Looking for a Banff itinerary with kids, but not sure where to start because…dang, there’s so much to do?! This post will cover it all for you, including kid-friendly hikes, hotels, restaurants, and more.
Banff National Park had been on my bucket list for years. Just looking at photos of the place was amazing, so I knew it would be incredible in person. (And I wasn’t wrong!)
But what about going on a bucket list trip to Banff National Park with kids? Would it be worth it? Well, let’s just put it this way…
We spent just over a week in August on a family vacation to Banff with our 2-year-old, 4-year-old, and 6-year-old boys. And by the end of it, the boys were begging to move to Canada! Yeah, it was THAT good.
There were a crazy amount of things to do in Banff with toddlers and young kids. So, here it goes…our entire Banff itinerary with kids!
Disclosure: You may see affiliate links throughout this post, which means these are the things I handpicked! If you purchase something through these links, I will get a small commission at absolutely no extra charge to you. And that sure means a lot to me, so thank you in advance!
Day 1: Arrive in Calgary, Drive to Banff
Just as a little spoiler alert: yes, this is a 9 day Banff itinerary. But in reality, it could pass for a 7 day Banff itinerary because day 1 and day 9 were travel days for us.
We arrived at Calgary International Airport around 1:00 PM and made the long walk to pick up our rental car. While we didn’t use the stroller for our 2-year-old at all during our time in Banff, we were definitely happy to have it for our time at the airport!
Another thing we were happy about? Reserving our rental car in advance. Banff in August is BUSY. And the lines were long in the rental car area. But after a short wait, we got our car and were installing car seats! We brought a blow-up travel booster seat for our oldest, and we rented convertible car seats for the other two boys.
Pick Up Groceries and Bear Spray in Calgary
I’m putting this as it’s own section because it’s one of the best things we did to set ourselves up for an easy trip!
Upon leaving the airport, we stopped at a local Canada Tire to purchase bear spray and bug spray. Then we made our way over to Real Canadian Superstore to pick up the online grocery order I had placed prior to our trip.
The grocery order consisted of snacks, breakfast food, iced coffee, and pull-ups (for our newly potty-trained 2-year-old!).
Did we need bear spray in Banff? Nope…thankfully! But it gave us peace of mind while we were out on the trails, and that’s priceless (especially when traveling with kids).
Drive to Banff
Alright! We’re officially off to Banff! We turned on GuideAlong (I’ll talk more about this in the Icefields Parkway section!), and we made the easy 1.5-hour drive from Calgary to Banff.
As you start getting closer, you’ll quickly start to get an idea of how amazing this trip is going to be!
Dinner at Banff Poutine
After checking into our hotel and getting settled, we were off to dinner. Banff Poutine was the perfect spot for arrival day because it was casual, quick, and hit the spot!
Where to Stay in Banff with Kids
We stayed at Peaks Hotel & Suites, and I can’t say enough great things about this place! The location was perfect, the staff was incredibly nice, and the rooms were gorgeous. It was a huge bonus that there was a parking garage, so we never had to worry about parking in downtown Banff.
Peaks Hotel & Suites
Day 2: Explore Banff
We wasted no time jumping into the fun things to do in Banff and woke up bright and early the next day. (You’ll notice a theme here as you read through this article: we woke up early every single day…and it was so worth it.)
We quickly learned that getting out and about early means little to no crowds. And visiting Banff in August comes with lots of crowds. It was incredible to witness this area with no other tourists!
Breakfast at White Bark Cafe
We got to White Bark Cafe right when they opened. The apple, bacon, and cheese scone with a cappuccino was the perfect start to our first full day in Banff.
To top it off, since we were there so early, there was plenty of parking next to the cafe…and parking is free early in the morning!
Tunnel Mountain Hike with Kids
After breakfast, it was time for our first hike! When we looked at the map, we found there were two parking areas for trailheads to Tunnel Mountain.
And here’s the thing about us: we love a good view, but we’re not big hikers. So, with that being said, the shorter the hike the better!
We chose the upper trailhead located on Tunnel Mountain Road, which only had a handful of parking spots. Luckily, since we were there so early (we arrived at the trailhead around 7:40 AM), we easily snagged a parking spot.
