Winter In Banff Canada
A Complete 3 Day Guide Of What to See, Do & Eat
Winter in Banff, one of the best times of the year. However, if you are even thinking of spending winter in Banff, you must be one of two things, either really brave or a winter lover. We personally think you need a little bit of both.
It’s not like you need to worry about bears and mountain lions in the winter when we say you’re brave we mean you’re brave for wanting to deal with our frigidly cold temperatures. Sometimes we can reach -40C! Or get over 2 feet of snowfall overnight. Maybe that’s part of the reason people say winter is in the blood of Canadians.
FUN FACT: Canada is roughly 9.98 million square kilometers and has the longest coastline in the world, a large portion of that, however, is arctic tundra. In fact, over 26% of the country is arctic tundra!
But there is something so spectacular, beautiful, and calming about winter, especially winter in Banff. There is nothing quite like walking on a frozen river hearing the water rush beneath your feet. Or watching as ice climbers scale a 100-foot waterfall that has been frozen in time.
Maybe you’re more interested in snowboarding or skiing through fluffy powder so deep if you fall it’s like falling into a cloud. Maybe you have always wanted to go skating on one of the most famous lakes in the world, or maybe you just want to enjoy soaking in a natural hot spring as your hair forms icicles. Perhaps it’s the warm hot chocolate around a flickering fire surrounded by friends and family as snowflakes fall from the sky – whatever you love about winter, Canada has it.
Winter in Banff is by far one of our favourite things and we are lucky enough to live so close to it and literally call it our backyard. Perhaps we are a bit crazy for saying that winter is arguably our favourite season, but part of that craziness is the fact that Banff IS our backyard. Honestly, without being able to spend winter in Banff, I’m not sure we would adore winter the same way.
And after you spend 3 days in winter in Banff, your outlook on the coldest season will change too.
Perhaps you’re sitting here after reading that thinking to yourself, you know none of that really sold me on winter in Banff, then check out our guide for 3 days in summer in Banff, where you’ll get to experience a different kind of mountain paradise.
There are a ton of different things to do in Banff, which can make it really difficult to plan only 3 days in the small mountain town. But with the right plan or the right guidance, you can easily do a good majority of the activities in Banff that are well worth your time and shouldn’t be missed. Perhaps there will be things you will miss, yes, but that just gives you more reason to return in the future!
So here is our guide of what to do in Banff for 3 days in the winter.
Arrive at Calgary Airport
Calgary International Airport is the closest airport to Banff, so make sure your flights land in YYC. Not Edmonton! If you plan on going through Jasper National Park first, then Edmonton is a good airport to land in and you can take the Icefields Parkway to Banff and Lake Louise.
But if you’re just planning on spending winter in Banff only plan to land in Calgary.
There are a few shuttles that will take you from Calgary to Banff and back, but we recommend renting a car. There are two reasons for this:
- Buses don’t give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to utilizing your time as they work on their own schedules, so having a rental car will give you more freedom and make it easier for you to efficiently get everywhere you need to go.
- Rental cars can be pretty inexpensive (sometimes as low as $17CAD ($13USD per day) so it won’t add a huge cost anyways and sometimes is cheaper than taking the bus everywhere you are going to go.
Just be warned that winter in Banff means winter driving conditions. So make sure you are comfortable with driving in sometimes two feet of snow before booking a trip in the winter and using a rental car.
Brewster Shuttle Bus: Calgary > Banff Round Trip > Adults $118CAD ($90USD) Children $60CAD ($45USD)
Banff Airporter: Calgary > Banff Round Trip > Adults $130CAD ($99USD) Children $65CAD ($49USD)
Car Rentals: Expedia has car rental prices as low as $17CAD ($13USD) per day!
Drive To Banff & Grab Breakfast/Snack
The drive to Banff from Calgary takes around an hour and a half (depending on road conditions). It would be best to assume it would take you around two hours to drive to Banff if you rent a car and drive yourself (buses may take longer if they have additional stops) especially in the winter. There can be blowing snow and black ice on the highways so it is better to go slow, take your time and drive safely.
When you finally do make it into Banff you’ll probably be hungry and cold, which is where Evelyn’s Coffee Bar comes in. This little gem of a cafe is located on Banff Ave and is one of our favourite things to do in Banff in the winter, because who doesn’t love a delicious hot beverage? If you’re feeling a bit peckish this would be a great place to grab yourself a snack and fuel up for the day ahead.
