Time to Kill…In Banff
The view from my hotel room in Banff says it all, doesn't it? It is so mind-bogglingly beautiful it's surreal. It is like the supermodel of landscapes; hard to believe and impossible to look away from. It looks more like a Disney set than real life. Except it is.
You need no other reason than that to visit Banff, Alberta. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. But since you’ll also need somewhere to lay your head and something to eat, read on.
I was tagging along at a conference and we stayed at The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Arguably, there really is no other hotel in Banff. It is a storied, iconic and rambling old place complete with dark corners and stories of ghosts. I have stayed at the Springs many times over the years and there is a vast assortment of room configurations, sizes and locations. So my recommendation is to request to see your room before you accept it (some travelers do this when checking in to any hotel). Also, go online and join the Fairmont President’s Club for the best chance of an upgrade or extras.
Of course, the Banff Springs Hotel is at the top end of the pay scale. If you’re not actually staying there, you can still enjoy it. Book a treatment at the exceptional Willow Stream Spa and enjoy the series of pools, steam room and sauna. Then have a nosh and a cocktail at the hotel’s Rundle Lounge and enjoy the spectacular view.
Fortunately, Banff has several other more affordable options. Fox Hotel and Suites is located in downtown Banff and Hidden Ridge Resort is just a free shuttle ride away. Both are comfortable and family friendly.
To be frank, Banff is not a gastronomical destination. But there are plenty of places that serve a good meal after a day of fresh air. When you’re hungry for a nice piece of meat, hit The Maple Leaf or Saltlik. Good coffee and a sandwich can be found at the Wild Flour Bakery and Cafe. For after dinner drinks and live music, stop in at St. James Pub and good God don’t leave Banff without having a Beaver Tail.
What to do with your activity time in Banff really depends on the time of year. In the winter, there are multiple alpine ski hills to choose from which are known for having champagne powder. And at any time of year a trip to Lake Louise to either ski, hike, canoe or wander is a must do at least once in your life. Again, the beauty will shock you.
A writeup about Banff would not be complete without a recommendation on what to pack. Believe me when I tell you anything is possible with the weather, no matter the season. Last week it looked like Christmas. Pack layers. Pack a sweater even in August because this is the Canadian Rockies. And pack light hiking boots even if the most exercise you’ll be doing is fitting in with the locals.