What are the five best things to see and do in Banff & Lake Louise?

As part of one of the most picturesque provinces in Canada, you don’t have to look hard to find something to see or do in Banff & Lake Louise. No matter what time of year you visit, your days will be packed with plenty of activity. Here’s our Forbes Travel Guide editors' list of the best:

1. Hit the slopes. The Canadian Rockies are home to some of the best skiing in North America and the slopes at Banff & Lake Louise are no different. There are three mountain resorts in the area — Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay and Lake Louise — all offering top-notch runs.

2. Soak in the hot springs. Aside from skiing, Banff is known for its hot springs. Originally build in 1932, the Banff Upper Hot Springs are a great way to relax after a day on the slopes. The therapeutic water is a delightful 100 F on average. It doesn't get much better than soaking in the warm baths while the snow blankets Banff's alpine scenery.

3. Jump into the lake. Make your way through Banff National Park all the way to Lake Louise. Perfect for swimming in the summer and skating in the winter, Lake Louise is a must-see. Not to mention, the breathtakingly beautiful drive through the national park really opens your eyes to the stunning province of Alberta.

  • On December 12, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is the best way to see Alberta in two days?

    Considering the size of this western Canadian province, it’s difficult to see everything that Alberta has to offer. Just to put it in perspective, more than six Great Britains can fit within the boundaries of Alberta. Imagine that. All of that being said, we have come up with a pretty great two-day plan to see one of the most beautiful provinces that Canada has to offer. Of course, you’ll have to make at least two trips to see what Alberta has to offer in both the warm and cold months.

    On your first day, you’re in for quite an adventure. Make your way from Jasper to Lake Louise by way of the Icefields Parkway. The world-famous road parallels the Continental Divide and runs down the spine of the Canadian Rockies. As one of the most picturesque drives you’ll have during your trip, you should take advantage of the stopping points to capture some of the fabulous vistas. As you continue down this scenic road, keep your eyes peeled for bears during the summertime and cougars, elk and moose during the snowy months.

    Once you arrive at Lake Louise Ski Area, check into your room at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise and drop off your bags, because you’re about to hit the slopes. With more than 4,200 skiable acres, Lake Louise Ski Area will provide you with plenty of entertainment for the day. If you’re making the trek in the summer, have no fear — though Canada’s most famous lake is too cold to swim in, you can definitely grab a canoe and paddle your way around. After you’ve had your fill of activities for the day, clean up for dinner and head to the nearby Post Hotel.

    Waking up after a long day is certainly tough, but the second day of your adventure is chock-full of activities. Check out of the Fairmont Château and continue on the Icefields Parkway through Banff National Park. Make a pit stop to take in a breath of fresh air as you snap a few photos of the picture-perfect scenery. After you’ve gotten enough of the great outdoors, it’s back in the car for another couple of hours.

    Make your way to Calgary, which is just east of Banff National Park. Your activities in Calgary depend on what time of year you have chosen to take your Canadian adventure. If it’s during the ski season (November through April), venture up to Canada Olympic Park, where the Winter Games were held in 1988. Whether you’re skiing or simply taking in the sights, this is definitely a stop you want to make. After you’ve pictured yourself winning the gold medal, scoot on down the mountain — you’ve got tickets to the Calgary Flames hockey game, and you don’t want to miss the first period.

    If you’ve made your way to Calgary in the summer, particularly July, trot over to the Calgary Stampede to catch the best rodeo outside of Texas. Don’t worry if you’ve missed it; just head up to the Calgary Tower to get the best view in town. Once you’ve gotten your fill, head over to dinner at the Belvedere.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Banff & Lake Louise?

    While Canada is filled with all kinds of luxury hotels, Alberta is home to just a few. As a province that is more than six times larger than Great Britain, much of which is rural farmland, it’s difficult to explore all of the fabulous hotels that Alberta has to offer. That being said, we’ve covered a few of the major cities and areas that attract the most visitors.

    Whether you are here in the summer or the winter, Fairmont Château Lake Louise is a picturesque hotel that’s ideal for a mountain getaway. Cozied at the base of Lake Louise Ski Area and on the shore of the eponymous lake, the Fairmont Château showcases 550 rooms with ski in/ski out privileges. As you step foot inside this castle in Alberta, you’ll be at the crossroads of European flair and Canadian hospitality.

