The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary

These scenic hikes are all 4 km or less round trip and less than 1 hr from Calgary.

The Ultimate Car Camping Pack List

Everything you need for an awesome camping trip!

Tips for Fun Family Backpacking

Family Backpacking 101 - what to pack, where to go...

Discover Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Go back in time and live like a trapper at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, only 2 hours from Calgary.

Why you should visit Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Hoodoos, beaches, and paddling! Need I say more?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Where to Snowshoe Near Calgary

You can snowshoe anywhere there is snow, but the best trails have lots of puffy snow and beautiful scenery. If the snow is packed down, go off trail! Not only will you get more of a workout, you'll have way more fun log hopping and jumping in the snow.


There are 17 official snowshoe trails in Kananaskis. Snow seekers should make their way to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The Chester Lake area receives a TON of snow each winter! 

Here are our top picks for snowshoeing with the family:
  1. Hogarth Lakes Loop is a family-friendly snowshoe trail that is only 3.9 km return with 30 m elevation gain.
  2. Elkwood Loop Trail is scenic and not too long! Start at Elkwood Amphitheatre Parking Lot and snowshoe through trees and pretty meadows to Marl Lake. There are great views of Mount Indefatigable across the lake! 3.4 km, 23 m elevation gain. 
  3. Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail, located near Kananaskis Village, has several bridges that kids will love to cross. We went over 5 bridges in just 1 km! 3.7 km one way with 60 m elevation gain. *Avalanche danger beyond the end of the trail!* Note that a couple sections are shared with cross country skiers; please be courteous and stay off the ski tracks. :)
  4. Black Prince Cirque is a fun and pretty trail with lots of snow to play in. Do not go past Warspite Lake as there is avalanche danger across the lake. Watch for skiers as this is a popular ski trail. 4.3 km round trip, 90 m elevation gain.
  5. Wintour Trail is actually Highway 40 past the winter gate. It may seem odd to snowshoe on the road, but the vistas are pretty amazing! Park near the winter gate and snowshoe south. 5 km return, 74 m elevation gain. *THERE IS AVALANCHE DANGER 2.5 KM PAST THE WINTER GATE. TURN BACK AFTER 2.5 KM.*
  6. Rawson Lake takes you along the shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake to Sarrail Falls, then up switchbacks through subalpine forest to Rawson Lake. Do not cross the lake as the awesome peaks overlooking the lake pose serious avalanche danger. 7.8 km return, 320 m elevation gain.
  7. Chester Lake is a good climb with awesome payoff at the end. Although you hike up through the trees, the meadows near the lake are expansive and just beyond the lake, snow covered boulders (the Elephant Rocks) make for fun climbing and cool photos. For more information, please see Year Round Fun at Chester Lake. 7.2 km return, 287 m elevation gain.
Mention: Troll Falls is a great family hike year round. Bring ice cleats as the trail gets packed and icy (not suitable for snowshoeing unless Kananaskis Village has received a huge dump of snow). 3.1 km return, minimal elevation gain.

For more information, please see the Alberta Parks - Kananaskis Snowshoeing Brochure.

Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail, Kananaskis Valley

Marl Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Approaching Chester Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Troll Falls, Kananaskis Valley


Stop at the Peter Lougheed Visitor Centre before or after your snowshoe outing. There are cool exhibits, washrooms, and a microwave and kettle available for public use. The views off the back deck are gorgeous too!

Afternoon tea at Mount Engadine Lodge is a fantastic apres-snowshoe treat! Daily 2 pm - 5 pm. $17.50/person. 

West Bragg Creek

  1. Snowy Owl Trail is great on a calm day as it's quite open and gets lots of sun. It parallels the Mountain Road ski trail and is quite flat for the first couple kilometres. Download the West Bragg Creek Trail Map here.
    • Option 1: Make the blue bridge your destination (1.3 km) and turn back for a 2.6 km snowshoe. 
    • Option 2: Do a 5.4 km loop by continuing on Snowy Owl 1.8 km past the bridge and returning on Snowy Shortcut, a 1.0 km connector that rejoins Snowy Owl. There is some elevation gain on the section between the bridge and the connector trail.
  2. Snowshoe Hare Loop is a rolling trail that is 5.4 km long with 173 m elevation gain when you're ready for more of a challenge. For more information, see BCKOR's trip description. Download the West Bragg Creek Trail Map here.

