Mama and Papa Bird’s Canmore/Banff Travel Guide

Reader Suggested Topic (Canmore/Banff)

    Some readers have requested a travel guide to the mountains, which was an exciting topic for us to write about being that we love the mountains so much. We separated it into 4 categories: Accommodations, Activities, Eating and Drinking, and Shopping. The tough part about this is that Mama Bird and I usually go to the same places once we know if they are great. We are not the type of people that have to try a new restaurant every time, once we know its great we go there all the time. So there may not be too much on the list compared to what is actually there but none the less, we hope this helps when you are in Canmore and Banff.

Canmore Sign

Eating and Drinking

Canmore

Communitea Cafe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • If you are looking for healthy food in Canmore this is the place to go! The food is fantastic, the drinks are fantastic, the atmosphere is great. They have a wide selection on their menu from big bowls, to wraps, to sandwiches, to soups, to salads, to delicious baked goods. This is the place we go to the most while we are in Canmore. My bold claim: "Communitea Cafe is the BEST cafe in Canmore, without a doubt!"
  • Favorite Meal: Asian Fusion Rice Bowl with Chicken
  • Favorite Drink: Maple Latte
  • Pros: Healthy choices. Wide variety of food. Gluten free, vegan, and diary free options. Portion size is good.
  • Cons: Unfortunately it's pretty expensive, for us to each get a meal (plus added chicken because that's extra) and each get a specialty drink is between $50 and $60 which is really high for a cafe (If the quality and taste wasn't where it is we would take off 1 star but it is really good. So even though it's crazy expensive for a cafe it still gets 5 stars). If you happen to hit it at the wrong time you could be waiting a while because it is quite popular.

Photos taken from Communitea's Website

 

Rocky Mountain Bagel Co.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Coffees, bagels, and baked goods - that is what this place specializes in. A wide selection of all 3 for you to choose from. To go with those is a great mountain atmosphere with couches and a fire place while being able to look out at the beautiful mountains. In the summer you can sit outside on the patio and get that mountain feel even more. This place is great and another stop we make every time we are in town.
  • Favourite Meal: Bagel Garden
  • Favorite Drink: Iced Vanilla Latte
  • Pros: The essential feel of a mountain cafe. Great views. Great coffee, bagels, and baked goods selection to choose from. Reasonably priced.
  • Cons: While they have good selections in what they specialize in, if you don't want a bagel or something bread heavy you don't have much of a choice. Choose your timing wisely because this place gets packed!
 

Other Cafes to check out: Mountain Mercato and Good Earth.

 

Crazy Weed⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • "The best restaurant in Canmore". Another bold claim we are making but something that Crazy Weed has definitely backed up time and time again. We have never been disappointed by a meal there. What we have had has been so good that it's hard to venture to other parts of the menus because it's so delicious.
  • Favourite Meal: 10oz AB Grass Fed Ribeye,
  • Favourite Drink: Any of their Port Wine selections
  • Pros: Great atmosphere. Fantastic food, some of the best meals of our lives have come from Crazy Weed, it was hard to pick just one. Always high quality ingredients. Great serving size.
  • Cons: Definitely on the expensive side. You will not get out of there having a low cost meal unless you go bare bones with your ordering. It's still worth it 100% but just be aware of the price.

Photos taken from Crazy Weed's Facebook Page

 

Tavern 1883⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • The second best restaurant in Canmore is definitely Tavern 1883. Now it might be a little biased but let me explain. When we go to the mountains Papa Bird has a "mountain playlist" that gets put on when we are chilling in the house. Just a bunch of songs that feel mountainy if that makes sense haha. When we went here it was like they secretly linked to Papa Bird's iPhone because most of the songs were the same as on my mountain playlist. It elevated the experience so much more for us which is silly but take our bias into consideration. It does have a great feel inside which provides a great atmosphere.
  • Favourite Meal: Tavern Classic Burger or Fish Tacos
  • Favourite Drink: Mojito
  • Pros: Great atmosphere, great background music ;) , reasonably priced. An all around great place.
  • Cons: There is nothing really to complain about with this place. We have not tried very much on the menu so can't comment on the depth of the menu.

Photos taken from Tavern 1883's website

 

Other restaurants to check out: The Wood and Tapas

BONUS: If you are in Canmore in the summer and want some delicious ice cream, then you need to go to The Scoopin' Moose

 

Banff

Now we haven't done as much eating in Banff as we spend most of our time in Canmore and there are such great places in Canmore but here are 2 restaurants we have been to. 

Maple Leaf Grill and Lounge⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Situated right off Main Street so easy to find. Once you enter you will get a nice look and feel to the restaurant. I really like how they have separate rooms to eat in, making it feel more cozy and not too big. They have the front room, the lounge, the back room, and up-stairs. It's not like this place is the best but it is really good and there really isn't anything wrong with it.
  • Favourite Meal: AAA Alberta New York Steak or Grilled Chicken Club
  • Favourite Drink: Coffee (we have only gone there for brunch or lunch)
  • Pros: Great atmosphere, reasonably priced, we have never had to wait even with not having a reservation (but again we have only been there for brunch or lunch).
  • Cons: There is nothing really to complain about with this place. We have not tried very much on the menu so can't comment on the depth of the menu.

