10 Awesome Things to Do During Your First Week in Banff

Headed to Banff as part of your Canadian working holiday?

Great! We have a whole bunch of cool stuff for you to do while you’re there.

Before you get a job and settle in, it’s a good idea to take advantage of your free time and do the whole tourist thing for a week or two.

What you get up to during your first week in Banff will largely depend on the weather. Warmer seasons in Banff means hiking, fishing and biking are great options. Colder weather means you’ll probably want to hit the slopes and brush up on your skiing skills.

Here are 10 cool things to do during your first week in Banff!

1. Hop-on Hop-off Banff bus

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Ah, the old reliable hop-on hop-off bus tour. From Cape Town to Copenhagen, Bangkok to Belfast just about every city in the world has one.

If you ask us, bus tours are seriously underrated! If you’re in a very hot country it can be nice to get some relief in a cool, air-conditioned bus. If you’re in the depths of winter in a country like Canada, you can enjoy the scenery and learn about the city from the comfort the warm, toasty bus.

This particular tour is one of the most highly rated tourist activities in Banff. You’ll get to explore Lake Louise and Banff’s breath-taking national park with their friendly on-board hosts at the ready to answer any of your questions. They’ll even help you book additional activities.

Find out more about this tour here.

2. Ride the gondola up Sulphur Mountain

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If you’ve ever wanted to explore the Rockies, now’s your chance! There are some truly awe-inspiring scenes to be enjoyed in this part of the mountains.

If you want to check out some seriously epic views from Sulphur Mountain’s summit, you can get there by hopping on the Banff Gondola.

By the way, it’s not all about reaching the top, you’ll see some amazing scenery along the way too. When you do arrive at the 7,500ft peak, you’ll be met with eateries, a gift shop, interactive exhibits and a 360-degree observation deck where you can see all of Banff and the Bow River Valley.

If you fancy a short hike, you can follow the boardwalk to see incredible panoramic views of the Bow Valley just be sure to bring comfortable footwear that won’t leave you slipping if the boardwalk is icy.

If you’re fit as a fiddle and you fancy hiking to the top of Sulphur Mountain, it’ll take you around 2 hours.

Book your very own gondola experience here.

3. Bankhead Ghost Town

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Back in the early 20th century, Bankhead was a small but busy coal mining town located at Cascade Mountain in Banff National Park.

The town was swiftly abandoned by its 1000 residents after the closure of the mine in 1922. The company who owned the mine also owned all of the property in the village, renting it out to the miners and their families. This resulted in 300 men becoming simultaneously unemployed.

The ruins of the town are still standing to be explored by curious tourists. One of the first things you’ll meet on your ghost town adventure is a Lamp House. This is where miners would collect their lamps on the way into the mines. If at the end of the day there were missing lamps, a search party was quickly organised to find the missing person who failed to return their lamp.

This is a must-see for any history buffs out there.

You can read more about the history of Bankhead here.

4. Grab a bite to eat at Magpie and Stump

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Holy guacamole! It wouldn’t be a listicle without a mouth-watering eatery or two.

Is all that adventuring giving you a hankering for a bite to eat? Well then, head on over to Magpie and Stump for some hearty Mexican cuisine. This locally renowned restaurant is one of Banff’s oldest establishments. They’ve been serving up tasty Mexican dishes for almost 40 years and it’s a favourite with the locals for good reason!

If tacos and tequila are your jam, you can check out their menu here.

5. The River Explorer BIG canoe tour

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Ever wanted to go in a canoe with 11 of your friends? Yeah, ok, the thought has probably never occurred to you but it really is a lot of fun! The River Explorer Tour is a brilliant way to paddle the river with a big group. They provide all of your safety equipment and teach you how to paddle that big old canoe up Bow River.

All the while you’ll be entertained with anecdotes and fun facts about the area. This is a great way to explore Banff National Park’s waterways. One of the best things about this tour is the chance to see beavers, muskrats, bald eagles and elk.

Book your tour here.

6. Skiing at Banff Sunshine (formerly) Sunshine Village

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Skiing in Banff can only mean one thing, Banff Sunshine! Banff Sunshine is located within Banff national park. It’s one of three ski resorts in the national park but because of its prime location it receives far more snow than neighbouring resorts.

To reach Banff Sunshine, you’ll take a ride on an eight-person, high-speed gondola that will drop you off at Goat’s Eye Mountain in 10 minutes or the upper village area in just under 20 minutes.

If you visit during the summer months you should take advantage of the shuttle bus service, it’ll bring you to some seriously cool walking trails and alpine meadows.

7. Warm your bones at BeaverTails

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It’s a cold winter in Banff, the snowfall is never ending and you have your heart set on a nice hot cup of coffee and a delicious sweet treat to accompany it. If you find yourself in this situation, then the award-winning Beaver Tails (another iconic Banff institution) is the place for you!

Drool over their website here. Go ahead; we’re not here to judge.

8.The Banff Merman

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Looking for something weird and unusual to do? Then you’re in luck!

If you were a big fan of Ripley’s Believe It, Or Not or you just get a kick out of all things strange and unusual; you’ll probably want to check out the infamous Banff Merman.

What is it? Well, the Banff Merman is a strange mummified fish creature. It appears to be some kind of taxidermy gone wrong and is well known amongst Banff locals. The creature’s origin ties into Native American legend surrounding a strange half man/half fish that had been spotted emerging from the water many years ago.

There is however a logical explanation for the unsightly creature. It involves a man who purchased the figure on a trip to Fiji in the early 1900s. He then created a backstory and published it in the local paper to attract an audience to his trading post where the mummy is still located today.

I’m a merman daddy! A merman!

9. The Vault

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Located in the town of Kananaskis, the Vault is a 30-minute drive from the centre of Banff. It’s essentially a mysterious tunnel that leads into the mountain to two chambers around 80×20 feet.

There have been many rumours concerning why the tunnel exists. Some say the Canadian government tunnelled into the mountains to build a bunker that could keep government officials safe in the case of a nuclear attack during the Cold War.

In reality, three brothers named Joe, Stan and Ted Rokosh constructed the caves. The intention was to use the caves to store documents under the company name ‘Rocky Mountain Vaults’. The vaults began construction in 1966. The plan was to protect the countries most important documents in the case of nuclear fallout. The vaults were going to be climate controlled to guarantee the protection of the documents. Even the Royal Bank of Canada got involved looking to house banking records.

Unfortunately, there were no fully committed clients, which meant the company eventually fell bankrupt. Despite its bummer of a backstory, The Vault does make for an interesting day out for hikers and tourists.

10. Banff Upper Hot Springs

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Hot springs are the perfect way to end your first week in Banff. These hot springs are located along the Banff Gondola ride so it’s a good idea to pack your swimwear just in case. If you’re expecting a blue lagoon scene but on a smaller scale you might be disappointed since this is more of a mineral rich pool – but don’t let that put you off. There’s no better way to relax than in a hot spring!

It’s quite small so enquire about off-peak times to get the most out of your relaxing hot spring experience.

Chill out at the hot springs by booking here.

That concludes our list of things to do during your first week in Banff. We hope this makes planning your Banff adventure a little easier.

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