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Here are our top picks for where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in this perfect slice of the Canadian Rockies.

Where to Stay:

Tucked up Sulphur Mountain on the edge of town, check out The Rimrock Resort Hotel. Known for its luxury rooms and soaring views across the Rockies, stay here and you’re only a five-minute walk from the local outdoor hot springs pool.

For a rustic, family-friendly stay, hang out by your cosy cabin’s wood-burning stove at Castle Mountain Chalets — about halfway between Banff and Lake Louise. Or you could just go full-on Bear Grylls and reserve a backcountry camping spot through Parks Canada.

Tip: Outside of the shoulder seasons, you’ll want to book your Banff accommodation well in advance.

Where to Eat and Drink:

Close-up of espresso pouring from coffee machine.

For daytime bites, head to Wild Flour Cafe on Bear Street for giant lentil salads topped focaccia, and almond croissants. Also check out the Whitebark Cafe on Banff Ave for bacon-and-egg breakfast cups (they make for a great hiking snack), strong coffee, and delicious cheesecake.

Open for lunch and dinner, Nourish Bistro has been serving up craft cocktails, organic wines, and vegetarian dishes like holy moly shroom ravioli (featuring shiitake, portobello, oyster, porcini, trompette and lobster mushrooms) for twelve delicious years.

If you fancy a beer and a bite in a lively spot that’s popular with locals, head to the Bear Street Tavern for honey-drizzled pizzas and mac & cheese with housemade ketchup.

For a special meal with views across the Bow Valley (the name of the area the town is situated in), go see what executive chef Sébastien Tessier is up to at The Banff Centre’s Three Ravens Restaurant & Wine Bar .

End the night by bowling a few frames with the family at High Rollers, or grownups can sample a flight of beers at Banff Ave. Brewing Co.

Getting There and Around:

Banff National Park covers 6,641 km², so it’s not a bad idea to rent a car. With more than 4 million visitors a year there are plenty of outfitters, like Discover Banff Tours, who can take you on wildlife tours and the like. Regular shuttle buses can also take you from Calgary International Airport to the townsite. The journey takes about two hours.

Tip: Did you know that with an RBC Avion card you can redeem your points towards car rentals? Learn more about what you can do with an RBC Avion Visa card.

What to See and Do:

Winter reflection over Lake Louise Banff National Park, Alberta Canada.

Whatever the time of year, the Banff Centre is bound to have something great going on. Exclusive film screenings, talks by top writers like Margaret Atwood and Pico Iyer, world-class dance performances. Check the calendar to see what’s happening while you’re in town.

There’s a reason why Lake Louise makes the cover of so many calendars. It looks so good you’ll want to howl like the local wolves, especially in fall when the larches turn golden. The half-day hikes to its century-old tea houses Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers (open only in the summer season) are the perfect way to get to know this valley, and the crowds thin as soon as you pass the Fairmont Chateau.

Lake Louise isn’t the only spot in Banff to boast water so blue and opaque it looks photoshopped. You’ll also want to check out Moraine Lake, a fifteen-minute drive south, and Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway that leads to Jasper National Park.

Another way to get to know the park is by bike. Trails run from town to stunning nearby spots like Sundance Canyon and Vermillion Lakes. Also try canoeing and SUP boarding on the Bow River. You can rent all the gear you might need (including bear spray) from local outfitters.

Speaking of bears, it’s a good idea to visit the tourist info centre on Banff Ave for details on recent wildlife activity. There may be areas of the park you want to skip if, for example, it’s berry season and the grizzlies are getting ready for their winter torpor.

The eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies are famously dry, but if there’s rain forecast for your trip — no problem. There’s always a ton going on in town. Check out the Whyte Museum to learn all about the First Nations, artists, and pioneers who’ve shaped the park and its history. Head on over to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel for the plushest of afternoon teas or get the schedule for the excellent Rocky Mountain Yoga studio.

Lake Louise Ski Resort, Alberta, Canada

If it’s winter, you’re likely here for the bluebird days and champagne powder. Banff’s three ski resorts — Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Norquay — see an average 30 feet of snow, so you’re definitely in for a good time. At night, it’s time to seek out those northern lights. About a 15-minute drive east of town, Lake Minnewanka is where the local stargazers and night sky photographers go in the hopes of catching strobes of green and pink aurora flash across the frozen sky.

If it's lesser-known resorts you're seeking, check out our article on Canada's top hidden ski destinations.