Exploring Banff: Accommodations, Restaurants, and Sightseeing Recommendations

As Canadians, we have a knack for being able to enjoy something as majestic as the Rocky Mountains. A monumental mountain range shared between British Columbia and Alberta. Banff, Alberta is one of the best places to see them in all their glory.

There are no bad views or ugly sides with 360 degree mountains to admire, the freshest alpine air to breathe and sparkling glacier waters to drink.

When planning your next trip to Banff, here are some things to consider: accommodations, dining options, tours and activities. Here are some recommendations from our last trip with Pursuit.

The following recommendations will help you plan your next excursion.

Accommodation & Catering

Depending on your preference, there are two excellent Pursuit accommodation options, each with a shuttle that takes you from the Calgary airport to your chosen hotel in Banff.

elk and avenue

For those who like a modern boutique look, Elk and Avenue is a great option. Located at the far end of downtown Banff, but still within walking distance of the heart of town. Clean, spacious rooms with the convenience of a refrigerator and coffee maker. Hotel amenities include an indoor sauna and hot tub with powerful jets.

Good earth coffee
This hotel cafe not only serves overnight guests, but is a popular stop for regulars looking for locally brewed coffee, healthy smoothies, and quick bites. Dining options include a well-stocked display case of sweet pastries, savory sandwiches, and ready-made soups and pastas. Visit the hotel gift shop or run from the street entrance.

Farm + Fire
This farm-to-table style restaurant specializes in wood-fired pizzas and rotisserie-prepared proteins in a charming modern farmhouse kitchen. For breakfast, come early and grab one of their limited number of giant cinnamon rolls, accurately called “The Sold Out” cinnamon roll, dressed in cream cheese frosting. And for dinner, we loved the “Late night snack” pizza topped with salt and vinegar chips. The roast chicken was one of the most scrumptious, and if you choose which side to go with it, it has to be the Thousand Layer Duck Fat Potatoes.

Mont Royal

For accommodation with a lot more history, direct your attention to Mount Royal. A newer brand built on upgrades to the original first hotel in Banff. From its facade, you can see the transition of renovations and changes over the years. And to pay homage to the initial building that stood and to the decades that followed, the hotel was given wings with specific colours: Cascade, then the 40s and 50s. Inside, the suites are modernly furnished for a similar bouquet feel to its sister property, Elk & Ave. Hotel guests can enjoy the outdoor rooftop hot tub with mountain views, a complimentary tea bar, and a miniature museum chronicling the history of skiing in Banff. The latter includes the most a real relic of wood and leather skis.

Waterfall Lounge
Adjacent to the rooftop hot tub, this bar is quite hidden and you wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t actively looking for it. It looks like a modern living room with high tops and sofas to stretch out on. Here they serve a curated collection of locally produced and canned beers and cocktails, as well as Pursuit’s own blend of red and white wine.

Cheeky
With a different menu for each meal, you have reason to visit them multiple times. For breakfast, indulge in their peanut butter and chocolate French toast, or opt for a stacked croque madame. We recommend the dinner service most for its theatrical cocktails, and a varied menu with nods to Asian cuisine. This speaks to the restaurant’s name and the executive chef’s goal of working outside the box. The dinner service includes a table side flambé in Ginger Beef with fire and bourbon, mussels in a green tea broth with green tobiko and crème brûlée plated to look like an ashtray with white chocolate biscuit cigarettes .

Sightseeing Tours in Banff

Walk

There are no bad angles when it comes to Banff. As you walk through the city, you head towards the mountains at both ends. The majority of main streets have been closed during the pandemic to accommodate more patio seating, and this now allows groups to linger in the middle of the road for the perfect photo. And the downtown promenade with scenic waters and vast mountains is less than 2 minutes away. The hike is as easy as walking through the park and crossing a bridge. Keep going and there’s even a waterfall within 30 minutes.

Electric bike

To cover a little more distance, you can rent an electric bike for the afternoon or the day. At Black Diamond Bike and Supplies, they offer two- and three-wheel models that make pedaling easy. Choose your modes and the amount of propulsion you want, and steep inclines and huffs and puffs are a thing of the past. Some sights like the “Surprise Lookout” are only accessible by bike, when the walk is too steep and too far, and there is no place to stop a vehicle.

Top-down tour

Make it easy for yourself to find out where to go and find out how to get there with Top Down Tours, available for booking at the Mount Royal lobby desk. This is a guided tour in a stretched bus fitted out in the style of the 20s with a royal blue body kit and white-walled rims. The driver and tour guide is dressed in the same period with a dapper vest, raised pants and a bowler hat. She drives pointing out local landmarks and offering interesting treats to visiting travelers, all set to a Roaring Twenties soundtrack. The highlight is being able to stand up in your seats and stick your head out of the moving vehicle to take in the views, that is, weather permitting.

Banff Gondola

For a bird’s eye view of Banff, ride the gondola. The cart fits 4 and the ride is quite quick. If you miss something along the way, that’s okay, because the view from the top is what you want anyway. There, multiple floors with ceiling-to-floor windows and an open rooftop terrace allow visitors to enjoy the majesty of the mountains, their own way. Many choose to have their packed lunches on one of the limited seats or in the plastic dome, if they’re lucky.

Sky Bistro
And since you’ve made it all the way, extend your stay a little longer with a panoramic lunch paired with colorful cocktails. Sky Bistro offers its comforting Canadian menu with a view of the Rockies. Savor dressed classics like chicken and waffles with maple sriracha fillet and gourmet grilled cheese with brie and roasted pear chutney.

Cosmic ray station
For a bit of exercise and a challenge, take the winding wooden walkway to the now unusable Sulfur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, perfect for taking a look at the gondola.

Cruise on Lake Minnewanka

From the mountains to the water, take a guided boat cruise on one of Alberta’s largest glacial lakes. Go all the way with the Lake Minnewanka Beer Journey. Sip local beers as your guide gives you a history lesson about the natives who once tended the land and how the topography of it is as it is today. Most memorable is seeing the “Devil’s Gap”, the corridor where the prairies meet the mountains.

About Jean R. Manzer

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