• The Town of Banff is not really a destination in its own right.  Rather it serves as a base from which to explore Banff National Park.  Yes, the Town of Banff is nestled in gorgeous scenery.  Yes, it does have scenic delights —like the Sulphur Mountain Gondola — right on its doorstep.  Yes, it has museums, shops, over 200 restaurants, hot springs, etc.  Yes, those amenities can hold your interest for a while.  But, to do justice to Banff National Park, you really do need to go beyond the Town of Banff — to landmarks like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake and Johnston Canyon.  For that you need transportation.

  • You will have the most flexibility if you have a car.  You can rent a car in Banff if you have arrived without one.  If you are on a guided coach tour through the Canadian Rockies, your coach will take you to some of the scenic viewing points.  If you cannot drive, you can do a day tour with a company like Brewster, which operates large coaches, or Discover Banff Tours, which operates smaller buses.   If you do have your own car and still want the guided tour, consider renting a GPS audio guide such as the GyPSy Guide or Sawka Tour Guide - a small device that runs on GPS technology.  It will automatically trigger commentary about history, geology, directions and quirky Canadian stories. 

  • You should be aware that, while it is possible to travel from Vancouver to Banff on the luxury train operated by Rocky Mountaineer, the train does not take you to Moraine Lake, the lake of Lake Louise (which is 5 km or 3 miles from the village of Lake Louise) or Johnston Canyon.  Furthermore, the Icefields Parkway, the highly scenic route that links Lake Louise and Jasper, is not served by rail.  You need a car or bus to reach those places.

  • The weather in the mountains is extremely changeable.  In summer you could experience temperatures all the way from 30˚ C (90˚ F) to the freezing mark.  You need to pack layers of clothing so that you can respond to rapidly changing weather conditions.  This is explained in detail on the Inside Banff National Park : Clothing page here at TripAdvisor.  See also the Tripadvisor page entitled Inside Banff : Rainy day activities.

  • The vast majority of the mountain lakes are too cold for swimming without a wetsuit.  If you want a vacation that is based around a beach, boating and swimming, you are better off going to lakes in the interior of British Columbia, such as the Okanagan Lake, Shuswap Lake, Christina Lake, etc.  Alternatively, you might consider the coast of British Columbia, for example, Vancouver Island or the Sunshine Coast.

  • Children rarely appreciate scenery.  Banff is situated in a national park — a wilderness area that has been set aside for the protection of indigenous flora and fauna.  It is not an area in which there is much "canned" entertainment.  So a child's enjoyment of the area depends on input from adults.  An adult's interest in nature is infectious and spreads to children.  If you are curious about the area and are learning about the environment while you're here, your children will "catch" your curiosity.  There are so many phenomena to investigate in Banff National Park.  For example:

    Why is the water in the mountain lakes so turquoise?  Because the water is glacial melt containing particles of rock that the glaciers have ground into a fine powder known as rock "flour."  The particles are so light that they do not sink to the bottom of the lake.  They remain suspended in the lake water and act as prisms, reflecting the blue and green spectra of light.

    What kinds of mountains can we see around us?  Mount Rundle, the one that leans over just to the east of Banff townsite, is an  overthrust  mountain.  Castle Mountain, the massive mountain half way between Banff townsite and Lake Louise, is a castellate mountain.  There also are dogtooth mountains, sawtooth mountains, horn mountains, and others.   

    Any guidebook to the Canadian Rockies will contain information on the ecology of the region.  An especially informative book when it comes to the geology, flora and fauna of the mountains is Handbook of the Canadian Rockies by Ben Gadd.  If you cannot get your hands on a copy of it before you leave home, it is available in bookstores in Banff, Jasper, Edmonton and Calgary.

    If you don't want to buy a book about the Canadian Rockies, perhaps you could borrow one from your public library before you head out on your vacation.

    If you will have ten days or more in the area and if you would like to combine some urban amenities with your wilderness experience, you could include Edmonton or Calgary in your itinerary.  Each of these cities has a population of about one million people, along with the facilities that you would expect for a city of that size.  You might like to check out the Inside Calgary and Inside Edmonton pages here at TripAdvisor.

  • Many fun outdoor activities are available in the mountains — whitewater rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking, canoeing, gondola and tram rides, the Snocoach ride onto the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields, cruises across lakes, and bathing in hot springs.  If you are traveling on a budget, however, you can have a wonderful time without spending any money (over and above the national parks entry fee).  There are so many beautiful and free walks and hikes that you will only scratch the surface during your vacation.  Most of the scenic landmarks listed on the Inside Banff National Park : Scenic Views page here at TripAdvisor are free.