Check Out The Cave & Basin
There is no better way to kick off our guide of things to do in Banff than with the Cave & Basin – the birthplace of Canada‘s National Parks. This iconic area has a few small natural hot springs that steam in the cold winter air. They’re home to a rare snail that is endangered named the Banff Snail, which is why it’s important not to touch the water!
Cave & Basin is one of nine sulfurous hot springs that are clustered in groups in the side of Sulphur Mountain. There are two pools you can view, one ‘inside’ through a cave and one outside. There are also two separate interpretive trails that you can walk through behind the building that offer more insight into the area along with its planets and animals.
The outdoor pools have incredibly unique coloured waters that shine bright blue with shades of greens and yellows, the hot pool located in a cave deep in the middle of the mountain is surrounded by stalactites and a strong sulphur smell. The sulphur smell can be a bit overwhelming (smells like rotten eggs) and is caused by the water heating up from the earth’s molten core which dissolves minerals like Pyrite and Gypsum from the surrounding rock. Bacteria then breaks down these minerals in the water before reaching the surface, which causes the rotten egg odour.
The Cave & Basin also has a little museum area where you can learn more about how Canada’s first National Park, Banff, was established. It’s a much different experience seeing the springs during winter in Banf because you can actually get an idea of how hot these springs are because of the rising steam. In the summer it’s a bit harder to tell because you can’t touch the water and feel its heat for yourself.
Explore The Banff Springs Hotel
The Banff Springs Hotel was a major catalyst for the growth of Banff National Park, this castle in the mountains is full of history, mystery and discovery. It’s filled with grand ballrooms, lounges, halls, epic staircases and is truly something to marvel at and explore. Winter in Banff (or summer for that matter) is not complete without a visit to one of Banff’s most iconic landmarks.
Originally the hotel was built in 1888 but has been renovated a few times since the original structure was built. There are multiple ghost stories associated with the hotel, including a bride who fell to her death on one of the staircases and an old employee who still helps guests find their rooms. You can do a self-guided tour with a guide you can get here, which will help you learn a bit more about the hotel and its patrons.
Once you’re done with the interior, make sure you give yourself enough time to explore the grounds of the hotel. Outside of the hotel, you’ll find incredible mountain views that showcase how beautiful winter in Banff is, Bow falls one of the most visited waterfalls in Banff, and a beautiful golf course surrounded by green trees and sometimes Elk.
If you want a really beautiful view of the hotel drive to Surprise Corner on Tunnel Mountain Road, there you’ll find a small boardwalk, a few trails, and insane views.
Grab A Late Lunch
By this point, you’ve probably worked up quite an appetite and deserve a super delicious pizza. Head down to one of our favourite pizza places in Banff, Bear Street Tavern. This Tavern had their pizza featured on Food Networks You’ve Gotta Eat Here and is 100% worth the visit and the pricing (it’s not super expensive but also not super cheap).
The pizzas are pretty large and are on average $21CAD ($16USD) per pizza, but they can easily be shared between two people. Or you could get one for yourself and save the remainder for a late night snack! Our personal favourites are the Godfather (no olives), the Hawaiian (yes pineapple on pizza is delicious) or the Big Bird.
Also, the chili oil is to die for, put it on everything, you won’t regret it.
Check Bags Into Hotel
Most hotels let you start checking in around 1pm, so now might be a good time to settle into your new ‘home’ for the next few nights. Drop off your bags and get ready for your winter in Banff adventure! Some of the hotels in Banff actually offer coupon books for its guests (mainly hotels owned under the Banff Lodging Company).
Give the book a quick look through (if you got one) and see if any of the coupons could help you during your stay. Hostels typically won’t offer any sort of coupon book, sorry backpackers!
Walk Main Strip Of Banff Townsite
If you’re anything like us the first day you arrive somewhere you love to just walk around and check out the town, now is the perfect time to do that. The main strip of Banff is a huge tourist hub with tons of stores, gift shops, candy stores, fudgeries, jewellery shops, art galleries, the list goes on! Even the Christmas Store, where you can indulge in the Christmas Spirit year round.
This would also be a good time to pick up a warmer coat if you failed to bring one that was warm enough, or perhaps a classic Canadian toque to keep your head warm!
