Spring Weekend in Banff: Where To Stay, Eat, and Play

Ashlee standing at the top of the Banff gondola with snow on the mountains.

Immerse yourself in refreshing mountain air surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks. Banff, a gem in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, is a premier Rocky Mountain vacation destination in North America. It attracts over 4 million visitors annually to its charming town and the renowned Banff National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For those residing in the U.S., Banff is closer than you might think. With direct flights from major cities like Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Denver International Airport (DIA), and Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD), reaching this picturesque spot for a weekend spring getaway is a breeze.  

When Pursuit Collection invited me on a hosted trip to Banff in the early spring, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been dreaming of visiting for years. To help you plan your spring mountain adventure, I’m sharing how to spend a weekend in town and where to stay, eat, and play.

Where To Stay

Elk+Avenue Hotel in Banff, room and restaurant.

Elk+Avenue Hotel in Banff.

Banff is a small mountain town with around 8,000 people. This means that anywhere you stay in town or on the main strip (Banff Ave.) offers incredible views of Mount Rundle and the neighboring peaks. It’s also easy to walk around to all the stores or take the Roam Transit bus to top attractions.

I stayed at the Elk + Avenue Hotel. Along with its slightly elevated rustic ambiance, it has an outstanding restaurant inside – Farm & Fire. Good Earth Coffee House and a gift shop are also attached to the hotel.

I loved that a local grocery store, IGA, is next to the Elk + Avenue Hotel. The Roam Transit bus stop is also less than a block away. So, it’s easy to grab snacks and water before hopping on the bus to explore for the day.

Places To Eat

Farm & Fire Restaurant in Banff.

Farm & Fire Restaurant in Banff.

I have nothing but amazing things to say about Farm & Fire. It was so good I ate there twice—for dinner and breakfast. Their theme is wood-fired and farm-fresh food. I had a winter salad with roasted chicken and a side of Brussels sprouts for dinner. I’m sure they were the best Brussels sprouts I’ve ever had. It was also fun to try a local Canadian wine at dinner.

I highly recommend the avocado toast or gluten-free pumpkin French toast for brunch. Speaking of gluten-free, they have plenty of options.

While exploring the town, check out the Wild Flower Bakery or Little Wild Coffee for an afternoon snack, tea, or latte. The gluten-free chocolate chip banana muffins at both places are to die for. So are the chai lattes.

Activities To Do

Banff, Alberta, with snow on the ground during the spring.

View of Banff from the top of the gondola.

When visiting Banff for the first time in spring, the most popular activities are exploring the town and shopping, riding the gondola, and soaking in the hot springs.

Go Shopping

Ashlee posing for picture, and bear art at the top of the Banff Gondola.

Bear art at the top of the Banff Gondola / Me posing for a picture.

Banff Avenue is lined with fun shops, tasty restaurants, and trendy hotels. Visitors can find everything from mountain apparel stores to quirky gift shops. I had fun window shopping at the local gift shops but didn’t buy anything, as I was saving my money for my trip to Jasper.

Walk Around Town

left image: Banff pedestrian bridge; right image: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Banff Pedestrian Bridge / Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Towards the river, there are trails you can explore. I walked across the Banff Pedestrian Bridge and was overjoyed to see the rainbow mural on the sidewalk – it reminded me of my trip to Iceland, visiting Rainbow Street in Reykjavik.

I also walked up Mountain Ave towards the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It looks like a castle. It’s the oldest hotel in Banff, and local lore says it is haunted. I had to see it for myself. The inside is gorgeous. They have onsite activities like tours if you want to explore more.

Ride the Banff Gondola

left image: Banff gondola; right image: entrance to the Banff gondola building.

Banff gondola.

A trip to Banff isn’t complete without riding the iconic gondola. To get there, catch the Roam Transit Route 1 at one of the stops along Banff Avenue. Riding the bus is easy. You can buy tickets online or use exact change – a CAD toonie when you get on the bus. Ask your hotel concierge for shuttle times.

It takes less than 10 minutes to ride the bus from town to the gondola base. I recommend going first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.

Walk the boardwalk trails at the top of the gondola and enjoy the views. There is a coffee shop, gift shop, and interactive exhibits where you can learn more about Banff National Park. It can be cold up there, so bundle up.

For an upscale lunch or dinner, the views from Sky Bistro will take your breath away. I didn’t eat here, but it sure looks like the perfect place to have a romantic lunch or dinner.

Soak in the Hot Springs

Banff, Sulphur Mountain Trail with snow.

Sulphur Mountain Trail with snow.

I don’t know about you, but nothing says a fabulous mountainy spring getaway like soaking in hot springs. Take the Roam Transit Route 1 to the Banff Upper Hot Springs. They are below the gondola on the same road (Mountain Ave) and are open until 10 pm.

More On How To Get to Banff

Trail at the top of the Banff Gondola during the spring with snow.

Trail at the top of the Banff Gondola.

As I said at the beginning, flying to Alberta is easy. Fly into Calgary and then catch a Brewster Express shuttle to Banff.

At the Calgary Airport, the Brewster Express desk is beside exit door #5 on the arrival level. They will drop you off right at your hotel. You can book your spot ahead of time online.

If you have more than a weekend in the Canadian Rockies, you might also enjoy a trip to Jasper National Park. I went there next on my week-long spring trip to Alberta.

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.