Things to See and Do in Banff

Whether you’re looking to plan your family’s next adventure, a getaway with friends, or simply a solo exploration trip, Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada offers sights, activities, and experiences that are hard to find anywhere else. With options for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, guided lake tours, whitewater rafting, and eating, you’re bound to find something to tickle your fancy regardless of when you visit.

To help you beef up your itinerary for your next visit to Banff, below are five essential things to see and do in Banff.

The Gondola

One of the most popular things to do in Banff is taking the eight-minute enclosed gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Atop the mountain’s 7,500-foot tall peak, you can explore the many interactive exhibits, gift shops, and restaurants. Plus, there’s a 360-degree observational deck with breathtaking views of Banff and the Bow River Valley. Although the changing scenery seen while riding the gondola is certainly nothing to scoff at, the best and most unique view available of Banff is atop the summit.

To avoid the crowds and cost associated with riding the gondola, you can hike the two hours to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Just know that as you get closer to the top, the boardwalk you follow to the summit can get very icy. So, it’s important to wear the right footwear.

Source: Shutterstock

Lake Minnewanka

At 17 miles long, Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park. Fed by the Cascade River, it’s located just three miles northeast of Banff’s town. The lake got its name from the Stoney Nakoda First Nations people, who would hunt and camp along its shores. They called the lake “Minn-waki” — or “Lake of the Spirits” — because they believed the lake contained spirits. Upon seeing the pristine beauty of the lake, you’ll likely find it hard to argue with them.

In and around Lake Minnewanka, there are plenty of things to do to fill your time. You can hike around the many hiking trails that lead to Steward Canyon and Cascade River, go scuba diving in the lake, or take in the sights on one of the many lake cruises available. To save some money without sacrificing any of the beauty, you can drive along the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. This is a large loop that goes right along the southwestern edge of the lake before circling back towards Banff.

Source: Shutterstock

Lake Louise

Another iconic lake near Banff is Lake Louise. Getting its name from Queen Victoria‘s fourth daughter, Lake Louise is just 40 minutes from Banff by car and boasts the highest elevation of any community in Canada peaking at 5,200 feet. The aqua-colored lake and its iconic Victoria Glacier are a staple among many calendars and screensavers. However, the lake’s real beauty can only be experienced in person.

If taking Highway 1A when traveling between Lake Louise and Banff, there are plenty of opportunities to pull over and snap photos. Alternatively, you can take in the beauty of the lake up-close by hiking the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail. This trail runs along the northwest side of the lake before meeting up with other trails farther along. When planning your trip to Lake Louise, be sure not to mistake the lake itself with the nearby town of the same name.

Source: Shutterstock

Sunshine Village

Only a 30-minute drive from Banff, Sunshine Village is often the first resort to open up in Canada every winter and one of the last to close. In fact, its ski season lasts from November all the way until May. Sunshine Village does not take its position as a popular ski destination lightly. As such, they provide 3000 world-class skiable acres, 12 chair lifts, and all sorts of different terrain to suit skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Because of this, Sunshine Village is particularly great for families. After you’re done skiing, you can warm up in the rustic lodge with a hot drink in the evening among friends and family.

If you happen to be visiting after the ski season is over, you can take advantage of the far less expensive but equally as enjoyable hiking opportunities among the Sunshine Meadows. Hiking around is a far more affordable way — free, in most cases — to experience the beautiful nature of Banff without breaking the bank.

Source: Autumn Sky Photography / Shutterstock

Whitewater Rafting

If skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or scuba diving don’t get your heart racing, then you can up the game by taking advantage of the many whitewater rafting opportunities in and around Banff. If you’re looking to dip your toes in the water, then start off with some of the more mellow options, such as those available on the Kananaskis River. If you want something more than a lazy river ride but not too crazy, the more intermediate route in Horseshoe Canyon might be more up your alley.

If you’re looking for pure adrenaline, check out Banff’s most famous whitewater rafting destination, Kicking Horse River. A short distance from town, the river is considered to have some of the best rafting opportunities in all of Canada. Be prepared to go over waterfalls and squeeze between narrow gorges as you zip down the river’s class-five rapids. Regardless of the difficulty you choose, whitewater rafting is a great way to experience scenic parts of Banff that are otherwise difficult to access.

Source: James Gabbert / Shutterstock

7 Things to See and Do in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is associated with miles of endless fields, an incredible collection of lakes in the North and just happens to be the sunniest province in the country. It is here where you can experience vibrant cities, uncrowded parks, abundant wildlife, incredible outdoor adventures and a plethora of museums and galleries. From stunning hiking trails that wind their way through forests and around lakes to the largest RCMP heritage centre in Canada to miles of clear rivers and lakes to canoe, it is easy to spend weeks exploring this province. The list could go on and on but for now here are 7 things to see and do in the province of Saskatchewan.

