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Summer Fun at Banff National Park with Kids

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It’s easy for families to experience a Rocky Mountain high when they’re playing in one of the world’s greatest natural playgrounds. Banff, Canada’s first National Park, may be old but it sure isn’t tired. Families flock here for alfresco adventures that range from skiing and skating in winter to hiking, biking and beyond is summer. Here’s a look at my favorite ways to experience an altitude adjustment during summer in Banff with kids.

Things to do in Banff in Summer with Kids

1. Take in the view from Banff Gondola.

Any visit to Banff with kids in summer should start with a ride on the Banff Gondola. Just don’t forget your camera. In addition to the postcard-worthy views from the top of Sulphur Mountain, you’ll want to capture the kids against the backdrop of six mountain ranges. If you're lucky, you can also snap some shots of the bighorn sheep and marmots that call this area home.

Ride the Banff Gondola with the kids to take in the beauty of Banff from Sulpher Mountain

Ride the Banff Gondola with the kids to take in the beauty of Banff from Sulpher Mountain (Photo credit: alancrosthwaite, Depositphotos.com)

2. Explore Banff on horseback.

Keen to saddle up and ride out into the sunset? Simply mosey over to Banff Trail Riders to take in the beauty of the Rockies from horseback. They even offer overnight pack trips. Kids must be at least 8 years old to ride.

Enjoy Banff's beauty on the back of a horse

Enjoy Banff's beauty on the back of a horse (Photo credit: Banff Trail Riders)

3. Hike Banff National Park with kids.

There are loads of great hikes mere minutes from Banff that range from easy to advanced. If you’re concerned about which route is best for your family or want some reassurance due the abundance of wildlife, a hiking tour with White Mountain Adventures will put you at ease.

Hiking is a must when visiting Banff National Park with kids

Hiking is a must when visiting Banff National Park with kids (Photo credit: pandionhiatus3, Depositphotos.com)

4. Bike Banff in summer.

Pedal heads can strike out on their own to explore the region’s biking classics. For more mellow options, check out these trails recommended for families. Banff Adventures offers mountain bikes and cruisers for rental as well as a Paddle & Ride package with two hours of biking and two hours of canoeing.

Explore Banff with kids in summer by bike

Explore Banff with kids in summer by bike (Photo credit: derejeb, Depositphotos.com)

5. Go boating in Banff.

Less than 15 minutes from Banff lies Lake Minnewanka. Head here for an hour long Banff Lake Cruise where you’ll get an unobtrusive history lesson on the early explorers, First Nations people and geography of the region. Or rent your own canoes and kayaks for a more hands on experience navigating the many glacier-fed lakes and rivers that surround Banff.

Lake Minnewanka begs to be explored by boat in Banff National Park with kids

Lake Minnewanka begs to be explored by boat (Photo credit: billperry, Depositphotos.com)

6. See Banff by bus.

For those who want to reap the benefits of being in such a magnificent setting without having to sweat for it, take an evening wildlife safari, a bus tour with limited walking. Take a look at other Banff bus tours now.

Exploring Banff by bus or car is a relaxing option for families

Exploring Banff by bus or car is an easy option for families (Photo credit: aiisha, Depositphotos.com)

7. Relax at Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Should you need to soak away any tension that vacationing with the family brings, take to the waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs. The water's not too hot, so kids can happily bob about in the shallow area. They even rent out bathing suits and towels in case you forgot yours.

Banff Upper Hot Springs are a must for parents in need of serious relaxation

Banff Upper Hot Springs are a must for parents in need of serious relaxation (Photo credit: RyszardS, Depositphotos.com)

Where to Stay in Banff with Kids

Luxury Hotels

Hotel options in Banff range from a fairytale-like castle to sweet Bavarian motels. If you’re looking for someplace splurge-worthy, go for the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel or the Rimrock Resort Hotel. Both boast pools and top notch dining. These upscale options cater to families with babysitting services available in-house.

The swanky Fairmont Banff Springs is the most famous resort in the area

The swanky Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is the most famous resort in the area (Photo credit: uwstas, Depositphotos.com)

Midrange Hotels

For a more budget conscious stay, you can always find a special at the well maintained Fox Hotel & Suites or Hidden Ridge Resort. If you’re looking for space, Hidden Ridge is your best bet as it’s a condo-style property with separate bedrooms and wood burning fireplaces. Meanwhile the Fox is your more traditional hotel set in a prime location on Banff Avenue.

