Banff National Park stretches to encompass the town of Banff and Lake Louise, and is known for its natural Rocky Mountain beauty and for being the first National Park in Canada’s History. With wild and educational events abound, Banff National Park is a great place to take your family on an adventure. Here is our list of 50 things you can do that both you and your children will enjoy.
1. Check out the rope swing at Johnson Lake
Little known but much appreciated is the rope swing that glides you out across Johnson Lake. Bring some inflatable dinghies and enjoy the lake while you take turns using the rope. Just make sure you remember to let go! Details
2. Soak it all in at Banff Upper Hot Springs
For over a hundred years people have traveled to enjoy the Banff Upper Hot Springs, which is open year round and has become an increasingly popular destination for families. Let your kids play in the warm waters as you relax. Here’s a tip: come as early as you can, these waters can become a bit crowded.
3. Get chills at the Bankhead Ghost Town
Bankhead was a small coal mining town in the early 20th century. Now, the town is a silent abandoned cluster of buildings right on the outskirts of Banff. Climb the old train and soak in history here — Bankhead is a real taste of what small Rocky Mountain towns used to be.
4. Hike Sunshine Meadows
Ride the gondola that lasts about 20 minutes and soars over the luscious (and appropriately named) Sunshine Meadows. Once at the top, you will find Sunshine Meadows, home to hikes for every ability.
5. Snap a selfie at the Bow Falls
Take a picture at this shallow but wide waterfall caused by the change of course of the Bow River, situated very near the Banff town.
6. Have lunch on Fenland Trail
At two kilometres and with no elevation gain, Fenland Trail weaves you through the forests of the Rocky Mountains. This well-kept trail is picturesque the whole way through. There are picnic tables at the end, so pack a lunch and eat among the trees.
7. Take a dip at the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre
This glass covered pool offers view of Sulphur Mountain and twenty-five metres of swimming. You can also relax in the heat of the Jacuzzi, or let your kids frolic in the warm wading pool. If the day is especially warm, head to the outdoor sun deck to get your vitamin D.
8. Climb, climb, climb at the Banff Centres climbing wall
The Banff Centre has the only climbing wall in Banff and it is accessible to both beginners and experts. If your kids are over four years old, this is another great and memorable way to tucker them out. You can book lessons or hit the wall yourself. Pretend you’re climbing one of the mountains for an extra thrill.
9. Get close to wildlife at the Banff Park Museum
We know it’s hard to get kids excited for a museum, but among the array of museums in Banff, the Banff Park Museum is probably the most exciting. The over 5,000 stuffed animals here are something to see, and really give you a sense of the wildlife that surrounds you — and how big it all is. The building is also the oldest surviving federal building in any Canadian National Park, but the kids might be more interested in the stuffed bear.
10. Family Cruise on Lake Minnewanka
Kids go free on this afternoon cruise that runs between June 29th and September 3rd. This cruise features treasure hunts and activities that will teach your kids to be experts on this Rocky Mountain lake. There’s even a junior captain certificate and ice cream cone waiting at the end of the trip.
11. Explore the area on horseback
Banff Trail Riders have described their trail ride as “perfect for young children, families, or anyone who wants to try horseback riding”. Nothing feels quite as suited to the historical town of Banff than exploring it the way the Mounties do: astride a horse as it clip-clops through. You can choose your expedition and the length of trip, all by looking at the website.
The carriage rides offered by Banff Trail Riders are the perfect alternative for those who aren’t ready to climb up on a horse of their own. The expert cowboy driver will give you a tour of the area of your choosing. The carriage rides are customizable so that you can explore as you please.
12. Central Park Playground
13. Treat yourself at the Cows Ice Cream Shop
The Cows Ice Cream shop is always a popular idea. The Banff location has their usual incredible selection of delectable treats, but also features the merchandise that has helped the Cows brand get its fun reputation. Check out the pop culture Cow puns and clever cartoons as your kids pick a sweet treat from the huge selection.
14. Become a Parks Canada Xplorer
Head to the visitor centre in downtown Banff and pick up a Parks Canada Xplorers booklet. The booklet is included in the price of admission to the Park and will keep kids entertained and thrilled by the wonders of the park as you explore. It might even spark some day trip ideas for you!
15. Get slipping and sliding at Banff’s only indoor waterpark
The Douglas Fir resort offers Banff’s only water park, which features two twisting and turning water slides, a kiddie pool, and a 24 hour jacuzzi hot tub. Free for the guests of the resort, the waterpark admission prices are under fifteen dollars for everyone above six years old — and free for anyone under.
16. Get your bowl on at High Rollers
This bowling alley features six bowling lanes, three pool tables, giant New York style pizza slices, and of course, beer. This is the perfect activity for an evening if everyone isn’t tuckered out by the day’s exploring. With specials almost every day of the week, check out the website to better plan your perfect bowl.
