Time may not on your side and you only have one day to visit Banff, so you need to make the best of it! Here are a few things you can do as a family to discover Banff during the summer months (June-September).
We made an overnight trip to Banff in August, we didn’t have too much time but we wanted to take our kids to see the mountains in the summer. As we drove from Calgary and entered the Canadian Rockies, Luca says “You mean the mountains don’t always have snow on them?” The exact reason why the kids needed to visit the mountains in the summer – things you don’t think of!
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Discover Banff with Kids
1. Sulphur Mountain Gondola
Kids will have a great time on the gondola ride up to the top of Sulphur mountain. You are able to see panoramic views as you go up and search for any wildlife that may be walking through the forest. Some good “I Spy” games can definitely pass the time going up and down. Once you get up to the top there is a restaurant and some walking paths around the summit if you want to explore more. If you have older kids, you could opt to hike back down if you like.
On our visit, we had the unfortunate event (which rarely happens), of being stuck up at the top of the summit because of a lightning storm for 2 hours (no joke)! Pouring rain, streaks of lightning, freezing cold and we were not very well prepared – hence the purchase of rain ponchos! They did shut down the gondola until it was safe for us to re-board but we made the best of it with a few appetizers and drinks in the restaurant. We weren’t able to see the views at the top since the weather did not cooperate. But it was still a fun experience and would recommend it to families… and hoping you have a less intense gondola ride. Look at me – recommending you go on a gondola ride after being stuck at the top… it was that good!
2. Visit Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – aka “The Castle”
The great part about this hotel, is that you can go and see the inside and visit without being a guest. We went for an afternoon snack in one of the restaurants with the kids and spent a little time just walking around the grounds and hotel. They have a small area in the hotel that goes through the history and story behind the hotel. An elaborate fairytale like “castle” that the kids had a great time exploring.
3. Bow Falls Trail
The Bow Falls trail is just a few minutes away from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It is a section of the Bow River that is easily accessible by car for you to quickly be able to watch this magnificent river flows through the Rockies. So quick, so clear and so cold! A quick stop that lets you get a glimpse of this river.
4. Banff Candy / Welch’s Chocolate Shop
Banff Candy is a candy lovers dream store! This store has every possibly kind of candy that you can imagine, from old-time candy you remember as a kid, to new candy we have never seen before, fudge, maple syrup, etc. The kids had a blast in this store and the hardest decision of the trip was deciding what to buy! Kid’s paradise – so many choices with so little time!
5. The Grizzly House
The Grizzly House is a unique dining experience. The main type of food served is “Fondue” style. They have all type of different fondue from oil, stone, cheese, chocolate, etc. We started with the cheese fondue and then ventured for the Hunter’s dinner which was Buffalo, Wild Boar and Venision (deer) to get the flavours of Canada. The kids love the idea of cooking their own food on the hot stones but most of all LOVED the chocolate fondue with fruit for dessert. If you are looking for something a little different this is the place for you, but be sure to try to reserve if possible as it get very busy and booked up in advance.
We stayed at Inns of Banff mainly because we rented a 4 bedroom condo for the evening. We were visiting with another family and we could easily visit with each other after the kids were in bed. All the kids were so excited about sharing a room with each other and the bunk beds! Small things have big impact.
We also used the buses in downtown Banff, which allowed for easy quick transportation. Plus, the kids like the idea of each of the buses having different animals all over them. Nothing like riding a Bear bus! Our hotel also gave us free passes for the bus which was a bonus, so just ask where you are staying if they provide them.
Places to Stay in Banff
Some of our favourite places to stay in Banff including Elk & Avenue Hotel, Moose Hotel & Suites, and Best Western Plus. I would suggest booking early in Banff during any time of the year. Banff is busy for all seasons of the year and best to choose the place that works with your budget.
Staying anywhere around Banff Avenue is best since most restaurants and shops are located on this street. Banff also has a great shuttle on Banff Avenue and bus services along this road and most are included with your hotel stay.Booking.com Booking.com
If you prefer to stay in a condo or home then Airbnb may be a better option to look for. There are plenty to search from that are also located close to Banff Avenue and allow for a more homestay feel than a hotel. Generally, places will give you a better price when staying for a minimum of 1 week. Again, I would book early for anytime of the year so you are not disappointed. Weekends are especially busy.
Banff Travel Tips:
- Pay online for the entrance fee into Banff National Park and save yourself the time waiting in the park entrance line. Tickets are priced per person per vehicle, but check out their website for all the details.
- Pay in advance and reserve your tickets/time for Sulphur Mountain Gondola.
- Book dinner reservations – most really good restaurants get booked up quickly so this can save your waiting time so you can walk around on Banff Avenue afterwards.
There are so many more things to do in Banff, but if you only have one day it is still worth the visit to see this spectacular area. The drive alone leading into Banff is breathtaking and beyond words on how rich and beautiful the Canadian Rockies truly are. We will see you again soon Banff!