Thank you to Brewster Canada for graciously hosting me in Banff. 

It feels like we’ve been hearing about this summer in the mountains forever.  With the american dollar making a Canadian vacation even more affordable, and Canadians busy celebrating the 150th birthday of their country, parks like Banff National Park are expected to be busier than ever!

But that doesn’t mean Calgarians should be skipping Banff and all of it has to offer. It just means that maybe in July and August you plan accordingly.  But before then, especially in the next couple of weeks, there’s probably no better time to visit the mountain town.  The magic of shoulder season is really when Calgarians can enjoy all that Banff has to offer.

With tourists still packing their backs and planning their trips, now is the time to check out some of your favourite attractions, book a nice room, go out for a bite to eat (or 12) and enjoy the town that never disappoints.

This past weekend, we headed up to Banff to take care of the shoulder season even though I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been to the town (easily one hundred times), I always enjoy it as much as I did the first time.

For this particular trip, we stayed at the new-to-you Elk and Avenue hotel.

If you’ve ever stayed in Banff, you know that modern isn’t a word you’d use to describe very many of the hotels, so the complete renovation of Elk and Avenue (formerly the Banff International Hotel) is both welcome and beautiful.  The rooms have been completely gutted and now offer bright, comfy and wonderfully designed rooms honouring the wilderness the area is known for.

One of the best features of the hotel is actually its location. Sitting just on the edge of downtown, you’re a block away from the shops and bars, but just far enough away, that you can enjoy the peaceful nights that Banff is known for.

This time of year means that you also have a lot of the attractions and sites that you’d be crawling over people to enjoy, all to yourself.  This includes, one of my favourite drives in Canada. The Minnewanka Loop, which was so quiet when I drove it at after a fresh snowfall, you could have told me I was the one there and I would have believed you:

The quietness of Banff during this time of year was evident at the Banff Gondola, where at 12pm, there was no line and we hopped right on to the gondola that we then had all to ourselves.  That’s pretty much unheard of during the hotter summer months.  The gondola is one of those iconic Alberta experiences that I think you must do at least once.  The ride up is only a pre-cursor to the beauty of standing atop Sulphur Mountain.  From there, you can look all around you and look at mountain peaks for as far as your eyes can see. And that view of Banff?  Well, it simply doesn’t get better than that.

Atop Sulphur Mountain, you’ll also find the newly renovated upper terminal, which features an interpretive gallery and 48-seat movie theatre, a 360-degree outdoor rooftop observation deck and the amazing Sky Bistro. Located 7,486 feet (2,281 meters) above sea level, Sky Bistro is the ultimate dining experience.  It’s very much like the Elk and Avenue Hotel and offers you views like you’ve never seen before, all while enjoying selections of local meats, produce and ingredients. The food at the Sky Bistro really is delicious, but combined with the window seat, it really is an out of this world experience. But here’s the best part, not only is it in this world, it’s in our back yard.

With the summer rush expected to keep Banff busier than ever, now’s the perfect time to head up to everyone’s favourite mountain and enjoy what thousands of people from across the world will soon discover.  Calgarians are lucky to have so much scenery and adventure less than two hours away. If you’re looking for some help or some other suggestions, be sure to talk to Brewsters Travel Experts. They’ll make sure you have an adventure of a lifetime, without breaking the bank.

Until the next road trip!

Mike Morrison