17. Hit the mountains in a tube or on skis on Mount Norquay
Have your kids sleeping soundly after a day (or a couple of days) at Mount Norquay Ski Resort. Not only is the skiing incredible, but the resort offers lessons for both kids and adults and even features tubing, which will have your kids begging to return. A mountain treat for all ages.
18. Get a taste of Banff by walking Banff Avenue
This walking favourite will always bring you something new: whether it’s a little shop that enchants you or a new and delicious place to eat. Banff Avenue is the main street in Banff and can be quite busy in the late afternoon — so stop in for a bite just before and let the crowds pass you by.
19. Have a magical evening among Banff’s wildlife
If you’re up for an evening adventure, book an Evening Wildlife Safari and let the experts take you to the places where the elk, mountain goats, and maybe even bears are hanging out. The tours boast a 95% success rate and are keenly aware of the ecosystems that these animals exist in — and how we should take care of them.
20. Hike Tunnel Mountain for a panoramic view
This hike has existed since the early days of the park and has stayed popular for good reason. The hike, which is a beginner level and only runs 2-3 hours, is well maintained and perfect for little feet. If you’re looking for a good family hike, Tunnel Mountain is a rewarding choice.
21. See the Hoodoos Upclose
Go on a 1 hour guided float tours to Hoodoos from Bow falls with Rocky Mountain Raft Tours.
22. Hike the Stewart Trail
Cross the Stewart Canyon Bridge where the Cascade River flows from Cascade Mountain into Lake Minnewanka. The hike is 0.8 kilometers to the Canyon from the Lake Minnewanka trail head.
23. Embrace Mountain Culture at the Banff Film Festival
The Banff Film Festival has become so successful that it has started touring the world with the films that have put it on the map — many of which embrace the beauty of Banff itself. The festival presents movies from all around the globe that celebrate mountain culture and runs from the end of October to the beginning of November.
24. Rent a canoe and paddle up the Vermilion Lakes
Renting a canoe in downtown Banff is easy. The Canoe docks at Banff Canoe Club can lead to either a gentle paddle down the Bow River, or you can follow Forty Mile Creek into the Vermillion Lakes. Here, you will be amazed by the lush greenery and fresh air. Bring some canoe snacks and make it an afternoon affair.
25. Explore Lake Louise on a paddle boat
Rent a paddle boat from Lake Louise boat house and explore the Lake.
26. Go mushing with Kingmik Dogsled Tours
This is the only dogsledding tour in Banff National Park and has seen acclaim from both customers and celebrities. There are two tours, each exploring a different part of the park, and both are guided by expert drivers. Come meet this friendly team of dogs for a remarkable and snowy experience.
27. Enjoy Outdoor Concerts at the Shaw Amphitheatre
Experience the best of Canada’s music in open air.
28. Enjoy a Beaver Tail
This special Canadian treat is found on Banff Avenue and is not to be missed. The fried whole wheat dough is made flat and covered in sugar, ready for you to top it up with whatever you’d like. There is no place more fitting to delight in a Beaver Tail than amongst the Canadian Rockies. Just beware of the sugar crash.
29. Visit a frozen waterfall at Johnston Canyon
Though this hike is also popular in the Summer, Spring, and Fall, there’s nothing quite as magical as looking at the art that falling water makes as it freezes. The hike is 2.7 kilometres to the falls and another 3 kilometres to the ink pots — seven cold mineral springs. Be warned, this is one of the most popular hikes in the Rockies because of its breathtaking appeal.
30. Catch the Twenty Dollar View at Moraine Lake
This glacially fed lake might look familiar to you. Hike to the top of Rockpile Trail (a fairly short and easy trip) to catch the view that was pictured on Canadian twenty dollar bills issued between 1969 and 1979. You and your family will have a neat new story to tell tied to Canadian history.
31. Appreciate your neighbours at the Wildlife Interpretation Centre
At the top of the Lake Louise Summer Gondola is the Wildlife Interpretation Centre. Here you can find interactive exhibits tailored to all ages, short guided walks, and a complimentary interactive game that will keep you learning about the endangered species of the area. This is a uniquely fun way to gain an appreciation for the wildlife you will find around Banff National Park.
In winter Lake Louise Ski Resort offers snowshoeing guided trips that the whole family can enjoy in addition to the amazing skiing options . Choose from a range of snowshoeing packages (scenic, full-day, wildlife) and then allow the guide to show you the best spots for views, all while floating above the snow. It’s a truly Canadian tour.
32. Have the best pizza in Banff at The Bear Street Tavern
There’s nothing like fresh pizza in the mountains and The Bear Street Tavern claims to have the best pizza in Banff. There’s even a patio for you to sit outside on in the warmer months. If you’re up for it, try the Wheeler Hut Pizza which is drizzled in honey. The kids won’t be able to get enough of the Mac n’ Cheese pizza. A favourite!
