Banff: Top Attractions
|Chateau Lake Louise and her namesake (courtesy, Travel Alberta)|
The Fairmont Banff Springs
The crowning jewel of all Canadian Rockies resorts, this baronial palace is the wilderness' most opulent outpost. Envision this imposing picture: towers, turrets, cornices, and thick granite walls set against a take-your-breath-away beautiful alpine backdrop. Wrought-iron chandeliers and 20-foot windows greet you in the grandiose lobby, while guestrooms feature historical artwork, high-thread-count linens, and granite and marble bathrooms. Hospitality and service are both top-notch, as expected. One of Canada's most esteemed courses, the Banff Springs Golf Course, lies right outside the door.
Willow Stream Spa
Boasting a recent $2.3-million facelift, this award-winning spa offers first-class pampering in a serene mountain environment. Willow Stream, a European-style facility inside the Banff Springs Hotel, features 23 updated treatment rooms, an indoor Hungarian mineral pool, and three waterfall whirlpools. Varied offerings include massages, facials, and re-hydration therapies.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
The Fairmont is a gargantuan French chateau set on the edge of the turquoise waters of Lake Louise, framed by a magnificent glacier. Classy and posh with vast public spaces, it's quite a luxurious place to bed down. The four penthouse suites are simply magnificent, featuring spiral staircases leading to sheltered private balconies overlooking the lake. And the Royal Suite is the best of the best, featuring its own damask, gilt, and marble saloon.
In spectacular Lake Louise, this Relais & Chateaux property epitomizes mountain elegance and tips the scales even further with its first-rate service. Common spaces boast a cozy lodge ambiance drawn from timber-and-stone architecture. Guest rooms feature goose-down duvets, Jacuzzi tubs, and inviting fireplaces. The suites and cabins have a distinctive Canadian mountain character about them. Be forewarned: the place fills quickly in the summer.
Drink in the majestic scenery of the Canadian Rockies from a helicopter. Surrounded by such rarified air, you'll get a bird's-eye view of shimmering, emerald-green lakes, snow-capped peaks, and mile upon mile of pristine alpine beauty. If you're up for it, try a heli-hiking packagetouch down on a secluded mountaintop and follow an experienced guide on a four-hour hike through the hinterland.
Alpine Helicopters: 403.678.4802, www.alpinehelicopter.com
Moraine Lake Lodge
This ever-popular lodge, which exudes a casual ambiance without sacrificing deluxe luxury, derives its caché with chunky log furniture, beds plump with cushions, and lake and mountain views from practically every window. The lodge sits on the edge of the Valley of Ten Peaks amid jaw-dropping scenery (including the shimmering blue-green Moraine Lake), so as you might imagine, fantastic hiking awaits just outside your door.
Buffalo Mountain Lodge
Housed in a fantasy-like log cabin, the lodge and its enticing lobby reel you in with massive rafters and Navajo carpets. Away from the noise of downtown Banff but close enough to be central, it's a quiet, romantic spot. To further that impression, accommodations are spread around the wooded seven-and-a-half-acre property. Private balconies are perfect for quite reflection, while fireplaces and feather duvets keep you toasty. Sophisticated décor in the most pricey digs include claw-foot tubs in slate-tiled bathrooms and pine-and-twig furniture.
The leading cultural center in this corner of the Rockies, the Banff Centre hosts dance, theater, music, dramatic readings, and visual arts performances. One of Canada's most esteemed art schools, it's gaining international recognition thanks in part to its Summer Arts Festival. The 2005 lineup includes the return of Filumena (an opera that the local company first produced in 2003) as well as two dance world premieres, as well as orchestral and jazz performances.
Banff Centre: 403.762.6100, www.banffcentre.ca
Banff Mountain Film Festival
This week-long festival in early November showcases the world's best mountain films. Presented in conjunction with National Geographic, the 40 films screened throughout the festival feature all things related to outdoor adventure, from ice climbing and mountain expeditions to remote cultures and the world's truly wild places.
Banff Mountain Film Festival: 800.413.8368, www.banffmountainfestivals.ca
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication