Getting outdoors and experiencing the Canadian wilderness is a big part of our lives. We love to ski and hike and spend as much time as we can in the mountains, but everyone needs a change sometimes. Sometimes we just want to throw down the hiking boots, and go for something a little bit classier. Trudging through the snow with a ton of gear has its own rewards, but sometimes we just want something genuinely nice to do.
Winter’s a bit cold to be pulling out the picnic blanket, so what can you do here if you like some of the finer things in life? Here are our top 3 things to do on a classy day out in Banff National Park.
- Afternoon Tea at the Chateau Lake Louise:
If you’re looking for something romantic as well as classy, this one might be for you; and it’s actually incredibly reasonably priced considering it’s at the Fairmont!
Make a reservation at the Louise Lounge for afternoon tea, put on your Sunday best, and take yourself back in time for an incredible selection of tea, sandwiches, scones and cakes. You can even add a glass of bubbly if you want to celebrate a special occasion!
Looking at the small tower of food, you might think that you’ll be breaking the bank but still leaving hungry, but I promise you, this meal is surprisingly filling, and absolutely delicious. It’s not very easy to find cucumber sandwiches and scones with clotted cream in Canada, so make the most of the opportunity!
The staff are extremely knowledgeable about the teas, and will help you find the perfect one for your tastes.
Afternoon tea will set you back $43 per person, $53 with Prosecco, or $63 with Champagne. A relatively small price to pay to be treated like royalty for the afternoon! Check out the menu here.
- Ice skating:
If afternoon tea sounds a little extravagant for you, then why not give ice skating a try? For those that don’t want to try ice skating on a real lake, there are two reasonably sized skating rinks in Banff; One in front of the Banff high school, and another in front of the Bow Valley Grill at the Fairmont Banff.
The skating is completely free, and (depending on your skill level), the cost of looking like a graceful swan for the afternoon will be nothing more than the cost of the skate hire.
Boots can be rented very reasonably in Banff at Banff Adventures, Snowtips Bactrax, or at the Brewster’s information centre opposite Safeway. They can also be rented at the Chateau Lake Louise, but they tend to charge a little more for hiring. Definitely worth checking out!
Once you’ve mastered the fake rinks, it might be time to upgrade to the real deal. There’s nothing more picturesque than skating on a real frozen lake, and Canada is one of the few countries where it’s possible.
Once the lakes are fully frozen, there are several places one can go to get the experience. Vermillion Lakes and Lake Minnewanka are very popular with locals in Winter, but we would recommend checking out Lake Louise in January. Snow is cleared from the lake here, meaning you won’t have to worry about tripping on big mounds of snow, and you can be sure that the ice is thick enough. We don’t recommend trying Vermillion and Minnewanka until January/Feb, once the lakes have been proven to have thick enough ice. At lake Louise, you’ll also have a chance to skate around the beautiful ice castle that gets built annually. It can be a bit of a zoo, but it’s a fantastic experience nonetheless!
(Note, photos from last year – Lake Louise skating isn’t open yet!)
The great thing about Lake Louise is that you have to only walk a few steps to grab a hot chocolate when you get cold or you’ve had enough!
- Fondue at the Waldhaus Restaurant, Banff.
What better way to warm up after ice skating, than a delicious dinner at a classy Bavarian fondue restaurant. Styled after a Bavarian Cottage, this restaurant is nestled into a cliff underneath the Fairmont Banff, and can be accessed via the Fairmont in Winter, or from underneath when the path isn’t completely submerged with snow!
We’ve eaten here and at the Grizzly House fondue restaurant in the town, and can hand on heart say that, in our opinion, this place is worlds better. You won’t leave with all of your clothes smelling like grease either!
Give the 3 course fondue a go and you definitely won’t be disappointed! There’s cheese fondue to start, beef or bison fondue for main and chocolate fondue for dessert. If you’re like us, you’ll barely be able to walk by the time you leave!
This one is a little pricier than the afternoon tea, and will set you back around $12-24 for appetisers, $36-44 for mains, or $95 per person for the 3 course fondue experience (menu). Worth it if you have a special occasion to celebrate or want to go somewhere a little more secluded and romantic! We’d recommend making a reservation online.
There are lots of other things to try if you’re really wanting to push the boat out; horse carriage rides around Banff, or a day at the spa in the Fairmont Banff for example, but these are our 3 favourites that we’d really put at the top of our list.
Feel free to let us know how you get on, or get in touch with any more suggestions! We’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org