If you are a sweets lover you’re going to want to check out The Fudgery, it’s one of the things to do in Banff that you can’t miss. Through the window, you can watch the fudge artisans create this delicious treat right in front of your eyes on a huge marble slab. They make over 50 flavours in-house!
They also make a huge selection of chocolates, we highly recommend the bear claws and the peanut butter squares.
If you’re more of a candy apple kinda person, you can head across the street to watch the candy man in the white chef hat dip granny smith apples in a giant tub of caramel and decorate them with a variety of toppings. Perhaps you’re more of a chocolate lover? Well, Banff has a lot of hand-made chocolates too!
Our favourite chocolates the bear claw is made from rich caramel, pecans and milk chocolate. Maybe you want a mixture of pretty much all of these in one, then head to the Beaver Tails Pastry shop, where you can get pastries with deliciously sweet toppings. BE WARNED, a beaver tail is best shared with someone because they are really rich.
Other stores worth visiting are the Banff Sweet Shop, which features hundreds of different candies from around the world. Plus a selection of Canadian treats and real Canadian Maple Syrup.
Not only are there tons of things to do in Banff along the main strip, but the views of snowy mountain peaks and streets covered in sparkly white snow really showcase why everyone should spend at least one winter in Banff.
We love finding good food everywhere we go, in Queenstown New Zealand we spend hours researching which restaurants we should go too and even ended up finding some random ones we LOVED. But luckily for us, Banff is our backyard so it’s a bit easier to know which ones are worth visiting.
The Grizzly House is at the top of the list for restaurants in Banff you have to try.
The warm, rustic, wood cabin interior of this fondue style restaurant only enhance the cozy feeling of winter in Banff. It is also a seemingly stereotypical Canadian style, but we aren’t complaining about that, it only adds to the charm and appeal. While their decor can be described with several sentences, their food, however, can only be described with one word, amazing.
Don’t expect for this dinner to be cheap, it’s not. But it’s well worth the price for the dining experience and delicious food, we promise! Everyone we know that has tried the Grizzly House only tells us how much they absolutely loved it.
We highly recommend getting their full fondue dinner which consists of four courses, a starter, an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. Two people are needed to order this four-course dinner and you can expect to pay around $55-65CAD ($42-50USD) per person for the full four courses (not including any drinks). So yes it will cost you a decent amount but like we said, it’s well worth it – we promise!
The starter consists of the soup of the day or a green salad which leads into the appetizer, a cheese and wine fondue. TIP: if you love garlic you can add whole cloves of roasted garlic into the cheese and it is to die for.
After indulging on too much cheese and bread you can pick from one of the six entrees, the most exotic one has meats like shark, alligator, rattlesnake, ostrich, frog legs, buffalo and venison. All of the meats are cooked at your table by you on either a hot rock or with an oil fondue (we highly recommend the hot rock). Now it’s time for the best part, dessert.
A chocolate fondue with melted Toblerone and a bowl of fresh fruit to dip into it. Ran out of fresh fruit? Don’t worry just ask for a spoon and you can finish off the delicious melted chocolate that’s leftover.
Now that you’re basically bursting at the seams after an incredible dinner, it’s time to wind down and relax a bit. You have a few options, you can try and catch the sunset at Vermillion Lakes (one of the most famous spots), you can walk around town a bit more, or find a pub to have a late night drink. If you’re like us though, you’re probably just going to walk around a bit before retreating back to your hotel room and let all that food settle.
If you choose to try and catch the sunset just remember winter in Banff means the sun sets early, sometimes as early as 6pm. But it still might be worth your time to drive to Vermillion Lakes or Lake Minnewanka (both are located just outside of the townsite) and take in the breathtaking scenery anyways. With fresh snow everywhere the moonlight will bounce off and light up the area in a much more unique way if it’s a full moon it might even still feel like daytime.
If you’re lucky though there won’t be much moonlight and you can catch a glimpse of the stars, which tend to shine brighter in the winter. Or even better yet, the northern lights!
Alternatively, if you’re not ready to completely turn in yet and want another unique experience take a look at what the Banff Centre has going on. You can view their calendar here.
