How to Explore Banff In 24 Hours During The Winter

It was David’s Birthday last year and I wanted to surprise him with a trip out of the country. I chose to give him the experience of an October Winter Wonderland since Banff was going to be covered in snow already so up and away we go!

First stop was, of course, landing in Calgary Airport and I must say it is absolutely adorable. The male staff where these white cowboy hats and were so quick to give us a ride to the baggage claim area which was so helpful for Dave with him dealing with Fibromyalgia. Anytime we can alleviate him experiencing pain as we travel it’s a win for us. The airport had beautiful water displays and it literally relaxes you as you navigate through the airport. It was a lot more pleasant than our crazy LAX airport.

For Lodging, we stayed in an Airbnb penthouse that was nothing short of amazing all while still being budget-friendly. We paid $460 for 3 nights at the time but the place is currently listed for even less at $88/per night so check out their latest deal.

Rooftop Terrace (image provided by owner)

Kitchen (image provided by owner)

Winter starts in October there and because of these many attractions that are available during the summer are closed due to safety reasons. The Winter attractions like dog sleigh rides don’t start until late November so during this period your kind of in limbo trying to find things to do. For this reason, it’s also cheaper to travel to Banff during October and we still enjoyed ourselves exploring attractions like the Gondola, Alberta Lake Louise, and the Banff Cave Basin. I will share what things we got to explore during our day trip to Banff to make it easier for you to find some early winter adventures.

Our first stop when we arrived in Banff was to visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, which is open for the majority of the year. Entering the cave is a serene moment partly due to the dim lighting present and the surroundings of mildly touched natural beauty.  As a heads up, the cave is full of sulfur and that produces a stench of rotten eggs but it’s not anything that requires a mask, it’s bearable lol.

Banff National Park Entrance

Natural Hot Springs Exterior View

the color of the hot springs present in the cave makes you want to jump in because it’s just so beautiful to look at but don’t you dare! There is a snail species that is considered to be endangered and they dwell within the hot springs. To protect their fragility no human contact can interact with the water to avoid any outside sources of bacteria from contaminating the water. When the springs were first discovered it was a common activity available to the wealthy to swim within the springs and leisurely enjoy them but for reasons previously stated, not anymore. It was funny seeing the different people sneaking to touch the water and being yelled at by the staff to step away from the basin, people were not listening at all though, it’s so important to respect the preservation of the beautiful things we get to experience during our travels but ok, enough ranting about that.

The historic park is small and you can see it’s entirety in 30 min max so next we headed to one of Banff’s iconic lakes.

After visiting the basin we drove towards Lake Louise. It was nice because they had a paved parking lot that was free. They did a great job shoveling the snow, considering the heavy fall. Once you park you walk down a few steps and along a pathway for 10 minutes. Be sure to where shoes with great grip because our snow boots were still sliding a little on the hardened patches of iced over snow. As we locked arms to keep each other from falling down we were suddenly greeted with the beautiful blue waters of Louise Lake. It’s enchantment is something you would never want to leave.

The snowfall becomes heavy at random moments, which was captured while Dave snapped this picture. We quickly wrapped up the sightseeing once it began but it sure did make for a magical moment, even if for a quick one.

Our next stop was the Gondola ride. It was Banff National Park 150 year anniversary and to celebrate parking along with the visitor fee was waived; Cha-ching more savings! We used those savings later at the Gondola Restaurant, Sky Bistro. Perched on the summit of Banff Sulphur Mountain, Sky Bistro is the dining sanctuary 7,486 ft above the ground. It gives you a unique dining experience of beautiful Canadian views along with perfectly curated dishes, music, and rooftop fire pits.

The 360 degrees of views at the top of the observation tower were picture perfect. No lie, It was so freezing cold up there though so I couldn’t stay out on the overlook too long so after taking some inside breaks to unthaw I came out again to ensure I got to see this beautiful place from every angle.

One of the iconic views from the observation deck was the beauty of Bow Valley. There, you get a glimpse of Banff’s perfectly blue water sources, embedded amongst breathtaking Rockies with sun rays breaking through the clouds. It was truly a sight to behold.

Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk is also a beautiful stroll, which transports you to the top of this historic mountain, known as Canada’s first national park. We weren’t able to make the hike along the boardwalk because it was covered in slippery ice and many were taking a tumble but we do look forward to experiencing it during our next visit.

There was also this neat interpretive centre and theatre within the gondola tower that takes you through the seasons of Banff and provides a visual way to learn about the historic facts of Banff. During certain periods of the year such as December to April Northern lights are more visible than during other times of the year. Although the chances of visualizing the lights during our stay was slim, we were told you can possibly still see them year-round and what better place to view them than right above Banff National Park. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to catch them in person but enjoyed this cool interactive room as a substitute.

All the staff were so friendly and helpful and every encounter with fellow travelers in Banff was a warm and inviting one.

It was now time to head back to our AirBnb penthouse and enjoy some food. When it came to eating, everything was reasonably priced and we enjoyed the flavoring and cooking of Calgary which was the nearby city we stayed in. Our favorite place would have to be Big T’s BBQ & Smokehouse located at 2138 Crowchild Trail NW, Calgary, AB, T2M 4N5 Canada. The portions were huge, service was great and we actually ran into some other black people, which prompted the instant, “yes! some of us are here” feelings as we greeted each other excitedly lol. Am I the only one that gets excited if I see fellow black travelers?

To wrap up, this is my second time visiting Canada and every visit I fall more in love with this beautiful country as I explore all of its majestic regions. I can’t wait to share what I learn and see the next time we visit Canada so stay tuned, my adventure seeking friends 🙂

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