Free And Low Cost Activities In Banff
The Rocky Mountains can be expensive and drain your wallet quickly if you are not careful. We’ve compiled a list of several free and low cost activities. You an also check out our article on how to visit Banff on a budget for information on what time of year is the best value, dining options and other tips on how to save money.
-Make your first stop the Visitor Information Center located on Banff Avenue or the Visitor Center in Lake Louise at the Samson Mall. They are stocked with free brochures, maps, attraction information and flyers about the area. The helpful staff are a wealth of information and both centers have interpretive exhibits. Check to see if the park is offering any free interpretative hiking or walking tours.
-The Self Guided Historical Walking Tour of Banff introduces you to to town’s history as a mountain resort. There are more than 40 historic buildings and sites to visit. Heritage plaques are located throughout the tour. Download the PDF of the historic walking tour or one of the 5 tours that have been optimized for online viewing. Walking through Banff’s History, an online tour.
-Drive up Mount Norquay as a free alternative to the Banff Sulphur Mountain Gondola, it offers a view from the other side of the valley.
-Take advantage of the many scenic walks and easy hikes in the Lake Louise area and trails right in the town of Banff such as the Tunnel Mountain hike.
-Bird watching and wildlife viewing are free!
-People watching and browsing through the shops along Banff Avenue and the side streets of the downtown core are an easy way to spend a few hours.
-Look at Banff and Lake Louise community calenders for festivals, parades, music venues, local events and entertainment.
-Take advantage of the endless opportunities to practice your photography skills or paint or draw your own interpretation of your favourite scene.
-Walk to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier as a free alternative to the Columbia Icefields Ice Explorer. The trail is located near the parking lot across from the Icefield Center. It’s about half a kilometer to reach the glacier. Never walk on to the glacier without an experienced guide.
-Look around the Columbia Icefields Visitor Center, it’s free and has a lot of interesting information about the area.
-Canada Place is located in a wing of the Banff Parks Canada Administration Office. Children enjoy the interactive displays that explore the natural and historical heritage of Canada. Admission is free. It’s located across the Bow River bridge at the end of Banff Avenue. Usual hours in the summer are 10am to 6pm, reduced hours in the low season.
–Stroll Through Cascasde Gardens, they are located on the same grounds as the Banff Parks Canada Admin Office. A relaxing place to unwind and free for the public to enjoy.
-Looking for something to do at night with the family, see a movie at the Lux Theatre. Tuesday is cheap night with reduced admission. Located at 229 Bear Street.
-The Whyte Museum has a modest fee for adults, children under 12 are free – check out the cultural heritage exhibitions that show the development of Banff .There’s also modern and historic exhibitions that change monthly with works from local and regional artists. Located at 111 Bear Street
-Banff Park Museum – Admission, adults $4, children $2. More than 5000 specimens from stuffed bears to minerals collected in the early 1900’s from Banff National Park. The building is the oldest park facility in the Canadian National Park system, built in 1903.
-Explore the historic Banff Springs Hotel, the lobby level, Mezzanine I and II are open to the general public. There’s displays, photos, shops and lounges.
Tips For Saving Money And Finding Discounts In Banff And The Rocky Mountains
-It can be difficult understanding the parks Canada fees. Bascially if you’re going to be in the parks for more than 7 days it is more economical to buy the Annual Discover Pass. This is a total of 7 days combined in any of the parks such as Banff, Jasper or Yoho National Park.
-Combo deals are available if you plan to do more than one of the paid attractions offered through the Brewster Company. For example you can get a discount if you combine the Banff Gondola with the Minnewanka Lake Cruise. Explore Rockies Combo Packages.
-Fill up your vehicle outside of the parks. Fuel is cheaper in Canmore than in the town of Banff and the fuel at the Lake Louise gas stations is even higher priced. Calgary is always cheaper, always leave there with a full tank before heading to the mountains.
-Ask the staff at your hotel for tips, many of them have excellent suggestions and despite the transient nature of the parks there are some long term employees that know the area well.
-BCAA, AMA, AAA, CAA members can check for possible hotel and attractions discounts. There’s some CAA/AMA discounts for Brewster attractions if visited at specific times. CAA Rewards Offers
-Fairmont Hotels – If you happen to be staying at one of the Fairmont properties sign up for their free president’s club. It gives you free access to internet in your room and discounts on some of the hotel activities.
-If you are an Alberta resident some hotels offer a resident discount, check their website or inquire with the hotel directly. There are a few places that extend this discount to B.C. residents.
-Find copies in the visitor center or other areas around the town of the Visitor’s Choice, A Taste Of Banff, What’s Up Banff and Where magazines. They have lots of information about the area and often have coupons and discount specials.
-If you collect airmiles take a look in the Dream Rewards section under Entertainment or Leisure & Outdoors. There are sometimes offers for attractions in Banff and the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
-HI (Hosteling International) members may get some discounts for local tours and activities, check the HI Hosteling website.
-The Roam bus in Banff is an inexpensive way to get around, it goes to many of the local attractions. Some of the hotels along the route offer complimentary bus passes to their guests. The service has now been expanded to offer a route between Banff and Canmore. There’s also bus options for getting in between Banff and Lake Louise and limited public transportation to other areas of the Rocky Mountains. If you don’t have a vehicle and the public transportation meets your needs it may be a cheaper alternative to booking a tour.