Banff is an iconic Alberta town known best for being the community center of Banff National Park. With towering mountains, picturesque landscapes and virtually endless adventure, it's the ideal destination for travellers looking to enjoy their next vacation outdoors. When you bring your family here, you'll find no shortage of fun things to do. All you have to do is decide which activities would work best for your family's unique interests. Take a look at the best family activities in Banff, and discover how you can make your trip to this mountain paradise unforgettable.

Family activities in Banff out in nature

1. Traverse trails on horseback with Banff Trail Riders

When your family embarks on an adventure with Banff Trail Riders, you all can enjoy a one of a kind adventure from an all-new perspective. The friendly horses are extremely well-trained, allowing beginners and kids to participate in the adventure without experience. Of course, you can also go on carriage rides, whether you're rolling throughout town or taking a sled carriage through the snow. Keep in mind that most of the rides available here take several hours, with the shortest being a full hour-long, so keep that in mind when planning your itinerary.

2. Discover Banff Tours' wildlife tours

Discover Banff Tours' wildlife tours, and see the impressive creatures that have come to call this national park area their home. You'll see various animals during your tour, including deer, sheep, elk and even bears. Seeing them in their natural habitat adds an entirely new perspective compared to what you may find in a zoo. For example, you may spot 2 elk locking horns in a fight or a group of grizzly bears munching on buffalo berries. Additionally, the wildlife guides on this tour will offer fascinating insight into how these animals behave, so your family can learn and have fun during the excursion.

3. Take a ride on the Banff Gondola

When you ride the Banff Gondola, you can enjoy scenic views of the surrounding mountains. These timeless rocky mountain views cover 6 distinct mountain ranges, but the ride up is just the beginning. Once you're at the top, you can visit the bustling boardwalk and learn all about the area in Canada's first national park. You'll find an award-winning restaurant up there as well, in addition to comfortable patio seating that puts your family on the precipice of a truly breathtaking view, especially if you situate yourself with sights on the dazzling sunset.

4. Travel the hiking trails

To get the full Banff experience, outdoorsy adventurers won't want to miss out on the various hiking trails. You'll find a wide array of options available around the mountains, including plenty that are easy enough to traverse that you can bring your kids along. Remember always to have a clear plan of where you're going and what conditions you'll be facing before you set out. Additionally, you'll always want to pack some key items with you like a first aid kit, water, a map and bear spray, among others.

5. Go biking on the trails

If your family is looking for some high speed thrills, you may want to consider the local biking trails. Not only will you find exciting trails to conquer, but you can also find trails more suitable for a relaxing bike ride. The latter may be preferable if you have particularly young kids with you. Don't worry about bringing your own bikes with you either if you don't want to. Bike rentals are available throughout town. Be sure to check out the Banff Legacy Trail specifically if you're looking for local paved trails.

6. See the emerald green waters of Lake Louise

The first thing you'll notice when you visit Lake Louise is the shining emerald water still and inviting. Surrounded by towering peaks and glaciers, this lake is one of the most picturesque sights in the entire region. You'll find a lakeside path that you can follow to take in the sights, or you can venture out onto the lake itself, as it's especially popular for paddling and rowing small boats. While you may find seemingly endless adventure here, it's all notably laid back and relaxing, so it's particularly useful for kids activities in Banff.

7. Shop around at Banff Farmers Market

If you're looking to get your hands on some of the best items that locals have to offer, there's nothing quite like the Banff Farmers Market. Here, you'll find a wide variety of produce available, along with handmade arts and crafts. A few complete meals are available as well, so it's a great place to grab a bite to eat in addition to some fresh ingredients. You can find plants here as well, like flowers and succulents. You'll find the market in Central Park, which is a quiet destination away from the busy downtown area of Banff, so it's a relaxing experience even at the busiest of times.

8. Drive the Icefields Parkway

If you have a car to get around Banff, you won't want to miss out on the Icefields Parkway. This legendary driving linking Lake Louise with Jasper is a full 232 kilometers long, but you don't have to travel its entire length to see some stunning sites. Running along the Continental Divide, you'll see towering rocky mountain peaks along with deep valleys stretching as far as the horizon. This drive also brings you past immense icefields so impressive that they named the entire parkway after them. Keep an eye out for lakes and waterfalls as well for plenty of breathtaking viewpoints.

Visit the parks to find family activities in Banff

9. Find endless adventure in Banff National Park

Banff National Park is the reason why most travelers visit Banff in the first place. This park was the first national park in all of Canada and has continuously been one of the best throughout the years. As part of the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, you'll find seemingly endless ranges of natural wonder like mountains, glacial lakes and diverse wildlife. Whether you're interested in hiking, biking or even boating, you won't have to look far at this park.

10. Explore nature in Yoho National Park

At Yoho National Park, you'll find some of Canada's most impressive natural wonders showcasing the sheer power of ice and water given enough time. The steep rock faces and towering peaks showcase an impressive history of geological action that you can all see for yourself. Additionally, this park is home to endangered pines sporting vibrant green colours even in the middle of winter. If you have any aspiring paleontologists in your family, they're sure to enjoy the array of fossil deposits in the park as well.

11. Traverse the path on Bowfalls Trail

If you're looking for a scenic trail that's so picturesque it has been featured in Hollywood films, look no further than Bowfalls Trail. You can take the trail on foot or with a bike, and there are separate paths for each. Just keep in mind that bikes aren't allowed on the clifftop section, and the entire clifftop section is closed off during the winter. The entire trail is about 1.2 kilometres long and takes less than a half-hour to traverse, so it's perfect if you're looking for quick family activities in Banff.

