Our RV Road Trip to Alaska took us to Banff. I mean, of course it did, right? Banff is quite possibly the most touristy spot in all of Alberta. I mean, honestly, every gift shop in downtown Banff sells the exact same things, even. There are very few, if any, original, local and unique shops that are geared toward anything but tourists.
It is for this reason, we spoke to locals, friends and shopowners about their favorite spots in Banff. The answers may surprise you. There are so many amazing Things To Do In Banff where you are not fighting hordes of people for the same view, or the same postcard.
Wild Flour Bakery
Honest to God, I will do almost anything for a mocha latte and a chocolate croissant. And, I do, every chance I get. This trip was budget central. Every penny was watched, guarded and accounted for. We even got touchy about groceries. And here I was in Banff, at Wild Flour Bakery ready to splurge on mocha lattes and chocolate croissants. and yes, plural … don’t judge me. But, there is also the amazingly cool option of choosing a pastry from Wild Flour’s $1 “Vintage” selection of yesterday’s leftover goodies! Hello, food bloggers … between the Bow River and these goodies, you Instagram game will hit an all-time high.
Hike Tunnel Mountain
If you are looking for Things To Do In Banff, look no further. This easy 2-3 hour hike (2.7 miles) that ends with amaing panoramic views, that will knock your socks off. Guaranteed, Tunnel Mountain is an oldie but goodie. A favorite of locals, but also the perfect hike for visitors, it’s been around since the early days of Banff National Park . The trail is well maintained, easy to access, and rated easy in it’s difficulty level. 948′ up, hikers are welcomed to a panoramic view of Banff, the Bow Valley and Mt. Rundle.
Selfie’s from nearly 1000′ up anyone?
Crazy touristy during the day. Don’t even bother as busloads of people are unloaded to gaze and gawk at the Falls. They are pretty and runnable, but meh on the excitement scale …
However, if you get there near sunset, the crowds thin out considerably, even vanishing as darkness falls and is a great place to listen to the Falls, stargaze and open a bottle of wine. There is even a trail that you can walk from town. Romantic setting for an Instgram worthy photo, perhaps.
Cool Fact for your Instagram Story: Movie buffs will be elated to learn that several classic Hollywood films, think 1950s, depicted famous movie stars being swept over Bow Falls, including Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum – even the Son of Lassie.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
OK, so touristy af, but who really cares. The Banff Upper Hot Springs are geothermal, natural Hot Springs, for goodness sakes. We make it a point to hit the best Hot Springs often on all our trips. And touristy or not, you know locals go here, I would. Besides, no-one should ever say no to a little pampering whilst traveling. And, you know, few things capture the sense of luxe and leisure as well as Hot Springs, so Instagram will be pleased.
Quick Info: They cost cash … Adults: $8.30, Kids: $6.30 and Seniors: $7.30 …
Banff Canoe Club
We accidentally stumbled upon this as one of the many great Things To Do In Banff. In fact, we were fleeing the crazy tourists and saw signs for the Bow River. And soon we found ourselves standing right here at the Banff Canoe Club. Here you can rent canoes, SUP’s and kayaks. What better way to show Instagram how much fun you are having, being all outdoorsy than with a photo of you on the Bow River, adventuring?!
When we checked, I believe the fee was like $40/hr … but check their website for possible changes.
Banff Farmers Market
I love shopping local produce markets. Love, Love, Love. And the Banff Farmers Market is superb. From jerky to honey, fruits and vegetables, meats and more, you will not be disappointed. And neither will Instagram when you provide gorgeous summer photos of you engaged in “shopping local”! Showing off your healthy finds and supporting local growers at the same time should always be this fun!
Take note, the Banff Farmers Market is held in Central Park every Wednesday during the summer.
Mountain Biking Top Notch
This one-way trail is a local favorite. We did not have bikes with us, but we investigated renting a few, so that qualified this trail having a spot on this blog. It’s rated Intermediate, but you can walk any feature you want, obviously.
The views are Instagram worthy and add in a bike … you reached badass status on IG. The start of Top Notch begins across from the Buffalo Mountain Lodge.
Cycling Banff Legacy Trail
A combination of paved pathway and parkway, the Banff Legacy Trail spans from the Banff Park East Gate to the Bow Valley Parkway. Breathtaking views, wildflower fields, covered picnic areas, the Banff townsite, and a variety of rest spots along the 13 mile trail, make this an Instagram worthy activity!
It’s almost akin to a unviersity lawn block party. Frisbee throwing, impromptu football games, beer and bbq’s make this an awesome afternoon people watching spot. Instagram will love it for it’s vibrant, youthful feel and you will love it for it’s breeziness. Spread out on the grass with a book, a glass of wine, whatever your mood and just enjoy the moment.
Bear Ave NOT Banfff Ave
Banff Ave is shoulder to shoulder people. One streeet over, however, Bear Ave is still very crowded, but at least you get away from the cookie cutter couvenir shops and the traffic…kind of. Cafes, shops and restaurants that are frequented by locals can be found here as well as fabulous IG photo opps.
Wild Bill’s For Live Entertainment
It took us .2 seconds to seek out the local fave for live music…Wild Bill’s. We paid like $5 cover fee and watched a country band. The next night there was a comedy show, but we were heading out, so, unfortunately missed that. It’s a laid back atmosphere and a good place to meet pepole. Now, if you are looking for a ruckus, and are ready to party hard, check out local fave, Dancing Sasquatch and dance the night away. Who doesn’t persue IG looking or hot night life spots?
Visit the Ghost Town of Bankhead
I dunno, I’m a sucker for ghost towns. I find them fascinating, like totally fascinating. So, when a local told me about this Bankhead Ghost Town, I knew that was one of the Things To Do In Banff that I would have to see. There are education plaques and interpretive signs too that will help you set the scene for your IG fans.
Morant’s Curve is a really striking area where the Canadian Pacific railway passes through along the Bow River. The location is not far from Lake Louise. It can be viewed from the Bow Valley Parkway that runs between Banff and Lake Louise. It is a popular spot for locals having a picnic and photographers hoping to catch a freight train for their iconic photo. IG will love this!
Heli Tour Over the Valley
Now this is mega pricey, and way outside of our measly budget, but if you have the cash, this will definitely make IG go wild. The views are spectacular, like outta this world. Gaze down at jagged peaks, icy turquoise lakes, glaciers, icefields and more. This is one helluva Instagram opportunity!
Find Those Red Chairs
The red chairs, the “brainchild” of Canadian Parks are placed in locations around Canada and Banff National Park. They are bright red and therefore provide a very good contrast photo for Instagram. Some are easy to find, while others provide more of an adventure. All of them offer a place to rest, relax, and reflect on the place you’ve discovered and the journey you took to get there.
Try Your Hand at Curling
No lie, when in Canada you must try your hand at the other national sport of Curling. You could go skating, sure, but you can do that anywhere. Give your followers something to talk about and post a photo of you powning Curling at the Banff Rec Center. You will get to meet people and probably not run into a single tourist! Win/Win.
Random Waterfall Hike
We got tired of fighting the tourists and hopped in our truck and drove to the base of a mountain where we saw a waterfall up above. We parked and hiked straight up a mountain and the payoff was great. No people, incredible views, and water. Sometimes you just have to take a a chance and go find your own adventure … Instagram loves that!