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Word of Mouth: Banff

Family-style dining, stunning views, and even a swinger-friendly venue—this Canadian town is more than snow-sports

The Canadian Rockies portion of the Bow River Valley in Alberta, Canada is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Banff, which sits in the heart of this allure, is inside of the Banff National Park—another of Canada’s gems. Banff is encased by mountain peaks; Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Norquay and Cascade Mountain—all you have to do is look up for a good view. Just 78 miles from Calgary, this breathtaking nature is a convenient drive down the Trans Canada Highway 1. As the country celebrates its 150 anniversary this year, it’s fitting to highlight not only newer establishments, but also those that have made Banff and The Bow Valley a landmark.

The Fairmont Banff Springs

If you don’t actually stay at the Banff Springs hotel, you should drive up and see the “Castle in the Rockies.” The stone structure (built in 1928 to replace the first construction from 1888), is a Canadian National Historic Site—and a spectacular sight. The 764-room hotel has an old heritage exterior charm, but plenty of modern luxuries inside. Perhaps the biggest draw is one of the best spas in Canada: the decadent Willow Stream Spa.

The Moose Hotel and Suites

Located in downtown Banff, the Moose Hotel and Suites is one of the latest builds in town. Because of development caps in Banff, in order to do new construction, the Moose had to gain development allotment and the reuse of preexisting buildings was deliberate. Formerly three motels—which were demolished and rebuilt using local reclaimed and salvaged materials—the new accommodation features a gorgeous cherry log mantle in the lobby. Local craftspeople and artists were employed to give the hotel a unique Banff flavor. For those seeking out even more R+R after long days on the snow, the Meadow Spa + Pools boasts one of the most scenic hot pools in town.

The Grizzly House

Founded back in 1967 by Barbara and Peter Steiner, The Grizzly House was apparently the first disco in the area until liquor laws made it mandatory for the venue to serve food—which they did through a hole in the wall connecting to the neighboring Chinese restaurant. Soon after, the Steiners asked their staff to bring in their own fondue sets, and thus began the food theme for the Grizzly House. The Grizzly House is known to be family-friendly as well as swinger-friendly. Each table has a phone and each placemat has a map of the restaurant with the corresponding numbers to each table. Whether you are prank calling your neighbor, your own table from the bathroom (naturally, there are phones in the bathrooms) or feeling “curious” about people at another table, the phones are a unique feature that make The Grizzly House a Banff institution.

The Big Three

Not all close proximity ski resorts are friendly, but the Big Three—Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine—are practically family. Norquay, the oldest, is located right in town and offers 60 runs. Although Norquay has modern lifts and amenities, it is the most old-school of the three, giving hometown charm with its views. Lake Lousie’s draw is its backcountry beauty, making it one of the most iconic ski hills in the world. While Sunshine has the longest season of the three—extending well into May.

Alpine Social

Inspired by mountaineering and adventure, Alpine Social Lake Louise is Lake Louise’s latest restaurant, housed in the Fairmont Chateau. With a modern design and a sharing-style menu, the Alpine Social offers dishes like smoked chicken wings, crispy pork ribs and milk-fed shank that is so tender it almost melts. With mountaineering axes and iconic images of famous summits in the area, this venue is a perfect place to take in a meal or a drink after a long day in the mountains—we recommend their Social Smoked Sazerac.

Fairmont image courtesy of venue, interior images by Raf Andronowski, exterior images by Amelia Le Brun


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