Canmore with Kids (Banff National Park’s Little Sister)

Most people know Banff National Park, but few have heard of its sweet little sister, Canmore. Located five minutes outside Canada’s most famous National Park, Canmore is a gem of a mountain town that’s well suited for families. With affordable accommodation options and kid-pleasing activities it’s a go-to for many Calgarians (like me!). Tourists go to Banff; locals head to Canmore. Here’s a look at why you should visit Canmore with kids.

Canmore with Kids ~ Activities for All Seasons
Canmore with kids ~ this town is Banff’s sweet little sister (Photo credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis)

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Canmore Nordic Centre

You’re in the mountains, so you really ought to take advantage of it. Downhill skiing isn’t easy to pick up on your first winter holiday, but cross-country skiing sure is. At the Canmore Nordic Centre, families can ski across on an Olympic cross-country course (site of the 1988 Winter Olympics).

You can also try fat-tire winter biking, ice skating, tobogganing and snowshoeing. The Day Lodge cafeteria has you covered for meals, while a wood burning fireplace thaws out cold toesies. 

During summer months, the site turns into an awesome mountain bike park with trails suitable for kids. Or your family can play a round of disc golf. No matter which season you visit, you can snag cross country ski and mountain bike rentals (plus lessons) at Trail Sports located on site.

Bicycling Canmore ~ Canmore with Kids
There are many bike trails to explore from town and the Nordic Centre in Canmore (Photo credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis)

Elevation Place

As much as you probably want to be outside when you’re visiting Canmore, sometimes the weather just doesn’t cooperate. When that’s the case, Elevation Place is where you’ll find fun and games galore. This is no ordinary rec center. It sports a lazy river, waterslide, kiddie pool, and a 25-person hot tub.

Dry off and tackle their rock climbing gym, where there are tons of pitches perfectly suited for kids. Housed in the same facility is a (small) gym and public library. Yep, you can spend an entire rainy day here!

Elevation Place ~ Canmore with Kids
Elevation Place offers climbing walls to suit all ages and abilities (Photo credit: Travel Alberta)

Main Street

Unlike many mountain resort towns, Canmore retains an authentic small town vibe, thanks in part to its Main Street. For book lovers, check out Cafe Books, a wonderful shop with a great children’s section. Tucked away is their tea and reading room, where you can snap up second-hand titles and enjoy a cuppa.

HiJinx Toy Shop can’t be missed, nor can the Olde Thyme Candy Shoppe. In summer months, an old yellow school bus is converted into an ice cream shop, but the Scoopin’ Moose is open all year round.

Cafe Books ~ Canmore with Kids
Kids love browsing at Cafe Books, a charming independent book store (Photo credit: Cafe Books)

The great outdoors

Situated smack-dab in the Rocky Mountains, Canmore is a paradise for outdoor lovers. Families can gently ease their children into hiking by strolling along Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk. Just past the Nordic Centre, Grassi Lakes is a superb trail for an easy family hike.

In winter, you’ll want to skate outdoors at The Pond, a quaint natural ice surface only two blocks from downtown. If you’re new to Canada, you’ll want to catch a hockey game. The Canmore Eagles are a Junior A team (whose members are poised to enter the NHL), and they draw crowds up to 800 per home game!

Ice skating in Canmore, Canada near Banff ~ Canmore with Kids
Go ice skating at the edge of downtown (Photo credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis)

Family-friendly restaurants

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. gets top marks for its organic offerings, and the pizza oven play set entertains tots waiting for their meal. The Iron Goat is a gastro pub with some of the best views of the Bow Valley. Their children’s menu is impressive (duck wings!), yet it feels miles away from your typical family restaurant. In the Three Sister’s area, The Market Bistro is a hidden gem, with toys and an elevated European-influenced menu.

Iron Goat Restaurant ~ Canmore with Kids
Iron Goat Restaurant appeals to all family members (Photo credit: Iron Goat)

Canmore with kids sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Next time you’re headed to Banff, tack on a couple of days to spend in Canmore. You’ll be glad you did.

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Why visit Canmore, Alberta ~ Banff's Little Sister

Would you like to visit Canmore with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. We stayed in Canmore this summer — such a more affordable alternative to Banff. We also ate at Iron Goat and Rocky Mountain Flatbread. I love the Canadian Rockies!

  2. I lived in Canmore for 2 years had the time of my life their. My self and now 10 year old son were always out doing things. For sure you must put on your bucket list, it’s truly an amazing place

  3. We were going to stay in Banff first…than Calgary…now Canmore seems like a good option. What is the weather typically like at the beginning of April? With two toddlers (2 and 4) is there anything that is a must? Any advice? Maybe we stay in Canmore and do a day trip to Banff?

    1. You could totally stay in Canmore and day trip to Banff. The restaurants are better in Canmore:) The Iron Goat has a good kid’s menu. Weather in April is fickle. This week we had 18C, but you could get 0 degrees celcius. Layers! I wouldn’t pack shorts. Trails could also be muddy. As for musts, take the Banff Gondola, take a dip in the Upper hot spring. Hike tunnel mountain. If the trail is clear, rent bikes and cycle from Canmore to Banff. It’ll take likely 2 hours with toddlers being towed. In Calgary for sure hit up the zoo and TELUS Spark – a great science museum with a special area for toddlers.

  4. Great article thanks. We will be visiting the Canmore/ Banff area in July. My wife and I and 4 kiddos. Can you recommend good places to stay for a family of 6? Spacious accommodation with kitchen and convenience important features. And pool..? Will it be warm enough in July for kids to swim outdoors? Thank you!

    1. It should be warm enough to swim outdoors in July. There are several condos available for short term rental in Canmore like Blackstone that have outdoor pools. And for a splurge, the Fairmont Banff Springs has a great outdoor heated pool.

  5. Hi, we are planning to head out to Canmore with our boys 6 and 8 this summer. Your post was really heplful thank you. Any local breweries in Canmore? and which lake is best to go canoeing or paddle boarding?

    Thank you!!!!

    1. Hi Marie,

      Lots of craft brews in Canmore and area now. Grizzly Paw has it’s own restaurant and is kid friendly. In Banff, check out Park Distillery (for a meal and craft spirits). Canoe in Banff National Park. On Lake Louise or Moraine Lake is a classic and they have rentals on site. Paddleboard in Canmore at Grassi Lakes.

  6. My family and I are headed there on the 26th of December (2017), any updates to this list? I think I am going to bookmark this and take a print out just to be sure to hit all of the spots!

    1. Hi Maria, Nothing has changed from this list. There are a few new restaurants that have opened, but the ones mentioned on this post are still my faves. If you go into Banff, I recommend Park for a family dinner or better yet, The Grizzly House for foundue. You must make reservations at the Grizz, but it is such an experience. I have a lot of info on both towns on my site as well:

  7. WOW – this looks like an amazing place – it seems super cold yet welcoming. Absolutely! I would come to visit with kids!

    1. Ha ha! But it’s not super cold. OK, maybe for a 10-day period each winter, but generally it hovers around 0 with lots of sunshine from December – March.

    1. Thanks so much. It’s easy to take great pictures when the scenery is so mind blowing.