Banff is nestled in the Canadian Rockies, which you are sure to fall in love with. It’s both a National Park and a UNESCO world heritage site; Banff National Park dramatically transforms into a winter wonderland that beacons your sense of adventure. The bright white snow blankets the streets and the air carries a certain cold crispness as you window shop the boutiques. You’ll likely catch a glimpse of deer as they casually walk along the main streets. Banff offers much more than fresh mountain air and glacier water. Our favourite ways to tour this mountain village full of charm during the winter include hot springs, distillery tours, and hiking up some of the most famous Rockies. Here’s how to explore Banff National Park in the winter.
Where to Stay in Banff National Park
Moose Hotel & Suites is Banff’s newest 4-star hotel in Canada’s heartland. It’s located on Banff’s main Avenue and is incredibly close to the downtown area with restaurants and boutiques. The hotel has 174 guest suites and hotel rooms with options for kitchen nooks, and rooms that are pet-friendly. With 1- and 2-bedroom options, you can comfortably fit up to six adults in one of the rooftop suites.
Things to do in Banff National Park
Where to See the Best Views in Banff National Park
Located a 5-minute drive from downtown Banff, The Banff Gondola sweeps you up the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain, showcasing six mountain ranges and the Bow Valley. The Gondola runs up and down the mountain throughout the day and you can buy tickets online in advance and skip the lineup at the ticketing counter, or purchase on-site. The glass-enclosed gondola can accommodate 4 passengers at a time. After snapping some photos of the endless sky and mountains on the observation decks of the interpretive centre, follow the 1-kilometre self-guided boardwalk to a little piece of Banff history: the Cosmic Ray Station. This meteorological station at the top of Sanson’s Peak is a National Historic Site.
Banff Park Museum National Historic Site
When the wind and snow pick up, there is no shortage of things to do indoors. Canada’s oldest natural history museum is a huge log cabin on the main street in Banff filled with real vintage stuffed animals like bears, bison, and bees. The Banff Park Museum National Historic site showcases a Victorian-era collection of animals and botanicals along with a full library and scholarly sitting area which feels more like the inside of a castle than a log lodge. These vintage taxidermy animals from the early part of the 20th century are the main highlight for visitors while there is also a detailed exhibit on climate change. Daily admission to the public is less than $4 and is open on the weekends from 11 am-5 pm during the winter.
Unlike the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies interprets the history of the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Two ongoing exhibits include “Gateway to the Rockies” which explores the Rockies’ history through art. “Gems Within” is another ongoing collection including donated works from Peter Whyte and Catherine Robb Whyte displaying the landscapes of the Rockies. It is only a 10-minute walk from Moose Hotel & Suites. The collections on display are humble, open, and accessible where many of the exhibits are encouragingly tactile. Open daily from 10 am-5 pm, adult admission is $10 and Big Ski season pass holders receive an additional discount.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
Everyone deserves a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs with its unique composition of natural minerals. It is a short walk (and one bus stop) away from the Banff Gondola, and open year-round, compared to other hot springs in the area. It is open to the public and very affordable. The adult pool fee is under $10 with options to rent swimsuits, towels, and lockers. The last admission is one-half hour before closing time. In the winter months, the hot springs are typically open from 10 am-11 pm and have special extended holiday hours.
Where to Eat and Drink in Banff National Park
An Affordable Pizzeria
An adventure such as exploring Banff and Lake Louise work up an appetite and calls for a celebration! Athena Pizza is located on the top floor with a shareable menu for old and new friends. With flavours such as Korean BBQ and Curried Veggie, this is no shortage of inventive pizzas. The joint is stocked with beers from local breweries and have been carefully curated for the menu.
From Glacier to glass, Park Distillery tour pours their soul into small-batch, handcrafted spirits. The in-house distillery showcases flavours such as vanilla, espresso, maple, and bird’s eye chilli. Cultivating vodkas, gins, ryes and highly coveted whiskeys, supporting local has never been so spirited with vintage-inspired travel labels reminding the taster to the art of Georges Doriva, which prompts a sense of nostalgia for a place only just explored. After the lovely tour and tasting, stay at the restaurant for dinner and share a charcuterie board with friends and sip signature mountain range cocktails such as The Beehive, and The Three Sisters.
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How to get around Banff National Park without a car
Roam Public Transit is Banff’s daily accessible and frequent public transit, even in the winter. Staying at Moose Hotel & Suites will ensure you can easily visit the most popular and iconic attractions with your complimentary bus pass. Leaving the car behind is an energy-efficient way to enjoy the iconic destinations without the hassle of parking. There are routes running to Sulphur Mountain Gondola, Tunnel Mountain, Fairmont Banff Springs, Lake Louise, Banff Centre, and Local Canmore routes as well. All the schedules are available in real-time online. To check out when the next bus arrives, you can download this transit app since all the busses have GPS technology.