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Having celebrated its 125th birthday in 2010, Banff is Canada's oldest and most famous national park, its fabulous and dramatic landscapes the first, best argument that Canada's abundant, spectacular wilderness was worthy of federal protection. Its 6,641 sq. km (2,564 sq. miles) of incredibly dramatic mountain landscape, glaciers, high moraine lakes, and rushing rivers make it clear no argument was to be made at all; this is one of the most gorgeous places on Earth.
If there's a downside, it's that everybody knows it. In the towns of Banff and nearby Lake Louise (though much less so in Louise), a walk on main street can give you the odd sensation of walking in midtown New York City at rush hour, and it's not because of the urbane sophistication the towns have cultivated; it's crowded, and the sidewalks can be shoulder to shoulder.
Happily, the wilderness is just steps away. Thanks to outstanding infrastructure, and professional guides and outfitters, it's easy in Banff National Park to get on a raft, bike, or horse and find a little solitude. Alternatively, consider visiting the park off-season, when prices are lower, the locals are friendlier, and the scenery is just as stunning.
For more information on the park, contact Banff National Park (P.O. Box 900, Banff, AB T1L 1K2; tel. 403/762-1550; www.pc.gc.ca).
Banff Townsite -- So gorgeous is Banff townsite, it can sometimes seem surreal: quaint buildings, some of them historic, line a bustling main street, over which loom the peaks of the Rockies so close you feel like you could reach out and touch them. Mt. Rundle, the town's signature peak, towers over Banff Avenue from the south; its appearance lends support to the tectonic-plate theory of mountain creation, as one side, smooth as the plains, crests at a point and gives way to a jagged underside. To the south, the Bow River Bridge traverses the fast-rushing Bow in the shadow of massive Mt. Cascade.
It's postcard perfect -- exactly why the Banff Springs Hotel was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company in 1888 (it's now owned by the luxurious Fairmont hotel chain), to draw tourists to the rugged beauty of the Rockies, providing all the comforts, including geothermally heated hot springs. The plan worked: Visitors flocked, and the town grew rapidly to accommodate.
The setting may be unreal, but in some cases, so is the town; in between the remaining historic buildings are high-end contemporary shopping malls, with luxury international brands and inflated prices. Banff also has an alarming surfeit of fudge shops -- the international symbol for "tourist trap." Banff is vibrant and cosmopolitan, its sidewalks crowded with people from all over the world year-round; what it isn't, though, is peaceful -- especially in summer.
With American Airlines flights to Banff, experiencing the breathtaking natural splendor of Canada is easy and worry-free. Charge the batteries on the camera and get ready to recharge all of your senses with the many beautiful and relaxing things to do in Banff -- not the least of which is spending time in Banff National Park.
Most people who travel to this part of Canada are here for one of the most popular activities in Banff, and that's visiting Banff National Park. It's located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and it's been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It covers over 2,500 square miles of mountains, glaciers, forests and natural hot mineral springs. In fact, it was the discovery of these hot springs by Canadian Pacific Railway workers in 1883 that led to the formation of the park -- the first national park in Canada. Plan to visit Lake Louise, as it's easily one of the most beautiful natural settings on earth. You'll also want to drive under the peaks of Icefields Parkway, with views of glistening, snow-capped domes as far as you can see. And wherever you go in the park, keep your eyes open for wildlife such as grizzly bears, caribou, wolves and bison.
Depending on what time of year you visit, and how active you like to be, there are many adventurous things to do in Banff. Biking, backpacking, hiking, mountain climbing, rafting, bird watching, canoeing, fishing and, of course, skiing are all options. And if you'd like to see all of the outdoor splendor in a more relaxed way, choose the Banff City Sightseeing Tour. Over three hours, you'll see it all during a guided tour and have the chance to ride a gondola for even more amazing views.
The town itself offers many activities in Banff. You can visit museums, including the Canadian Ski Museum West and Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum. There are also many art galleries in Banff, along with a thriving performing arts scene. And since Banff National Park was founded after the discovery of natural hot springs, there are of course a number of spas and wellness centers designed to relax and rejuvenate you after a long day of sightseeing or outdoor adventure.
It's so beautiful here that American Airlines has made it easy to fly to Banff so you can marvel at it firsthand. Take a look at flights and start planning to your retreat into unbelievable natural beauty now.
|Barpa Bills||Mediterranean||Around Town||1||1|
|Bow Valley Grill||Canadian||Around Town||3||2|
|Cilantro Mountain Café||American Regional||Around Town||3||2|
|Coyotes Deli & Grill||American Regional||Around Town||2||2|
|Eddie's Burger Bar||Burgers||Around Town||1||1|
|Sleeping Buffalo at Buffalo Mountain Lodge||Canadian||Around Town||3||2|
|The Bison Mountain Bistro||Canadian||Around Town||3||4|
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