Stop in at the Powderhorn Saloon for lunch or get a sweet treat at Frontier Candy & Ice Cream! Several more tasty options in the charming hamlet of Bragg Creek.

Mountain Road, West Bragg Creek (snowshoe trail is to the right)

Banff National Park (Banff & Lake Louise)

Winter offers the opportunity to snowshoe across frozen lakes. The safest times to do this are mid-December until the end of February, but weather conditions are always changing, so check ice thickness before venturing on to the ice. For ice safety tips, please see this post.
  1. Johnson Lake offers fantastic views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. You can take the flat and pretty trail around the lake (2.8 km), or snowshoe right on the lake once it's frozen. Chariot friendly. 
  2. Lake Minnewanka's shoreline is gorgeous year round! If the ice is thick enough, you can snowshoe on the lake, but use extreme caution and stay close to shore. You can snowshoe to the first campground (LM8 at 7.6 km), but Stewart Canyon is a nice destination with kids. It's only 800 metres to the bridge, or 6.5 km return to the river gorge (minimal elevation gain). For more information, see Hiking With Barry - Stewart Canyon.
  3. Tunnel Mountain Drive gives you great views of Cascade Mountain. 1.7 km one way. Start at Tunnel Mountain Drive and St Julien Way in the town of Banff. The upper part of the road is closed to cars in the winter! For a longer trip, hike to the summit of Tunnel Mountain! If the trail is packed down, snowshoes or ice cleats will provide great traction (needed most on the descent).
  4. Snowshoe across Lake Louise or take the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail (4 km return). Both are Chariot friendly. For more information, see Snowshoe, Ski, Skate, and Walk on World Famous Lake Louise.
  5. Fairview Lookout is a steep, but fun trail that leads to a viewpoint overlooking Lake Louise and the Chateau. 2 km return, 100 m elevation gain. For more information, see Snowshoeing to Fairview Lookout.
  6. Lake Agnes Trail to Mirror Lake is a good climb through the trees that offers glimpses down at Lake Louise and a view of the Beehive from Mirror Lake. Do not go past Mirror Lake as it is avalanche terrain! 6  km return from Chateau Lake Louise, 300 m elevation gain. Follow the signs on the right side of the lake (opposite the boathouse).
  7. Peyto Lake Viewpoint. While not as spectacular as in summer when you can see the brilliant blue lake, the view is still pretty grand and the trail is easy. 1.5 km return, 25 m elevation gain.
For more information on these and other trails, please see Parks Canada - Winter Trails in the Banff Area and Parks Canada - Winter Trails in the Lake Louise Area.

Johnson Lake, Banff
Lake Louise
Fairview Lookout Trail, Lake Louise


There are tons of dining options in Banff. For inexpensive take out, head to the Food Court at Cascade Mall (they have a Rocky Mountain Flatbread), McDonald's, or Chaya (Japanese food). 

We really like The Bison for lunch, Maple Leaf Grill for a fancy dinner, and Old Spaghetti Factory for a casual dinner.


The Visitor Centre, located in the Village, has several exhibits and washrooms.

Chateau Lake Louise has several dining options from casual to fine dining. We've enjoyed cocoa and lunch at the cafe, fondue at Walliser Stube Fondue place, and Afternoon Tea at the Chateau. 

For an unforgettable dinner, head to Deer Lodge (fine dining). 

In the Village, we like Laggan's Bakery and Timberwolf Pizza & Pasta Cafe (at Lake Louise Inn).

Disclosure: I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador, but all words and opinions are my own. I did not receive compensation to recommend snowshoeing trails in the parks.

Happy Trails! Tag your Instagram and Facebook photos with #playoutsidegal so I can see where you 
went! I will share my favorites! 

