Banff Canada Travel Guide – What to Do in Banff

July 24, 2019

If you have been following along on Instagram, then you know Russ and I just returned from a dream 10th anniversary trip to Banff, Canada. Today I thought I would take some time to share a Banff Canada travel guide with you and share what we learned since many of you said you wanted to visit. I can say in all sincerity that Banff is the most beautiful place I have ever been. I highly recommend visiting if you ever have the chance. Add it to your bucket list! I honestly have to give a major shoutout to my husband who planned this entire trip for us. He is amazing!!! 

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What to Do in Banff

Lake Louise

It probably goes without saying that while in Banff you should visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. The lakes are pretty close together, so it is easy to visit both in one day. We had heard that parking can get crowded and it was best to arrive early. The lakes are a bit outside of the actual town of Banff, so we left our hotel around 7 am which put us arriving to Moraine Lake around 8 am. Parking for Moraine was already closed! We were told it closed at 5:30 am that morning – whoa!

Luckily Lake Louise parking was still open, so we drove up a little farther and parked there. We checked it out first and then went to buy shuttle tickets to Moraine Lake. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes and the next two shuttles were already sold out. Lesson learned: we should have bought our shuttle tickets when we arrived before looking around. We looked around a bit more before catching the shuttle. 

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Moraine Lake

Of the two, I think Moraine Lake is the prettier lake though both take your breath away. If you just have time for one, visit Moraine. The shuttle ride took about 20 minutes. Russ and I opted to canoe on Moraine though you can canoe on either. It is $120 to rent for one hour. It is worth it thought because I think it was our favorite experience of the trip!! Truly a memory of a lifetime! It honestly looks like we are photoshopped in these photos because it is just so gorgeous. FYI – no cell service at Moraine Lake and if you dress like me (in no-outdoorsy clothes) you will be the only one. 😉 

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Gondola Ride

We took the Banff Gondola (there is also an option at Lake Louise), and it was so amazing!! At the top there is a great lookout, small information area, and also a restaurant. We opted not to eat there though we did hear good things about it and the views would have been spectacular. The photo below is the view from the top. 

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Couples Massages

We got a wonder couples massage at Cedar & Sage in town. It was less expensive than our hotel spa and equally amazing!

Where to Stay in Banff

Because of adoption and because we have a 2.5 year old, we were a little wishy washy about booking this trip. We didn’t finalize things until about 2 months out. By the time we went to book hotels, most things were full excluding Fairmont Banff Springs which just so happens to be the nicest hotel in the area. We flew in on Thursday and left very early on Sunday morning. Since it was our tenth anniversary, we decided that we would splurge and stay there for 2 nights (Thursday and Friday). We stayed in Banff on Saturday and drove back late then stayed in Calgary close to the airport. 

The Fairmont is hands down the nicest place I have ever stayed. If you can manage it, I highly recommend it! The hotel itself is a castle. Driving up is a sight to see! The first photo below depicts the hotel. The others show the view of the mountains and Bow Falls from the back of it. When you stay there, you are literally nestled into the mountains on all sides. There are something like 11 restaurants within it. We ate at one (STOCK) for breakfast which was delicious! We tried another (The Rundle Lounge) for a drink/cheese board one afternoon. It has a balcony you can eat on with the views depicted in the second, third, and fourth photos. One morning we walked to Bow Falls and hiked around a bit. 

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Where to Eat in Banff

While there, we ate dinner out on Thursday at Park Distillery. This place has their own distillery so the cocktails are really good, and it has a neat vibe. On Friday we tried The Bison (my chicken pictured below). It had a really fun interior and was a bit nicer. I think perhaps our favorite meal while there was at Wild Flour, a local bakery, where we had lunch on Saturday (pictured below). In a former life, I ran my own little bakery out of our home and named it this so a trip was a must. They have to die for focaccia, soups, salads, cookies, and more. I am certain breakfast would have been just as good. I actually recommend visiting our hotel for food as well to the two places I linked above. STOCK was our favorite breakfast and The Rundle Lounge has the best view anywhere. 

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Travel Tips

In general, it was colder and rainier than we expected. When we left, the weather said highs in 60s and lows in the 40s with one day of rain. I think most days it was 45-50 and rained off and on. Unfortunately I had not packed a rain jacket or umbrella which was not smart. I do think it was unseasonably cool while we were there. Thankfully it did not rain much the first day or the morning we went to the lakes. 

Hidden Costs

While traveling we encountered a few hidden costs I thought I would share. 

  • Shuttle tickets to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise
  • When driving into Banff, you have to pay to enter and stay in the national park. There is a fee for everyday you are there. You have to leave your receipt on your car. 
  • We do not have unlimited data plans on our phones, so we have to pay $10/day/phone to add international plans while there. Obviously I couldn’t not Instagram! 😉 
  • Though we knew the canoe ride and other similar things would have a fee, we weren’t always prepared for how much it would be. 

If you are traveling to Banff, I hope this is helpful. It’s a dream! Let me know if you have any questions. 

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  • Reply lorena July 30, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Spectacular! What an amazing place Amy Ann ! What a luxury to be able to visit this place, great shots and most important: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

  • Reply Jessica July 28, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    What a gorgeous view! Lovely travel guide you have here dear.

    Jessica |

  • Reply Ruth July 24, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    It looks amazing there. The mountains and that gorgeous lake color really take your breath away in pictures. I cannot imagine seeing it in person. Sounds like an amazing anniversary trip!

  • Reply Mary-Katherine July 24, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    So happy to hear y’all had such a wonderful trip! And how incredibly exciting that you got to stay at the Fairmont! We walked all around it and in it when we visited and just dreamed about how amazing it would be to stay there. It was like a Disney movie and you were the princess!

    Really liked the addition of the hidden costs at the end of the post. Those are always the worst costs (even when they’re not that large) simply because of the unexpected nature. It’s like, you spend so much time planning a trip and budgeting for it and wrapping your head around how much it costs to travel, and then to have *more* costs, it always makes me want to shed a little tear hahahaa. So that’s very helpful to let people know so they aren’t shocked by those and can plan for them!

    It’s wild that it was so chilly during your visit because we went last year at the end of April and it was so WARM! We were shocked because the weather report said it was only like 65 or something and we were coming from Texas where we couldn’t even remember what 65 was so we packed thinking it would be freezing, but somehow it felt so hot! I remember I showed up in leggings, snow boots, a sweater, vest, puffy coat, and a scarf and immediately started sweating and wished I had brought shorts! But I think we got an unseasonably warm day, so maybe we both got weird weather. Either way, I bet it was secretly a nice escape from the midwest Summer heat, and plus it’s always fun getting to wear new clothes and all your NSale outfits were beyond adorable!

    xo MK

  • Reply Laura Bambrick July 24, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    I’d love to go to Banff one day! Your photos are absolutely stunning! Thanks for sharing all of these tips! Hopefully I get to put them to use sometime!

  • Reply Amber July 24, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    It’s been way too long since I visited Banff–it is an absolutely gorgeous place! We visited both lakes and did an awesome hike as well. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos, Amy Ann!

    I hope you are having a great week so far!


  • Reply Katie July 24, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Your pictures are stunning! What a beautiful place! Thanks for hosting the link-up and have a great week!


  • Reply Lizzie July 24, 2019 at 11:08 am

    What an amazing trip! We’ve been trying to get up there for years. Definitely saving this post!


  • Reply Grace Liang July 24, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Banff is one my dream destinations. Looks like you had a blast!

    Please stop by at every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for linkup parties! 
    Hope to see you there!
    Grace Liang

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