Tunnel Mountain Hike Details
Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
Time: ~2 hours
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
We only had an hour to hike the Tunnel Mountain trail before having to leave to get to our Banff Gondola reservation, so we didn’t quite make it to the top. But there was a viewpoint prior to the summit, so my boys still felt like they conquered Tunnel Mountain!
The hike mostly consists of switchbacks. And while the hike was pretty easy overall, we did have to take a break here and there. With our youngest being only 2, we did have to carry him at times and were SO happy we had our Gooseket sling (I’m not-so-lowkey obsessed with that thing!).
The views throughout the hike and the first viewpoint were gorgeous! Plus we even got a glimpse of the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs hotel.
Banff Gondola with Kids
After a quick stop back at the hotel to freshen up, we were off to take a ride on the Banff Gondola. Our reservation was for 9:40 AM, and we arrived around 9:30 AM. Since we were there early, we had no problem finding a parking spot.
I highly recommend booking your reservation in advance for this popular Banff activity. We reserved our Banff Gondola tickets through Viator.
Ok, remember how I said we’re not big hikers, but we love a good view? Well, this was perfect for us! And the boys were excited to ride something similar to the Skyliner at Disney World.
Upon checking in, our boys got a Rocky Mountain Adverturer activity booklet and a huge cookie. They were more than happy to chow down while we waited in line for our turn.
After the 8-minute ride to the top of Sulpher Mountain, we walked along the boardwalk (with LOTS of stairs) to Sanson Peak for even more amazing views. Then we headed back to explore the interpretive center, where the boys were very excited to get stamps in their Rocky Mountain Adventurer booklets.
Lunch at Sky Bistro
Before heading back down the gondola, we splurged on a lunch at Sky Bistro. Our meal was delicious, and of course, the views were great. We loved that it extended our time at the summit of Sulpher Mountain to take in every bit of the view.
We made our reservations for 11:30 AM, giving us plenty of time to explore before our lunch reservation. If you want to enjoy a meal here, don’t forget to make reservations in advance!
Explore Downtown Banff
Later in the day (after naps because that just comes along with traveling with kids for us!), we took time to explore the downtown Banff area. And we fell in love!
We started the afternoon by grabbing a photo in front of the Banff sign, and then we walked along the Bow River Trail. It was our first real glimpse up close of that light blue water I’d been waiting to see, and it didn’t disappoint!
We came across a great playground, right off the trail in downtown Banff that the boys enjoyed. Then we walked along the Art in Nature trail (a section of the Bow River Trail) to see some really neat art installations.
Finally, we headed into the heart of downtown to take that iconic Banff photo you see everywhere and do a little souvenir shopping.
Dinner at Three Bears Brewery
We ended our day with dinner at Three Bears Brewery, where we enjoyed some appetizers and pizza. My husband said his beer flight was great, but don’t sleep on the root beer either! Since I’m not a beer drinker, I love to try breweries’ root beers…and this was one of the best root beers I’ve ever had.
Day 3: Off to Lake Louise
You guessed it! We were up early again on day 3 to start our next adventure! Thanks to that grocery order pickup on arrival day, we ate a quick breakfast in the room, packed up, and started on our 25-minute drive on the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon.
Johnston Canyon Hike with Kids
We arrived at Johnston Canyon at 7:45 AM, and I can’t stress enough how happy we were to get there before the crowds. We easily found a parking spot and enjoyed the trail and views of the waterfall with very few people around.
As we were leaving, the crowds were very high and the large parking lot was almost full. (Have I talked you into starting your days early yet?)
Johnson Canyon Lower Falls Hike Details
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Time: ~1 hour
This was a great Banff hike with kids! The trail was fairly flat, a lot of which was a boardwalk. Hiking the lower falls meant lots of water views, which the boys enjoyed.
The hike ended with a roaring waterfall. Make sure to continue through the small tunnel to get an even closer view of the waterfall…you won’t regret it! Just watch your step because it gets a bit slick due to the water.
Silverton Falls Hike with Kids
Just a 7-minute drive away from Johnston Canyon Falls is Silverton Falls. This hike is much less popular…so much so that we only saw one other group on the trail!
And just FYI, the Silverton Falls hike shares a trailhead with the Rockbound Lake trailhead. So, if you’re using Google Maps, search for Rockbound Lake trailhead to get to the right place.
I go back and forth on whether I would’ve done this hike with the kids had I known what it would entail. But if you have kids who are more experienced with hiking, you’ll likely enjoy it.