If you’re a morning person and want to catch a beautiful sunrise, head back to Vermillion lakes and catch the beautiful rays as they shine above the mountain peaks. Vermillion Lakes has a beautiful view of Mount Rundle and is one of the best places to get some really incredible photos. Sometimes there are holes in the ice where you can ever get a reflection of the mountain for an even better photo (just be careful not to walk close to any edges of open ice).
If you aren’t keen on seeing a sunrise or are exhausted from your flights, take the time to sleep in and perhaps do this another morning. If you do sleep in when you walk-up make yourself a coffee and enjoy the solitude of winter in Banff from your hotel balcony.
Now that you’re (hopefully) mind blown by the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, it’s time to eat! The Wild Flour Bakery on Bear Street (yes that is a real street) is the perfect place to grab some breakfast, perhaps a pastry or maybe a breakfast frittata and a nice warm latte. They can sell out fast so if you are finished with catching the sunrise early it might be not a bad idea to head here a bit early as well.
They open at 7am so even if you skip sunrise, head there and have a relaxing breakfast. If you plan on skiing or snowboarding, get your breakfast to go and start heading to the mountain so you can get good parking and maybe even the first chair! Prices can vary but expect to pay somewhere around $10CAD ($7USD) minimum for a breakfast treat and a coffee.
Go On An Ice Walk OR Skiing/Snowboarding
If anything truly describes winter in Banff it’s the ski hills.
If you love to ski or snowboard, you have come to the right place. Banff is world renowned for our awesome ski hills and incredible snow. There are two resorts we recommend going to do enjoy a day of shredding, Lake Louise Ski Resort or Sunshine Village.
Sunshine Village is a little bit closer to Banff itself and is only about a 20-minute drive, Lake Louise is closer to a 40-45 minute drive. Between the two, we would recommend going to Sunshine Village if you plan on staying closer to Banff, but if you don’t mind an extra drive head to Lake Louise. Lake Louise tends to have more difficult runs than Sunshine does but Sunshine typically receives more snowfall than Lake Louise (due to their location in a bowl) and has more park features.
So between the two, check out their websites and runs and see which suits you and your abilities best. Expect to pay over $100CAD ($76USD) at each resort for a day lift ticket, not including rentals. Parking at both resorts is free but fills up fast, so getting their early is a huge bonus.
If you aren’t a skier or snowboarder then you will benefit from taking an epic ice walk through Johnston Canyon!
Johnston Canyon is just outside of Banff townsite and has free parking, a lot of tour buses tend to take tourists here so the parking lot may be full but don’t let that deter you, plus if you get there early enough the lot won’t be full yet. The trail itself should take you about an hour to the Upper Falls (a total of 2.7kms with a 217-metre elevation gain). You’ll walk through the canyon on boardwalks that jet out from the rocky walls of the canyon on top of a crystal clear blue river that carved the canyon out years ago.
Towards the end, you’ll get amazing views of huge waterfalls that are frozen in time, you can even hear the water as it rushes behind the frozen walls of the falls. Perhaps you’ll even see a few brave ice climbers tackling the giant waterfalls!
You’re going to want to buy (or bring if you already own) some crampons, which you can find a tons of sports shops along the main stretch. These are little pieces that attach to your boots and help you grip onto the ice so you don’t slip. The entire trail can be VERY icy but you don’t NEED crampons, we just highly suggest it for your own safety (I have done it in Ugg boots but I would never recommend it) if they aren’t in your budget you can still do the trail just be more cautious.
How do you pick which one to do? That’s completely up to you and what else you want to see in Banff. Hitting the slopes will likely take you all day, so if you are keen to do other activities in Banff, you may want to skip this.
Depending on what you are doing during the day your lunch options may vary. If you decided to head up to Sunshine Village or another ski resort for a day on the slopes you’ll be grabbing lunch up there, if you did go to Sunshine Village head to Trappers for a mid-day pint and some tasty pub food. Keep in mind, any food you buy on the hill will always be a little more expensive, so prepare to pay extra.
If you’re still in the townsite or only did a half day on the hill, we recommend Banff Ave. Brewing Company, one of our favourite post snowboarding lunch spots. We say post snowboarding because we ourselves tend to do half days on the hill, living so close allows us to go out more and usually after a half day we are fairly tired. Banff Ave. Brewing Company brews their own beer in-house and has a variety of options, not only is their beer good but their food is too.
