The 15 Best Things to do in Banff with Kids in Winter

Welcome to Banff National Park, a winter wonderland where families can embark on unforgettable adventures together. From skiing down the snowy slopes to exploring enchanting ice castles, there’s no shortage of activities to delight and entertain kids of all ages.

As a fellow mom, who lives in this winter wonderland that sometimes lasts up to 8 months, I’ll share with you all the best things to do in Banff with kids in winter.

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kids looking through the window of ice castle on Lake Louise.
Our kids exploring the ice castle at Lake Louise.

Best Things to do in Banff in Winter with Kids

Skiing & Snowboarding in Banff National Park

Snowboarding or skiing in Banff is a fun and exciting winter activity for the whole family! Banff National Park is home to three world-class resorts such as Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff Sunshine Village, and Mt. Norquay. At all three Banff ski resorts, you’ll find ski schools and terrain suitable for all skill levels.

child at ski lessons at Mt Norquay ski resort in Banff.
Our daughter at ski lessons at Mt Norquay Ski Resort.

These ski resorts not only provide spectacular views but also offer amazing learn-to-ski programs for kids. Mount Norquay has one of the best learning areas of the three resorts. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the deep snow and diverse terrain will have everyone eager to hit the slopes and enjoy Banff in winter.

kids skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park.
Our kids enjoying the view while skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Night Skiing at Mount Norquay is also a fun winter activity for the family. Mount Norquay is the only place in Banff National Park where you can go night skiing.

Snow Tubing in Banff

While you are enjoying your day skiing with kids in Banff, save some time for snow tubing. If you are skiing at either Lake Louise Ski Resort or Mount Norquay, you have the opportunity to enjoying tubing down snow slides, which is guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face!

kids snow tubing at Lake Louise ski resort.
Our kids having a blast tubing at Lake Louise Ski Resort.

If you are having too much fun on the ski hill, the tubing at Mount Norquay is open in the evening as well. The minimum age for tubing at Mt Norquay is 4 years old and children must be a minimum of 42″ tall. Mt Norquay tubing will cost you $45 for adults, $38 for youths (13-17), $29 for children (4-12) and $38 for seniors (65+).

The Lake Louise Sunny Tube Park will cost you $38.50 for adults, $33 for youths (13-17), $22 for children (6-12), $33 for seniors (65+) and free for ages 3-5 years old. Children must be a minimum of 3 years old for the Lake Louise tube park. You can also get a discount if you already have a ski pass for that day.

Ice Skating in Banff

Skating is one of the best family activities in Banff in the winter. Imagine your family twirling on the ice with the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains as your backdrop.

Celine Brewer and child skating on Lake Louise in Banff.
Celine Brewer ice skating at Lake Louise with a toddler in a sled.

For ice skating in Banff, you have a few different options. Typically early in the winter season, the lakes will freeze before they are covered in snow. This is a pretty spectacular experience and us locals go a little crazy for wild ice skating.

The reflection the mountains on clear blue ice is nothing short of spectacular. But this does come with risk. It’s important to be able to test the depth of the ice yourself and know all the safety rules when it comes to skating on a frozen lake. Parks Canada DOES NOT monitor the ice thickness.

Some popular lakes for skating are Lake Louise, Vermilion Lakes, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. Vermilion Lakes and Johnson Lake are typically the first to freeze with the bigger lakes freezing later in the winter. Lake Minnewanka is usually one of the last.

small child sitting on ice - skating on Johnson Lake in Banff.
Our son learning to skate at Johnson Lake in Banff.

If you don’t have an opportunity to do wild ice skating, Lake Louise gets cleared of snow all winter long offering a spectacular outdoor skating rink.

There are also a number of outdoor skating rinks that are maintained around the town of Banff and in Canmore.

Sleigh Ride at Lake Louise

Cuddle under warm blankets as you glide through Banff’s winter wonderland. There are horse drawn sleigh rides at Lake Louise that take you along the shores of the lake to the end and back. Similarly in the town of Banff, you can do a family sleigh ride from Warner Stables. These sleigh rides offer a leisurely way to explore Banff’s snowy landscapes.

two kids look at the horse drawn sleigh at Lake Louise.
Our kids looking at the horse drawn sleigh at Lake Louise after skating on the frozen lake.