Silverton Falls Hike Details
Distance: 1.3 miles round trip
Time: ~1 hour
The Silverton Falls hike started out super easy. Nice and flat through tall trees with a stream of water that the boys enjoyed splashing in a bit. Then the switchbacks started which led to a VERY narrow, steep section.
To say I was stressed out and anxious at this point trying to make sure our 3 little guys were being careful would be an understatement! But we made it to Silverton Falls and enjoyed absolutely amazing views of Castle Mountain in the distance.
The return trip was a little less stressful after giving the boys a pep talk about going slow and being cautious.
Lunch at Trailhead Cafe
After a morning of hiking, we were off to the Lake Louise area! It was only about a 20-minute drive from our last hike of the morning to Lake Louise. After checking into our hotel, we grabbed lunch at Trailhead Cafe.
The line was long (out of the small restaurant), but it moved quickly. There weren’t many tables at the restaurant, so we took our sandwiches to go. We realized later that there was a little picnic area right next to the strip mall where the restaurant was located. It would’ve been the perfect spot to enjoy our lunch.
Now, let’s talk about what to order. My recommendation? The Gobbler, which is basically Thanksgiving dinner on a sandwich. It was delicious!
Canoe on Lake Louise
Our room wasn’t quite ready after lunch, so we spent some time doing a bucket list experience: canoeing on Lake Louise.
There are two important things to note here.
1. You aren’t able to make canoe reservations; it’s on a first come first served basis. Guests of the Fairmont get priority access, which is basically like having a Lightning Lane at Disney. Lucky for us, we were staying at the Fairmont! So, we got a canoe right away.
2. The canoes will only hold up to 2 adults and 2 kids OR up to 3 adults. As a family of 5 with 3 young kids, this wouldn’t have worked for us. Luckily, we were traveling with my in-laws, so we were able to split up to make this happen!
All ages are welcome on the canoes. They provided life jackets for everyone, including child-size life jackets. And they set us up in the canoe in a safe way for everyone. They even gave us a quick lesson on how to canoe because I had actually never done it before!
You can choose to canoe for 30 minutes or an hour. The better deal here is definitely an hour, as it’s only slightly more expensive than what they charge for 30 minutes. But we still only chose 30 minutes because we knew we didn’t want to stay out on the water for too long.
In that time, we were able to canoe quite a far distance, and our littlest guy even got a quick nap!
Dinner at Lakeview Lounge
Almost exactly when we were done canoeing, our room was ready! We got settled and then walked down to the lobby area for dinner at Lakeview Lounge at the Fairmont.
It was pricey, but this dinner was one of my favorites on the trip! We chose to sit on the patio and had THE best view. We enjoyed a 3-course meal, and the boys’ desserts were so cute that everyone had their eyes on our table as our waiter brought it out!
After dinner, we walked along the lake and my boys even talked me into stepping into the freezing-cold Lake Louise. The evening was full of laughs and smiles. That will be a memory I will remember forever!
Where to Stay near Lake Louise with Kids
Well, I already gave away where we stayed, but we splurged BIG TIME on this part of our trip. And everyone agreed that it was worth it!
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Day 4: Moraine Lake and Lake Louise
Day 4 was my absolute FAVORITE day of this entire trip. If you follow no other part of this itinerary, follow this part! Trust me on this one. This is a must-do in Banff National Park.
Moraine Lake Sunrise Tour
So how do you think a 2, 4, and 6-year-old did waking up at 4:15 AM to watch the sunrise at Moraine Lake? You might be surprised to hear that they not only did amazing, but they said it was one of their favorite parts of the trip!
The road to Moraine Lake is closed to personal vehicles, so you need to take a private tour or a shuttle bus to get there (unless you want to hike or bike there, which definitely wasn’t for us!). We opted for a private tour and couldn’t be happier with our choice.
We booked a private charter through Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle, and I can’t say enough great things about our experience! The communication with the owners of the company was perfect. They picked us up right when they stated they would at the entrance of our hotel and even provided car seats for our boys.
The tour included transportation to/from Moraine Lake, blankets, and hot beverages (coffee, hot chocolate, and tea). To top it off, our driver gave us the inside scoop on how to find THE best spot to enjoy the sunrise with almost no one else around!
