A local’s guide to getting here, where to stay, what to do and where to eat on a weekend in Banff.

There’s something about this place. Something you can’t quite put your finger on... Is it the fresh, crisp mountain air? Maybe. The epic adventures at every turn? Perhaps. Or it could be the laid-back vibes, Instagram-worthy landscapes, friendly locals, the world-class food scene and the town’s rich history that prove Banff has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about it.

Even if all you've got is a weekend, there's so much to see and do! We’ve compiled a list to help you make the most of your time. Just don’t make us say, “we told you so” when you never end up leaving, like most of us did.

First, the Nuts and Bolts

How to get to Banff

Fly into Calgary, Alberta. No car? No problem. Hop on the Brewster Express and get to the mountains ASAP. For those wanting to drive themselves, there’s plenty of car rental services at the airport.

Where to Stay in Banff

Just a few steps from the quaint streets and ample restaurants, shopping and nightlife of downtown Banff, the Elk + Avenue Hotel brings an upscale twist to the classic mountain escape. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing après-ski sanctuary or a big night on the town, the Elk + Avenue is an ideal place to stay and it's reasonably priced too. Check out the unique packages available this fall for extra savings.

What to do in Banff

  1. Go shopping on Banff Avenue and don’t miss Monod's and Cabin 108
  2. Visit the Banff Gondola 
  3. Bowling at High Rollers (call ahead to make your reservation)
  4. Visit the Whyte Museum 
  5. Take a scenic drive out to Lake Minnewanka and check out Surprise Corner, Bow Falls & Johnston Canyon 


There are so many restaurants you don’t want to miss! 

  1. Park Distillery, 219 Banff Ave. 
  2. Sky Bistro at the Banff Gondola, 1 Mountain Ave.
  3. Banff Ave. Brewing Co., 110 Banff Ave.
  4. Coyotes Southwestern Grill, 206 Caribou St.
  5. Good Earth Coffeehouse, 333 Banff Ave.


Now, the Ideal Banff Weekend Itinerary

Day 1:

Arrive in Banff and check into the Elk + Avenue Hotel. Once you’re ready, head up to the Banff Gondola where you’ll also have dinner and experience breathtaking mountain views at Sky Bistro. If you’re visiting on a Friday night, you'll want to check out the free stargazing program that’s offered on the observation deck of the building. It’s hosted in partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and it’s included with your admission. Make sure to call ahead to reserve your table at Sky Bistro or book online.

Day 2:

Breakfast – Grab n’ go your breakfast from Good Earth (located inside the Elk + Avenue – try the raspberry + white chocolate scone). Then take a scenic drive out to Lake Minnewanka and visit the Parks Canada red chairs for a great photo opportunity! If you’re wanting to spend more time outdoors during the day, try hiking Tunnel Mountain or taking a walk at Johnston’s Canyon. For those with less time but still wanting to see the sights, visit Surprise Corner and Bow Falls. If the weather isn’t great or if you’d prefer to stay indoors, visit the Whyte Museum to learn about the history and culture of this amazing little town, or go see a matinee at Banff’s Lux Cinema.

In the afternoon, hit up Park Distillery for a great lunch. The atmosphere in Park is quintessentially Canadian and their cocktails are great too. Walk off lunch while checking out some of the cool shops located along Banff Avenue, like the Cabin 108 Boutique, and stop in at the Brew Co. for a locally-crafted beer.

Next, get ready to put your bowling shoes on and visit High Rollers (located just below the Brew Co.). Make sure to call ahead and reserve a lane for you and your group.

Day 3:

Pop over to Coyotes Southwestern Grill for breakfast, then take a drive past the Fairmont Banff Springs, also known as the "Castle in the Mountains". Drive down towards the golf course to look for wildlife and then take a gander through the historic hotel.

An early-afternoon departure on the Brewster Express will get you to YYC in time to catch your flight, or take you right into downtown Calgary so you can wander your own way home. Either way, you've loaded up on mountain memories that'll last for months to come.

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