10 fun things to do on your Banff vacation

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Written by Banff Hitch Hiker posted on Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

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We’re not messing around with our Banff vacation information today. Here’s 10 quick points on the best things you can do to have a great time on your Banff National Park vacation. Just do it!

1. Go Garden: The view from historic Cascade Gardens of Banff Avenue is probably one of the most taken photographs of Main Street and Cascade Mountain. From there you see Canada Place, one of the most prominent peaks near Banff, which sits at 2,998 m (9836 ft.) located in the building that has housed the Parks Canada administration office since 1963, is a free family-friendly attraction. It offers touch-screen technology to help visitors discover Canada, including a simulated birch bark canoe ride to shoot the rapids of the Bow Falls as well as displays which highlight Canadian inventors and artists.

2. Get some sunshine, Banff style: Banff’s Sunshine Meadows are considered to be one a must see for hikers and outdoor lovers in Alberta. Sunshine Meadows sit at 2220m (7,300′), on the Continental Divide. Ringing Sunshine Meadows are some of the Canadian Rocky’s highest peaks, including Mt. Assiniboine, Banff National Park’s highest peak, known as “the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies.” Wildlife abound in the meadows, and the brilliance of the summer flowers and autumn larches guarantees spectacular scenery on every visit.

3. Rocky Mountain High:

Lake Louise. Just don't miss it if you're in Banff, Alberta.

It’s just an eight-minute on the Banff Gondola to some of the area’s most amazing views. At 7,495 ft (2,285m) high Sulphur Mountain gives you  360° panoramic views of Banff’s peaks, the Town of Banff, Lake Minnewanka, and the Bow Valley.

4. A Castle?! Yep, a castle: The Banff Springs Hotel , also known as the awesome castle in Banff, opened its doors in 1888.  Well-to-do European travelers came out on the train and spent months here enjoying the waters of the Banff Hot Springs, which attracted humans to this area since aboriginal times. The castle is built in the Scottish baron style, fitting for its namesake, Banffshire, Scotland. In 1992, the site was put on the National Historic register (what took them so long?).

5. Hoodoos? You do: Come see these enormous natural pillars of silt, gravel and rocks stuck together by dissolved limestone. It’s natural, but it looks other-worldly. Wind and water sculpted away at these wonders over many thousands of years, creating this natural wonder.

6. Look-Out! It’s Norquay: Jump in your vehicle and take a quick drive from Banff up a series of switchbacks, and you’ll find a view of Banff and the Rockies that will take your breath away at the Mount Norquay Lookout. From here you’ll clearly see the Spray River Valley cutting between Mount Rundle 2949 m (9676 ft.) and Sulphur Mountain. It’s a view that Mount Norquay skiers have known for a long time, but you can enjoy it any time, esepecially on a sunny summer afternoon.

7. THE lake: Yep, Lake Louise is THE lake when it comes to Banff. There are, of course, many others. But there’s something special about this one, with it’s brightly colored waters that defy description (turquoise, emerald and blue-green just never quite do it for me) the big castle sitting at the end of it and the amazing mountains that surround it. You haven’t really been to Banff, Alberta, until you’ve gone and gazed at Lake Louise’s waters, and tried to come up with your own word to describe the color.

8. More Lakes: Remember when I said there are many other lakes here? There are. Loads and loads of them, and the Vermillion Lakes are three more worth seeing. Besides the blue-green (emerald? green-blue? you decide) lakes, you’ll get unbeatable views of Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain. The lakes are a great spot for seeing ospreys and bald eagles, Canada geese and lots of other wildlife.

9. Just one more lake: Really, just one more. Lake Minnewanka is the largest in Banff National Park at 15 mi (24 kms)  long and 466 ft. (142 m) deep. There’s a great lakeside trail to walk along, as well as interpretive boat tours where you can get a tour of the area’s history, native folk lore and geology.

10. Ok, last lake, for real: Head north on Highway 93 about 33kms (21 mi) past Lake Louise and you’ll glimpse the stunningly blue (we’ll just call this one blue) glacier-fed Bow Lake. There’s rustic and tucked away little lodge on the shore called Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.

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