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Calgary (And Area) Family New Year's Eve Parties

To kick off Canada's 150th year, New Year's celebrations across the nation will be bigger and better than ever. In Calgary and neighboring communities, there are several family-friendly parties boasting fireworks, skating (what's a Canadian winter fest without skating, eh?), games, and live entertainment. Best of all, the municipal parties are all free! The only question now is... which event is for you?

1. City of Calgary New Year's Eve Party - City Hall & Olympic Plaza

The biggest party in Calgary is downtown and FREE! Skate, dance, and bounce and watch stilt walkers, magician, and fire spinning. Enjoy live musical performances from Calgary's top DJs, Cowtown Opera on the rooftop, aboriginal drumming with Wendy Walker, and more. Share your NYE celebrations photos with #YYCNYE!

Complete event listing here. Family-friendly events from 7-9 pm are highlighted below.

MUNICIPAL ATRIUM in City Hall - 800 Macleod Tr SE
  • 7-9 pm Glow-In-The-Dark Family Dance Party and Kids' Countdown
  • 8 pm Autograph signing with Paralympians Stephan Daniels & Alister McQueen
  • 7 pm Free hot chocolate courtesy of Good Earth Coffeehouse
  • 7 pm - 11:45 pm Free skate rentals at Olympic Plaza from the Skate Shack. Arrive early to avoid disappointment or bring your own!
  • 7 pm, 8 pm, 9 pm, 10 pm, 11 pm Cowtown Opera from the rooftop of Arts Commons
  • 7:30 pm, 8:30 pm, 9:30 pm, 10:30 pm Aboriginal Drumming with Wendy Walker
  • For events from 9 pm - midnight, see City of Calgary NYE.
  • 12 am: Fireworks
MUNICIPAL PLAZA in front of City Hall - 800 Macleod Tr SE
  • 7pm Free hot chocolate courtesy of Good Earth Coffeehouse
  • 7:15 pm, 8 pm, 9 pm Fire Spinning

2. Games & Pool Party at Southland Leisure Centre - 2000 Southland Dr SW

Enjoy arts/crafts, games, obstacle courses, a bouncy house and selfie photo booth from 4:30 pm - 6 pm in the lobby. Then head to waterpark where a DJ will be pumping out the tunes from 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm. Pool countdown at 8:30. Regular admission.

3. Gym & Pool Party at Village Square Leisure Centre - 2623 56 St NE

Enjoy arts/crafts, games, obstacle courses, a bouncy house and selfie photo booth from 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm in the gym. Then head to waterpark where a DJ will be pumping out the tunes from 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm. Pool countdown at 8:30. Regular admission.

4. Zoo Year's Eve at the Calgary Zoo - 1300 Zoo Rd NE

Enjoy Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo, free face painting, dance party, and skating (free skate rentals from KidsSport Calgary). No fireworks this year. 6 pm - 9 pm. Zoolights Admission.

Calgary Zoolights

5. Noon Year's Eve at Telus Spark - 220 St. George's Dr NE

Don't miss the Hydrogen Balloon Explosion Countdown at 11:45 am, then join in a Bubble Wrap Dance Party. The entire Atrium floor (2,000 square feet) is covered in bubble wrap for your dancing pleasure! 9 am - 5 pm. Regular admission.

6. Airdrie Fireworks - Ed Eggerer Athletic Park (800 East Lake Blvd NE)

Enjoy the fireworks show from 6:30 pm - 6:45 pm at Ed Eggerer Park, or watch them from the Airdrie Festival of Lights. FREE!

7. Airdrie Festival of Lights Family New Year's Eve Party - Nose Creek Park (1701 Main Street S, Airdrie)

Visit the Festival Tent for a DJ Dance Party, games, and concession. Check out the amazing light display, then go skating, or take a ride on the Festival Express (mini train) - $2/passenger. 7 pm - 9 pm. Donations requested.

7. Kids' New Year's Eve Party - Okotoks Rec Centre (99 Okotoks Dr)

Swim, play, watch a magic show, or decorate cookies from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm. FREE!

8. Okotoks Fireworks - Lineham Park (33 Mountain St)

Find a spot around town to catch the show at 7 pm! FREE!

9. Canmore Party on the Pond & Fireworks at Millennium 

Ring in the new year with a skating party at the Pond (7th Ave & Mallard Alley) from 6 pm - 10 pm. Family fireworks will be at 8:30 pm at the Pond. Midnight fireworks will be let off at Millennium Park (1st St and 5th Ave). FREE!

Happy New Year! May 2017 be filled with fun adventures! Where will you ring in the new year?

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Calgary's Best Outdoor Skating Rinks

It's December, so that means outdoor skating season in Calgary! With so many great rinks around, how do you choose? While we spend most of our time on a small, local pond that's walking distance from our home, we love visiting the larger, city-maintained rinks for the experience. Christmas lights and fire pits (bring marshmallows and roasting sticks) make for a memorable skate. Bonus points if there's a café or sledding hill nearby!

Here are the Calgary's best outdoor skating rinks and what we love about them! Admission is FREE at each rink!

Calgary's Best Outdoor Skating Rinks

The city-maintained rinks (with the exception of Olympic Plaza) are usually open from mid-December to February. Olympic Plaza is open from mid-November to mid-March. Check rink conditions here. Spruce Meadows' rink is open until January 8, 2017, weather permitting; and Rosemont Community Rinks are open until February, weather permitting.
  1. Bowness Park Lagoon has a beautiful rink and many amenities: skate shop, teahouse, Christmas lights, fire pits, and washrooms. As this is natural ice, it can be a bit bumpy, but my kids have enjoyed skating here since they were 1.5 yrs old. Skating aids, strollers, and sleds are permitted on the ice so the whole family can get on the ice!
    • Address: 8900 48 Ave NW. 
    • Hours: 5 a.m. - 11 p.m. daily, 5 a.m. - 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve. 
    • Rentals available.
      Skating at Bowness Lagoon

      Learning to Skate at Bowness Lagoon
  2. Olympic Plaza: Located in the heart of downtown, Olympic Plaza is perfect for a date night or noon hour skate. There are skate rentals and washrooms onsite and many nearby options for dining and shopping. Did you know medal presentation ceremonies took place here during the 1988 Winter Olympics?
    • Address: 228 8 Ave SE
    • Hours: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily. 
    • Rentals available.

  3. Prince's Island Lagoon is also located downtown, but is easier to access as you can park at Eau Claire Market or the public parking lot near the Calgary Curling Club. It's also more family friendly as strollers and sleds are permitted on the ice. The nearest washrooms are below the River Café (seasonal) and Eau Claire Market. Pretty lights at Christmas and lots of places to eat just a short walk away.
    • Address: 4th St & 1st Ave SW
    • Hours: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., daily
      Christmas Lights at Prince's Island Park

      Sliding at Prince's Island Lagoon
  4. Carburn Park's pond is in a lovely, natural setting near the Bow River. Washrooms are open year round and the rink is lit at night. Strollers and sleds welcome. After skating, walk or snowshoe around the ponds; it's a pleasant 1.5 km loop with no elevation gain.
    • Address: 67 Riverview Dr SE
    • Hours: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. daily
      Skating at Carburn Park
      Image Credit: Sarah McLean, Rockies Girl 

      Skating at Carburn Park
      Image Credit: Suzi Smart
  5. Rosemont Rinks at Confederation Park is maintained by volunteers and won the award for best outdoor rink in 2011. There are 2 rinks - 1 for skating and 1 for hockey - and a great sledding hill beside the rink. Be sure to drive by the Lion's Festival of Lights on the way there or back. It's northwest Calgary's best Christmas light display! See updates from Rosemont Ice Guys. Sleds and strollers ok on the skating rink (but not on the hockey rink for your child's safety!).
    • Address: 2807 10 St NW
    • Hours: TBC. Please note that the rink is flooded every Monday and Thursday at 8 PM so you must stay off the ice Monday and Thursday nights!
      Rosemont Rink Rules

      Rosemont Community Rink
  6. Spruce Meadows: Go for the 2 km long Christmas lights drive and stay for the skating on a pretty pond with an island in the middle! The setting is stunning! Christmas light display is up until January 8th; rink open until January 8, weather permitting. Warm up in the Founders Plaza with a cocoa and pastry, evenings 5-8 pm except Christmas Day. For more information, visit Spruce Meadows' Website.
    • Address: 18011 Spruce Meadows Way SW. Park in Lot 4 (Map).
    • Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily until Januaruy 8, 2017.