12. Take it easy at Central Park

You don't have to leave Banff proper to enjoy picturesque nature when you visit Central Park. This incredible greenspace offers a paved pathway right by the Bow River, complete with picnic tables that offer stunning views. Your little ones can enjoy the natural playground as well with climbing sections and fun obstacles. You'll find several conveniences here as well, like washroom facilities, water bottle fillers and even a bike repair station to prepare you for any upcoming ride.

13. Enjoy outdoor fun at Lake Minnewanka

When you visit Lake Minnewanka, you'll find a plethora of different activities to enjoy. Outdoor adventurers can take multiple hiking and biking trails here, but that's just the beginning. Some of these trails lead to incredible lookout points that let you see picturesque nature to the horizon, with Alymer Lookout specifically offering panoramic views of the lake. You don't even have to hike to get to the lake if you don't want to, as you'll find several local cruises available as well, including some in which kids get on for free.

14. Explore the fascinating Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Take your family to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, and you can explore the fascinating natural and cultural history of these iconic mountains. Among the rocks here, you'll find some that seep hot water, creating natural hot springs. The rich minerals here also have a noticeable scent you'll pick up on once you get near. You won't have to work very hard to find it all either, as the local trails will put you right next to the top spots in the area. While you're always free to enjoy it at your own pace, your family can book a guided tour if you prefer.

Things to do in Banff with kids in winter

15. Kingmik Dog Sled Tours

One of the most iconic things for kids to do in Banff is embark on the Kingmik Dog Sled Tours. These tours will have you and your family racing through the snow, being pulled by a group of Alaskan huskies who love running more than anything else in the world. They're directed by experienced guides who have years of practice on the runners. Additionally, each of the guides has first aid training and plenty of wilderness experience so that you can embark on this unforgettable adventure with peace of mind. Just keep in mind that your family will have to split up in groups of 2, considering how much room is available on each sled.

16. Find an unforgettable trek with White Mountain Adventures' Johnston Canyon Icewalk

White Mountain Adventures' Johnston Canyon Icewalk is an unforgettable and slightly challenging experience that will have you hiking through a winter canyon perfect for more adventurous families. You'll find quite a few stunning sights along the way, including the Frozen Twin Falls and the Cathedral of Ice. Just keep in mind that you'll need to prepare before you go. Winter or hiking boots are required, along with a winter coat, gloves, pants, a winter hat and all the other gear you'll need for a long journey in the cold. Given the nature of the trail, children must be at least 8 years of age to participate.

17. Enjoy the thrills of cross-country skiing

If you're looking for outdoor things to do in Banff with kids this winter, cross-country skiing is a popular favorite. You'll find a wide variety of ski trails in the area that let you and your family enjoy skiing at a leisurely pace without the speed of proper slopes. The diversity of available trails means you can scale your trip to your family's experience level. For example, there are plenty of beginner trails like the Tunnel Mountain Winter Trails that are perfect for beginners. Just keep an eye on warnings on the trail like Avalanche hazards, which are short distances in trails in which you should always keep moving.

18. Trade in your skis for Discover Banff Tours tubing

Discover Banff Tours tubing is one of the best kids activities in Banff because it requires virtually no skill whatsoever and offers endless fun. At this particular snow tube area at Mt Norquay, you'll be just 5 minutes away from downtown with plenty of room to enjoy the slopes. You can opt for individual tubes for everyone in your family, or you can bunch up and ride a giant tube together, though there are capacity limits, of course. With 8 large sliding lanes here, the whole family can find fun racing down the slopes for classic fun that's a popular pastime every winter in Banff.

19. Check out The Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition

The Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition greets you with a sea of artistry around Lake Louise where skilled artists from throughout Canada come to show off what they're capable of with their frozen canvases. Not only will you see a variety of artistic expression, but the architectural prowess that goes into the more intricate designs is downright impressive whether you're interested in design or not. You'll find a variety of different artistic creations, including extravagant castles, mythological figures and everything in between.

Kids activities in Banff when it's raining

20. Walk around Banff Avenue

Banff Avenue is a popular street in town that's easy to get around even when it's raining out. You'll find a variety of shops and restaurants around that you'll want to explore with a sheer number that makes it easy to stay dry. Art galleries are also popular here, letting you gain insight into how locals and artists from throughout Canada express themselves. Just keep in mind that not much is open before 9 am except for local coffee shops. The street also gets quite busy in the afternoon, so midday is generally the best time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds.

21. Explore art at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

At Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, you can peruse an impressive gallery of stunning artworks with a permanent collection and rotating temporary exhibits. The gallery focuses on contemporary works within the Walter Phillips Gallery, showcasing local and Canadian artists across several different mediums. Paintings, drawings and sculptures can be found here, of course. Still, you'll also find ceramics, photography and new media-based works that are unlike anything else in the history of artistic expression.

Explore the past at the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site

The XBanff Park Museum National Historic Site is home to a fascinating collection of specimens offering valuable insight into local history and wildlife. You'll find vintage stuffed animals here from the local wildlife, including bears, bighorn sheep, bison, birds and bees. Overall, there are more than 5,000 botanical and zoological specimens here, and it's all located right in the heart of town. Even the museum itself is a relic of history, being the oldest surviving federal building in a Canadian national park made using impressive log work.