33. Visit the start of it all at the Cave and Basin Historical Site
The Cave and Basin is the birthplace of Canada’s National Parks. The spot now includes hikes and trails through the area, historic buildings, and exhibits that detail the history of the park and what went into protecting it. See the Cave and Basin and you, too, will understand the impulse to protect and share this land.
34. Escape from the Eureka Banff Escape Room Adventures
Spend an hour working as a team and attempting to escape from the Eureka Banff Escape Rooms. There are currently two themed adventures available: get a dash of the past with Marv’s Diner Deluxe, or flavour your escape with the Rockies in Warden’s Cabin. The choice is yours, and the escape is up to you.
35. Get comfy Moccassins & see the Banff Merman at the Banff Indian Trading Post
Banff Indian Trading Post is an outlet for First Nations crafts, where you can find a wide selection of Genuine Native Canadian Handicrafts from the local Stoney Nakoda to across Canada and North America.
The Banff Merman is situated at the back of the Banff Indian Trading Post and could be a bit frightening for very young kids, but makes a good story for the older ones. Details
36. See magic in action at the SnowDays and Ice Magic Festivals
37. Take a Skii or Snowboarding Lesson
The Banff Sunshine Snow School offers skiing and snowboarding lessons tailored perfectly for kids. You can sign up for a day lesson, a three day course, or something that runs for multiple weeks. The best part? While your kids are mastering the mountain, you can do some skiing of your own, or even chill out in Sunshine Village.
38. Have breakfast or a treat at Wild Flour Bakery
Banff’s artisan bakery cafe will have you melting over their baked goods and desserts, and will warm you right up with their coffee and teas. “The heart of Banff” posts their bread schedule online so you know what’s freshest, and they pride themselves in bringing warmth to everything they craft.
39. Toboggan with the locals behind the Banff Springs Hotel
Spray Meadows Hill has an excellent toboggan run that is popular among Banff’s locals — and for good reason! Be wary though, the hill is not monitored and not maintained for recreational use, but the sliding is top notch fun for everyone.
40. Spend a day with Santa Claus
Banff’s Santa Claus Parade Day happens in the latter half of November and kicks off the holiday season. Full of family events including photo ops with Santa, the night comes to a wonderful conclusion as the streets light up and the parade makes its way down Banff Avenue.
41. Banff Centre Children’s Festival
“A continent of imagination”, the Banff Centre Children’s Festival features dance, music, and magic performances. There are also free activities such as circus workshops, creativity rooms, and film screenings. All tailored for kids!
42. Take a sleigh ride through Banff
A perfect winter activity, take your family on a horse drawn carriage through Banff for a true treat. These tours are often running in the winter, and grow busier as Christmas draws closer, so book online before you go for an ensured spot.
43. Catch the surprise view at Surprise Corner
When you walk along Tunnel Mountain Road, you will inevitably come up on Surprise Corner, where the view that suddenly appears is the surprise of the namesake. You won’t want to miss this gem of a walk, which is easy and popular among kids and adults alike.
44. Drive along the Ice Fields Parkway to Peyto Lake.
45. Drop the kids off at the Castle
There is a lineup of events and programs meant to entertain and enthral children at Kids @ The Castle at the Banff Springs Hotel Fairmont. No matter the time of year, you can set your children up with one of the mountain themed events and do some exploring of your own. Fees may apply, so check the website for what’s going on today.
46. Warm up with Whitebark Cafe’s famous hot chocolate and coffee
The Whitebark Cafe is located at the Banff Aspen Lodge and has been said to have the best coffee and hot chocolate in Banff. This is the perfect place to hit after a sleigh ride, a hike, or any number of wonderful activities in Banff. Treat yourself to some coziness while and enjoy the beautiful world that surrounds you.
47. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
51km scenic drive that cuts through mountains and passes over Bow river valley, is replete with panoramic views and wildlife.
48. Camp in Style under the Stars
oTENTik is a cross between an A-frame cabin and a prospector tent mounted on a raised wooden floor. Stay at Two Jack Lake with stunning mountain views.
49. Get an Adrenaline Rush and try the Via Ferrata.
Ride up the North American chairlift: 2 person open air chair lift, to enjoy the stunning scenery and view of the mountain vistas. Once on top, stroll the viewing pathway to the lookout point, and take in the amazing view of Bow Valley, Sundance Range, Mount Rundle, Tunnel Mountain, and Banff. If you have older kids with you, make your way up the cliffs above the ski area assisted by a fixed anchoring system of cables, ladders and a suspension bridge.
50. Learn about the Buffalo Nations
Visit Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum which preserving the culture and heritage of the First Nations who lived in and around the Canadian rockies.