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Exploring the glories of Banff National Park
Banff, Alberta is a place that is wild in every sense of the word. This town, situated in the middle of Canada’s first national park, is home to grizzly bears, breathtaking lakes, and bubbling hot springs. What makes Banff so special is that it is the quintessential place to have a good time. The wild animals aren’t only found in the forests. Spend a night enjoying downtown Banff’s crazy nightlife to see the true animal come out in everyone.
Natural beauty abounds in and around Banff. There are majestic mountains around every corner, lakes with the most stunning hues of green and blue, and wildlife that enjoys watching you as much as you like watching it. While we were only in Banff for three days, we were able to ride three different gondolas, each offering a new view, one of which even glides over grizzly territory.
The recently re-opened Cave and Basin is a great place to get a feel for the genesis of Canada’s National Parks. The sulfuric hot springs were discovered by railway workers in the late 1800’s and soon after became a major draw for tourists – and it hasn’t changed since. It was here that Canada’s first national park was born. These famous hot springs are also home to the endemic Banff snail. The tiny endangered creatures have found solace and protection in the Cave and Basin. While visitors are discouraged (and forbidden) to touch the springs, if you look hard enough, you might catch a glimpse of these tiny gastropods.
Viewfinder Tip: Save room for dessert: Toblerone chocolate melted into a pot and then smothered over fresh strawberries, bananas, and crispy wafers.
While Banff is home to bears of all shapes and sizes, it’s the Grizzly House Restaurant that will truly bring out the beast in all of us. This fondue experience is unlike any other. With telephones at every table, guests are encouraged to socialize. Use the handy chart to dial up any table of your choice and have a little chat while you wait for your food. The cheese fondue is to die for, but it’s the rare meat selection that truly had us enthralled. The Grizzly House offers your typical beef and chicken choices, but for the bold, there’s an exotic menu of boar, bison, alligator, elk, venison, ostrich, and even rattlesnake. We almost had to use our table phone to dial 9-1-1 to rescue us from our food comas.
It should go unsaid that Banff is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. There are countless bike trails leading to and around the park, hiking for days, and the perfect waters to break out the kayaks (even canoe rentals for the river that flows through town). While Banff caters to activities for every season, the snow here reigns supreme. Sunshine Village is renowned for its ideal powder and twelve ski lifts. It’s also home to the annual Slush Cup. This bizarre ceremony commemorates the last day of the ski season by having brave participants attempt to launch themselves over a pool of frigid water. Sunshine Village even has its luxurious Mountain Lodge that is perched at the top of the gondola. It’s the only ski-in and ski-out hotel in the Mountain National Parks and allows snow junkies to get the most out of their visit.
While Banff may seem wild, it’s not completely untamed. There’s a niche for everyone, even our four-legged friends. Many hotels and restaurants in Banff are pet-friendly. In fact, the Sulfur Mountain gondola even allows your intrepid pups to come along for the ride. So whether you’re taking a trip to Banff with a loved one, your family, or even man’s best friend, you can be sure everyone in your party will leave happy.
What’s your favorite mountain activity?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube