Category Archives: Banff Activities

Top 5 Best Things to Do in Banff, Alberta With Kids

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Liz Behler
CanadianRockies.net
Staff Writer

The mellow rapids of the Kananaskis River makes it perfect for families.

BANFF, ALBERTA—Canada—Whether you’re long overdue for some family bonding time, or faithfully take a family vacation each year, Banff, Alberta is a great place to plan your next family getaway. To help, we’ve compiled a quick hit list of the top five best things to do in Banff with kids—from scenic float trips down the Kananaskis River to wintertime horse-drawn sleigh rides. Read on as we cut through the clutter, highlighting only the very best things to do in Banff with kids. All that’s left for you to do is pack your family in the car and go.

1. Take a Family-Friendly Float Trip

If the term “whitewater rafting” spurs visions of drenched rafters furiously paddling through eddies, fear not! Alberta, Canada has plenty of more mellow rapids, perfect for families. The Kananaskis River, near Banff, is a dam-controlled river (meaning the water levels are predictable) with Class I and II rapids. The Elbow River—which sports a shallow access point, making it easy for both kids and adults to navigate—is another option, but make sure you plan accordingly. The Elbow River can only be accessed during May and June each year due to water levels.

Planning a side-trip to Jasper? The gentle Athabasca River combines the scenic beauty of the Canadian Rockies with wildlife viewing, all from your raft. For more information about whitewater rafting in Banff, Alberta, visit BanffRafting.org or AlbertaRafting.org, or dial 1-800-519-4770.

2. Get a Bird’s Eye View With a Banff Gondola Ride

Adults and kids alike will enjoy Rocky Mountain views from on high with a Banff Gondola ride. Ride 8 minutes in a safe, fully enclosed passenger gondola as it climbs 2,285 meters to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Once at the top, take in 360-degree views showcasing six separate Canadian Rockies mountain ranges. Located just five minutes from downtown Banff in Banff National Park, the Banff gondola is one of the best ways to see the Canadian Rockies.

3. Take a Wintertime Sleigh Ride in the Canadian Rockies

Experience the magic of winter in the Canadian Rockies with a sleigh ride. Your whole family will enjoy gliding through the stunning, secluded countryside of the Bow River Valley on a one-hour ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. Bringing a baby? Infants 3 and under ride free. Sleigh rides are available every hour, on the hour, 7 days a week with Banff Travel.

4. Get a Different View With a Helicopter Tour of Banff

Fly high in the sky for a different view of the Canadian Rockies with a Banff helicopter sightseeing tour your whole family will love. Get unparalleled views of Cline Glacier, Wilson Glacier or the Columbia Icefields, or if your traveling with kids a bit older, choose a combination helicopter tour that blends bird’s-eye views with seasonal activities like horseback riding or hiking in summer, and skiing or icewalking in winter. Visit BanffTravel.com for more information about the combination helicopter tours offered.

5. Get Out and See the Sites in Banff

Whether you have a couple days or a couple weeks, taking a sightseeing tour can help you make the most of your vacation in Banff, Alberta with your kids. Children of all ages will enjoy visiting new places and learning their history, giving them a deeper understanding of the Canadian Rockies. Discover the stunning blue-green waters of Lake Louise, or visit “the other lake,” the equally beautiful Moraine Lake. See the Columbia Icefields and trek across glacial fields, or choose a tour that combines the beauty of both the mountains and the lakes.

Top 10 Best Things to Do in Banff, Alberta

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whitewater rafting in banff, alberta canada

Liz Behler
CanadianRockies.net
Staff Writer

BANFF, ALBERTA—Canada—Your plane tickets are bought, your bags are packed, and you can’t wait to touch down in Banff, Alberta to start your Canadian Rockies vacation. But once you hit the ground, do you know what you want to do? From golfing the green to braving the rapids on the Kicking Horse River, we’ve compiled a quick hit list of the top ten best things to do in Banff, Alberta. So, forget the guide books and read on as we cut through the clutter, highlighting only the very best things to do in Banff.

whitewater rafting in banff, alberta canada

Wild or mild, there's a river to fit rafters of all levels in Banff, Alberta.

