Historic Things to Do in Banff National Park

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Banff – Alberta, Canada
Explore the History of the Canadian Rockies
The national parks of the Canadian Rockies are World Heritage Sites themselves. What better way to explore Banff National Park and experience some authentic Canadian Rockies culture, then to visit Banff’s historic sites. With this list of great things to do in Banff your sure to experience all that Banff has to offer.

The current Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1928 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. (Photo Credit: John Vetterli)

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Located just west of the Banff town site, Cave and Basin is the site of the first hot spring baths and is considered the birth place of the Canadian Rockies National Parks. Long used by Aboriginal Canadians, the naturally occurring hot springs were found by Canadian Pacific Railway workers in the late 19th Century. They decided to turn the springs into a tourist destination. Today you can tour the grotto like baths as well as open air pools constructed in the late 19th and early 20th century. The tourists these bathes drew lead to the creation of Canada’s first national park, Rocky Mountain Park of Canada.  If touring these bathes wets your appetite to take a real dip in a hot springs’ pool, you can always visit the Banff Hot Springs were modern day tourists are still soaking in the pleasure of the geothermal heated pools.

Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site
With its retro name the Cosmic Ray Station conjures up images of the space race. However, the scientific outpost was originally built on the top of Sulphur Mountain in 1956 to study the Sun’s impact on Earth. Located south of the Banff town site a trip to the top of Sulphur Mountain affords visitors the opportunity to view Banff from above.
These days Sulphur Mountain is also more accessible than ever, the Banff Gondola will whisk you up the slope in only eight minutes. From there it’s an easy 1 km hike to the location of the Cosmic Ray Station.
Banff’s Museum of Natural History

Located in the centre of Banff right on Banff Avenue the Museum of Natural History is worth a quick visit. The log structure itself is actually the oldest building in the town of Banff. Visitors will get to view five thousand different Natural History specimens representing the range of species found in the park and the Rocky Mountains.
The museum collection was actively increased only till the 1930s, so the museum itself also an interesting example of early 20th century museum practices.
Buffalo Nations Luxon Museum

To learn more about Canada’s Aboriginal heritage check out the Buffalo Nation’s Museum. Located in Banff, on Birch Avenue, the museum exhibits artefacts from Plains First Nations life before and after European contact. Visitors will learn about daily life for the nomadic tribes of the Canadian prairies. The collection includes beadwork, clothing, tepee displays, as well as spiritual and trade items.
Banff Springs Hotel National Historic Site

The iconic Banff Springs was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1911 and 1928 as a resort for rich clientele to experience the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies in comfort. The hotel’s opulent decor and architecture are still impressive today and well worth a visit. The chateaux style hotel is located just outside of the center of Banff on Spray Avenue. Visitors are welcome to explore the hotels common areas, dine in the restaurants, or take in the panoramic views afforded by the promenade.

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