Photos taken from Maple Leaf Grill's website

 

Grizzly House⭐️

  • This is a fondue restaurant, it's the only other restaurant we have gone to in Banff and I DO NOT recommend it at all. We had a terrible experience. We went a couple years ago and have not been back since. So we don't know if they have changed it at all but if it's the same, we didn't really enjoy our experience. Here are some of the bad or weird things with the restaurant:
  • When you first walk in you can see that they sell women's thongs in the display case with the restaurant logo on it. This is a really weird choice for a restaurant establishment, if you ask me.
  • The place is crazy cluttered and chaotic.
  • It used to be a disco club in the 70's that had phones at every table and they didn't get rid of the phones so you might get calls from a random table while you're eating your meal.
  • We got the hot rock to cook our food and it got cold so it took a really long time to cook the meat. No one was full when we left.
  • And finally the bathrooms have glass windows on the doors so you can get that awkward eye contact of seeing someone in the hallway after peeing haha.
  • Definitely do not go here unless you want a weird experience haha. I know it said it was a disco club but it sure feels like it was a swingers club...
 

If you want to go for coffee in Banff give Evelyn's Coffee Bar a try. We have only ever had regular coffee and a vanilla latte so we can't say too much about that place.  But the coffee was decent.


Accommodations

    Because we always stay at our friends place we do not have very much expertise on other places to stay or how good they are. There are lots of options on VRBO and AirBNB.


Shopping/Services

There are always lots of those tourist shops in places like Canmore and Banff but those are kind of tacky. Canmore does offer lots of great shopping though.

  • Rebound Cycle: For anything bike related, this is the go to place. The rentals are reasonably priced and every Wednesday they do a free group ride for whoever shows up.
  • Armadillo Games: This board/card game store has a seemingly infinite supply of games to play. Lots of great options if you are games people.
  • Stonewaters Home Elements: The house and home store is awesome. It has a great vibe and offers lots of unique home items. They also have a Jacek Chocolate Couture boutique in the store and they make fantastic chocolate.
  • Tin Box: This place is a knick knack fun store with a wide variety of options to choose from.
  • Cafe Books: A great little book store with a small town feel.
  • Primitive Imprint Tattoo: One of 3 tattoo shops in Canmore and by far the best one (obviously I am biased haha) with an award winning tattoo artist.
  • Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe: Want to explore a wide variety of candy from all over the world then you need to go here. They have candy, chocolate, and baked goods.
  • Alberta's Own Marketplace: This is a great store that only sells products handcrafted in Alberta. They are all about promoting and shopping local. If you have a product that you make in Alberta you can apply to be a vendor at the store on their website. The store has a great feel to it and unique products.

Activities

Biking and Hiking Trails: Canmore and Banff have hundreds of km's of hiking and biking trails to traverse. There are way too many to name but some others to check out are:

  • Prairieview Lookout
  • Goat's Creek
  • High Rockie's
  • Grassi Lakes
  • Grotto Canyon
  • Johnston Canyon

Nordic Centre (Biking and Cross Country Skiing): Whether you are fat biking or cross country skiing there are dozens of km's to try out. You can rent both skis and fat bikes from them and they are reasonably priced. 

Snowboarding/Skiing: There are quite a few hills to choose from and we have ranked them below

  1. Nakiska: We love this hill and always give it a glowing recommendation. Sometimes people look shocked when we say it's the best because it's small but we had one of our best days ever here. It was a perfect combination or barely anybody on the hill and soooo much powder it was crazy as well as not very cold creating a fantastic day. So do take our bias into account when deciding what hill to go to.
  2. Lake Louise: An all around great hill with lots to offer but it's the furthest one away from Canmore.
  3. Mount Norquay: Our experience with Mount Norquay was short lived as Mama Bird's binding snapped and so we had to go buy her new bindings that ate the day up but while we were there it was really good.
  4. Sunshine: Now sunshine gets the worst rating because that hill is made for skiers and we are snowboarders. If you are a snowboarder you need to stay on goats creek and do not go up to the top mountain or you are going to hit a TON of flat spots. 

Banff Hot Springs: It's not the best hot springs (radium is a great one but that's a little far away) but it's still really good. Definitely be careful as to when you go because it can get crazy busy. There have been a few times where it took 40 minutes of waiting in line to get in.

Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay: This is one of the highlights of activities to do in this area. I call it extreme ladder mountain climbing. It is completely safe and you are strapped in the whole time. There are rebar pegs for you to hold and step on the whole way. The views are breathtaking! Very worthwhile to do. 

Heli Adventures: There are lots of options for helicopter tours in the Canmore and Banff area. It is quite expensive but it is pretty awesome if you get the chance. A few different places to check out are: Alpine Helicopter Tours and Rockies Heli Canada.

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I hope this helps with your travel desires in the Canmore and Banff area. If you have any questions at all don't hesitate to ask in the comments down below. Or if you have a favourite place/activity or store in Canmore or Banff, let us know! We would love to check it out! We would love to help if we can and if you want to suggest a topic for us to write on don't hesitate to let us know.

- Mama and Papa Bird