Moraine Lake Rockpile with Kids
To get from the shuttle to our spot for the sunrise, it only took about 10 minutes max. The walk to the Rockpile is easy and well-maintained. Be aware that there are quite a few stairs to get there if anyone in your travel group has mobility issues, but I would still classify this as an easy hike.
As we waited for the sunrise, the boys were perfectly happy playing in the dirt and rocks while we were just in awe of this incredible place.
As the sun came up, the jagged mountain peaks began turning pink, and I can’t quite put into words how magical that moment felt.
Moraine Lake Lakeshore with Kids
After sunrise, we headed back down the Rockpile to walk along the Moraine Lake lakeshore. I couldn’t miss seeing those iconic canoes! The walk to the canoes is very easy, as it’s paved and flat.
The view from here is so different from the Rockpile, so it’s definitely worth going to enjoy the lake from this area as well.
Return to Lake Louise
We got back to Lake Louise around 7:45 AM, which allowed us to experience Lake Louise with almost no one around.
I realize I’ve talked a lot about how nice it is to get to places early to see these sights with fewer tourists, but one perk I haven’t mentioned is how still the lakes are earlier in the morning. If you want to witness those beautiful mountain reflections in the water, you’ll want to get to the lakes early!
After we marveled at the lake for a bit, we planned to grab breakfast at Bill Peyto’s Cafe; however, they were closed unexpectedly for the day. So, we swung by a nearby hotel (the breakfast there was expensiiiive and nothing to write home about) then went back to the Fairmont to take a good nap after our early morning.
Lake Louise Lakeshore Hike with Kids
Once we were well-rested, it was back to being active! The Lake Louise area has lots of hiking trails to choose from. A couple of Lake Louise hikes I had my eye on included the Lakeview Lookout and the Lake Agnes Teahouse.
But I’m going to be honest here: by this point in the trip, we were ready for a nice easy hike. So easy in fact that it was basically just a walk, which sounded like the perfect thing to do in Lake Louise with kids. And that was the Lake Louise Lakeshore hike.
Lake Louise Lakeshore Hike Details
Distance: 2.5 miles round trip
Time: ~1 hour
Now, when it says it takes about an hour roundtrip, that’s true as far as the actual walking time goes. But, when you get to the other side of the lake, you’ll want to enjoy some time down there away from the crowds.
This hike starts right outside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. If you’re looking at the lake, you’ll just head to the right and keep following that path all the way around the lake. Toward the very end of the hike, there will be some elevation, but otherwise, the trail is completely flat and paved.
Once you reach the other side of the lake, there’s a “beach” area. And I put beach in quotes because this is definitely a unique beach.
What looks like sand is actually more of a clay texture. And the water flowing through into the lake is straight from the glacier. When I say it’s freezing, I mean FREEZING.
I thought the water was cold the night before when we stuck our feet in, but on the other side of the lake, it’s at a whole different level. I was surprisingly okay with it though…it actually felt kind of good with all the hiking we had been doing on this trip!
We had some fun splashing around for a bit, then walked back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
Dinner at The Station Restaurant
To end our day, we had dinner at The Station Restaurant, which is a great family restaurant near Lake Louise. The Station Restaurant is full of history, as it’s housed in the old Lake Lousie train station. My boys loved looking at the old photographs hanging on the walls.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to eat in one of the dining cars, but we were still able to take a peek at them. We ate in the old train station instead, and our whole group enjoyed their meal.
Day 5: Icefields Parkway
In all of my research on the area, I kept coming across road-tripping along the Icefields Parkway. This road trip has been rated one of the top drives in the world. So, I felt like we couldn’t miss it (and I’m glad we didn’t miss it!).
But I couldn’t help but think: is doing that long of a road trip something we should do in Banff with a toddler in tow? Well, just to put any concerns to the side…there are so many stops along the way that we ended up having no issues at all.
Icefields Parkway Details
Total Time Spent on our Icefields Parkway Roadtrip with Kids
We left Lake Louise at 7:35 AM and got to our VRBO in Canmore at 5:00 PM. Total time = 9.5 hours!
So, yes, it was a long day! But I promise it didn’t feel overly long since there are so many stops along the way (including one long one, where we walked on a glacier!).