More Rinks

  1. Thomson Family Park just opened in October 2016 and has a city-maintained rink. I'd love to hear what you think of it!
    • Address: 1236 16 Ave SW
    • Hours: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily
  2. Big Marlborough Park has a fire ring and toboggan hill near the rink, so don't forget your sled!
    • Address: 6033 Madigan Dr NW
    • Hours: 5 a.m. - 11 p.m.  
  3. Prairie Winds Park - CLOSED FOR 2016/2017 
  4. Community rinks: The best thing about these smaller rinks is that they're close to home. Pop the kids in a sled and go! To find one near you, check out Adopt-a-Rink (35 rinks) or your Community's Page Listing.
Skating at Brentwood Community Rink

Safety Moment: Wear a helmet when you skate! 

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Skating at Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

9 Things to Do in Lake Louise This Winter

Lake Louise is a winter lover's paradise with snowcapped peaks, marshmallow trees, and spectacularly scenic trails. Pack your skates, skis, and snowshoes, because you're gonna want to do it all in this winter wonderland! Here are nine of our favorite winter activities in Lake Louise. 

  1. Skate at Lake Louise! It's easy to see why Lake Louise was named "Best Skating Rink in the World" in 2014 by The Huffington Post! With Mount Fairview to your left, the Victoria Glacier straight ahead, Beehive to your right, and magnificent Chateau Lake Louise at your 6, beauty is all around! You can usually skate from mid-December until April, but the most magical time to go is when the Ice Castle is up for the Ice Magic Festival (January 19-29, 2017)! 
    Skating at Lake Louise
  2. Walk, snowshoe, ski, or ride to ice falls! You can go across Lake Louise during the winter, or take the lakeshore trail. 4 km return. Even if you don't make it to the falls, the views are breathtaking! For more information regarding sleigh rides ($), visit Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
    Brewster Sleigh Ride, Lake Louise
    Ice Falls at the end of Lake Louise
    Look for the ice climber in the red jacket for scale.
  3. Cross country ski! With incredibly scenic trails and amazing snow, Lake Louise is a dream ski destination. Beginners will love the Bow River Loop and Tramline, while intermediate skiers will enjoy the challenge of Pipestone's rolling trails. For more information, please visit:
  4. Snowshoe to Fairview Lookout. Fairview Lookout is a fun, short trail that ends at a beautiful viewpoint overlooking Lake Louise. Only 2 km return & 100 m elevation gain. 
    Snowshoeing to Fairview Lookout, Banff
  5. Hike to Johnston Canyon. This popular hike is less busy in the winter months, but no less beautiful. In fact, you may find it even more stunning; I know I do! 2.2 km round trip to Lower Falls; 5.4 km round trip to Upper Falls. Bring ice cleats or microspikes as the trail gets slippery and icy! 
    Cave next to Lower Falls, Banff

    Lower Falls, Johnston Canyon

    Upper Falls, Johnston Canyon
  6. Go Skiing or Tubing at Lake Louise Ski Resort! Lake Louise is the largest ski resort in the Rockies with great snow, epic views, a tube park, and sightseeing lift. For more information on season's passes, see: Family Season's Passes at Nakiska & The Big 3. Did you know you can upgrade your Learning Area Ticket or Sunny Tube Park Ticket to include the Sightseeing Gondola for $10? 
    Lake Louise Ski Resort
    Image Credit: Chris Moseley, Lake Louise Ski Resort
  7. Embrace Winter at the Ice Magic Festival. The Ice Magic Festival is truly magical. We look forward to it every year for the incredible ice sculptures and ice castle on Lake Louise (an international ice carving competition is a major part of the festival). You may view the ice sculptures for free on weekdays and evenings, but tickets are required to view them on festival weekends from 10 am - 5:30 pm. We usually go at least one day during the festival, then spend time at Lake Louise after the festival ends and the crowds disperse. Festival dates: January 19-29, 2017.
    Ice throne at the Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise
    Ice Castle at Lake Louise
    Ice sculpture at Lake Louise