Winter in Banff isn’t complete until you’ve indulged in a little bit of local beer and some delicious pub food. Try their Elk Brewer’s Pie ($24.5CAD $18.60USD) or their Buffalo Chicken Sandwich ($18CAD $13.50USD) with a pint of Pond Hockey Pale Ale or Banff Ave Blonde Ale ($8CAD $6USD).
Taking the gondola is one of the more popular things to do in Banff and gives some of the best views of the surrounding area and townsite. Let’s face it, it’s not often you are able to go to the top of a mountain during winter without having to worry about triggering an avalanche. The boardwalks on the peak of Sulphur Mountain eliminate that safety risk for you.
The Banff Gondola is located at the top of Sulphur Mountain, you have already been inside the mountain when you visited the Cave & Basin so why not see it from the top too?
Winter in Banff is arguably best understood and respected when seen from above, it truly shows you just how incredible a blanket of snow over this iconic area of Canada is. Banff’s world-famous mountain vistas stretch across the horizon on all sides, giving you a true 360 view. It can be pretty windy at the top, so make sure you prepare for the weather and the wind appropriately.
Tickets are not cheap, they will typically run you around $56CAD ($42USD) per adult (these prices were as of 2018). Look out for mountain goats on your way up! They like to hang out just below the gondola line.
Banff Upper Hot Springs/Snow Tubing
It’s finally time to hit up the hot springs and soak in that winter in Banff magic in 100% natural mineral water. The Upper Hot Springs are the only hot springs pool in Banff Canada and sit at an elevation of 5,200 feet above sea level, which makes them the highest hot springs in all of Canada. Water temperatures typically sit around 40C and are all natural, regardless of the man-made pool look.
Wintery mountain views from the pool make it a super cool experience, if it’s cold enough your hair will even start to develop ice crystals from the cold air and steam! After a day of snowboarding, skiing or hiking, you deserve a dip in the hot springs! Make sure a visit to the hot springs is on your list of things to do in Banff in winter.
Some people may opt to save visiting the hot springs for a little later in the day. If this is the case you should 100% head to one of the nearby ski hills (it has an AMAZING view on the way up too) to go snow tubing, which most Canadians will refer to as tobogganing.
Now, this is an activity that is near and dear to the hearts of Canadians across the country, we literally grew up sliding down snowy hills, running back up and doing it all over again. Now it’s your chance!
Jump into an inflatable tube and hold on to the handles as your tube slides and spins down the track. One of the best parts? There is a magic carpet that takes you up to the top, so even though all us Canadian children had to trudge our way up a hill through 2 feet of snow, you won’t have to!
Just sit back, relax, and laugh your way down the track and you fly down the hill!
Next on the list of restaurants in Banff to try is the Park Distillery. This pub but not pub goes out of their way to ensure their food options are based on classic campfire cooking with a modern twist. Their foods are full of rich smokey flavour and can easily be paired with a variety of in-house beers.
Try their Rotisserie Chicken S’Wich ($19CAD $14USD) with poutine as a side ($8CAD $6USD) or the Cedar Plank Salmon ($33CAD $25USD). And as we have learned, spending winter in Banff deserves a good local drink. Their selection of spirits that are made in-house includes different flavour varieties of vodka, gin and ryes.
You can even buy bottles to take home!
There is a distillery tour you can take, free ones happen every day at 3:30pm or you can book one ahead of time.
Free Time or Upper Hot Springs
Feel free to do whatever you would like with your evening! Maybe do a little more shopping down the strip, head to a local pub like Wild Bill's to get some late night snacks, beers and to play some pool or book an evening massage at Red Earth Spa and find a little winter in Banff relaxation.
If you haven't visited the Upper Hot Springs yet now would be a great time to do so. Studies say that taking a dip in 38C-40C two or three hours before sleep can help improve your sleep as the hot water relaxes your muscles and body. So after a long day of adventuring and walking, jumping in those hot springs would be a great idea!
Drive To Lake Louise
Winter in Banff wouldn't be complete with a visit to a very famous and popular area in Banff, Lake Louise. While the lake will be frozen and you won't get a chance to see the blue colour that makes the lake so famous, you will get the chance to skate on it! The drive to Lake Louise is a great chance to soak in the views of the Rockies for one of the last times during your 3-days in Banff.
Start the drive to Lake Louise early to skip some traffic and don't worry about breakfast just yet, we will be grabbing breakfast in Lake Louise. Why? Two words. Laggan's Bakery.
