place to go if you’re up for an underground adventure.

And yes, this is an activity that you can do even in winter. Despite the cold outside temperatures, the cave maintains a temperate of 4.5 °C (40.1 °F).

Canmore Cave Tours offers a couple of different tours with different lengths of time and prices depending on what you’re looking for. This half-day cave tour lasts for about 4 and a half hours, including a full safety brief as well as plenty of time down in the caves! It’s also super beginner-friendly, so even if you’ve never been caving before the guides are really helpful with making you feel comfortable and confident.

If you’re looking for an even more immersive experience, then this longer adventure cave tour lasts for about 6 hours and even includes rappelling down 59 feet (18 meters) into the cave! The adventure begins with a 30 to 40-minute hike up the trail, followed by plenty of squeezing and wiggles once you’re down in the cave.

Both tours start and finish at their office on the southeast side of Canmore and are tons of fun! Tickets for the half-day tour can be booked here and cost $138 CAD per person, and tickets for the full-day tour can be booked here and are $179 CAD per person.

Once you’re finished up with caving, we’d suggest hanging about in town for a little while, there really are a ton of amazing things to do in Canmore.

43. Visit Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake in winter, Yoho National Park
Emerald Lake in winter is so beautiful!

By now you’ve already explored Banff National Park and maybe even Kootenay National Park. But did you know that there is another park nearby, too?! It’s called Yoho National Park and there you’ll find the famous (and absolutely stunning) Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake is located about 1.5-hour drive from Banff. It’s worth the drive, though considering it’s one of the top attractions in Canada.

In winter, you can visit the lake and see the famous Emerald Lake Lodge, which appears to sit on an island in the lake. Although the small patch of land is actually connected to the mainland, the hotel still has 360-degree views of the lake and the President Range.

If you can, visit at sunrise or sunset for the best views (spending a night at the lodge will make this easy.) This place is so beautiful and very popular among photographers!

44. Hike to Upper Stoney Lookout

Upper Stoney Lookout, Banff
Sometimes you need a good vantage point to truly appreciate the area!

It might be winter, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out and hit some of the easier hiking trails around Banff. Upper Stoney Lookout is the perfect trail to enjoy those magnificent winter views over Banff National Park.

The 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) loop begins at the Mt Norquay Ski resort parking lot and climbs another 250 meters (820 feet) to a viewpoint. Depending on the weather you may need snowshoes, however, during busy periods the trail is usually pretty compacted. Ice cleats would help more on the compact snow and keep you from slipping arounf.

All up, the trail only takes around 2 hours return.

Where to Stay in Banff in Winter

view of Banff Ave in the winter
Banff Ave is the center of town and one of the best areas to stay.

Banff, being the holiday destination it is, has no shortage of beautiful hotels. All over Banff National Park, there are tons of hotels to choose from. In fact, it’s hard to book a bad hotel in Banff. With that said, there are a few stand-out hotels for every budget. You know, those places that offer more for less.

Please note: Hotel prices in Banff differ from winter to summer. In fact, most hotels are more than double the price in summer.

From hotels in Banff town to ones that are a little more out in nature, we’ve put together a list of our favorites that would be our top picks for each budget category:

Samesun Banff Hostel – ($)

For folks looking to save some cash while having a blast in Banff, it’s definitely worth checking out the Samesun Banff Hostel. It’s a great place for backpackers or anyone who’s fine with making some new friends and doesn’t mind sharing a dorm. But if you’re keen on privacy, keep in mind that there aren’t any private rooms available here.

A bed in a dorm here starts from around $40 CAD in the winter, including breakfast, and can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Banff Inn – ($$)

Rooms at the Banff Inn have a very affordable price tag, but are also chock-full with all the amenities you could want to have a great stay! This way, you can splurge on those once-in-a-lifetime tours and experiences that make a trip to Banff so memorable.

The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. Inside, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar – perfect for a little bit of relaxation after a long day out exploring Banff.

Rooms here start at $115 CAD in the winter, but don’t forget to book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff!

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort ($$)

Pushing up into the mid-range budget, the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort has a beautiful swimming pool, hot tub, and gym, and all the rooms come equipped with kitchenettes or full kitchens. We’d say this is the perfect option for families, since two and three-bedroom units are also available.

The hotel is also in a good location that’s just a 5-minute drive away from town, so it’s a great place to enjoy the wonderful peace and quiet of the Banff countryside!

Rooms here average around $500-600 CAD per night in the high season, but dip as low as around $104 CAD in the low season in the winter. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Fairmont Banff Springs ($$$)

The Fairmont Banff Springs is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. As you can expect, it’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose.

Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, a bowling alley, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. With so much to do in this one-of-a-kind luxury hotel, you’ll honestly feel like you’ll never want to leave!

Rooms here at the Fairmont start from around $550 CAD per night in the winter, but can rise further in peak season. For the best deals, it’s best to book as far ahead as possible! You can check prices and room availability online here.

Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection.

I still suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass”Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is memorizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey play in the snow at the top oif the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain
Thanks for reading!

Banff really is just as much a winter destination as a summer one. These 40 winter activities will keep even the most adventurous busy for this trip and many more to come. There’s just so much to see and do in Banff in the winter!

Thanks so much for reading. I really hope your upcoming trip to Banff is amazing and you enjoy every second of this magical place. If you found this blog helpful then be sure to check out more blogs such as:

Guide to planning the most romantic honeymoon in Banff

10 best hotels in Banff

15 most Instagrammable places to visit in Banff