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Banff National Park, Canada's oldest, was established in 1885, and for many it's the gateway to the Canadian Rockies. The town of Banff and its many hotels serve as an ideal base from which to explore the park and its national park neighbours, Kootenary, Yoho and Jasper, with all wonderful sites and vistas. But take the time and you'll find that Banff has a lot more to offer than just a hotel room. Here are just a few examples to tempt you to spend a little more time exploring the town , its many attractions and rich history.
Banff and the Bow valley ( from the Sulphur Mountain gondola )
The Bow valley has been home to Indigenous tribes , who used the area to trade , camp and hunt for nearly 8,000 years. However the story of the Town of Banff and the Nation Park of the same name only began with the arrival of the railway in the 1880's. In 1871 the Canadian prime minister John McDonald promised the newly formed province of Britsh Columbia a direct railroad link to the east coast if the province joined the Canadian Confederation. It wasn't until the summer of 1883 that the construction of the railway line reached the Bow valley at siding 29 , later to become Banff station. On a day off three Canadian Pacific Railroad ( CPR ) workers Tom McCardell , William McCardell and Frank McCabe decided to go hunting for gold. They crossed the bow river and at the base of Sulpher mountain found a cave , but instead of gold they discovered a hot spring. Word soon got out about the hot spring's and it was soon attracting wealthy visitor's from all over the world , encouraged by the government and creating a source of revenue to help pay for the new railway.
In 1885 a 2,500 hectare reserve was created by the government to protect the hot spings , which was expanded two years later and renamed the Rocky Mountain Park , at this time the parks main function was still to raise funds from wealthy tourists to repay the debt incured in building the railway. In 1986 surveyor George Stewart was commissioned by the government to lay out a town site between the railway line and the Bow river and the town of Banff was born. Meanwhile the general manager of the CPR , William Cornelius Van Horne was tasked with creating a hotel business to take advantage of the growing tourist trade . he commissioned architect Bruce Price to design a Mountain resort hotel and in 1888 the Banff Springs hotel opened it's doors for the very first time. Enterprising local's in the town of Banff soon started to open shops , restaurants and began to offer boat and hunting trips to take advantage of the growing numbers of tourist's attracted to the new park , hotel and hot springs.
The park boundry was expaned again in 1902 to include 11,400 square kilometres and this together with the lifting of the restriction of the use of automobiles in 1915 attracted even more visitor's. More commercial facilities , restuarants , shops , hotels and tour companies opened . In 1929 the Stanley Thompson designed golf course opened at the Banff Springs hotel , and around the same time Mt Norqauy ski hill began to be developed turning Banff into a year round destination.
The town has alway's been a service centre for the tourist trade and controlled by what is now known as Parks Canada. In 1990 ( after a vote in 1988 ) Banff became an incorparated town .Today Banff is a modern self contained mountain community with a population of around 9,000 people offering the ideal base to explore Banff National Park .
If you have a full day's sightseeing or a trip hiking the hills ahead of you , or you've spent all day on the slopes, Banff has a great choice of restaurant's to suit all tastes and budgets. Most hotels offer a breakfast, or you could try one of the local favorites such as Melissa's , Bruno's , Tooloulou's or Ricky's All Day Grill. If you're still hungry after breakfast, Banff also offers lots of choice during the day, from fast food to casual dining or takeaway food from one of the local supermarkets. In the evening, you'll be spoilt for choice with a menu to suite every taste. Here is a small selection of the restaurants and eateries available in Banff. Tipping - most servers rely on customer tips to top up thier basic wage. It's Canadian custom to tip the following amounts for good service: drinks in a bar, a few dollars; breakfast and lunch between 10 & 15%; an evening meal, between 15 & 20%.
Price Guide for main course - $$$ typically over $30.00 - $$ typically over $15.00 - $ under $15.00
Alberta is world famous for its AAA beef, and Banff has a great choice of steak restaurants.
If steak isn't your thing, don't worry - Banff has lots of other options--fine dining, Canadian game and fish , international cusine, casual dining and a wide choice of great bars, most of which serve food all day. Here is a small selection,
Offering some of the world's most spectacular mountain landscapes, Banff National Park is a hiker's dream with hundreds of miles of trails suitable for all levels of experience and fitness, with space to explore stunning scenery and quiet backwaters far from the well-worn tourist paths. And if you're staying in Banff, some of the very best are right on your doorstep! It's always a good idea to check with the Parks Canada trail office before you set out (or the online trail report), and carry water, additional warm clothes and a rain jacket . Always carry bear spray, whatever the season, and know how to use it. Remember to give all wildlife plenty of space, especially the elk in early spring and fall. Obey all trail closures and remember all you need to take from your hike are fantastic memories and photo's. Here is a small selection of local hikes you can take right from downtown Banff without the need for a car :
Visitor Information Centre