Located at the far end of the only strip mall in Lake Louise this hidden-not-so-hidden gem is the best place to grab a bite. Their plethora of baked goods and coffee options are sure to satisfy your taste buds. If you don't mind sweets in the morning (or perhaps you want one for later) pick-up a Canadian classic, the Nanaimo Bar.
Explore The Ice Sculptures
One of the main reasons a lot of people tend to plan a trip during winter in Banff is because of Lake Louise's world-class Ice Magic Festival. Ice sculptors from around the world come to compete and show off their talents and create some insane sculptures, completely made of ice. On top of that, skating on the famous Lake Louise is one of the unforgettable things to do in Banff you won't regret.
There's even an Ice Castle that gets built on the lake!
Each year an ice castle is built from large blocks of ice in order to highlight the beauty of winter in Banff. And it does not disappoint! Even if you choose not to skate you can still grab a few photos with or in the castle.
During the festival itself (you can view schedules and more information here) you can actually watch the carvers take massive blocks of ice and turn them into art. At the end, there is voting that the public can participate in to choose an overall winner. The sculptures stay in Lake Louise throughout the winter, so if you don't attend the festival itself don't worry.
At this point, there's no way you haven't worked up a bit of an appetite, especially if you went skating. The Lakeview Lounge within the Lake Louise Fairmont Hotel offers amazing views of the lake from the warmth and comfort of the beautiful Fairmont. While the Lakeview Lounge may be a bit more expensive, the view is worth it and so is the food.
Warm up with some french onion soup ($14CAD $10USD) or try the Poke bowl ($21CAD $16USD).
But if you want a slightly more cost-effective lunch option head to the Chateau Deli, which has a selection of soups, sandwiches, and other deli-style options. The deli is also a great place to grab a hot chocolate!
Skate On The Lake/Snowshoe Around The Lake
Skating and snowshoeing are two of the most iconic things to do in Banff in winter. Lake Louise transforms into a true winter wonderland and it's super easy to rent some skates and enjoy the ice castle on the famous frozen lake or hike around the perimeter and find some frozen waterfalls. Spend your afternoon enjoying the snow and taking in how beautiful winter in Banff is with a white blanket of pristine snow.
Walking around the lake is one of our favourite things to do in Banff in winter, we love how it seems to transport you to a different place, a quiet, relaxing and illustriously beautiful place. Seeing the hotel from across the lake covered in snow with people enjoying their free time with friends and family is also extremely heartwarming. Don't forget to dress warm and perhaps grab another delicious cup of hot cocoa to take outside with you.
Skate rentals are pretty cheap and are usually less than $15CAD ($11USD) per two hours (which is much cheaper than renting a canoe in the summer). You can even skate in the evening if you want under a blanket of stars with a nice evening campfire nearby to keep you warm when you need it. If you choose to do an evening skate, we recommend booking accommodation in Lake Louise instead of trying to drive back to Banff in the dark.
Lake Louise does also offer horse-drawn carriage rides around the perimeter of the lake, it's a beautiful way to take in Lake Louise from a variety of angles.
If skating or winter walks don't interest you, spend your afternoon shredding the slopes at the world famous Lake Louise Ski Resort. They do offer discounted afternoon tickets so it's a win-win if you haven't shaken off the snowboard/skiing bug quite yet.
Drive The Bow Valley Parkway Back To Banff
Banff Canada is very well known for having one of the most scenic highways in the world, The Icefields Parkway. But this isn't the only scenic highway that Banff has to offer its visitors, there is also the Bow Valley Parkway, a highway that connects Lake Louise and Banff and runs parallel to the Trans Canada highway but on the opposite side of the Bow River. The highway has a low-speed limit and we highly recommend following the speeds, in the winter the roads are very icy and the Bow Valley isn't always maintained as well as the Trans Canada Highway.
The Bow Valley Parkway doesn't have fences to keep wildlife off the road, which means two things: more chances to see wildlife and more chances to hurt wildlife. There are typically Big Horn Sheep that lick salt off the roads, so you can expect to hopefully see a few of them. The drive should take around an hour and a half.
There are quite a few places you can stop along the Bow Valley Parkway to snap a few nice photos and take in a few more beautiful views before you leave. One of the more famous locations is Morant's Curve, which was named after the photographer that made it so famous - Nicholas Morant. Its panoramic views of the mountains with a curving railroad and river explain why it's such a photogenic area.