1. Get on the Water for Whitewater Adventure

Whether you prefer your rapids wild or mild, whitewater rafting adventures await you in Banff, Alberta. Thrill seekers will love the non-stop rapids of the famous Kicking Horse River‘s Lower Canyon. For a more beginner-friendly float, try the Kananaskis River, which maintains Class I to II level rapids. The Elbow River and Horseshoe Canyon are two other options for those visiting the Banff, Alberta area.

Heading to Jasper? Experienced rafters should check out Sunwapta River and Fraser River, two rivers known for their more turbulent rapids. Those looking for a family-friendly activity in Jasper can opt instead for the mellow waters of the Athabasca River located in Jasper National Park. For more information about whitewater rafting in Banff, Alberta, visit BanffRafting.org or AlbertaRafting.org, or dial 1-800-519-4770.

2. Get a Bird’s Eye View With a Banff Gondola Ride

Get your Rocky Mountain views from on high with a Banff Gondola ride. Climb 2,285 meters to the top of Sulphur Mountain aboard an 8-minute ride in a fully enclosed passenger gondola. Once at the summit, take in panoramic views showcasing six separate Canadian Rockies mountain ranges. Located just five minutes from downtown Banff in Banff National Park, the Banff gondola is one of the best ways to get a birds eye view of the Canadian Rockies.

3. Soar Through the Trees on a Zipline Tour

Up for an adventure? Feel the wind against your face as you soar through the trees on a zipline tour in Banff National Park with Banff Travel. You’ll feel just like a bird as you zip between cliffs, through lush forests and over roaring rivers. The tour features increasing zipline levels, starting small and building to a final zipline 40 meters high, with speeds reaching up to 70 km an hour.

4. Take a Wintertime Sleigh Ride in the Canadian Rockies

Wintertime is a magical time in the Canadian Rockies, and a horse-drawn sleigh ride is one of the best ways to experience it. See the stunning, secluded countryside of the Bow River Valley on a one-hour tour through snowy woods. Choose from a public ride, or up the romance factor with a sleigh ride for two, complete with chocolate, liquors and robes to keep you snuggled up and warm. Sleigh rides are available every hour, on the hour, 7 days a week with Banff Travel.

ATV Tour in Banff Alberta with Banff Travel

Get off road with an ATV tour in Banff, Alberta.

5. Go Off-Road on an ATV Tour in Banff National Park

This is nothing like driving to and from your 9 to 5. Go off-road and into nature with an ATV tour through Banff National Park. Outfitter Banff Travel offers several options for 4X4 adventurers, including visiting a 1900’s silver mine, climbing 2,745 meters to take in mountaintop views, and crossing through the Kicking Horse River to see the beautiful Wapta Falls.

6. Mush Through The Wilderness with a Dogsledding Tour

What better way to see the beauty of the Canadian Rockies than with man’s best friend by your side? With a dogsledding tour in Banff National Park, you’ll drive your own team of Huskies through the spectacular wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. This ultimate backcountry adventure will stay with you, long after your vacation is over.

7. Tee Off with Banff Golfing

Pack your clubs and prepare to tee off at a Banff area golf course. With more than 275 golf courses in Alberta alone, the Canadian Rockies are a top destination for golfers. The challenging Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, a breathtaking valley course designed by Stanley Thompson, one of Canada’s top golf architects, is a must-see for any golf enthusiast.

8. Fly High With a Helicopter Tour of Banff

Get off the ground and in the air for a different view of the Canadian Rockies with a Banff helicopter sightseeing tour. Get a bird’s eye view of Cline Glacier, Wilson Glacier or the Columbia Icefields, or choose a combination helicopter tour that blends sky-high views with seasonal activities like horseback riding, yoga, and hiking in summer, and skiing and icewalking in winter. Visit BanffTravel.com for more information about the combination helicopter tours offered.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta

Stunning Lake Louise is one of the top destinations for visitors to Banff, Alberta.