Icefields Parkway Stops
Here’s a quick summary of the stops we made along the Icefields Parkway:
- Herbert Lake
- Crowfoot Glacier
- Bow Lake
- Peyto Lake
- Columbia Icefields Adventure
- Mistaya Canyon
It’s good to note that while the Icefields Parkway will take you all the way from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park, we only drove part way and then turned around to return to Canmore.
Don’t miss our full Icefields Parkway itinerary.
Using GuideAlong for an Icefields Parkway Road Trip
By far, one of the best decisions we made during this trip was to use the app GuideAlong.
We literally turned it on no matter where we were driving during our trip because we loved listening to this audio guide so much. And it was especially useful during our Icefields Parkway road trip.
On the Icefields Parkway, GuideAlong told us exactly when to stop, important information about each stop, fun facts, and interesting historical stories. It even had some jokes!
The coolest part? The app uses your phone’s GPS, so even if you don’t have cell service (because you definitely won’t when you’re on the Icefields Parkway), it still works. Plus it works in the background, so you can still have Google Maps on (we downloaded offline maps) and take photos.
Take your Banff vacation to a whole new level using GuideAlong…you won’t regret it!
And did you know that GuideAlong offers audio tours for a bunch of other popular destinations?
End the Day in Canmore
After our Icefields Parkway extravaganza, we ended our day in Canmore.
As we were getting closer (and had cell service again!), we called to order pizza from Rocket Pie. It was so nice to end the day eating pizza at the VRBO instead of going to a sit-down meal at a restaurant.
Where to Stay in Canmore with Kids
Since we were traveling with my in-laws, we were a party of 8. So staying at a VRBO made perfect sense!
The VRBO we chose had enough bedrooms and bathrooms for all of us, a full kitchen, and (maybe most importantly when traveling as a family of 5) a washer and dryer. It was also within walking distance of a couple of the restaurants we ate at.
Day 6: Head to the Lakes Near Banff
Since we had until 4:00 PM for our Parks Canada Pass, we took advantage of going back to Banff one last time. And we were so happy we did!
Breakfast at Craigs’ Way Station
Before leaving Canmore, we grabbed breakfast at Craig’s Way Station, which really hit the spot. There’s nothing fancy about this place. And honestly, that’s why it was so good! It was the perfect way to fill up before a relaxing but busy morning.
Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive
The drive from Canmore to the Lake Minnewanka scenic loop is about 20 minutes. Once you’re there, you can easily enjoy the next three lakes I’m going to talk about.
We used the GuideAlong app during this drive. So while my plan was to go to Lake Minnewanka first, we decided to follow the directions the app provided and do the loop somewhat in reverse.
The only problem: we wanted to end our time on this scenic drive at Johnson Lake (you’ll see why soon!). So, the stops ended up being a little choppy. In hindsight, we probably would’ve gone to Lake Minnewanka first. But on the other hand, Two Jack Lake was getting busy by the time we left there (and we loooved that lake!), so maybe it worked out after all.
Two Jack Lake
Our first stop on the Lake Minnewanka scenic drive was Two Jack Lake. This was our favorite lake of the three!
We found a little island off to the left, where I’m pretty sure the boys could’ve played all day. There were lots of people setting up their spots for the day (complete with tents, coolers, and water activities), so this is definitely a lake you could spend a good amount of time at.
Next stop: Lake Minnewanka. This was by far the biggest of the 3 lakes we visited that day. And we could quickly tell that seeing Lake Minnewanka was one of the popular Banff summer activities. There was no parking left by the time we got there!
Luckily we found a tiny parking lot right off the road that had one parking spot open, as well as a very small rock beach area.
We spent a quick 15 minutes or so enjoying the views, then we were off to our final stop.
Our final stop was Johnson Lake. We specifically planned it that way because the boys wanted to swim. (And no, it was not lost on me that Those Johnson Boys got to swim in Johnson Lake on this bucket list trip to Banff!)
Johnson Lake is spring-fed, making it quite a bit warmer than the glacier-fed lakes we had dipped our toes in earlier in the trip. It was also the smallest of the 3 lakes we visited on this day, which made it safer for our boys to go for a swim.
There were bathrooms located right next to the parking lot, so the boys changed into their swimsuits and we went down to the small beach area. The boys had a blast playing in the sand and splashing around.
I wish we would’ve brought some small beach toys (honestly a small shovel and some cups would’ve sufficed), but luckily there were other kids there that happily shared.
