banff with kids

Banff With Kids

Planning a family trip to the Canadian Rockies? Look no further than Banff National Park! This stunning destination offers adventure, natural beauty, and activities to keep kids of all ages entertained. This guide covers everything you need to know about visiting Banff with kids, from things to do and places to stay to itineraries and getting around. Discover why Banff is the perfect destination for your Canada family holiday.

Why Visit Banff With Kids

  • Adventure Awaits: From gondola rides and scenic hikes to canoeing on emerald lakes, Banff National Park is a playground for active families.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Keep your eyes peeled for elk, bears (from a safe distance!), bighorn sheep, and more as you explore the park.
  • Learn Through Play: Interactive exhibits and interpretive programs at Banff National Park Centre and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies make history and nature come alive for kids.
  • Family-Friendly Activities: Mini-golf, swimming pools, and gondola rides offering panoramic views provide fun for all ages.
  • Breathtaking Scenery: Banff boasts turquoise lakes, towering mountains, and cascading waterfalls, leaving a lasting impression on the whole family.

Things to Do in Banff with Kids

  • Lake Louise Gondola: Embark on a scenic gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain for breathtaking panoramic views of Banff and the surrounding valleys. Enjoy interactive exhibits at the Cosmic Ray Station and spot wildlife in their natural habitat.
  • Johnston Canyon: Explore the lower and upper falls of Johnston Canyon on short, paved trails perfect for families with young children. Be amazed by the turquoise water cascading over the limestone cliffs.
  • Bow River: Rent a canoe or paddleboat and explore the calm waters of the Bow River. This is a peaceful way to see the scenery and glimpse local wildlife.
  • Cave and Basin National Historic Site: Learn about the history of Banff as a hot springs resort at this interactive museum. Kids will love exploring the historic bathhouse and dipping their toes in the cool cave water.
  • Banff Gondola: Take a gondola ride to the top of Banff Sunshine Village for stunning views of the Bow Valley and the opportunity to go stargazing in the evening (seasonal).

Best Places to Visit in Banff with Kids

  • Lake Louise: This iconic turquoise lake surrounded by mountains is a must-see. Enjoy a scenic boat ride on the lake, rent a canoe, or simply relax on the shore and take in the beauty.
  • Moraine Lake: Another stunning lake with a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, Moraine Lake offers excellent photo opportunities. Explore the short trails around the lake or have a picnic lunch on the shore.
  • Tunnel Mountain: Hike or bike to the top of Tunnel Mountain for panoramic views of the town of Banff and the surrounding valley. The trail is well-maintained and suitable for most ages.
  • Bow Falls: This powerful waterfall cascading over the Bow River is a short walk from downtown Banff. Take a break from sightseeing and enjoy the sound and spray of the falls.
  • The Banff Gondola: Ascend Sulphur Mountain for stunning views, interactive exhibits, and delicious dining options. Kids will love spotting wildlife and exploring the Cosmic Ray Station.

Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Banff

  • Downtown Banff: Conveniently located for exploring the town and its shops, restaurants, and attractions. Choose from family-friendly hotels and a variety of dining options.
  • The Banff Centre: Home to the stunning Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, this neighborhood offers a quieter environment close to nature. Several family-friendly hotels are located here.
  • Tunnel Mountain: A more budget-friendly option with easy access to Tunnel Mountain trails and stunning views. Some condo rentals and hotels offer more space for families.

Best Family-Friendly Hotels in Banff

  • Fairmont Banff Springs: This iconic castle-like hotel offers luxurious accommodations, multiple pools (including a lazy river), kids’ programs, and stunning mountain views.
  • The Banff Centre: Choose from various hotels within The Banff Centre, offering a variety of price points and family-friendly amenities like pools, game rooms, and on-site restaurants.
  • The Rimrock Resort Hotel: This ski-in/ski-out hotel provides spacious family rooms, a pool, hot tubs, and delicious dining options.
  • The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort: Located in the heart of Banff, this resort offers spacious condos with full kitchens, a swimming pool, and a hot tub, perfect for families.
  • Sunshine Village: Stay right on the slopes at Sunshine Village during the winter for ski-in/ski-out convenience. Summer offers a variety of family-friendly activities like hiking and biking trails.

