Especially for those readers who are in Western Canada, often we overlook our world class tourism locations. One thing the Covid pandemic has allowed us to do is take a closer look and have a chance to appreciate what's in our own back yard. I had the opportunity to visit Banff in early Oct 2020. We were very fortunate in that we had the most amazing weather, and the trees had started to change colour (of course, make sure to prepare for changing weather, layers and rain protection are vital). Banff is a great destination in any season, and while the pandemic will change how we travel, the spirit of travel, and the discovery of new places will continue to thrive.
First off, I will mention that if you are planning on staying in Banff, you will be in a National Park, and will require a Parks Canada Pass. More details on the different options available can be found here: Parks Canada
I was fortunate to stay at two different places during my stay in Banff. First was Buffalo Mountain Lodge located on the south east edge of the Banff township, on Tunnel Mountain.
This is a quaint chalet style hotel with large rooms. We stayed in a Premier Room that had a wood burning fireplace. While the wood is restocked daily, there isn't a lot of kindling, so if you plan on going and want to enjoy a fire, I would highly recommend bringing some kindling or fire-starters of your own.
The Premier Rooms are on either the upper or lower floors of a two story building, accessed from the outside. The rooms on the second floor have a vaulted ceiling which makes the room feel even bigger. The beautiful claw foot tub just begs to be soaked, and the heated floors in the bathroom are a nice touch. It does seem that these rooms to see a lot of traffic, and were a bit worn in places, but overall in good shape.
We enjoyed how close it felt to nature, and even saw some deer close up while walking the grounds.
The second place we stayed at was the Fairmont Banff Spring Resort. This stay is a bit of a splurge but I would say that it is ABSOLUTELY worth it. The quality, cleanly-ness, and Covid safety was amazing.
We stayed in a Mountain View Room, and let me tell you it was worth every penny. The room size was perfect, and the view was absolutely amazing. I suppose if I could say one thing that wasn't great about the room was the size of the bathroom - it was quite small - you could only fit one person in and the position of the door was awkward by the sink, but still it was very well appointed. Bathrooms aren't really my thing though, did I mention the view?
With a quick getaway time is always at a premium. During Covid - even more so. Here is my list of Hidden Gems and Fascinating Things To Do in Banff
1. Find A Rooftop Patio
If the weather is nice, be sure to have a meal, coffee, or a drink at a rooftop patio in Banff. There are several in town. The million dollar views are well worth the "slightly" inflated prices.
2. Take The Banff Gondola Up, Up, Up
The Banff Gondola is a bit outside of town, but it has some of the most spectacular views, and in particular of the town itself. It does cost a bit to go up (around $50 CAD), and it is worth it to purchase in advance (especially during Covid), as often they have specials. For a really special night, book reservations at Sky Bistro (as for a window seat if possible). Aim for sunset and it will be an evening to remember!
3. Enjoy A Cocktail of Choice At Rundle Lounge
Even if you aren't staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs, I would highly recommend enjoying a night at the Rundle Lounge. Great drinks, great finger food, great atmosphere. Tip: Try to get a seat far to the back where the windows face the mountains.
4. Walk Downtown Banff
Downtown Banff is one of those places that just begs to be explored. Kitchy souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, and just plain old peoplewatching is always fun to do. It really is a beautiful town, and easily walkable.
6. Spot Some Wildlife (And Take Lackluster Photos Of What You See).
One thing about being in the mountains is that there is wildlife EVERYWHERE! Even on our short trip I was able to photograph several animals. Some were very tame and you could get quite close to them, but remember don't touch or feed the wildlife.
7. Go Horseback Riding
No experience is needed for many of the horseback riding experiences out of Banff. There are several outfitters that offer 1-4 hr (or more) trail rides out of Banff. Riding the trails is a great way to experience Banff, the location, and the scenery in a completely unique way.
8. Visit the Cascades Of Time Gardens
Due to time constraints we were not able to visit the gardens, but it is high on my list for next time. It is absolutely a beautiful hidden gem in Banff (and absolutely free). Enjoy a video of the garden taken by Mile Mantra that was shot very close in time to when we were there:
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To book your next dream vacation, when the time is right to travel, reach out to me through email at Alicia@EveningStarTravel.ca, or by calling 587 772 2525. I am located in Sherwood Park, Alberta (a suburb of Edmonton), and am a Travel Advisor specializing in River Cruising, Beach Escapes, and Custom Vacations. I am the owner/operator of Evening Star Travel. I book travel for clients all across Canada.