The Hidden Ridge Hotel offers condo-like accommodations for families

The Hidden Ridge Hotel offers condo-like accommodations for families (Photo credit: Hidden Ridge Resort)

Another popular spot for families in Banff is the Douglas Fir Resort. With a massive indoor playground, two water slides, and free shuttles into downtown Banff, it’s easy to see why. All units have full kitchens and many have separate bedrooms, making it an ideal choice for large broods.

The Douglas Fir Resort offers two indoor waterslides for families to enjoy

The Douglas Fir Resort offers two indoor waterslides for families to enjoy (Photo credit: Douglas Fir Resort)

Family Dining in Banff

You’re in Alberta, so you really should pony up to tuck into some Alberta beef during your visit. There are two Keg Steakhouses in town that offer scrumptious steaks and good value children’s meals. (I often split my daughter’s steak dinner with her if I’m also sharing an appetizer.)

Hearty dishes like prime rib reign supreme at the Keg Steakhouse in Banff

Hearty and generous dishes like prime rib reign supreme at the Keg Steakhouse in Banff (Photo credit: Keg Steakhouse)

For a fun, totally unique experience dip into a fondue at the Grizzly House Restaurant. This old-school restaurant has been around since the 1960s and its decor proves it. Retro phones at each table encourage you to call other diners, amusing bored kids waiting for their food.

A fondue dinner at Grizzly House make a memorable meal in Banff with kids

A fondue dinner at Grizzly House make a memorable meal in Banff (Photo credit: Grizzly House)

Families are welcome until 10 pm at the the Elk and Oarsman Kitchen and Bar, a gastro-pub flooded with loads of game. Dig into elk potato skins, elk poutine or a bison burger for a truly Western Canadian meal. If you have a sitter, stay late for live bands.

Try the bison burger at the Elk & Oarsman!

Try the bison burger at the Elk & Oarsman! (Photo credit: Elk & Oarsman)

Tip: Want to taste Canadian bacon during your Banff National Park vacation? In Canada, the smoky version is known as back-bacon, while peameal bacon is brined instead. If you really want to look like a local, ask for double-smoked or applewood-smoked bacon. That's the Canadian bomb!

Peameal bacon, the brined version of "Canadian bacon"

Peameal bacon, the brined version of “Canadian bacon” (Photo credit: mcgphoto, Depositphotos.com)

More to do in Alberta and Beyond in Canada with Kids

For more to do in Alberta, read my tips for taking in the Calgary Stampede with kids and discover Banff's little sister, Canmore. For all things Canada with kids, be sure to check out my book, 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit.

What appeals most to your family about a summer visit to Banff National Park with kids –the view, the activities, or the food? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Saucy Travel Mama: This story is based on my numerous Banff National Park visits on my own dime. All opinions are my own, as always.

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage (JodyRobbins.com). When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

Comments

  1. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Oh my, Jody – that Fairmont looks beyond heavenly! I’ve got to make it to Banff someday and when I do, I’m staying THERE!

  2. Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

    Yes, I think you’d love it. The Fairmont Banff Springs has a humungous outdoor hot tub and loads of attractions for kids (and parents). But you’ll have to hang with me a bit too!

  3. Lisa Goodmurphy says:

    We stayed at The Fairmont Banff Springs pre-kids and I want to go back so badly! I thought we were going to make it this summer but my plans through – hopefully next year!

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Yes, I hope you can make it back next year! Judging from your Twitter feed @GoneWithFamily it sounds like you’re having a pretty good summer though.

  4. Great guide to Banff! I grew up in Calgary but have never taken my kids so next summer is OUR YEAR. We also want to hit the Columbia Ice Fields and Jasper!

  5. Great idea! And next year the Columbia Ice Fields will have some fancy new attractions for you to suss out.

  6. Nina Kult says:

    Wonderful ideas and suggestions – thanks so much for posting! Looking forward to our visit this summer!!

  7. Flyingkids says:

    Banff is such an amazing place. Perfect for families!

  8. Ellen Lanin says:

    Someone should explain how this park was named “Banff”. Excellent post. What airport is the closest?

    • Jody Robbins says:

      Hi Ellen, Banff is named after the Banffshire region in Scotland. The closest airport in Calgary International Airport and their are direct flights to Calgary from many US cities. Hope you visit!

  9. Thomas Paul says:

    Horseback sounds like such a fun activity! It’s really a great idea to do something different with family. Lovely picture as well! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Horseback riding is always a memorable vacation activity…especially when visiting somewhere as beautiful as Banff!

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