    Ice Castle at the Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise
  8. Explore the Icefields Parkway! Easily one of the most scenic drives in the world, you would be missing out if you didn't check it out. The closest stops to Lake Louise are Bow Lake, Peyto Lake Viewpoint (1.5 km return), and Mistaya Canyon (800 m return, bring snowshoes). If you don't mind driving further, the Columbia Icefields are a must see. For more information, please see Touring the Icefields Parkway With Kids. Note that the Glacier Adventure and Skywalk tours do not run in the winter.
    Mistaya Canyon
  9. Toe of the Glacier Hike, Athabasca Glacier
  10. Lake Louise Ski Resort Special Events. There are several events all season long that are fun for the whole family whether you ski or not (but seriously, who doesn't ski??). For a complete event listing, visit Lake Louise Ski Resort. A few family-friendly dates follow:
    • Santa Family Photo Days - Get your photo with Santa in the Lodge of the Ten Peaks! Santa's helpers will email you an e-card with your photo! December 23 & 24, 2016; 10 am - 1 pm.
    • Celebrate FIS World Snow Day with FREE Skiing for Kids 12 & under (with the purchase of 1 adult lift ticket), $10 Family Tubing (with the purchase of 1 adult lift ticket), and more savings! See Lake Louise Ski Resort for details. January 14 & 15, 2017.
    • Ice Carving Demo: This fun and free event is part of the Ice Magic Festival. See what artists can do with a block of ice in only one hour! January 22, 10 am - 11 am in front of the Lodge of Ten Peaks.
    • Avalanche Awareness Days are a great opportunity to learn more about snow and brush up on beacon skills. When you complete your Avalanche Training Passport, you can enter to win prizes from Fresh Calgary Ski Shop! January 21-22, 2017; 10 am - 4 pm. 

Where to Eat

  • For coffee and a treat, we always stop at Laggan's Bakery. They make the most amazing gingersnaps (soft, chewy ones!), apple turnovers, and peanut butter cookies!
  • The best pizza around is at Timberwolf in Lake Louise Inn.
  • For fine dining, Deer Lodge is our favorite (we actually got engaged there!). 
  • Fondue lovers will enjoy Walliser Stube at Chateau Lake Louise. 
  • For an amazing brunch, visit Chateau Lake Louise! We've gone for Easter and Mother's Day and loved everything!
Enjoying an apple turnover at Laggan's

Where to Stay

Deer Lodge, Lake Louise

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

10 Fun Things To Do In Banff This Winter

Banff is a magical winter wonderland with fun for all ages! Here are our top 10 things to do in Banff this season.

