Banff is a magical winter wonderland with fun for all ages! Here are our top 10 things to do in Banff during the snowy season.
1. Hike to spectacular ice falls at Johnston Canyon.
Johnston Canyon is a winter wonderland when the snow falls and the waterfalls freeze. It’s 2.2 kilometres round trip to the Lower Falls or 5.4 kilometres round trip to the Upper Falls. Ice cleats or microspikes recommended. Check Banff National Park for trail/parking lot closures.
2. Snowshoe around picturesque Johnson Lake
From Johnson Lake, you can enjoy views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. The lakeshore trail is suitable for all ages as it’s only 2.8 km roundtrip with no elevation gain. We do not recommend snowshoeing on the lake unless it has been cold for several weeks and the ice is thick enough. Check the ice thickness first and see my pond and lake ice safety tips before venturing on to the ice. For places to ice skate in Banff, please see this post.
3. Cross country ski at Cascade Valley.
This scenic valley’s rolling terrain 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).
4. Get above Banff on the Banff Gondola!
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 Pursuit – Banff Jasper Collection for special events!
5. Recharge at Banff Upper Hot Springs!
Warm up, relax, and make crazy, frosty hairstyles at the hot springs. Winter is my favorite time to visit the hot springs because I can soak forever without overheating! (January 2021 update: The hot springs are closed until further notice.)
6. Go skiing and tubing at Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, or Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Each ski 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.
Cave & Basin, the birth place of the National Parks, has an interpretive centre with exhibits about the park’s history, flora, and fauna; a 4 screen HD film about Parks Canada’s history; gift shop; and outdoor interpretive trails. 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! (January 2021 update: Cave and Basin is closed until further notice.)
8. Experience Christmas at the Castle!
The Banff Springs Hotel is Christmas central for the month of December 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!
9. Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Banff!
Banff Avenue will come alive with street vendors, fire dancers, games, warming shelters, and fireworks! Bring your skates so you can ice skate at the downtown rink!
10. Celebrate Winter with Banff SnowDays
SnowDays runs from January 20- January 31, 2021 with tons of fun events (most of them FREE!) in Banff and Lake Louise. For a complete events listing, visit Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.
Where to Eat
We love Farm + Fire for its fire-roasted goodness and delish cocktails. Read our review, Farm + Fire Restaurant: Classy comfort food in the heart of Banff, for more information.
Maple Leaf Grille is another amazing dinner spot. 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 the Old Spaghetti Factory (my kids’ fav), Chaya (Japanese food), or Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company (in Cascade Mall’s Food Court).
Where to Stay
Elk + Avenue has stylish and spacious suites on Banff Avenue, walking distance to shopping and dining.
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