As you can tell from the moody-looking photos, the smoke from wildfires had really started to roll in. While we were lucky throughout most of our trip, we did have a couple of smokey days, which is to be expected when visiting Banff in August (or Banff in the summer in general).
Grab Groceries from Save-On-Foods
Once we were done having fun at the lakes, we stopped by Save-On-Foods in Canmore to do a little grocery shopping so we could fix some meals at the VRBO instead of eating out for every meal.
This grocery store had anything we could want or need and reminded us of our grocery store back home. The boys were happy enough to head back to the VRBO to eat chicken nuggets with ranch for lunch then get a nap in.
Dinner at Tank 310
Our VRBO was a 5-minute walk away from Tank 310, making it a great spot to grab dinner.
Tank 310 is one of Grizzly Paw Brewery’s restaurants. It has some amazing views of the nearby mountains, but unfortunately for us, it was too smokey outside to really see them the night we were there.
We still enjoyed our dinner and drinks though! And the boys felt so fancy when their milk came out in copper mugs.
Day 7: Explore Canmore
Day 7 was our last full day in the area, so we wanted to take advantage of doing one last hike. And I think we may have saved the best hike for last!
Grassi Lakes Hike with Kids
Yet another moment we were happy we got the day started early! When we arrived at the Grassi Lakes trailhead in Canmore just after 8:00 AM, we easily found a parking spot. But on our way out, there were several cars circling the area waiting for a spot.
As we approached the trail, we saw a large sign to warn us that there was a bear in the area. It was the first hike in which we came across a sign like this so we were on high alert! But there was no need to worry, as we never saw a bear (in fact, we didn’t see a bear during our entire trip!).
Grassi Lakes Hike Details
Distance: 2.1 miles round trip
Time: ~1 hour
Similar to the Lake Louise Lakeshore hike, although the total time states that it takes about an hour to complete the Grassi Lakes trail, you’ll likely want more time than that because WOW the lakes at the top are ahhhmazing. We took about 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete the hike.
There are two ways to get to Grassi Lakes: the interpretive trail and the upper trail. While the upper trail is much easier (and you could definitely take that trail up and down), I highly recommend going up on the interpretive trail and down the upper trail.
As you climb the interpretive trail, you’ll come across little streams of water, rocks for the kids to climb on, and gorgeous views of Ha Ling Peak and the Lawrence Grassi Waterfall. The views from the upper trail weren’t nearly as good.
Once you get to the lakes, be prepared to have your mind blown by the color of the water. As the sun continued to come up, the lakes really started to show off their blue-green color. I was officially mesmerized!
After enjoying the lakes, we headed back down on the upper trail, which was a wide, paved, tree-lined trail.
Lunch at Iron Goat
Whether you follow this exact Banff National Park itinerary or not, if you’re in the Canmore area, you can’t miss having a meal at Iron Goat.
The staff was beyond friendly and the view of the Three Sisters mountain peaks was perfect. We all enjoyed our meals and drinks there. And they even let the boys ring the big bell on the way out of the restaurant.
Later in the day, we wanted to find a spot for the boys to run around a bit, and Quarry Lake was a great spot for that.
This small lake is spring-fed and was full of people enjoying a warm summer day in Canmore. We took a lap around the lake, relaxed a bit, then headed back to our VRBO to get ready for our date night.
Note: there is a small fee to park in the parking lot at Quarry Lake.
Date Night at Ankor
Our last night in Canmore just so happened to be our 11th wedding anniversary! And my mother-in-law graciously offered to watch the boys so we could go out to celebrate.
After debating between lots of restaurants, we decided to go to Ankor. And we were very happy with our decision!
The restaurant was quaint and casual but had very upscale food. We opted for the tasting menu (although they also had a standard menu), so it was a lot of fun to see the creativity in each course.
Day 8: Downtown Canmore, Drive to Calgary
Our last full day of the trip! Since the Banff/Canmore area is so beautiful, we weren’t in a rush to return to Calgary. So we spent a little more time here before making the drive.
Breakfast at Le Fournil Bakery
Starting the day with a coffee and chocolate almond croissant sounded great to me! So off we went to Le Fournil Bakery…and it didn’t disappoint.