7. Visit Prince Albert National Park

It was the home of First Nations people for thousands of years and is a stunning landscape of spruce bogs, large lakes and aspen uplands. Whether you are a serious adventurer looking for an overnight experience or a daytripper, this park offers something for everyone. One of the classic Canadian adventures you can have here is the Bagwa Paddling Route, an overnight canoe or kayak loop that covers multiple backcountry lakes with portages between.

This experience covers the parks diverse terrain without requiring an extensively long time commitment. For daytrippers, there are plenty of short hikes and day trails that are accessible from the road. Keep your eyes peeled for plenty of wildlife including bison, white pelicans, moose, world, bears, caribou, eagles, elk and more.

6. See the Sandcastles at Beechy

They were first discovered in the early 1990’s, these towering sandcastles that look as though a million or so kids were involved in the biggest sandcastle building competition in the world. They sit on the banks of Lake Diefenbaker, easily accessible from the town of Beechy.

Feel free to climb around these magnificent structures where Prairie Falcons nest and Bull Snakes can be found. Along with these unique formations, visitors will find a sunken hill- where one side of a grassy hill just seems to slide away, as well as Magnesium Sulphate Lake.

Via canadiannaturephotographer.com

5. Fort Walsh National Historic Site

In 1875 this site was established, intended to stop the illegal whiskey trade and became one of the most important posts in the West. Visitors to this site can step back in time and discover what life was like on a working fort in the time of rotgut whiskey runners. Here you will meet costumed characters who tell true stories of the days when rifle shots and canons were fired at the fort.

Hike the 400m trail through the Cypress Hill forest along Battle Creek, visit the trading post and test your bartering skills, pack a picnic to enjoy or visit the visitor’s centre for a fantastic panoramic view of the Cypress Hills from the patio area. Kids will love becoming an official Parks Canada Xplorer and there are plenty of fun activities and cool souvenirs for them at this historic site.

4. Visit the RCMP Heritage Centre

A truly Canadian experience awaits visitors to the RCMP Heritage Centre, the largest of its kind in Canada. The centre is breathtakingly beautiful, designed with stone, glass and concrete and houses state of the art exhibits, multimedia technologies, and engaging programs. The centre tells the story of the RCMP to the world, through numerous tours and engaging activities. Equipment, weapons, photographs and more are on site for visitors to discover.

Visitors won’t want to miss Sgt Major’s Parade where the drill staff put cadets through their paces. The parade includes a roll call and inspection of the troops, accompanied by the cadet band. If you visit in the summer expect to be treated to the outdoor theatre on horseback, driving tours and more.

Via YouTube

3. Canoe the Clearwater River

The legendary Clearwater River has it all- unspoiled wilderness, inviting campsites, excellent fishing, thrilling white-water and awe-inspiring scenery. Paddling the Clearwater means following the footsteps of incredible historic northern explorers and voyagers. If you want to paddle the entire river it takes about two weeks, although most canoeists tend to focus on one section- in particular the 105km section from the Clearwater’s confluence with the Virgin River to Contact Rapids, which takes about a week.

Expect one stunning scene after another with waterfalls, rapids, cliff-lined canyons and rock gardens. The campsite that overlooks Smoothrock Falls may just be the best wilderness camping you have ever done, or at least that is what you think until you arrive at Skull Canyon. Whether you are a professional paddler setting out on your own, or you join a guided canoe trip, this is one thing to put on your Saskatchewan bucket list.

Via Canadian Heritage Rivers System

2. Head to Regina

It is the capital city and deserves a visit, seeing as its home to a 100-year old symphony, some lively sports fans, fascinating museums, events and more. If you happen to visit here during the CFL season, it is essential to get to a Roughriders game where you can join thousands of fans eat, drink and cheer their favorite team on, just be sure to bundle up! Journey through the history of the province at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where geology and natural history take precedence.

If art is more your thing head to the Mackenzie Art Gallery where free admission offers you access to outstanding local and international artists. Free public tours for people of all ages make this an awesome experience. Or spend the day wandering the downtown streets in search of unique shops, awesome restaurants, spas and more.

1. Go Underground in the Tunnels of Moose Jaw

This year-round attraction entertains guests from all over the world with its unique productions of Canadian history. Visitors will head under the streets of downtown Moose Jaw for two guided theatrical tours. The Chicago Connection Tour lets you relive the days of Al Capone, as a bootlegger in 1929. Start out at Miss Fanny’s club, wind your way up and down seven sets of stairs and through tunnels, with surprises along the way.

The Passage to Fortune Tour lets visitors experience first hand the hardships of early Chinese immigrants as you follow their path through Burrows and Sons Laundry into the kitchen of Mr. Wong’s café. This is an excellent, informative and realistic look at a small piece of history.

Via YouTube