When to Go
Banff National Park is an all-seasons destination. Visit in summer to hike the mountain trails, or go in winter to enjoy some of the world's best skiing. Millions of people visit Banff every year, with the vast majority traveling during July and August, the warmest and driest months. If you can visit in late spring or early fall you will be in shoulder season when prices are lower, the crowds smaller, and the temperatures usually still comfortable. The downside to an off-season visit is the fact that you miss the summer interpretive programs and the wildflowers that reach their peak from early July to mid-August.
Both of the park's information centers are open all year, with extended hours during the summer months.
Festivals and Events
Santa Claus Parade of Lights & Festive Fun. Banff welcomes the holiday season in early December with a day of events that include photo ops with Santa in Central Park, craft shows, children's ice-carving stations, and an evening parade of lights. On Christmas Day, Santa shows off his downhill skills at the three area ski resorts. 403/762–8421; www.banfflakelouise.com.
Snow Days. A highlight of this monthlong winter celebration is the Ice Magic winter festival, which features world-class ice-carving and outdoor events. The festivities, which begin in early January, also include a 3-on-3 ball hockey tournament and Mountain Adventure Weekend, during which you can try ice climbing and other exhilarating outdoor activities and watch mountain films. 403/762–8421; www.banfflakelouise.com.
Canada Day. Admission to the national park is free on this July 1 holiday, and big celebrations take place in Canmore and Banff that include parades, fireworks, and live music. 403/762–1200; www.banff.com.
Summer Events at the Banff Centre. The center's summer cultural-events lineup, a Banff staple for more than four decades, includes film screenings, visual-arts displays, theater, opera, dance, literary readings, lectures, and musical productions. There's a charge for some events, but many are free or "pay what you can." 403/762–6300; www.banffcentre.ca.
Lake Louise WonderFall. Part of the magic of the Canadian Rockies is seeing magnificent stands of larch trees glistening golden on a crisp autumn afternoon. WonderFall celebrates this season with special discount packages, larch hikes, photography workshops, and special activities. 403/762–8421; www.banfflakelouise.com.