Seoul, Berlin, Copenhagen…I’ve lived in capital cities for most of my adult life, so I was more than a little nervous about moving to Banff — a small town of 7,584 — to be with my mountain guide boyfriend. Half a year later, all I can say is: multiplexes, skyscrapers, who needs ‘em? Here I can find the perfect croissant and scale a mountain, all by 10am. Here’s how to spend the perfect 24 hours in town. Morning Grab a coffee and house-made almond and chocolate croissant from Wild Flour Bakery, or if you’re saving your pennies, choose a pastry from their $1 ‘Vintage’ selection of yesterday’s leftover goodies.
Wild Flour Bakery. Image-Walter Lim (flickr)
Eat breakfast on the patio, then realise Rocky Mountain Yoga's 9am class starts in just two minutes. Luckily, the studio is right above Wild Flour. Wipe the crumbs off your face and roll out your yoga mat just in time for your first Om. Feeling refreshed after your first downward dog of the day, head over to the Banff Library on 101 Bear Street. Browse the aisles filled with Himalayan travel guides, organic cookbooks, and tales of Canadian adventurers. Realise that such an awesomely-curated selection of books represents exactly what Banff is all about: the good life and the great outdoors.
Banff Library. Image-John (flickr)
Find the library’s naturalist section and take a peek at local bible, Ben Gadd’s Handbook of the Canadian Rockies. Look at the pictures and learn how to tell a coyote from a wolf. Pray that on this trip you’ll get to see both. Flip through the magazine rack at the entrance, where past issues of magazines go for 50 cents. Grab a couple of old National Geographics and pick-up a Margaret Atwood for $3 from the books sale section. Buy a slice of banana bread from Jump Start cafe on 206 Buffalo St, then head through Central Park, following the river footpath towards the Fenland Trail. Choose a bench by the water, say hi to the morning joggers, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Best spot on the riverside? Right here:
Lunch Head downtown and grab a box lunch of salmon sushi from the Japanese store Seaborn, or stop by Sushi Bistro for shrimp tempura and perfectly-steamed gyoza. Afternoon Head over to the Whyte Museum to learn about Banff’s most famous artists and pioneers. Check out the museum archives, flicking through surreal black-and-white photos of petticoat-clad women feeding black bears. Get inspired at the museum’s art exhibition, then check out the Banff Park Museum ($3.90 per adult) on 91 Banff Ave.
Inside Banff Park Museum. Image-Roland Tanglao (flickr)
Gawp at over 5,000 specimens including taxidermy bears, lynx, and deer. Sketch one of the stuffed grizzlies and email a pic of your drawing back home. Tell your mom that you saw the bear in the wild. Sigh when tells you she doesn’t believe you. If the weather’s too good to be indoors, rent a bike and take the trail past the Cave and Basin over to Sundance Canyon.
On the trail to Sundance Canyon. Image by-AliceWonderingLand (flickr)
Hike alongside the canyon waterfall. Smile as you realise that this is how life should always be — outdoors, in nature. Cycle over to Vermillion Lakes for perfect views of Mount Rundle.
The View Of Mt Rundle From Vermilion Lakes. Image-DaveBloggs007 (flickr)
Squeal as you see a local ground squirrel pop up on its furry legs, paws seemingly clutching an imaginary handbag as it chirps “Eep!”
One of Banff's many ground squirrels. Image-Tony Hisgett (flickr)
Evening Dubbed 'the largest arts and creativity incubator on the planet', The Banff Centre hosts world-class events, including spoken word readings and film screenings, often for free. Check the calendar to see what’s on for the evening.
The view of Sulphur Mountain from the Banff Centre. Image-Maq Male (flickr)
Or if you can’t stand to head inside just yet, bike over to Bow Falls for sunset. Enjoy the solitude while the rest of town is out to dinner. Hungry? Order bibimbap and Korean barbecue at Seoul Country (215 Banff Ave), or head over to vegetarian restaurant Nourish Bistro.
Nourish Bistro. Image-Norio Nakayama (flickr)
Do as the locals do and order the Num Num Nachos for starters. Wonder how a nacho topping that mixes a combo as weird as sliced strawberries, beans, yogurt dressing, and melted cheddar can taste so damn good. Round off the night with a sampling (or three) of beers at Banff Ave. Brewing Co., and stagger home by the light of the moon. Or if you’d prefer to have a clear head in the morning, forget the beer and drive over to Lake Minnewanka for a night of stargazing instead. You never know, you might just get to end your 24 hours with a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Tips for 24 hours in Banff
- Need to use a computer or print something out? Banff Library’s computers are free to use (25 cent donation per printed page), and there’s also free wifi.
- If you’re looking for pure solitude, hit the town’s most accessible trails (like Tunnel Mountain and the Bow Falls) in the early morning or evening, when the rest of town is sleeping or eating.
- Not into McDonald’s or The Gap? Check out Bear Street if you’re into alternative stores and places to eat.