    As you venture farther into Banff National Forest, you’ll stumble upon Fairmont Banff Springs. Built in 1888, this Alberta hotel flaunts a fabulous golf course, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star spa and plenty more amenities in its 770 rooms. And we can’t forget about The Banffshire Club, the hotel’s Four-Star restaurant.

    In the capital city of Edmonton, book a room at The Sutton Place Hotel. Connected to Edmonton Centre, this city hotel boasts luxury touches like Italian marble and Persian rugs. Edmonton Centre houses more than 400 stores, all of which will be at your fingertips.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Alberta?

    Whether your youngster is tagging along or your spouse is a kid at heart, Alberta offers plenty of activities to intrigue even the wildest child. As a province overflowing with dinosaur fossils, it’s no wonder that your little archeologist has been begging you to plan a trip to Alberta. Dino-lover or not, there are plenty of things to do when it comes to traveling with your kids in Alberta. Here’s our list of the five best things to do with kids in this Western Canadian region:

    1. Trot into the Calgary Stampede. Boy or girl, child or adult, the Calgary Stampede is filled with fun for everyone. Every July, this 10-day festival showcases the "world’s richest rodeo," outdoor performances and even concerts. With the kids’ stage hosting appearances by favorites such as Barney and My Little Pony, it’s no wonder that this is such a popular event for the youngsters. Your little squirt can even compete as a chuck wagon driver.

    2. Go Wild at the Calgary Zoo. Sure, there are zoos just about anywhere you go, but the Calgary Zoo is really something special. As one of Canada’s largest zoos, you and your youngster will stroll along with more than 900 animals. Venture from continent to continent and even back in time with the Prehistoric Park.

    3. Roar Back in Time with the Dinosaurs. Stomp into the Jurassic Forest only to jump back millions of years in history to the days of the dinosaurs. Humongous, life-size dinos roar through the exhibits as you wander through the Jurassic Forest. Even if your little one isn’t a dino-fanatic, we’re pretty sure he or she will love this. Of course, you don’t want to take the wee ones because these dinosaurs are pretty realistic.

    4. Float on Lake Louise. Unless of course, it’s frozen; in which case, you and your munchkin can glide across the lake on skates. The perfect spot for a tranquil canoe trip in the summer and skating in the winter, Lake Louise is fun for everyone no matter what time of year it is.

    5. Hit the Slopes. Considering that Alberta flaunts part of the Canadian Rockies, it is only right that you and your kids hit the world-famous slopes. While we’re sure your little one will need some time on the bunny hill, each of the mountain resorts offers plenty of terrain for every skill level. We suggest Banff or Lake Louise Ski Area.
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  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What’s the best time to visit Banff & Lake Louise?

    As a province that has an extremely diverse geography, it is no wonder that the seasons in Alberta are vastly different as well. That being said, it truly depends on what kinds of things you want to do during your Canadian adventure. If you’re one for the slopes, of course you will want to plan around the ski season. But if you are into the cultural scene or hiking, you’ll probably want to venture to Alberta in the warmer months.

    For ski bums, you’ve got a lot of wiggle room when it comes to planning your Alberta ski vacation. It all depends if you want to be cold or really cold. With ski seasons running from early November through early May, you have pretty much the entire year to plan your winter adventure. You should keep in mind that it gets into single digits in the winter. Combine the already cold weather with the high altitude, and you’ll practically be an ice cube as you come flying down the mountain on your skis. Of course, if you’ve got thick blood, you’re in good shape. But we suggest you stick to spring skiing when temperatures are a little more friendly —as in, above freezing.

    If you’re looking to really get the cultural feel of Alberta, you’ll want to plan your trip for the summer, which is short but sweet. Edmonton, the capital of the province, is known for its plethora of festivals — most of which happen during the summer months. In Calgary, you won’t want to miss the legendary Calgary Stampede in July. You can also use these warmer months to take advantage of the scenery and take a drive on the Icefields Parkway. Though it’s open year-round, driving conditions can get icky in the winter and there are often closures after it snows.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is the best way to see Alberta in two days?

    Considering the size of this western Canadian province, it’s difficult to see everything that Alberta has to offer. Just to put it in perspective, more than six Great Britains can fit within the boundaries of Alberta. Imagine that. All of that being said, we have come up with a pretty great two-day plan to see one of the most beautiful provinces that Canada has to offer. Of course, you’ll have to make at least two trips to see what Alberta has to offer in both the warm and cold months.

