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Banff - Day Tours + Eateries

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Would be really grateful for recommendations on day tours from Banff - for a group of people who have never been to Canada before.
We're keen to do a short helicopter tour over the area (from Banff) and have seen some online offering 20-30 minute flights. Does anyone have any experience with any of the helicopter tours from Banff?
On a different note, would also be really grateful for any recommendations on casual eating/dining options in Banff.

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    When are you coming? That makes a big difference in terms of advice for a visit.

    There are no helicopters tours in Banff or that fly over Banff NP. Commercial helicopter/plane flights are not allowed in or over the national and provincial parks.

    As such, all the helicopter tour companies operate outside of the parks and fly over provincial wilderness and crown land. Pretty with much the same scenery, but you won't be flying in the national parks.

    The closest tours are out of Canmore - operated by Alpine Helicopters. There are also tours from K-Country and out in the Golden area, as well out in Nordegg (east of the national parks). Alpine has an excellent reputation, and would be the easiest to get to from Banff. Tours are weather dependent - so they may not run if visibility is poor and it's not cheap. You'd also need to get yourself to to the helipad.

    Tours will depend on the time of year - almost all operate between May and early October. It also depends on what you want to do/see -- if you want to do any hiking or have time to explore, you are far better off to rent a car. Otherwise, there are a variety of tour companies that offer tours - depends on whether you want big bus tour or something more intimate.
    All companies are listed here:

    Brewsters is the largest, and they will be big bus tours. They also own a lot of the paid attractions (mostly open in the summer). Some of the attractions are worth doing, others are definitely not, but you don't have to spend money to enjoy the parks. So don't feel that you have to shell out for any of their packages. Discover Banff Tours offers tours, and they seem to use smaller buses.

    I rarely eat in Banff, but I do like the St James Gate pub for informal food & drink. For a nice dinner or lunch with a view, the Juniper Hotel is good. I've also heard that the Three Ravens at the Banff Centre is excellent.

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