9. Get Out and See the Sites in Banff

There’s so much to see and do in Banff, Alberta. Make the most of your time with a sightseeing tour with Banff Travel. Discover the stunning blue-green waters of Lake Louise, or visit “the other lake,” the equally beautiful Moraine Lake. See the Columbia Icefields and trek across glacial fields, or choose a tour that combines the beauty of the mountains and the lakes.

10. Go for a Hike in Banff National Park

Strap on your hiking boots for an outdoor adventure in Banff National Park. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and take in the stunning scenic views on a rejuvenating nature hike. Nervous to go it alone? Join a tour with Banff Travel for a guided hiking, trekking or walking excursion in the Canadian Rockies. Choose from a single day or multi-day hike, where you’ll learn the fundamentals of mountain safety.

Want more information on the best things to do in Banff, Alberta? Visit BanffTravel.com, the official discount provider for tours, activities, and accommodations in the Canadian Rockies.

Banff Sightseeing: The Cave and Basin

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Out of the many historical sites you’ll want to visit on a tour of Banff National Park, one of the best to see is the hot springs at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

Come see Banff's beauty and discover its history.

The Cave and Basin sits below of nine  hot springs, bunched in three groups on Sulphur Mountain’s northeastern side. Humans have visited these hot springs as far back as 10,000 years ago. European explorers discovered it for their first time in the mid-1800s.

The Cave and Basin itself, a huge underground cavern large enough that whole groups of people can stand in it comfortably, was found later than the rest of the springs by explorer and amateur comedian Joe Healey in 1875.

Eight years afterward, Canadian Pacific Railway workers, William McCardell and Frank McCabe, brought more attention to the cavern one late evening after they descended through the skylight entrance using a felled tree. A strange thing to do, but it paid off. The next year, they made a small cabin nearby with the idea of commercial applications, and brought tourism to the Cave and Basin.

Or maybe not such a good idea, as their plan dissolved as claims and counterclaims of ownership arose. It arose into a huge debacle over ownership of not just the springs, but of Banff, that eventually prompted the Canadian government to step in and rule on ownership and compensation.

Legal trainwrecks aside, The Cave and Basin has already established itself as a vacation area. Workers in 1886 drilled an artificial tunnel into the Cave and Basin to make visiting the cavern easier. Bottled water from the cavern was sold in 1912 with the assertion that it carried curative powers. The popularity of the site grew so quickly that in 1914 a naturally heated swimming pool was opened in the cavern and remained open until 1994.

Today, the Cave and Basin is a treasure trove of the developmental history of Banff National Park. On the site you will find a replical of an 1887 bathhouse, the structure around the restored swimming pool (though you still can’t swim in it today), and many interpretive displays and hiking and snowshoe trails.

And if you’re looking for more hot springs (which, given the temperatures the Canadian Rockies can reach, we wouldn’t blame you for one bit!), the Banff Upper Hot Springs is a separate facility just 5 kilometers southeast of the Cave and Basin.

Hey, on a cold day in the high country, hot springs can be a very welcome sight. When you add to it the Cave and Basin’s historical significance, it is certainly a fine way to spend a fun, informative and refreshing afternoon.

Ice Fishing – winter in Banff

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Take the Bait While Fishing in Banff

Banff National Park, Alberta

It is tough when you have an activity that you are passionate about that is seasonal. When the snow begins to fall and the ski slopes are officially closed for summer, it feels like you have lost a loved one. It reminds me of my childhood watching the snowman that we built the day before melt slowly with the rain in the garden. Usually fishing is a good example of this. In most countries, when the winter hits, it is simply too cold to fish. You would think this goes ten fold in the Canadian Rockies where winter can be harsh to say the least but no! Passion always wins out! Ice Fishing is the way around the problems of the cold and what a way around it is.

