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A Summer Weekend in Banff

A Summer Weekend in Banff

Banff in the summer is an all-out experience. If you’ve visited in the winter, prepare for a completely different adventure. I journeyed to Banff this summer with Pursuit, and my summer itinerary was completely different from everything I experienced in the winter—even though I visited the same spots. Here are some tips to enjoy a summer visit to Banff National Park.

Banff Ave (©Melanie Lee)
Banff Ave (©Melanie Lee)

Summer in Banff National Park

Stay on Banff Avenue

While there’s certainly no shortage of places to stay in Banff, staying on Banff Avenue right in the heart of the action is an experience unlike any other. A good portion of Banff Avenue is closed to vehicle traffic during the summer months, making it so easy to wander (and get those Instagrammable photos of the mountain view). 

Mount Royal Hotel is perfectly situated across from (and next to) some of the best shopping and dining options you’ll find in Banff. The historic hotel provides boutique vibes, upscale amenities, and a comfortable (and super convenient) place to get a good night’s sleep after all of your explorations.

Mount Royal (©Melanie Lee)
Mount Royal (©Melanie Lee)

The hotel offers in-house dining at Brazen, a museum showcasing the property’s unique history, a rooftop pool and lounge, and amenities you wouldn’t normally expect from a hotel that boasts so much history. Make sure to grab a meal (or two) at Brazen—we stopped by for breakfast, and the portions were hearty and delicious. The restaurant also overlooks Banff Avenue, so it’s perfect for people-watching.

Across the street, you’ll find a ton of gift shops and shopping arcades, including The Spirit of Christmas—it’s a great place to pick up unique souvenirs like a selection of Rogers’ Chocolates. Down the street and next door, you can make a stop at Cows or Beavertails to satisfy your sweet tooth or book a table at Balkan for one of the best Greek meals you’ll enjoy outside of Greece.

Mount Royal Hotel (©Melanie Lee)
Mount Royal Hotel (©Melanie Lee)

Explore the Lakes and Mountains

Banff National Park is home to plenty of lakes and some of the most stunning mountain peaks you’ll find in the Rockies. Visiting Banff in the summer allows you to explore so many options since the snow and ice have mostly thawed. Even if you’ve visited in the winter months, summer is a completely different experience you won’t want to miss! 

If you plan to spend time outdoors, keep in mind that the wildlife is out and about more than ever during the warmer months. Make sure to exercise caution and bring bear spray with you. Since Banff is within a national park, all of the wildlife is protected, and stopping to take photos of the animals is not allowed (you can, however, snap some photos from your vehicle if you have to stop for them to cross).

Surprise Corner (©Melanie Lee0
Surprise Corner (©Melanie Lee0

Take advantage of the warm season to enjoy e-biking around town and the surrounding scenic areas like Vermilion Lakes and viewpoints like Surprise Corner (we were hosted by Black Diamond Bike & SUP Rentals and had an amazing experience). Get out on the water with boat and kayak rentals, or consider a leisurely cruise like the Lake Minnewanka CruiseJohnston Canyon is one of the most popular hikes in the park and is completely different when the ice has thawed. If you’re hoping to venture out to Moraine Lake, keep in mind that the road is closed to personal vehicles this summer. Your options are public transit and private tours—but don’t worry, you can book those ahead to ensure you get a chance to see those crystal clear waters on your visit.

Lake Minnewanka Cruise (©Mike Seehagel)
Lake Minnewanka Cruise (©Mike Seehagel)

Even if you only manage to venture out around the pedestrian bridges near the downtown area, you’re guaranteed some stunning mountain views, great sunsets (and sunrises if you wake up early enough), and, likely, a wildlife encounter (or two). There’s something magical about Banff that you won’t see or experience in any other mountain town.

Banff Sunset (©Melanie Lee)
Banff Sunset (©Melanie Lee)

Dine Al Fresco or With a View

With Banff Avenue closed to vehicles, visitors can enjoy one experience that they won’t get to see in the winter months—al fresco dining (it’s way too cold to eat outdoors during the winter months anyway). Many of the Banff Avenue-facing restaurants set up sidewalk dining along the road. Restaurants like The Maple LeafThe Grizzly HousePark Distillery Restaurant + BarEarls Kitchen + Bar, and Pacini’s are all great options along the main road, and restaurants on Bear Street are also a fun alternative if you can’t find space (the summer months can get quite crowded). 

You can also enjoy some outstanding dining options with a view like Sky Bistro high atop the Banff Gondola—you’ll have mountain views as far as the eye can see (visit in the evening for a picture-perfect view of the sunset over the Canadian Rockies—it’s an amazing experience). Get a beautiful look at Bow Valley from Rundle Bar inside Fairmont Banff Springs—a great place to grab a cocktail or book a table for afternoon tea. Juniper Hotel Bistro also provides a stunning mountain view (especially for brunch). EDEN at The Rimrock Resort Hotel will also get you some of those beautiful mountain views if you’re unable to make the trek up on the Banff Gondola.

Sky Bistro (©Melanie Lee)
Sky Bistro (©Melanie Lee)
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