Explore Downtown Canmore
After packing up, we headed to downtown Canmore. It was similar to downtown Banff in that the street does not allow cars, making it a nice area to walk around and do a little souvenir shopping.
We stopped for lunch at Graze, and unfortunately, after hitting the restaurant choices out of the park during this entire trip, this restaurant fell flat.
The food was just okay (we thought we were going to get lunch since we got there around 12:30 PM but found out that they were still serving breakfast), and we waited for over an hour just to get it. The table next to us actually left before they even got their food since they had waited so long. Eek.
Walk along Policeman’s Creek
Before leaving downtown Canmore, we took a stroll along the Policeman’s Creek boardwalk. This easy walk goes right through the downtown area and was a nice way for the boys to get some energy out before the drive to Calgary.
Drive to Calgary
To make our departure a little easier the next morning, we decided to drive back to Calgary the night before our flight and stay near the airport.
Once we got there, we grabbed dinner at…drumroll pleeeease…McDonald’s. Yes, you read that right. We’ve started a tradition of eating at McDonald’s on all of our international trips just to see the similarities and differences! At the McDonald’s in Calgary, we got to enjoy some poutine.
Where to Stay Near the Calgary Airport with Kids
We stayed at the Homewood Suites, where we literally had a view of the Calgary International Airport from our room. We were only a few minutes’ drive away, which made our departure day so much easier.
The boys enjoyed swimming in the pool on our last night of vacation (we brought along a wet bag for packing up the wet bathing suits since we knew this was the plan!). Breakfast was provided at the hotel, which was a great start to a long day of travel.
Homewood Suites Calgary Airport
Day 9: Return Home
We arrived at the Calgary International Airport about 3.5 hours before our departure time, and we were definitely glad we gave ourselves the extra time.
We returned our rental car, waited in quite a long line to check our bags, and then my husband got the dreaded “quad S” on his plane ticket.
If you don’t know what “quad S” is, it’s basically when you get randomly selected to go through an extensive screening process at security. So, we waited while every. single. thing. was taken out of his bags to be examined.
After security, we went through customs, which thankfully moved quickly! And grabbed lunch before we boarded our plane.
Going through customs in Canada was SO nice because we got to avoid customs at O’Hare in Chicago (and if you’ve been through customs there, you know it’s great whenever you can avoid it!).
Park Passes Needed for this Banff Itinerary
Whether you’re spending just one day in Banff or several days, you’ll need a park pass. But here’s the thing, there’s a different pass for your time near Canmore. Here are the park passes you’ll need for this specific Banff itinerary with kids:
Parks Canada Pass
We purchased a 5-day Parks Canada Pass, which covered us from day 1 of this Banff itinerary through 4:00 PM on day 6.
You can purchase your Parks Canada Pass at the kiosk as you drive into Banff National Park or you can purchase it in advance (which is what we did!). It was nice to have had it purchased in advance because we were able to bypass the line of cars waiting to purchase their pass as we drove in.
I won’t lie to you, I was really confused about which specific pass would be best for us, but the Banff & Lake Louise Tourism site made it simple! Just stick in your travel dates and traveler information, and it will tell you exactly which type of pass is the best value.
If it recommends a Discovery Pass (versus single-day passes), a physical pass will be mailed to you, so make sure you order your pass early to ensure there’s enough time prior to your trip for delivery. If you purchase the single-day passes, you’ll be able to print it out and bring it along with you.
Note: you will need a park pass for each car! For example, we were a party of 8 with two rental cars. But when we were putting in our traveler information, we did it in two separate transactions (one for each car). You leave your pass on your dashboard when you leave your car, so it won’t work to have one pass per family if you’re in separate cars.
Kananaskis Conservation Pass
One of the best places to visit near Banff is Canmore, and if you do that, you may need yet another pass! You do not need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass if you will just be in Canmore or visiting Quarry Lake, but if you’re planning to do some hiking near Canmore, there’s a good chance you’ll need one.
For this specific itinerary, we needed a Kananaskis Conservation Pass in order to hike at Grassi Lakes on day 7.
You can purchase this pass online up until the day before your visit. You need to have a license plate number, so we waited until we were in Canada and had our rental car before purchasing this pass.
What to Pack for this Summer Banff Itinerary
Visiting Banff National Park in summer is popular for a reason…and that’s the weather! The temperatures were comfortable during our entire trip, making all the things to do in Banff with kids that much more fun.
