What to do in Banff, a month by month calendar.
Banff is a town that really knows how to celebrate life.
Whether rejoicing about the beginning of the winter season, Canada’s birthday or Alberta’s great craft beers, there is always a reason for a party in this mountain retreat. And for a small town, there is an impressive number of festivals and events throughout the year. Plus, there are a ton of great activities to enjoy.
Check out the list below to find an amazing Banff event or activity that meshes with your travel plans.
Did you know that Banff had an annual winter carnival that started over 100 years ago with events such as ski jumping, snowshoe obstacle races, broom-ball tournaments, swim races and fancy diving in the Cave and Basin hot pool? Relive the fun of this former festival at the annual celebrations at the Cave and Basin historic site.
Talented ice carvers from around the world gathered in stunning Lake Louise to showcase their skills – making stunningly precise sculptures that are as beautiful as they are ephemeral. Some of the masterpieces are made from blocks of ice weighing over 300 pounds each and are carved with picks, chisels and even chainsaws. Please note that tickets are required to access the lakeshore during peak periods of the festival.
Mountain Madness is a multi-sport relay race made up of teams of five that starts with a downhill ski leg from the top of Mt. Norquay. The race then works its way down to the Bow River via run, ice skate, classic cross-country ski and snowshoe segments.
The annual SnowDays celebration is a highlight of the winter season in Banff; a free 11-day long event held during January, centered around massive snow sculptures in downtown Banff. Plus, there’s now a cocktail festival as part of the celebrations!
Stargaze at the Banff Gondola (late January to early April)
The Banff Gondola at Sulphur Mountain is Banff’s most popular attraction, but did you know that in winter you can stargaze at 7,500 feet? On Friday and Saturday evenings the Alpenglow Festival gives you the chance to see the rose coloured glow on the surrounding snow-capped peaks as the sun descends and then marvel at the dark skies and luminous stars. This event is included with regular admission and includes live music, s’mores, rooftop firepits and professional telescopes.
Visit Lake Louise’s Winter Wonderland for the Day
Even if you don’t make it for IceMagic Festival, there’s an array of amazing things to see and do in Lake Louise in January. Take a tour to learn a little about the area’s history before you spend the day shopping or warming up with a Lobby Lounger hot chocolate in the timeless Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Family Day Weekend – mid February
During Family Day Weekend many of the best attractions in Banff will have special events and discounts for families. The Banff Springs Hotel hosts a series of great events every year including Family Bingo, a Pajama Party and a Scrapbooking Workshop. Plus, Norquay offers special three-day ski lesson programs for kids.
The Family Winter Arts Festival is where the young and young-at-heart can journey into a world of art and imagination with live shows and free and low-cost activities.
On a chilly winter day, snuggle up under a blanket and take a sleigh ride through the sparkling snow. Listen to the clip-clop rhythm of the horse’s hooves as you breathe the crisp winter air and admire the mountains that surround you.
Part of The Gathering Summit marketing conference held in Banff in late February, this music festival showcases various Canadian artists over several nights.
Each spring, the Banff Town Hall hosts an annual exhibition of artwork created by residents of the Bow Valley. A wide variety of art is featured, including original paintings, photographs and sculpture as well as live music and fashion design.
The warmer temperatures and longer days are perfect for hiking and exploring, so go on a Johnston Canyon Icewalk tour. It’s truly spectacular to walk along the metal catwalks through the frozen canyon while watching the sunlight glittering off the icy waterfalls.
Brave, young free skiers hurtle themselves through the air, flipping and spinning in an attempt to earn points and win big prizes for their fluidity, technique and style. It’s a thrill to watch the talent of these junior skiers, some as young as seven!
Experience one of North America’s most talked about culinary events that started in Banff in 2018. Imagine an elaborate 40-course, stand-up, sustainable dinner featuring wine, craft beer and spirits; where you get to help pick the best bite from five competing chefs.
This time of year is perfect for visiting the park – the town is thawing from the winter freeze but there is still plenty of snow high on the slopes. The Banff Springs Hotel celebrates Easter and the beginning of spring with Ski and Stay packages, spring offers and a sumptuous Easter Sunday Brunch.
Explore Banff Without The Crowds
April is a great time to explore the Town of Banff because there are typically fewer visitors around. Ski season is wrapping up while the summer rush hasn’t yet begun. That makes it a much quieter time to visit this amazing place.
Beginning in late May, this weekly market is the largest in the Bow Valley. Check out the impressive assortment of hand-made goods – locally grown produce, meats, specialty foods, food vendors, jewelry, decor, arts and crafts, clothing, accessories, photographers, pottery and more!
This annual festival brings together exceptional teachers of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness from Banff and beyond. From yoga classes to hiking adventures, to cultural and social gatherings, this conscious celebration will leave you feeling refreshed and renewed fully in mind, body, and soul.
Even if you haven’t skied this season, this annual event is still a fun time of year to watch and laugh as participants ski or snowboard down a run into an icy pool of water. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the end of the ski season!
This is a great time of year to see wildlife, as the animals will be coming out of hibernation. The Evening Wildlife Safari will give you a chance to see some of Banff’s creatures as they become active around dusk.
The Banff Iiniskim Powwow is a truly cross-cultural event, inviting people from all nations to watch and participate in a lively, unique, and uplifting celebration of culture through traditional song and dance.
