Many Canadians choose sunny, tropical destinations for their winter getaway, but they should really consider an adventure in their own backyard—especially Banff and Lake Louise. With unparalleled scenery, an activity to please everyone and gourmet Western Canadian fare, the Alberta hotspot really is a winter wonderland.
Where to Stay
For a lesson in luxury, treat yourself to a stay at the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Located in the heart of Banff National Park, the four-star property is also known as the “Castle in the Rockies.” Open for more than 125 years, this year-round destination boasts championship golf in the summer months, exceptional skiing in the winter and an amazing award-winning European-style spa, year-round.
Or for a charming, quaint experience, check into the Deer Lodge Hotel, situated just steps from stunning Lake Louise. Built in 1923 as a teahouse, the lodge still retains much of the original hand hewn log structure and decor. Select from an eclectic variety of accommodation—from a heritage and lodge room to a family suite and tower room.
For some adrenalin-pumping fun, no winter trip to the Rockies is complete without a round or two on the slopes. If you’re new to the slopes, enroll yourself in Ski and Snowboard School at Sunshine Village in Banff. The resort offers beginner programs as well as group workshops and private lessons for all skill levels. For those who prefer a flatter terrain, Sunshine Village also offers a fun, guided Snowshoe and Fondue Tour. Local guides take snow trekkers deep into the heart of Banff National Park where they walk along the path Canada’s First Nations peoples took to trade with neighbouring tribes. Afterwards, a traditional Swiss-style cheese and vegetable fondue is served at the nearby Chimney Corner Lounge and Wine Bar.
For family fun, head to Lake Louise Ski Resort and experience the thrill of tubing at the Sunny Tube Park. Fun for all ages, the tube runs are located at the base of the mountain and the lanes are groomed for smooth sliding to ensure everyone has a safe and smooth slide.
For a doggone good time, book an excursion with the Kingmilk Dog Sled Tours at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. An unforgettable way to experience the beauty of Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies, a pack of hardworking huskies pull you through fresh snow. Their Great Divide Tour travels a full 16 km from Banff National Park to Yoho National Park through the Kicking Horse Pass at the Continental Divide. For a shorter excursion, choose the Narnia Tour, which is a 30-minute journey along a stunning woodland trail.
If you’re visiting in January, don’t miss the Ice Magical Festival. This 10-day event brings skilled ice artists together to compete in a vigorous ice-carving competition. Festival-goers can gaze at the cold creations, ask the artists about their technique and even try their own hand at carving ice.
Where to Shop
To bring a piece of Western Canada home, stop in at the Canada House Gallery in Banff. Established in 1974, this second-generation art gallery showcases the best in Canadian contemporary art. The gallery showcases the art of 50 painters, 20 sculptors plus a collection of Inuit art from Canada’s Arctic. Fall in love with a piece that’s too big for your suitcase? The gallery ships worldwide.
Whether you want a souvenir for yourself or looking for a special gift to bring home to a loved one, don’t miss Banff Gifts & Souvenirs. This one-stop shop isn’t your traditional hokey souvenir store, but instead sells authentic Canadian gifts. Whether you want cozy pajamas (a checkered onesie, of course), locally made jewelry or some gourmet treats, you will find everything you need in one location.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, stop in at The Fudgery. Located on Main Street, the confectionery shop specializes in hand-made chocolates, including bears paws, chocolate truffles, brittles and more.
Where to Eat and Drink
For some nibbles and vino, try the tasting menu at the Three Ravens Restaurant and Wine Bar. Located in the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the restaurant comes with great views of the town and serves up a delicious Canadian Artisan Cheese Plate For Two—complete with a selection of Canadian cheeses, dried fruit chutney, baguette and pecan crostini.
If you’re craving authentic local fare, 1888 Chop House at the Banff Springs Hotel serves up locally sourced game. The restaurant also celebrates the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was built in 1888 and made it possible for travellers to experience the stunning vistas of Western Canada. The interior of the resto reflects this history with subtle train details throughout the space, while the menu pays tribute to the province’s rich farming and agricultural past. Dig into a delicious prime cut of beef, which is hand-cut in-house and grilled on Wild Cherry Wood.
For a sweet finish to any day, stop in at the The Maple Leaf for the trio of crème brulee. The popular dessert comes in three spectacular flavours including maple syrup, Baileys and white chocolate raspberry. Don’t worry about the calories; you’ll burn it off at the slopes the next day, anyway!
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