Banff is a special city in many ways. The fact that it is the largest town and the commercial center of the Banff National Park makes it unique. It’s unusual for a national park to have such a well-developed city inside its borders. Established in 1885, the Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest nation park. Because of the Alberta Rockies, a large part of the park is mountain area. Banff is Canada’s city with the highest elevation.
Banff is settled from 1880s, after the transcontinental railway reached Bow Valley. In the late 20th century became obvious that many tourists are attracted by the mountains surrounding the city. In the late 1990s, Banff became a true tourist trap, meaning that numerous hotels, resorts and restaurants were built to attract more tourists. Because of this today, you can find everything in the city you need in a resort town.
A high percentage of visitors come to the city because of the skiing possibility. This is the reason why two major ski resorts are located in the city’s proximity. The Mount Norquay ski resort is a popular destination among winter sports lovers. Having 33 runs with four difficulty levels, anyone can find a perfect track to slide. Four chairlifts, a surface lift and a snowboard park is operating to please the needs of the visitors. Maybe the best-known ski resort in Canada, the Sunshine Village is situated only at a 15-minute drive from the city of Banff. This large complex has 107 trails, which can be accessed by the 13 lifts operating. The longest chairlift is an 8-person high-speed gondola and has a route of over four kilometers. Beside the many slopes and the modern lift network of the resort, it has another attraction: Champagne Powder. This is Canada’s best quality snow, a very smooth and dry one, which is perfect for skiing.
Skiing is not possible if you stay in Banff Springs Hotel – only if visiting a ski resort in its proximity –, but this shouldn’t be a reason not to visit this special hotel. After one year of construction, it was opened to public in June 1, 1888. It was renovated in the 1920s after it was heavily damaged in a fire. This beautiful hotel underwent another restoration, but this time because the current owner wanted to make it more luxurious. Luckily, the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts company was keen not to change the hotel’s original grandeur. To meet the same standard as the other luxury hotels and resorts operated by the Fairmont company, a spa was added.
The hot springs that can be found around the city are also popular tourist attraction and thousands come annually to spend their vacation in Banff. Upper Hot Springs has an outside hot pool with the water temperature kept at 38 °C. While swimming or just enjoying, the hot water visitors can enjoy the beautiful views of Mount Rundle.
For those who would like to see sceneries that are even more breathtaking the Sulphur Mountain gondola is the right choice. Having an elevation of almost two and a half thousand meters offers beautiful aerial views of Banff and the nearby mountains.
Beside skiing Banff has to offer other sporting possibilities too. The surrounding mountains are perfect locations for hiking, with trails varying from rookie to expert. A less known activity is also practicable in this area: the scrambling. Scrambling is a transition between hill walking and rock climbing.
The city is also the home of two film and movie related annual festivals. The Banff World Television Festival is one of the most important international festivals held in Canada. In 2008, the 29th festival will start on June 8th and over the four-day festival well-known television companies will represent themselves like ABC, BBC, Sony Pictures and HBO. Beside this, the Banff Mountain Film Festival is also an important event for Banff. Being a yearly held festival since 1976, where directors present their documentaries or short films, which present the mountain culture.
Beside this film related festival the city is also the home of a festival held to award the outstanding works in printed media. At the Banff Mountain Book Festival, winners are awarded in seven different categories.
Nightlife in Banff is also as vibrant as the city itself. Aurora, being the largest nightclub, is very popular among locals as well as among the tourists. Because it is so big several special areas are arranged: it has five bars, including a shooters bar, a martini and a cigar lounge and a pool area. The big screen TVs are showing any important sporting event. Of course, not only the Aurora is a perfect place to spend your night at. Drake is a well-known pub in the city, and not only. It was featured in several specialty magazines. The live entertainment shows attract many every weekend.
While others try to get anything that is modern, the owners of Elk & Oarsman think differently. The only modern things here are the LCD flat screens that are necessary for watching sporting events. Vintage sporting equipment is hanging on the wall just right to numerous old photos. The quantity of wood would be enough by itself to create an authentic mountain pub feeling, but the stone fireplace makes everything clear from the moment you step in. The HooDoo lounge is one of the best places in the city. The fact that several resident DJs play the music guarantees the variety of music. The themes nights, just like the special drinks, complete the different music styles, like hip-hop and rock that is played all night long.
Being situated in a national park Banff has the advantage of magnificent scenery, but the city wasn’t pleased with this and did everything to become more and more attractive among tourists. The evidence of the efficiency of this policy is the fact that Banff is among the most popular tourist destinations both national and worldwide.