Pacifiers & Passports since 2015

Top Five Things to do in Banff National Park with a Toddler

We had an amazing trip to Banff and Glacier National Parks in August. I’ve already posted a few of my favorite hikes and hotels. However, I thought it might be fun to try to think of my absolute five favorite activities. I could not under any circumstances live without these memories.  I did all of these with an 18-month old so they are guaranteed to be toddler friendly activities in Banff National Park (and a load of fun!).

1. The Icefields Parkway

If you are considering a trip to Banff National Park you have likely already considered driving the Icefields Parkway. You may not be so sure you want to pack your kids up into the car but the Icefields Parkway is 100% worth it.  The parkway takes you 144 miles through the heart of the Canadian Rockies. This was absolutely one of the most scenic drives I have ever been on. It is also genuinely child friendly because there are so many gorgeous overlooks and scenic points. Therefore, you can go for as long or as little as you like and your kids will have ample opportunities to get out of the car.

Bow Lake at Banff National Park
A glimpse of sun as we ended our drive at Bow Lake

We went when the weather was a bit gloomy and it was still absolutely amazing (note dad in a Canadian flag poncho which is also wrapped around our Deuter hiking pack – the epitome of vacation style!). Our favorite stops along the road were Peyto Lake and Bow Lake . I’m hoping one day to revisit the Icefields Parkway and make it all the way up to Jasper National Park. While hiking we met a family that was driving up to Jasper and then onto Denali and had already been to Glacier National Park. Talk about #familygoals!

Peyto Lake with a Toddler in August
Family shot at Peyto Lake

2. See Lake Louise from both sides

I would strongly recommend you try one of the many hikes around Lake Louise (we loved the Plain of Six Glaciers) but you don’t have to go far or exert much energy to recognize how beautiful Lake Louise is.

Lake Louise in fog in Banff National Park

A short, flat trail takes you from end of the Lake (where the Chateau Lake Louise is) to the other side so you can look back at the hotel.  Some of my favorite memories from our trip involve playing on the silt beach. We got lucky and finished our hike there just when the sun was peaking out. Another great way to enjoy the views of the lake would be on one of the canoe rentals. We had high hopes for trying this out but right after the sun came out we were hit with a downpour. Just another reason to go back again!

Lake Louise Plain of Six Glacier Hike

3. Ride the Banff Gondola

Toddlers love anything with gears so the Banff Gondola should be a hit with the younger crowd. The gondola is rated the #1 activity in Banff by Tripadviser for good reason.  The views are incredible and the gondola ride is a lot of fun!  I would strongly recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time.  We really wanted to find a sunny day to go so we waited to book tickets until we were in Banff. We ended up with very limited times available and it was cloudy anyways (c’est la vie!).

Banff Gondola
View from the top of the Banff Gondola

4. Visit the Banff Springs Hotel (for brunch or just a quick stop)

I am not necessarily enamored with large hotels and fancy brunches. It is just not my thing but it is my father-in-law’s thing and when you are on vacation everyone should get to have some fun. So off we went to the Banff Springs Hotel for some fancy brunch. I had pretty low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. I can’t speak to the food much because what mom with an 18-month old actually gets to sit down and eat at brunch (seriously if you do maybe email me your trick?!). But the views were amazing. There is a croquet court right outside of the restaurant where brunch is served. My daughter and I enjoyed an absolutely glorious morning playing outside on the court.

Banff Springs Hotel

5. Hike Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is one of the easier hikes in Banff National Park which makes it the perfect toddler friendly activity. In fact it is great for the whole family! We conquered the upper falls (about two hours round trip) while my in-laws stuck to the lower falls (about one hour round trip).  This is an ideal stop if you need a rest day and want an opportunity to let older kids stretch their legs or for the less physically fit parent to wear the hiking pack (that’s me!). We are always trying to strike a balance between adventure/exploration and what older/very young travelers might be capable. There weren’t many hikes we could all do together and that made this hike extra special. For full details on the hike check out my post here.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Honorable mention to eating a Beaver Tail (seriously google it! But warning – this might not qualify for ‘toddler friendly activities’ unless you want a crazy toddler on your hands!). I didn’t take any pictures but I may or may not have eaten a Beaver Tail everyday while there. What can I say I have a sweet tooth…

What did you do on your trip to Banff? What are your top toddler friendly activities in Banff National Park?