The sleigh ride from Banff also includes a fireside warmup stop after the ride. The sleigh ride tour lasts a delightful 40 minutes and is suitable for families with young children. Just remember to dress warmly for a cozy and enjoyable ride through the snow!

Family Snowshoeing in Banff National Park

Snowshoeing is an excellent way for the entire family to be active and enjoy the snowy landscapes in Banff National Park. You’ll find it easy enough to rent snowshoes in Banff and head out on your own snowshoe with kids. Enjoy one of the many easy snowshoe trails in Banff or Kananaskis! Just expect your kids may spend more time playing in the snow than actually snowshoeing!

kids surrounded by snow covered trees snowshoeing in Banff.
Our kids snowshoeing in Lake Louise.

Good choices for easy snowshoe trails in Banff National Park are Johnson Lake and Upper Stoney. Kananaskis has several easy snowshoe trails like the Penstock Loop and Hogarth Lakes.

Snowshoeing in Kananaskis with kids.
Our kids snowshoeing in Kananaskis.

For a unique experience, consider taking a guided snowshoeing tour at Sunshine Meadows (ages 12 years and up) or at the Lake Louise Ski Resort (ages 6 years and up). No matter which trails you choose, snowshoeing is an exciting adventure that is fun to do as a family.

Winter Hike with Kids in Banff

Going out on a winter hike in Banff is another excellent family activity, especially for families who don’t ski. There are several trails for an easy winter hike around the town of Banff, like Tunnel Mountain and Surprise Corner to the Banff Hoodoos. For an easier trail, the Fenland loop just outside the town of Banff is a beautiful short trail.

Dan Brewer and two children on Johnson Lake winter hike.
Dan Brewer on a winter hike in Banff with Kids (Johnson Lake).

As trails get packed down between snowfalls, many trails can be walked with just boots and some tractions devices (to help from slipping). Johnson Lake trail is a perfect example of this.

Choose trails that provide stunning views and manageable distances. And be sure to wear appropriate winter gear and enjoy the snowy scenery!

toddler in Banff on a winter hike.
Our son on a winter hike in Banff.

See Frozen Waterfalls in Banff

Johnston Canyon is a popular winter hike in Banff, but it has the added benefit of seeing some pretty spectacular frozen waterfalls. Grotto Canyon outside of Canmore is an opportunity for a beautiful canyon ice walk that leads to another frozen waterfall.

frozen waterfall at Johnston Canyon in Banff.
Frozen waterfall at Johnston Canyon.

Microspikes are a must for doing an ice walk at Grotto Canyon and are very likely necessary for Johnston Canyon as well.

child hiking Johnston Canyon in Banff in winter.
Our son hiking Johnston Canyon in winter.

If you can’t get enough of frozen waterfalls, you can see another one at the end of Lake Louise. Just be sure to not venture past the end of the lake as this enters dangerous avalanche terrain.

Troll falls in Kananaskis is another excellent winter hike with the added bonus of frozen waterfalls.

Dog Sledding Tour

Dog sledding in Banff is another excellent winter family activity. It’s a thrilling experience that gives you the chance to navigate through the stunning snow-covered landscapes of the Canadian Rockies, led by a team of enthusiastic and hard-working huskies.

This activity is not just about the ride itself, it’s also about learning and appreciating the skill, strength, and dedication of the dogs. Many tour operators will let you spend some time with the dogs before and after the ride, adding to the overall experience.

You can do dog sledding in Lake Louise with Kingmik Dogsledding or out of Canmore with one of the three Canmore dog sledding operators (Snowy Owl Dog Sled Tours, Howling Dog Tours or Mad Dog & Englishmen Tours). Dog sledding offers an unforgettable experience for the whole family.

Banff Gondola

Taking a trip up the Banff Gondola is a must. The ascent to the top is an adventure in itself, with the gondola rising above the treeline and offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Child looking out of Banff Gondola.
Our daughter looks out the window of the Banff Gondola at the view.

The interpretive centre is full of engaging and interactive exhibits that will teach your children about the local wildlife and the history of the park.

kids at interpretive at Banff Gondola.
Our kids enjoying the interpretive centre at the top of the Banff Gondola.

The boardwalk at the top offers a leisurely walk with interpretive signage, and the viewing decks provide unobstructed views of the Bow Valley and distant peaks. This activity is truly a must-do when visiting Banff in the winter.

