Top 10 things to improve your visit to Banff on Canada Day
There is nothing more rewarding than visiting Banff on Canada Day. The mountains and the wilderness all around make us proud that Canada created the national park system to preserve and protect this special place, for all Canadians. With Canada Day on a Wednesday this year, we hope people take a few extra days off to enjoy and explore all that Banff has to offer.
Here are the Top 10 things to consider if you’re coming to the Town of Banff this Canada Day:
1. Plan ahead
2. Use the best entrance to Banff that fits your visit, and avoid traffic delays. With the main street closed and other areas under construction, you should use the best highway exit to reach your destination faster.
- Go online to see what businesses are open and if they need reservations at http://Banff.ca/OpenInBanff
- Visit the Banff National Park trails report to see what trails are open and if any are closed due to wildlife, or trail safety issues. There are also some services that remain closed – such as the Cave & Basin national historic site and the upper hot springs.
3. Park and explore.
- For day visitors – use the Norquay Road entrance, then park at the 500-stall Train Station parking lot – it’s only an 8-minute walk to downtown.
- Norquay is also the best entrance for people heading to the Gondola or Bow Falls and want to avoid traffic detours
- For overnight visitors – campers and hotel guests – please use the Banff Ave/Lake Minnewanka exit.
- For people staying at the Tunnel Campground, they should leave their vehicle at the campsite, avoid parking challenges, and take the free Roam bus into town.
Banff is best experienced out of a vehicle. Avoid the hassle of circling town looking for parking, and plan your route with http://banffparking.ca
4. Be Safe and considerate:
- Banff is only 4 square kilometres in size. It is easy to walk anywhere in town. But it is not easy to find parking in the central area, and if you do, it is short-term parking.
- Parking at the 500-stall Train Station Public Parking Lot is available for 9 hours, so you can access everything for the day’s visit.
- The Train Station Public Parking lot is just off the Norquay Road entrance, and an 8-minute walk to the downtown pedestrian zone, or take the scenic route along the Bow River Trail to see the wilderness on the edge of town.
- There are also several bicycle rentals in town to help you venture out on surrounding trails.
5. Share the view:
- Bring a COVID kit with your own hand-sanitizer, cleaning wipes, water and snacks and your masks.
- Wear a mask in public spaces like the Banff pedestrian zone, which will get busy. This is the considerate thing to do to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- Stay 2 metres away from other people. This means you have to pay attention and not get distracted by the mountain views. Be respectful of others and give them space.
- Avoid gatherings – if you see a group of people, don’t add to the crowd. Instead back away, come back later or go a little further for another great view.
- And if you are going on a hike or a bike ride on the Bow Valley Parkway – you must carry bear spray. Bears are very active right now. Just like you must never be in a vehicle without a seatbelt, you should never travel a Banff National Park trail without bear spray.
- Use the hand sanitizers set up around downtown – such as attached to the sides of the bear-proof bins.
- Follow all directions in shops and restaurants – they are going to great lengths to keep everyone safe, so please follow the distancing requirements.
- Avoid touching highly used surfaces. Don’t touch things you don’t plan to buy, and be mindful of using hand rails and door handles – keep sanitizer handy.
6. Take in the Pedestrian Zone:
- We are lucky to have Banff in the national park protected for all Canadians.
- But, unfortunately many Canadians will not be able to visit this year. We want to send support and hope to all Canadians during this health crisis.
- We are encouraging everyone who visits on Canada Day to share their photos of Banff on social media and use the hashtag #ToCanadaLoveBanff
7. Enjoy the live concert of bells and sing O Canada
- The Town has closed two blocks of our main street – Banff Avenue – to create a downtown pedestrian zone, in order to provide more space for people to safely move through our commercial district while maintaining physical distancing.
- It is great to stroll the street, and take iconic photos of Cascade Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, and Mount Rundle – all from the pedestrian zone.
- Also enjoy the fabulous floral planters we have put out to welcome Albertans to the downtown.
- Most restaurants, stores and galleries are open, and providing enhanced health protocols for everyone’s safety.
- Our second main street – Bear Street – is also connected to Banff Ave by a pedestrian-only street and it is also open only to pedestrians while the centre of the street is under construction – but all restaurants and shops are open.
- Nearby, the famous Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is also re-opening on July 1 – and it will be free for the day.
- This is an 8-minute walk from the Train Station Parking lot. And if it gets too crowded, there are several parks and the Bow River Trail nearby to access wide open spaces and mountain air.
8. Stay longer and see more in Banff National Park
- While people walk in and around our downtown, we will have special concerts of church bells from the St. George-in-the-Pines Church, played live by Heather Jean Jordan.
- There will be four different concerts: at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
- At 10 a.m. the bells will kick off with O Canada.
- We hope everyone in town will join in and sing O Canada together.
- There are many greenspaces around downtown – from Central Park to Tunnel Mountain to physically distance and enjoy the music.
9. Picnic in the Park
- We look forward to welcoming Albertans to their “backyard” escape to enjoy their national park on Canada Day… and week.
- Camping is now open in Banff National Park, and the reservation system was open on Friday.
- The local campgrounds – Tunnel Mountain and Two Jack Lake – will be operating at about 75%.
- Almost all hotels in Banff are back in operations, offering safe-stay measures, and discounts especially for this reopening period for Canadians.
- There are many hikes easily accessed from the townsite, such as the Tunnel Mountain Trail, the switchbacks up Sulphur Mountain, or a scramble up Rundle.
- Or take the easier route and see the fabulous views from the Sulphur Gondola or the Norquay summer chairlift – both right outside town.
- Horseback trail riding is also available from the townsite.
- River rafting is great with the high streamflow, and canoe and kayak rentals are open in the town at the Canoe Docks.
- Another attraction is cycling the Bow Valley Parkway – highway 1A – while it is closed to vehicle traffic. It could be one of the world’s best bicycle trails, and it is reached from the Town of Banff by the Legacy bicycle trail. There are several bicycle rental shops in Banff, able to suit any type of rider.
10. Stay home if you are sick
- Although restaurants in Banff are offering a safe environment with extra space and cleaning, all restaurants and cafes are offering take out so you can enjoy the mountain views with fine cuisine – in wide open spaces.
- Enjoy one of the many benches all along both sides of the Bow River, or tables in several parks in town, or head out to one of the scenic Parks Canada day-use areas just outside town.
- The Farmers’ Market is operating on Canada Day, with options for take-away meals to enjoy in the adjacent Central Park or a green space further away. Remember to book your visit time (https://thebanfffarmersmarket.com/) to avoid the line-up, which is required to limit the number of people in the market.
- People who have symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, fever or other illness not related to a pre-existing condition should not leave home. The mountains will wait for you. For everyone’s safety and consideration, please stay home if you are under the weather.
- For people not able to be in Banff on Canada Day, the 10 a.m. 30-minute concert will be live streamed online. The link is on http://Banff.ca/CanadaDay.
- We will also have other online programming from some of our community partners, including the Banff Public Library, The Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival, and Parks Canada, all at http://Banff.ca/CanadaDay.