  1. Hike to the spectacular ice falls at Johnston Canyon. 2.2 kilometres round trip to the Lower Falls or 5.4 kilometres round trip to the Upper Falls. Ice cleats or microspikes required. 
    Johnston Canyon Lower Falls
  2. Snowshoe around (or on) picturesque Johnson Lake and enjoy views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. The lakeshore trail is a 2.8 km loop with no elevation gain. Mid-December to February is the best time to skate or snowshoe on the lake, but check the ice thickness and see my pond and lake ice safety tips before venturing on to the ice. For more places to skate in Banff, please see this post.
    Snowshoeing on Johnson Lake, Banff National Park
  3. Cross country ski at Cascade Valley. This scenic valley's rolling trail is suitable for intermediate skiers and is located just minutes from downtown Banff. 13 km round trip from Lake Minnewanka Day Use Area to the first bridge; 30 km round trip to Stoney Creek bridge. A shorter option to do with kids is Lake Minnewanka Day Use to Upper Bankhead (2.6 km return).
    Cross country skiing at Cascade Valley, Banff
  4. Get above Banff on the Banff GondolaNewly renovated, Above Banff is an amazing mountaintop experience with fun, interactive exhibits, a theatre, and dining. After you've explored the interpretive centre and had a bite to eat, head up to the rooftop deck or take the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk (1 km return) to Sanson's Peak and the historic cosmic ray station for incredible views. Visit Brewster Canada for special events!
    Banff Gondola
  5. Recharge at Banff Upper Hot Springs! Warm up, relax, and make frosty crazy hairstyles at the hot springs. Winter is my favorite time to visit the hot springs because I can soak forever without overheating!
    Outside Banff Upper Hot Springs
  6. Go skiing and tubing at Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village or Lake Louise Ski Resort. Each resort is amazing for different reasons. Mount Norquay is the closest ski resort to the town of Banff with an amazing tube park; Sunshine Village boasts the longest season and all natural snow; and Lake Louise is the largest ski resort in the area. For more information on what each hill has to offer, as well as ways you can save money skiing, see: Family Season's Passes at Nakiska & The Big 3. ***Deal Alert: Santa Shreds Free at Norquay on December 25th (must be in full Santa/Mrs. Claus/Elf costume)!***
    Skiing at Mount Norquay
    Image Credit: Mount Norquay
  7. Winter Carnival at The Cave. Cave and Basin, the birth place of the National Parks, is celebrating its 100th Winter Carnival with an ice castle and slide, curling, stories, games and more! Daily in January. Get in free with your national parks pass! After exploring the interpretive centre, take the Discovery Boardwalk trail (400 m) to the cave vent, former hotel site, and snail pools. Please look, but don't touch. The tiny snails are endangered! Visit Parks Canada for more information on the Winter Carnival and other events at Cave and Basin.
    Tunnel to the Hot Springs
    Natural Hot Springs at Cave & Basin, Banff
  8. Experience Christmas at the Castle! The Banff Springs Hotel is Christmas central from December 18-31 with several daily festive events including scavenger hunts, letters to Santa, skating and more! We love going for brunch (with Santa on the weekends!), looking at the gingerbread houses and decorations, skating, and cross country skiing at nearby Spray River Trail (trailhead behind the Banff Springs Hotel). Be sure to check out Bow Falls while you're in the area!
    Banff Springs Hotel
  9. Celebrate New Year's Eve in Banff! Banff Avenue will come alive with street vendors, entertainment, games, warming shelters, and fireworks! Details here.
    Banff Avenue
  10. Try Ice Climbing at the MEC Ice Climbing Festival!  There are also ice climbing clinics, tradeshows, and an amateur ice climbing competition with prizes for best costume! January 29, 2017 to January 31, 2017. 
BONUS: Banff SnowDays runs for from January 13 - February 5, 2017 and includes the SnowDays Kick-off Street Party (January 13, 2017; 6 pm - 10 pm), Ice Magic Festival (January 19-29, 2017), Banff's Big Taste (January 18-22, 2017), and The Big Bear Ski and Snowboard Competition (February 3 & 4, 2017). For a complete events listing, visit Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.

Where to Eat

Our favorite family-friendly restaurant is the Old Spaghetti Factory! If you're looking for something fancier (but not snooty), Maple Leaf & Lounge is amazing. Sleeping Buffalo Lounge, at Buffalo Mountain Lodge, is perfect for a romantic date night (gourmet Canadiana fare and award winning wine list), and the Banff Springs Hotel has the best brunch in town.

For casual fare, try Chaya (Japanese food), or Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company (in Cascade Mall's Food Court).

Foodies won't want to miss Banff's Big Taste from January 18-22, 2017. Visit the Tasting Hall, and special events including food tastings, whiskey seminar, Pins and Pints Bowl-Off, and Banff's Best Chef Competition. 

Where to Stay

See my Where to Stay page for recommendations.

What are your favorite things to do in Banff in the winter?

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