Banff Indoor Activities

If you need a break from the chilly weather or need a change of pace during your Banff winter vacation, there are a few other indoor activities around Banff. The Banff Park Museum National Historic Site is a fantastic natural history museum with a collection of animal and plant specimens from the Banff area.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is the birthplace of Canada’s national parks and offers a unique blend of natural and cultural history. The site features a natural thermal mineral springs inside a cave, as well as an outdoor emerald pool filled with warm mineral water.

There’s also a museum where you can learn about the history of the national parks, the indigenous people of the area, and the wildlife that inhabit the park. It’s also home to the endangered Banff Springs snail.

kid at Cave and Basin in Banff..
Our son enjoying the interpretive centre at the Cave and Basin.

For more active entertainment, head to High Rollers for a fun-filled afternoon of bowling with the family.

Winter Festivals

If you are lucky enough to visit Banff National Park at the end of January, you’ll get to experience the SnowDays Festival and the Ice Magic Festival. These events provide a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in all the things that make winter in Banff truly wonderful.

ice sculpture at Lake Louise.
Ice sculpture at Lake Louise.

From breathtaking snow sculptures to ice sculptures and lively entertainment, these winter celebrations showcase the magic of Banff in winter. So bundle up, grab some hot chocolate, and join in all the festivities.

Tobogganing in Banff

There’s nothing quite better than spending the afternoon tobogganing on a local hill. Kids will enjoy the thrill of sliding down the snow on their sled. And you’ll know they are working up an appetite by walking back up the hill. This truly is good fun for the entire family and even better, it’s a free activity in Banff.

kids tobogganing in Banff at Cascade Ponds.
Our kids tobogganing at Cascade Ponds in Banff National Park.

Cascade ponds has a fun hill for even the littlest ones. Canmore Nordic Centre is another popular place for tobogganing.

If you need to pick up a sled, the best and easy place to find good options is at Canadian Tire in Canmore to buy sleds.

Cross Country Skiing

Whether your family is avid cross country skiers or you are looking to try a new sport, cross country skiing is a fun winter activity. If you are new to cross country skiing, I recommend taking a lesson.

two kids cross country skiing in Banff National Park.
Our kids cross country skiing in Banff.

Around the town of Banff and in Lake Louise, you can find several easy cross country ski trails that are perfect for the entire family.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

After a day out in the chilly winter weather, warm up at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. If your kids like to have more fun in the pool, make sure to book a hotel with a pool and a waterslide for the kids. And a hot tub for you!

Hot Chocolate Trail

Hot chocolate is the one of the best things to have in the winter. To try some delightfully new hot chocolates, choose from the Hot Chocolate Trail.

two kids have hot chocolate at Sky Bistro at Banff Gondola.
Enjoying hot chocolate at the Sky Bistro.

The Hot Chocolate trail is a collection of cafes and restaurants throughout the town, each offering their own unique take on hot chocolate. From traditional recipes to creative concoctions, there’s a hot chocolate to suit every taste.

Where to Stay in Banff with Kids in Winter

After a day filled with outdoor adventures, retreat to a cozy, family-friendly hotel in Banff. Here are some of the best family friendly hotels in Banff:

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

This hotel is a stunning, castle-like destination in Banff, offering a wonderful array of activities for families. Children will be thrilled with the wilderness adventures and scavenger hunts available as part of the “Kids at the Castle” program. In the winter, the experience of ice skating on the Vermillion Room Skating Rink and enjoying s’mores on your own private campfire adds a magical touch to the stay.

The hotel also features pools and a bowling alley, ensuring entertainment for the entire family. Comfortable room options are available, catering to various family sizes.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Looking down at Chateau Lake Louise in winter from Fairview Lookout.

This hotel offers a unique lakeside experience in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. The views of Lake Louise and the surrounding peaks are breathtaking. Guests can enjoy the indoor pool and hot tub, and have a variety of dining options to choose from.

Evening ice skating on Lake Louise provides a tranquil and picturesque activity, especially enjoyable when the day crowds have dispersed. A range of room types is available, accommodating families of all sizes.

Tunnel Mountain Resort

Family Friendly Cabins in Banff - Tunnel Mountain Resort

Located a short drive from downtown Banff and nestled in the forest, this resort provides a serene, natural setting. Families can enjoy the indoor pool and outdoor playground, and the cozy cabins with fireplaces make for a perfect retreat. The resort is conveniently situated near picturesque hiking trails like the Hoodoo Trail, offering easy access to outdoor adventures.

Accommodation options include cabin rentals and apartments, all equipped with fireplaces and outdoor spaces, making it an ideal choice for families seeking a blend of adventure and comfort in the heart of nature.

Hidden Ridge Resort

Inside Hidden Ridge Resort - hotels for families in Banff

Hidden Ridge Resort, set on the slopes of Tunnel Mountain, offers a secluded and peaceful environment. The apartment-style accommodations with full kitchens are ideal for families preferring home-cooked meals. The presence of fireplaces, balconies, and additional amenities like games rooms or private jetted tubs in certain apartments adds a touch of luxury to the stay.

Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel

Banff Park Lodge pool - one of the best hotels in Banff for families

For those wanting to stay close to the heart of Banff, this hotel is an excellent choice. Located just a block from the main attractions of downtown Banff, it offers easy access to local dining and shopping. The hotel boasts a large indoor pool and is close to gentle walking trails, such as the Fenlands Loop Trail. The Family Suites are spacious and well-suited for larger family groups.

Packing for Banff in Winter with Kids

To fully enjoy your Banff winter vacation, it’s crucial to stay safe and warm during your outdoor adventures.

kids sitting on snow with traction devices over their boots.
Kids traction devices are a must for slippery trails.

The best way to stay warm is to dress in layers. A base layer that’s either synthetic or wool is great at wicking moisture to help keep you warm. On top of your base layer add a warmth layer (your middle layer can be fleece or down). Then top it up with winter jacket and snow pants that are waterproof and windproof.

You’ll want to pack warm mitts, winter boots and a warm hat for everyone. A scarf or a buff is an effective way to keep that warmth in.

To keep little fingers and toes warm, pack some hand and foot warmers. For a sustainable choice, I recommend Aurora Heat hand and foot warms. My kids love them and they are effective in keeping their hands and toes toasty warm.

Finally, traction devices like the High Stream Microspikes for kids are great to have. We often get chinook winds which can causes days of warm weather in the middle of winter, causing trails to become icy. They are also essential for ice walks like the one at Grotto Canyon.

Stay Safe in Banff in Winter

Winter time brings with it a number of different risks that aren’t there other times of year. There are several hiking trails that enter avalanche terrain, so always do your research and ensure you aren’t entering any dangerous terrain before heading out. Sticking to the recommended winter hiking and snowshoeing trails by Parks Canada is a good start.

For skating on frozen lakes, always make sure the ice thickness is adequate and be prepared for the worse case scenario of someone falling in.

Wildlife should always be respected and observed from a safe distance.

Winter Driving in Banff and Rental Cars

When renting a car for a Banff National Park trip in winter, get a rental car with all wheel drive.

For winter driving in Banff National Park, always check road conditions before heading out and be flexible with your plans if the conditions are not favorable for driving.

If you plan to visit the Icefields Parkway the requirements for snow tires are tires with the snowflake or M+S (mud + snow). This starts Nov 1 to Apr 1. The winter driving section here gives you the details.

For anyone traveling into British Columbia (i.e. if you go to Yoho National Park or Kootenay National Park), they have these same requirements but starting October 1st.

Can you get winter tires on a rental car? Some rental car companies will charge an extra $20-25 per day for winter tires. Confirm that you are getting true winter tires with the snowflake symbol before you pay extra. Otherwise, it’s likely your rental comes with all season M+S tires (check this before you leave, if you are planning on visiting the Icefields Parkway or into B.C.).

Best things to do in Banff in winter with kids
About the author

Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Banff with Kids. She has a passion for being out in the mountains with her kids any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find them hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, they enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skiing, skating and winter hiking.

As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other three travel sites: Travel Banff Canada, Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.

2 thoughts on “The 15 Best Things to do in Banff with Kids in Winter”

  1. Thank you so much for this excellent page! Lots of useful information for us visiting later this month from the UK.

    Do you know how we find whether car rentals have M&S tyres as standard as we’re hoping to visit icefields parkway but struggling to get an answer.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you found it useful. Most car rentals should already come with all-seasons that have the mud+snow (M+S) symbol (but please confirm with them and double check when you arrive). If you want proper winter tires, that typically something you need to pay an additional daily fee for. I’ve heard that Hertz is one possibility for this.


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