Getting to Calgary
Calgary International Airport (YYC) is served by most major airlines, including Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta, KLM, United, WestJet, and more. As one of the largest cities in western Canada, Calgary boasts a population of 1.2 million people. The city, which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, is situated in the foothills along the Bow River, with the alluring backdrop of the Canadian Rockies to the west. On a clear day, you will get a good view of the Rockies on your approach into YYC.
Banff is located about 90 kilometers west of Calgary. Autumn is a wonderful time to be in Banff, as the leaves change colour, the tourist hordes wane, and the local wildlife roams about. You can assume comfortable weather in Banff for the conference, but you should expect cool evenings because of the mountain elevation. Snow is unlikely in mid-to-late September, though you might see a bit on some of the highest surrounding mountain peaks.
Getting to Banff
Upon arrival in Calgary, your first decision will involve how to get to Banff. These are some of your options:
- Banff Airporter Shuttle: Your best option for getting to and from Banff is the Banff Airporter, which runs regular shuttle service between Calgary and many Banff hotels, including the Banff Centre. Check the Banff Airporter Web site for departure schedules. Advance reservation is highly recommended, but you can also purchase tickets at the transportation desk upon arrival at the Calgary Airport. One-way fare is about $63 CAN per person, while a round-trip fare is about $125 CAN. The approximate travel time between Calgary and Banff is 2 hours. Make sure to bear this in mind when planning your conference travels.
- Rental Car: Another option to get to Banff is by rental car (assuming you have a valid driver's licence!). Most major car rental companies have booths at the YYC airport. Rental rates are reasonable ($30-$40 CAN per day), and parking at the Banff Centre is complimentary. From the airport, you will want to find Stoney Trail westbound to the Trans-Canada Highway, which will then lead you to Banff. Plan for 90 minutes of driving time on the divided highway, depending on traffic, road conditions, and the number of stops for photo opportunities along the way.
- Taxi: If time is of the essence, then a third option is taking a taxi, though this will be expensive (approximately $250 CAN, with up to 4 passengers permitted). Travel time will likely be about 75 minutes.
Things to Do
There is WAY too much to do in Banff, so don't plan to do it all in one trip! From the conference location, you are just minutes away from dining, shopping, sight-seeing, hiking, biking, swimming, horseback riding, art, history, music, and more. You can always ask your local conference hosts or the Banff Centre staff about what to see and do in the area.
Banff is a tourist town, with an amazing array of eateries to tempt your palate. Whether you are seeking Alberta beef, fresh seafood, pizza, pasta, fondue, sushi, vegan, or gluten-free, Banff has something for you. Below is a short list of some Banff favourites:
- Balkan (Greek pitas, souvlakis, and salads, $$)
- Banff Sushi House (cozy and casual place for sushi, with an electric train, $$)
- Beavertails (sweet snacks made from traditional Canadian pastries, $)
- Cows (ice cream, frozen yogurt, candy, T-shirts, and souvenirs, $)
- Earl's (a well-known chain restaurant with hearty meals and lively atmosphere, $$$)
- Fudgery (everything for your sweet tooth, including ice cream, $$)
- High Rollers (bowling, pizza, wings, popcorn, and 48 beers on tap, $$)
- Keg (popular chain restaurant with great steaks, featuring Alberta beef, $$$)
- Grizzly House (three course meal of traditional Swiss-German fondue, $$$$)
- Magpie and Stump (Mexican-style cantina restaurant, $$)
- Maple Leaf Grill (an elegant dining experience in Banff, with classic Canadian cuisine, $$$$)
- Old Spaghetti Factory (wide array of pasta selections, located in Cascade Plaza, $$)
- Salt Lik (mouth-watering steaks featuring Alberta beef, $$$$)
- Skoki's (fast-food style waffles and frozen yogurt with every topping you can imagine, $)
- Tony Roma's (if you like meat, then this is the place for ribs, $$)
Check out the "Where" magazine in your guest room for a more complete listing, or ask your conference hosts for further suggestions.
If hiking is your thing, some highlights close to the Banff Centre include:
- Bow Falls (a short hike overlooking the turbulent falls along the Bow River)
- Surprise Corner (view of the majestic Banff Springs Hotel)
- Tunnel Mountain (a one-hour climb with a view over the Town of Banff)
Slightly farther afoot (or by taxi) within the Banff townsite you will find:
- Cave and Basin (the original site for which Banff National Park was founded)
- Fenland Trail (a meandering creekside trail in a forest with local wildlife)
- Sulphur Mountain (a two-hour climb (or 10-minute gondola ride for $50!) to see the Spray River Valley)
- Sundance Canyon (a 90-minute one-way hike to see a spectacular rocky canyon)
- Upper Hot Springs (a luxurious mountain-side swimming pool with hot springs)
Within an hour's drive outside of Banff are the following:
- Cascade Pond (a quiet and scenic picnic area near the base of Cascade Mountain)
- Castle Mountain (an aggressive two-hour climb halfway up an imposing monolith)
- Johnston Canyon (1-hour hike through a forested canyon to see Lower Falls; another hour to Upper Falls)
- Lake Louise (the most famous lake in the Canadian Rockies!)
- Lake Minnewanka (a large glacial lake a few kilometers north of Banff)
- Moraine Lake (perhaps the most spectacular lake in the Canadian Rockies (see photo above))
- Stewart Canyon (half-hour hike to a linear canyon that feeds into Lake Minnewanka)
- Sunshine Meadows (grassy alpine meadow in summer (see photo below); ski resort in winter)