Just because the weather is cold, it doesn't mean you have to stay inside!

Just because the weather is cold, it doesn't mean you have to stay inside!

When I think of Ice fishing, I imagine myself sitting frozen solid by a lake with schools of fish looking at me giggling as I grimace uselessly. At Banff Fishing, they obviously planned things a bit better. Located 15 miles south from Canmore or 40 minutes from Banff, there are four HEATED huts with a variety of fish such as Lake Trout and White Fish to try your luck / skill with. If this isn’t enough for you, they also provide a service where you can cook the fish you caught on site. For anybody who has ever caught fish straight from the water and eaten it, you will know that nothing in the world tastes better. Hot chocolate and hotdogs are also provided just in case!

If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, Banff Fishing offer a year round Bow River Fishing option. You can ‘walk and wade’, fly fish or spin cast for Brown Trout. Even in winter, there are good amounts of water that have not frozen over and this is where you will be brought in your warmest clothes. Because of the low water conditions, the fish population are as crowded as downtown New York. Just like it is easier to mug people in New York as a result, there are also some great angling opportunities up here in the Rockies during the winter months. Not only are there more fish during winter but there is also some big, big fish to be caught. There are some great programs in the summer too but for now, let the hardcore fisherman in you come out in the Canadian Rockies!

See the latest conditions live with the Banff web cam.

Sleigh Rides in the Canadian Rockies

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Banff Sleigh Rides

Banff National Park, Alberta

The atmosphere in Banff is electric right now with Christmas only days away and comparatively warm temperatures on the horizon. In the absence of any loved ones giving Banff Insider a present, I am going to buy new skis and spend Christmas Day up on the ski hills with friends (strangers). With such festive spirit, why not treat yourself to something seasonal to get you even further into the spirit. Did you ever wish you could ride in Santa Claus’ sleigh when you were younger? No, me neither, though I had always wanted to ride a sleigh without a big guy dressed in warm pyjamas… I had enough of that in Catholic school. With Discover Banff Tours, the dream is easy to live.

Your horse and sleigh await you in Banff.

Your horse and sleigh await you in Banff.

The rides depart from Warner Stables and launch in the meadow outside Banff townsite. The drivers are as friendly as can be and the stunning snow tipped sights on offer all around are nothing short of spectacular. As ever in Banff, there is always a great chance to see some wildlife. Anything from Elk to mountain goats to the elusive Lynx can be seen with a bit of luck and if you are wearing your glasses. Warm blankets are provided so you can enjoy everything in complete warmth.

There are also private sleigh rides available for those with a romantic streak. This includes Bernard Callebaut chocolates, liquors and a unique buffalo robe to make sure there is no chance at all that you will feel Jack Frost nipping at you. The romantic ride is taken in a small two seat cutter sleigh with only your loved one and a buffalo robe to keep you company. Feel free to bring your own bells so you can hear those sleigh bells ringing. It’s Christmas, you must excuse any awful Banff Insider puns! Discover Banff do a huge selection of cool activities in both summer and winter. Being in Banff is fantastic but seeing Banff in unique ways is unbeatable.

GPS Tours


Mountains, Elevation Can Wreak Havoc on GPS Tour Systems in the Canadian Rockies

By Blake Baily

gypsy1More and more GPS tours on handhelds and in rental cars are being offered all throughout the world.

Many vacationers are finding GPS tours and GPS systems to be highly problematic, however. Many Canadian Rockies visitors discover that GPS tours and GPS systems can go in and out because of the mountainous geography and elevation. This is especially true when touring British Columbia (BC), Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, Jasper and other alpine areas in the Rockies. Keeping and maintaining reception can be a huge issue.

Often GPS tours will require additional hardware hacking to make them usable in this terrain; this is also the case with satellite radio as well.

Your best bet: simply enjoy the grand scenery of the Canadian Rockies and then curl up with a good book!

Blake Baily is a tourism and travel editor who has written for Frommers, Trip Advisor and Moon Guides.