Banff Locals' Secrets
While all of the tips on banffinsider.com can be classified as Banff Locals' Secrets, there are a few places to go and things to do that only Banff locals know about and which will take you far away from the madding tourist crowd. These Banff Locals' Secrets can also help you stretch your Banff tourist dollars.
If it is a hot day, grab your beach towel and something that floats and make your way to Johnson Lake, a popular Banff locals secret swimming hole that you can find by heading towards Lake Minnewanka, either by heading towards the highway on Banff Avenue and just continuing past the highway or taking the turnoff off the highway to Lake Minnewanka. Follow the signs to Johnson Lake and pick a suitable spot anywhere along the near shore to throw your beach towel down and dive in. This is a great spot for picnics as well and there are some picnic tables and fire pits. Naturally, the water is a tad cool if you are used to Caribbean waters, but it is without a doubt refreshing.
THE BEST PLACE TO PARK IN BANFF
Parking on Banff Avenue may seem like a nice thing to do, but, even if you can find a space, overstaying your welcome or not heeding the signs will land you a ticket from the vigilant parking authorities. Without a doubt, therefore, the Banff locals' secret is the Bear Street parkade: the best thing going for parking in Town. Four levels of parking for up to 12 hours located only one block off of central Banff Avenue (Bear Street runs parallel). You can get to Bear Street by taking Caribou Street off of Banff Avenue and turning left.
THE BEST PLACE TO PARK AN RV IN BANFF
Save yourself the heart/headache and leave it at the campground. Seriously. We realize this is not really a Banff locals' secret in that it is not a local secret about something great to do or try, but it will definitely save you a heap of trouble.
THE BEST SHOT OF THE BANFF SPRINGS HOTEL
That one great shot of the Banff Springs Hotel IS the picture most people have in their mind when they think of Banff. It is not hard to get to, but it does involve a little driving and some sketchy parking on the side of the road (which 99% of people do in Banff anyway in order to take pictures). To get to the "Surprise Corner", turn off of Banff Avenue at the CIBC bank onto Buffalo Street. Admire all of the mansions on the right side of the road as the street winds you around slightly to the right. Eventually, you will find yourself with a fantastic view of the Banff Springs Hotel and the whole valley. Where it is safe to do so, pull off the side of the road and get out and take your pictures. You will see that you are directly above Bow Falls, although if you want the shot of Bow Falls, you need to head towards the Banff Springs Hotel and follow the signs. If it is a weekend, please be mindful of the various wedding parties and their local photographers, for whom this is also a favourite location.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE HOT SPRINGS
Basically, the simple rule is to try and avoid the tour buses dropping off heaps of tourists looking to partake in the healing waters. This is easier said than done, as you can never quite be sure when a tour bus is going to arrive. Play it safe and go either during the day (avoiding the 4-6pm post-shopping pre-dinner crowd) or in the last hour before it closes. The Hot Springs are magic after dark anyway.
THE BEST PLACE TO GET SOME CULTURE AND HISTORY IN YOU
The Whyte Museum has wonderful collections of rocky mountain art and information on historic Banff and its residences. Located at 111 Bear Street, near the Bear Street parkade.
A view of Banff's Rundle Mountain. When the leaves start to turn colour in fall, locals know that ski and snowboard season is right around the corner.
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