Every summer, hundreds of runners and spectators converge on Banff for one of the most memorable running experiences in the world, the Banff Marathon. And if you’re not up for the full marathon don’t worry, there’s shorter options available.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of being wildly tossed around on frothy rapids as you hurtle down a river, surrounded by dense pine forest and towering mountains. June is a great month for whitewater rafting at both the Kananaskis River and Horseshoe Canyon.
Canada Day – July 1st
Celebrate Canada’s birthday while surrounded by some of the most awe-inspiring scenery the “true north strong and free” has to offer. Banff really kicks up its heels on this national holiday, with birthday cake, live music, a jubilant parade down Banff Avenue and a resplendent fireworks display.
Sunset Festival at the Banff Gondola (Late June – Early September)
Looking for a special place to watch the sunset? Ride the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain with live entertainment, a rooftop patio bar and panoramic views from 7pm-10pm every evening.
The ice has finally thawed, which means you can take some gorgeous photos of those surreal turquoise-coloured lakes shimmering in the summer sun. The Icefields Parkway Tour includes a scenic alpine picnic as well as an opportunity to walk directly on the glacier itself.mber.
For over 30 years, Banff International String Quartet Competition has celebrated the art of chamber music while providing career support for emerging string quartets. The competition gives audiences an in-depth and behind-the-scenes look at the thrill and heartbreak of a live chamber music competition as 10 of the world’s best young string quartets compete.
Dance barefoot in the grass of Canmore’s Centennial Park to the funky rhythms of folk, roots and blues at this earthy, chilled out festival. Grooving since 1978, it is the longest-running folk music festival in Alberta and it takes place over the Heritage Day long weekend. Feel free to bring the kids – there are plenty of activities for them to enjoy while the adults boogie – including puppet shows, a climbing wall and arts and crafts.
The Banff Whisky Experience celebrates the craftsmanship of some of the finest whisky distilleries in the world in Banff over two days with master classes and the main event, the Grand Tasting Room.
Fall Hikes (Mid September to early October)
With the fall foliage in full splendor, this is the perfect time to head out for a hike and the Larch Valley trail is especially stunning in autumn. Although larches are conifers, their needles turn yellow and drop off in the fall – this provides a stunning backdrop as you explore the area’s trails. But there are also plenty of other amazing hikes you can tackle in fall as well.
With the crisp mornings, warm days and stunning foliage September is a wonderful time to go horseback riding. A Steakfry Ride will take you on a beautiful scenic journey along the Bow River to a cabin in the woods, where you will enjoy ‘cowboy games’ and a delicious BBQ breakfast.
A Banff event that has been around for over three decades, Melissa’s Road Race raises funds for the Banff Canmore Community Foundation. You can join in with the race if you are feeling up to it, or just make a lot of noise from the sidelines to cheer on the participants.
Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival (Late October to Early November)
Soak in nine days of epic mountain-themed stories, including tales of ground-breaking expeditions and personally meaningful journeys. This event draws thousands of people from all over the world and past guest speakers have included prominent mountaineers such as Alex Lowe, Jon Krakauer and Sir Edmund Hillary.
Join in this week-long celebration of community with events and activities for everyone! Events include colourful specialty cocktails, an annual Pride Party and more.
One of Banff’s most anticipated events of the year, the annual Rockies Shred Fest is a pre-season gathering featuring the “best of” local ski and snowboard films, a winter expo, prizes, giveaways, and more!
Held at Warner Stables, visit the Banff Christmas Market for enjoyable and relaxing holiday shopping. Look for a special gift for someone or find a keepsake for yourself while you shop booths of unique artisinal gifts. Santa arrives in Banff on a sleigh filled with handcrafted gifts in this land of wonderful culinary delights, caroling, and of course warm beverages for kids and adults alike.
There’s nothing better than sipping a flavourful locally crafted beer after a big day of hiking or skiing in the mountains. This festival celebrates some of the best beers created by Alberta’s local breweries. Plus, there are plenty of nibbles from Banff restaurants to snack on while you taste the brews. You can feel good about indulging in several pints – the proceeds go to the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cookies, taking an old fashioned wagon ride or making creative crafts. The Santa Claus Parade of Lights is the highlight, illuminating the main street in Banff with glittering floats. You might even spot the old merry elf himself!
See The Sights With Fewer Crowds
November is Banff’s shoulder season, which makes it a great time to visit the most popular tourist attractions. Check out the Banff Sightseeing Gondola, the Banff Upper Hot Springs and Lake Louise – without having to deal with crowds or long lines.
Each year the Banff Springs Hotel, known as the ‘Castle in the Rockies’, hosts Christmas in the Castle – a series of activities and special events surrounded by beautiful decorations, including tons of exquisitely-decorated Christmas trees, a gingerbread replica of the Banff Springs, and more.
Ski racers from around the world gather at Lake Louise Ski Resort every year for this thrilling race. It is the only event of its kind in Canada and it is watched by 173 million ski fans globally.
Mountaintop Christmas at the Banff Gondola
Beginning in mid November, ride the Banff Gondola to Christmas delights and Santa’s Workshop at the summit of Sulpur Mountain. Decorate cookies in the bakeshop, write letters to and take photos with Santa, play some exciting games or watch a Christmas film in the theatre.
Bundle up warm and start the New Year with a bang – Banff will be partying hard until the early hours of the morning. There will be festivities all along Banff Avenue, from Buffalo Street to Wolf Street, including food booths, live music, street performers, children’s games and much more. When the clock strikes midnight, a dazzling fireworks display will light up the sky with the snowy mountains as a stunning backdrop.
Did we miss an event or activity?
If you know of a must-see Banff annual event that’s not on this list, tell us about it in the comment section below.