Oh, Canada! Such a wonderful place to visit. Whether you’re looking to book your first vacation with our northern neighbor or you’re looking for the next destination worth your time, Banff couldn’t be a more excellent choice. We’ve asked men’s lifestyle and travel writer Joe Miragliotta of JoesDaily.com to tell us all about why he loves the resort town so much, and why you will, too.
Since I’ve added traveling to my blogging repertoire, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Banff on two separate occasions. The first was a few years ago, during my time aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train, and again about a year later before heading out on a heli-hiking adventure. Though my visits weren’t the longest on the books, anyone who has visited this beautiful resort city knows it only takes a moment of being there to understand just how special it is: The scenery, the closeness to nature, the unforgettable experiences, the spectacular places to stay, and the food. If I haven’t yet sold you on needing to visit at least once in your life, here are four reasons to book a trip right now.
Between spending my formative years in the Granite State, to now living in LA’s San Fernando Valley, and traveling everywhere from Colombia to Austria, it would be a safe bet to say I’ve seen my fair share of different mountain ranges. While it’s undeniable that every place has its own unique qualities, there’s just something about Banff’s small section of the Rocky Mountains that really leaves you in awe. Obviously, people are hiking and skiing on them every day, but their snow-capped and tree-covered enormousness emit a vibe of ancient pristine beauty. Throw in gorgeous glacial lakes and glimpses of the Milky Way and even the Aurora Borealis at night, and it’s pretty much magic. The best part is that you not only get to spend time getting closer to nature, you get to enjoy the luxuries of a remarkable little town while you do it.
When it comes to adding Banff to your bucket list, the range of activities that change with the seasons would definitely justify adding it twice: once for the winter and again in summer. Though the image of snow-peaked mountains might make you think solely about skiing, there’s always something to do regardless of season. If you happen to find yourself in the area on a balmy July day (and by “balmy,” I mean temperatures somewhere in the high 60s), I would highly suggest taking advantage of a little whitewater rafting or a day of horseback riding ending with a cowboy cookout and a night under the stars. Those feeling a little less active might consider a tour covering the area’s icefields, waterfalls, and/or wildlife or maybe a gondola ride and cruise over a nearby lake. Or, you know, do them all.
There’s tons to do in Banff when the temperatures drop as well, many of which are basically the wintry versions of some of the aforementioned activities. Instead of spending some time on the back of a horse, spend an hour being pulled by a few in a sleigh. Hiking becomes snowshoeing, rafting transforms into canyon ice walks, lake cruises into ice skating, and icefield tours into ice formation tours. Of course, snowmobiling and skiing remain most popular—and you should absolutely take advantage if you can—but I highly recommend mixing it up.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad food experience during a trip to Canada, whether it was something odd like the grasshopper grilled cheese at the Calgary Stampede or an unbelievable farm-to-table bacon gazpacho in Charlevoix—no matter what level of cuisine they’re working with, Canadians know their way around a good bite. Every Canadian province is known for some kind of specialty, and in Alberta it is unquestionably their world-renowned beef. Thanks to the dozens of fantastic restaurants Banff has to offer, you could easily stay for a week or two and not run out of places to give it a try. There’s Sky Bistro and Three Ravens for views as sensational as their food; the Bison Restaurant & Terrace for incredible small plates you won’t want to share (and, of course, awesome bison); the Vermillion Room, a bar + brasserie inside the Fairmont where you can enjoy a cocktail that tastes as amazing as your surroundings; El Torro for tapas (a personal favorite); and Banff Ave Brewing Co for a more casual, but still delicious option. Of course, there are plenty of other places to eat in Banff, and I’m pretty sure every single one of them is worth giving a try. Why would I confidently declare this without having tried them all for myself? Let’s just say, if you have a spare minute to do a map search of restaurants in that area, try to find one that has fewer than 4/5 stars. I couldn’t.
The hotel options in Banff are also impressive, regardless of what budget you’re working with. The Lamphouse Hotel, located on the water’s edge just outside of town, offers updated rustic charm without breaking the bank. If it’s a resort feel you’re going for, the Rimrock Resort Hotel has surely got you covered, plus it’s only a 3-minute walk from the hot springs. And for those looking for a little more luxury in their stay (okay, a LOT more luxury), the Fairmont Banff Springs is essentially a castle.
So that’s that. If I haven’t convinced you that you absolutely need to visit Banff at least once in your life, I clearly never will. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced myself that it’s time to go back. So, if you’ll excuse me, I have some tickets to purchase.
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