    On your first day, you’re in for quite an adventure. Make your way from Jasper to Lake Louise by way of the Icefields Parkway. The world-famous road parallels the Continental Divide and runs down the spine of the Canadian Rockies. As one of the most picturesque drives you’ll have during your trip, you should take advantage of the stopping points to capture some of the fabulous vistas. As you continue down this scenic road, keep your eyes peeled for bears during the summertime and cougars, elk and moose during the snowy months.

    Once you arrive at Lake Louise Ski Area, check into your room at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise and drop off your bags, because you’re about to hit the slopes. With more than 4,200 skiable acres, Lake Louise Ski Area will provide you with plenty of entertainment for the day. If you’re making the trek in the summer, have no fear — though Canada’s most famous lake is too cold to swim in, you can definitely grab a canoe and paddle your way around. After you’ve had your fill of activities for the day, clean up for dinner and head to the nearby Post Hotel.

    Waking up after a long day is certainly tough, but the second day of your adventure is chock-full of activities. Check out of the Fairmont Château and continue on the Icefields Parkway through Banff National Park. Make a pit stop to take in a breath of fresh air as you snap a few photos of the picture-perfect scenery. After you’ve gotten enough of the great outdoors, it’s back in the car for another couple of hours.

    Make your way to Calgary, which is just east of Banff National Park. Your activities in Calgary depend on what time of year you have chosen to take your Canadian adventure. If it’s during the ski season (November through April), venture up to Canada Olympic Park, where the Winter Games were held in 1988. Whether you’re skiing or simply taking in the sights, this is definitely a stop you want to make. After you’ve pictured yourself winning the gold medal, scoot on down the mountain — you’ve got tickets to the Calgary Flames hockey game, and you don’t want to miss the first period.

    If you’ve made your way to Calgary in the summer, particularly July, trot over to the Calgary Stampede to catch the best rodeo outside of Texas. Don’t worry if you’ve missed it; just head up to the Calgary Tower to get the best view in town. Once you’ve gotten your fill, head over to dinner at the Belvedere.
  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best things to see and do in Banff & Lake Louise?

    As one of the most picturesque provinces in Canada, you don’t have to look hard to find something to see or do in Alberta. Of course, the size of the province helps too — more than six Great Britains can fit within Alberta. That being said, whether it’s snowing like crazy on the Canadian Rockies or the sun is shining down on the Calgary Stampede, Alberta has plenty of things to see and do. Here’s our list of the five best:

    1. Get Wrangled into the Calgary Stampede. Known worldwide for this western festival, Calgary hosts the cowboy’s dream every July. With concerts, evening shows and, yes, rodeos, the 10-day Calgary Stampede is unlike any festival you’ve ever experienced. Touted "the world’s richest rodeo," you can get your thrill watching the real cowboys take on the likes of riding bulls and bucking broncos. While there are plenty more activities within the Calgary Stampede, we think the rodeo is the can’t-miss event of the season.

    2. Hit the Slopes. Considering that Alberta is home to part of the Canadian Rockies, it’s no wonder that we think skiing is one of the best things to do in the province. With ski resorts up the wazoo, you won’t have trouble finding one that fit your needs. Whether you hit the mountains at Jasper National Park or the legendary mountains in Banff, you’ll get a whiff of what life in Alberta is really like — at least in the winter.

    3. Slap the Puck. Come on, it’s Canada — of course you have to go to a hockey game. And with two NHL teams in Alberta, you won’t have a tough time finding one to fit your schedule. Though the Edmonton Oilers aren’t the greatest team in the league (all right, they’re in last place) a game is still really fun to go to. If you aren’t an Oilers fan, catch a Calgary Flames game.

    4. Shop ’til You Drop. With more than 800 stores, a water park, amusement park and two hotels, West Edmonton Mall is more than capable of letting you shop until you can’t shop anymore. Of course, a mid-afternoon break in the amusement park doesn’t hurt. As the largest shopping mall in North America — yes, even larger than Mall of America — West Edmonton Mall is definitely a stop to make, whether you’re shopaholic or not.

    5. Jump into the Lake. Make your way through Banff National Park all the way to Lake Louise. Perfect for swimming in the summer and skating in the winter, Lake Louise is a must-see. Not to mention, the breathtakingly beautiful drive through the national park really opens your eyes to Alberta.