With that being said, it’s still in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, so the weather throughout the day was variable. Packing layers was essential!
To give you a specific timeframe, we were visiting Banff from July 30-August 7. The low temperatures during our trip were in the 40s/50s and the high temperatures were usually in the 70s (it actually got up to 80 degrees one day!). It only rained once during our trip, and that was the very first day.
Here’s a general overview of what we packed for our trip to Banff in August:
- Rain jacket
- Light winter coat (this came in handy during those early morning hikes and the sunrise at Moraine Lake)
- Hiking shoes (these are the hiking shoes our boys had and these are the hiking shoes I had on the trip)
- Regular tennis shoes
- Long sleeve shirts
- Short sleeve shirts
- Shorts (although, we didn’t wear shorts often!)
- Reusable water bottle
- Backpack for hiking
- Wet bag
- First Aid kit
Since we visited Banff with a toddler and young kids, here are some specific things we packed just for them:
- Carrier (we brought our Gooseket sling)
- Blow-up booster seat for our 6-year-old (we rented convertible car seats for our 2 and 4-year-olds)
- Travel toilet seat insert
- Activity bag for travel
- Stroller for the airport
- White noise machine
Just a quick reminder, we purchased bear spray, bug spray, breakfast food, snacks, and pull-ups once we arrived in Calgary at the start of our trip so we didn’t have to worry about traveling with any of that.
FAQ: Banff with Kids
What is the best time to visit Banff with kids?
The summer months (think mid-June to early September) are a great time to visit Banff with kids. The weather is mild, making it easy to enjoy all the outdoor family activities in Banff. While Banff in July and August gets very busy, it’s easy to escape the crowds by starting your day early (which worked great for us because our boys are early risers!).
Are there things to do in Banff with toddlers in summer?
There are SO many things to do in Banff with toddlers! My 2-year-old had fun exploring nature during the hikes, splashing in the bright blue lakes, walking on a glacier, and riding on the Banff Gondola.
How many days do you need in Banff National Park?
I’d recommend at least 5 days in Banff National Park with kids to really take in all the beauty and drive around to see different sights. While this itinerary was a bit longer to include nearby areas, you could easily modify it to become a 5 day Banff itinerary.
Is Banff a good place to visit with kids?
Banff is not only a good place to visit with kids, but it’s officially moved to the top of my list when I think about kid-friendly places to travel to. If your family enjoys the outdoors, there are so many things for kids to do in Banff. On top of that, all of the restaurants offered kid-friendly foods and every person we met was incredibly welcoming to our little ones.
What airport do you fly into to go to Banff?
When visiting Banff, you’ll want to fly into Calgary International Airport. From there, it’s a 1.5-hour drive to Banff. We rented a car and used the GuideAlong app during our drive, which was a fun way to learn about the area.
What is the best way to get to Banff?
While there are shuttle services from Calgary to Banff, we found it beneficial to have a rental car. That way, once we were in Banff, we could easily explore nearby areas on our own schedule without having to rely on transit services.
Is it better to stay in Banff or Canmore?
We were very happy with our decision to stay in both Banff and Canmore! Banff has so much to do and see, and Canmore is quieter with fewer tourists. It was nice to experience the area both ways.
Which is better Fairmont Banff or Lake Louise?
Both Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise are beautiful and offer exceptional service. However, Fairmont Banff Springs is located in a quieter area away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Banff, while Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is located right on the busiest area of the lake. We were glad we chose to stay at Peaks Hotel in downtown Banff so we could be within walking distance of everything, as well as Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise so we could be just steps away from the lake.
How far apart are Banff and Lake Louise?
Banff is located about 45 minutes away from Lake Louise.
Final Thoughts: Banff Itinerary with Kids
Visiting Canada with kids–and more specifically, visiting Banff National Park with kids–was one of the best international trips we’ve ever taken. And if you couldn’t tell, we absolutely loved this Banff National Park itinerary! It was FULL of fun family things to do in Banff.
Heading to Banff with kids, but still have some questions? Feel free to send me a message on Instagram!
Wondering how I give my photos a bit of an oomph?
Well, let’s just say I’m a little obsessed with the Light & Airy Photographer photo editing presets.
In just one click, your photo goes from, “Aw, that’s cute,” to, “WOW!”