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How to Spend One Day in Banff

by Chris Smith

I recently had a friend passing through Banff for one day only much like an Elton John show. She had spent two weeks in Vancouver researching what to do when the Winter Olympics come around and then shamefully only one day in gorgeous Jasper and then this bombshell – only one day in beautiful Banff. Simply put – there is far too much to do around these parts that you can fit into one day. However, they don’t call me the Banff Insider for nothing – activities are my middle name and I am not one to disappoint pretty visitors.

Lake Louise in winter is equally impressive

My guest seemed somewhat reluctant to stay on my couch – perhaps fearing the remnants of Greek takeaway food that also call my apartment home. Instead I picked her up bright and early at her hotel and we headed to Evelyn’s Coffee Bar to get the day started with a muffin and some caffeine – essential. From here, we organized the day. Unfortunately the snow hadn’t hit too hard just yet so the skis and snowboard had to remain in storage as we headed into the crisp air to walk the Bow Falls ‘hike’. Now I use the word ‘hike’ lightly as it is really a gentle ramble that offers undeserved and stunning views of the Bow River from a height and the Banff Springs Hotel from a distance.

A cup of deliciousness at Evelyn’s Coffee Bar

We made it back into town refreshed, feeling healthy and ready for a lunchtime beer in St. James’ Gate Irish bar where we munched down on a couple of burgers the size of a small country. Feeling suddenly lazier, we hopped into the Pink Machine – my once red station wagon and made the 40 minute trip to Lake Louise. Lake Louise is my secret trick when it comes to impressing visitors. The Fairmont Chateaux is fantastic for a cup of tea and a scone but it is what’s outside that never ceases to make people gasp. Lake Louise itself is one of the most underrated and romantic spots on offer – not that I was trying anything untoward! The backdrop of overbearing mountains shelter a turquoise coloured lake where canoes glide gently over the waters surface.

It is quite common to see elk strolling around Banff Town

On the way home and just outside Banff town, the Minnewanka Meander is another great option for trying to impress people in a short time. Two Jack Lake has a stunning reflection of the Rocky Mountains covering its whole surface. Better again, I have never made this drive / walk without seeing some wildlife and once again we weren’t disappointed. Two huge bull elk strolled nonchalantly along the side of the road enjoying the tasty grass on offer. It has gotten to the stage where they have no fear of humans so we got nice and close for photos.

Easy to spot Elk around Banff National Park

An Absolutely World Class Spa in the Banff Springs Hotel

After lunch we decided to relax and hit the span. No, it is no cheap. Yes, it is worth every penny. Whether you just fancy a lazy relaxing day or you are suffering from a cold, this is the cure you have been looking for.

I have always been a fan of the simple things – you should see my girlfriend. My favourite thing about this spa is the relaxing pools with a choice of minerals to dip into. I am not sure exactly what these natural minerals do for you but you certainly feel healthy as a mountain goat afterwards. Calming music plays underneath the water so you can float around in complete and utter chilled out mood. There are literally endless lists of treatments to choose from. The man can get a professional shave and the lady can enjoy a relaxing massage. If you are on honeymoon for example, there is a great romantic special to make you feel even more in love.

If the spirit of the vacation has gotten to you, then this is the choice for you. Splash out and make the most out of it by spending a good long day inside the most luxurious and modern spa for hundreds of miles around. If anyone can tell me what the minerals in the special pool do, I would be much obliged!

Banff Nightlife – Drinking Like the Locals in the Pump and Tap

After a day of adventuring in Banff, everyone deserves a beer! There is only one thing that tastes better than a cold pint of delicious beer cascading down your throat and that is delicious fairly priced beer cascading down your throat.  It’s hard to tell exactly when the world went crazy and decided a glass of wine in an up-market bar should cost more than the national minimum wage but people will always drink regardless. Downstairs in the hidden away Sundance Mall off Banff Avenue and beside the equally thrifty Locals Liquor store is my local and favourite Banff bar – The Pump and Tap.

The Pump and Tap was popular that evening

Our biggest nights are generally weekends as you would expect but Tuesdays are also big because Hoodoo’s (big Banff nightclub) has a big night on Tuesdays and people generally come here for a few drinks before. The crowd varies a lot. I mean sometimes we get tourists coming in during the day to see an English pub, locals like to come and play some pool and then nighttimes can be anyone really. Obviously there are lots of internationals around town who like to come and drink for cheap.

Pump and Tap Bartender

Another aspect of The Pump that appeals to me as a sports aficionado is the selection of matches they show. There is a big screen as well as smaller ones dotted about. The English premiership is shown every weekend. “Yeah we get big crowds in for the premiership, especially as the season goes on. We also get massive crowds for the big rugby games. There is nearly always a big game on.”

There may be no windows, there may not be bathrooms with seats that clean themselves and there may not be ceilings made of mirror but The Pump and Tap is unashamedly exactly what it is – a small Banff pub where the staff and people are friendly, the pool tables are always in play and you can afford to enjoy a few drinks without the guilt getting the better of you.

My guest was by now so exhausted that she was almost willing to sleep amongst the Greek leftovers. Instead she made the trip back to her hotel with the dreams of wildlife and Lake Louise in her mind. Either that or nightmares of the pink station wagon. One day in Banff may not be enough but it doesn’t mean it can’t be extraordinary!

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