10 Fun Things To Do In Banff This Winter

by - Saturday, December 17, 2016

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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