SIDE NOTE: There is a travel restriction placed on the highway from 8:00pm to 8:00am between March 1st - June 25th so that animals can roam freely to feed and do whatever they need. So if you plan on driving during those times you may want to drive the parkway on the way to Lake Louise instead of the way back.
Final Dinner in Banff
At this point, winter in Banff has either cleaned out your waller or ready to drop that last little amount of money you brought on a really nice meal. Here are three options for your last dinner depending on how much you want to spend and what kind of food you've got a craving for.
The first option is the more expensive option, Waldhaus. Located at the Banff Springs Hotel, this higher end Bavarian eatery offers a collection of fondues, sausages, desserts and many more options. The exterior of Waldhaus is reminiscent of a fairytale castle while the interior is taken straight from Europe. There is a dress code in effect - resort casual, so no hats, sportswear or torn jeans. Now, when we say expensive we mean expect to pay somewhere around $100CAD ($76USD) a person by the end.
The second option is the medium expensive option, Tooloulou's. The first time we visited Tooloulou's we were a little concerned about how it would turn out because the interior is a little all over the place, but the flavours are not! This hidden gem is a little taste of Louisiana in the heart of Banff. Expect to pay somewhere around $30CAD ($22USD) per person.
Lastly, the cheaper option, Squish Sandwich Cellar. This basement (it's literally in a basement hence why cellar is in the name) sandwich shop is so underrated. Their sandwiches are complete with piles of delicious meat, perfect complimentary sauces and a side of chips. Our personal favourites are the Chicken Club and Montreal Smoked Meat. Expect to pay around $15CAD ($11USD) per person.
Explore At Your Leisure Or Take Another Dip In The Hot Springs
With your final evening of winter in Banff quickly coming to an end, what better way to finish it off than another dip in the Upper Hot Springs? Or maybe you didn't get enough chocolate or want a few souvenirs to take home? Take these last few hours to do whatever you want or grab a few last minute things to take home (or eat).
If you haven't by now gone and seen Vermillion Lake, take this time to soak in the elegant glow of the moon on the surface of the frozen water.
Winter in Banff is one of the most rewarding vacations you can take, even though the majority of tourists visit in Summer, winter is still a sight to behold. These activities in Banff during the winter only scratch the surface, there are so many other things to do in Banff that you could fill your time with. But there is just something about seeing Banff in winter that truly makes the area more magical.
The snow-covered mountain peaks, the waterfalls that are frozen in time, the reflections of mountains on the still winter water through cracks in the ice, the gentle falling snow - winter in Banff is nothing short of incredible.
This guide isn't set in stone and like we mentioned there are plenty of other activities you can participate in too like show-shoeing to places like Moraine Lake (experienced people only), cross-country skiing, tubing or tobogganing, and so many more things. But ultimately it's important to do your research and figure out exactly what you want to do and how you want to spend your time.
We just hope that this guide helps open your eyes to the possibility of spending winter in Banff! But if you do plan on visiting in the summer you can check out our guide for that here.
Hostels and Hotels
Hostel International Banff Alpine Centre: The hostel itself isn't located off or near the main strip of Banff, but don't let that deter you! They offer a Banff transit pass with your stay so getting to and from is easy. The hostel has a really cozy vibe and is well taken care of! Rates start around $35/night for a bed in a 6-bed dorm.
Samesun Backpackers: Located at the very edge of the main strip of Banff townsite, this hostel is great if you want to just be closer to the action. It has been labeled a little more of a 'party-hostel' so maybe keep that in mind as well. But rates here start at $38/night for a bed in a 14-bed dorm.
Caribou Hotel: Located just off the main 'strip' of the Banff townsite, this hotel is cozy, warm, clean and far enough from the action that it's quiet. And yet, not too far that walking to and from town isn't an option. They also have a parking lot for your rental car!
Fox Hotel: Just down the street from the Caribou is the Fox. This hotel is a popular option so book early! It's popular (in our opinion) because of their Cave & Basin themed hot pool (also called their Grotto).
Banff Springs Hotel: Now this one is the ultimate place to stay in Banff National Park. If you've always wanted to stay in a castle in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, look no further! Just be warned, these rooms typically start around $350/night.