Best Time to Visit Banff

  • Summer (June – August): Warm weather makes this a great time for hiking, biking, and water activities. However, bigger expect crowds.
  • Shoulder Seasons (Spring – May & September – October): Fewer crowds, pleasant temperatures, and beautiful fall foliage make these shoulder seasons ideal for some families. Be prepared for some potential trail closures and cooler nights at higher elevations.
  • Winter (December – March): Banff transforms into a winter wonderland, perfect for families who love to ski, snowboard, and ice skate. However, sub-zero temperatures and snowy conditions can be challenging for young children.

How Long to Stay in Banff

The ideal length of your Banff trip depends on your family’s interests and pace. Here’s a guideline:

  • Short Weekend Getaway: With 2-3 days, you can explore the town of Banff, hike to Johnston Canyon lower falls, take a gondola ride, and enjoy some family-friendly activities.
  • Action-Packed Adventure: A 4-5 day trip allows you to add in more activities like exploring Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, whitewater rafting, or a scenic drive on the Icefields Parkway.
  • Relaxing Nature Immersion: If you have a week or more, you can truly slow down and enjoy the beauty of the park. Hike some of the more challenging trails, go canoeing or kayaking on the lakes, and participate in interpretive programs offered by Parks Canada.

Banff Family Itinerary

Here’s a sample 4-day itinerary for a fun-filled Banff adventure with your kids:

Day 1:

  • Arrive in Banff and check into your hotel.
  • Explore downtown Banff, browsing shops and enjoying lunch at a family-friendly restaurant.
  • Take a scenic ride up the Banff Gondola for breathtaking views and explore the exhibits at the Cosmic Ray Station.

Day 2:

  • Hike the lower falls of Johnston Canyon, marveling at the turquoise water cascading over the limestone cliffs.
  • Rent a canoe or paddleboat and explore the Bow River, spotting ducks, geese, and other wildlife.
  • In the evening, enjoy a delicious dinner at a restaurant with mountain views.

Day 3:

  • Take a scenic drive to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Enjoy a boat ride on Lake Louise (seasonal) or simply admire the stunning turquoise water. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the shores of Moraine Lake.
  • Visit the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies to learn about the history and culture of the Banff region through interactive exhibits.

Day 4:

  • Hike to the top of Tunnel Mountain for panoramic views of the Bow Valley.
  • In the afternoon, head to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site to learn about Banff’s history as a hot springs resort. Kids will love dipping their toes in the cool cave water.
  • Enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant in downtown Banff and reminisce about your amazing adventure.

Getting Around Banff

  • Public Transportation: Banff offers a convenient public bus system, perfect for getting around town and to some trailheads. Purchase a Banff Day Pass for unlimited rides.
  • Hop-On Hop-Off Bus: This is a great option for families with young children, allowing you to explore the sights at your own pace.
  • Rental Car: Having a rental car gives you the most flexibility to explore the park at your own pace. Many attractions have parking lots, but be prepared for fees during peak season.
  • Taxi or Ridesharing: Taxis and ridesharing services like Uber are available in Banff, but can be limited, especially during peak times.

Additional Tips:

  • Pack for all weather conditions, as mountain weather can change quickly. Layers are essential, including rain gear, sunscreen, and hats.
  • Purchase a National Parks Pass for access to Banff National Park and other national parks across Canada.
  • Be aware of wildlife and practice safe wildlife viewing. Keep a safe distance from all animals and never approach or feed them.
  • Leave no trace by packing out all your trash and respecting the natural environment.

By following these tips and exploring the ideas in this guide, you and your family are sure to have an unforgettable adventure in Banff National Park!