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Banff has always been one of my favorite destinations in the whole world. Whether a solo traveler or romantic getaway, Banff has something for everyone.
There’s nothing more magical than visiting Banff in winter. Alberta, in general, has some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, and I’ve traveled around it more than enough times.
So if you’re inspired after reading my guide to Valentine’s Day getaways, this is what you need to know about this little town.
How to Get There
Banff is so small that there are no nearby airports. Most people when they visit Canada will get to Banff by flying into Calgary, which is the biggest city in the province of Alberta.
From there, you can rent a car and drive or simply take a bus down to Banff.
Another option, if you live in certain states, is to simply drive across the border from Montana and take your own car up to Banff.
I did it the hard way because I initially entered Canada through the Pacific Highway and went to Vancouver first. That led to a long night bus all the way across British Columbia.
I wouldn’t recommend this option.
Where Should You Stay in Banff?
Banff is a tourist town. It’s one of the few small towns in the world that commands tourists throughout the whole year. In February, you’re coming at the perfect time because it’s still snowy, but it’s also way past the high season.
There are so many places to stay in Banff. You’ll find hotels and guesthouses aplenty in the middle of town, including:
You’ll even find little hostels if you’re looking for something cheaper and you don’t mind sharing rooms with other humans.
My top pick is the Fairmont Springs, though. It’s a fairy-tale castle-like hotel just outside of town. It even comes with its own Hungarian mineral springs.
It’s not cheap, but it’s truly an experience you’ll never forget. You can see my view of the hotel from Surprise Corner here.
Hiking in Banff
Perhaps the main reason why people tour Canada and stop in Banff at any time of year is the hiking.
Both summer and winter offer completely different hiking experiences. I love Banff because you can just walk out of town from Banff Avenue and go on your very own adventure.
You should visit the tourist information office for a map of all the different hikes, from easy to hard. Your hotel might also have these maps available.
I would recommend that you take precautions. People forget that this is bear country and it’s not uncommon to encounter them.
I never ran into a bear, but I did briefly run into a pack of wolves. Unfortunately, they ran off before I got a picture of them, though.
February is a wonderful time for summer hiking. Plus, the chances of running into bears are much lower because they’re in hibernation.
Skiing in Banff
Another reason why you should head to Banff in February is to go skiing.
There are three major slopes you should be looking at. All of them are high-quality, so you don’t need to worry about choosing the wrong one.
My personal pick is Sunshine Village. It’s a newer one, but when you get fresh snow at Sunshine Village there’s no beating it.
It gets the most snow of all the local ski resorts and has a much higher elevation. It also has accommodation, unlike the other resorts.
What Can You Do All Year Round During a Romantic Getaway to Banff?
The first place I recommend you go to is the Cave and Basin site. This is the birthplace of Canada’s national parks. You’ll get to see a cool sulfur hot spring and the original bathhouse that was built here.
I’d also recommend you check out the Banff Park Museum. You’ll be able to see a huge range of animals, including coyotes, bears, and wolves.
Finally, I’d recommend taking the Banff Gondola. The views across the area only get more beautiful as you go up Sulphur Mountain.
Or, weather permitting, you can take the two-hour hike up and take the gondola back again. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to complete this hike because of heavy snowstorms during my stay.
What Can I Do in Town?
Banff Avenue is the heart of the town, with one long road running through the town. You’ll see mountains on every single side.
There are only a few side streets running off the main avenue.
You’ll find all the bars and restaurants around this area. I will say that people come to Banff, not for this but what’s around it, so there’s nothing specific to recommend here.
Just walk around and you’ll soon discover everything there is to discover, with regards to the nightlife.
Take a Day Trip from Banff
There’s only one place you should go on a romantic Valentine’s Day trip from Banff.
Lake Louise is the jewel in the crown of the Canadian Rockies. It’s also accessible throughout the whole year, unlike a lot of other lakes and mountains.
It’s around 60-90 minutes from Banff and there are regular buses going to and from Lake Louise. But if you have a car it will be faster.
Take note that if you take the bus it will drop you at a gas station at the bottom of the hill going up to the lake itself, but the walk is easy enough.
I personally spent a couple of days at Lake Louise and I took this hike every day.
Bring all the supplies you need with you. The few stores opposite the gas station are your only choice and they’re well-known for overcharging.
Lake Louise in February looks like a Christmas card. The lake will still be frozen until June, so you can get the experience of walking across a whole frozen lake, with the high mountains flanking you on every side.
If you’re feeling bold, you can also climb through the snow up into the hills above the lake itself. The snow does sink, though, so make sure you have the correct equipment.
How Long Should You Spend in Banff?
Some people spend weeks in Banff every winter. It’s a delightful place filled with everything you could ever want outdoors.
For a romantic getaway, I would recommend around five to seven days, considering travel time to and from Calgary.
But you can easily spend longer if you have the time.
If you can’t make Valentine’s Day in Banff, these wintery conditions last until the end of April most years. But in mild winters the snow can begin to melt as early as the end of March.
Last Word – Where are You Going to Go for Valentine’s Day?
I love Banff because it’s not as costly as other destinations in North America and February is the ideal time to visit to get great prices.
Where are you going to go for Valentine’s Day in 2019?
James Farner Bio
James Farner started traveling in May 2015 and has never looked back. He has been funding his travels to over 60 countries through his work as a novelist. His mission is to show how accessible travel really is to the average person.
You can read his books here.