Travel Tips

Ask the Locals City Guide: Banff, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise BanffThis weekend, Peter is broadcasting from beautiful Banff in Alberta, Canada.

Located within Banff National Park, the town is a place to visit year-round with serious skiing in the winter, and great hikes and activities in the summer.

Though it’s one of Canada’s more touristy towns, Banff still boasts plenty of local haunts, so we uncovered a few favorites…

John Stutz, Mayor of Banff

When not attending to his civic duties, Mayor Stutz can be found thoroughly enjoying himself around Banff. In the winter, he can go for a quick ski at Mt. Norquay, just 15 minutes from his office at Town Hall. Stutz, born and raised in Banff, says that this is “a great way to spend a lunch break, and visitors get a kick of riding the chairlift with the mayor.”

Golfer puttingIn the summer, on the other hand, Stutz’s favorite place is the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, located at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and designed by Canada’s legendary golf course architect, Stanley Thompson. Stutz calls the Stanley Thompson 18 “a challenge with wonderful scenery that still awes me even though I was born in Banff.” For a “quick fix” Stutz recommends the Tunnel 9, an additional nine holes added in 1989.

Mayor Stutz strongly suggests Tommy’s Neighbourhood Pub if you’re in the market for “great food and a wonderful local atmosphere.” Tommy’s is open until 2 a.m., seven days a week, and offers some of the cheapest drinks in Banff.

It’s where the locals go to hang out during the day, and party at night (at least before they hit the nightclubs!). For Stutz, Tommy’s is a great place for him to “measure the pulse of the community.”

Paul Stutz, Canadian Alpine Ski Team

Banff National ParkAs a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team and the son of Mayor Stutz, Paul knows his skiing. Luckily for him, Banff National Park has three world-class ski resorts: Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise, and Sunshine Village.

Paul calls Mt. Norquay a “local treasure,” but also notes the other mountains are worthy of praise: Sunshine Village has “outstanding natural snow” and Lake Louise hosts the World Cup events every year in November and December. With a ski season that lasts from November to May and a World Heritage Site classification from the United Nations, skiers should definitely add Banff to their to-do list.

An intriguing aspect of the Banff dining scene is the variety: if you want it, they probably have it. Paul suggests The Balkan for Greek cuisine. Opened in 1982 by Greek families living in Banff, The Balkan prides itself on the authenticity of not only their food, but also of the ambiance. Go for lunch, or arrange to go on a Tuesday or Thursday night for “Greek Night,” which features “live belly dancing, Greek dancing, and plate smashing.”

Sushi rollsOr, try Sushi House Banff on Caribou Street, fondly known by locals as “Sushi Train” because of its unique approach to dining: Customers sit around a circular sushi bar with a model train that pulls dishes. Just look at your placemat for the menu, and then grab what you want off the train as it comes around!

With good, affordable sushi and an unusual dining experience, locals and tourists alike love Sushi Train. The bar is the only seating however, and the restaurant’s popularity keeps it busy, so plan a little wait time into your schedule.

Teresa Kunz and Lalo Williams, audio work study participants at the Banff Centre educational institution

Teresa and Lalo both highly recommend the Wild Flour Bakery , which Teresa describes as “the most lovely and cozy place to be.” The menu, displayed on a chalkboard in the café, boasts breakfast all day with great items such as whole-wheat flaxseed waffles and Bircher Muesli.

Lunch, which begins at 11 a.m., touts all sorts of focaccia sandwiches, from the “roasted ratatouille and goat cheese” to the gourmet grilled cheese (Teresa’s favorite). Lalo loves their peanut butter cookies, though both agree that all of the cookies are a must-try.

Lake Louise Banff with mountainsSt. James’s Gate, Banff’s authentic Irish pub, was actually built in Ireland before being transferred to its home in Canada. The bar has a wide selection of beer and liquor, not to mention a great menu. Lalo’s favorite dish is the St. James Burger: a homemade chuck patty piled high with sautéed mushrooms, cheddar cheese and double-smoked bacon.

There is also a full Irish menu, with classics like steak, Guinness and mushroom pie, and a selection of boxties—traditional potato pancakes that can be served plain or stuffed with anything from smoke salmon to bison. Teresa suggests St. James if you’re going out with a group, as the pub has big tables at which to gather.

If you’re looking for some exercise after you’ve eaten all of this wonderful food, there are plenty of hiking trails around Banff. Many locals recommend Sulphur Mountain, which features a 3.3-mile hike or gondola ride to the summit (or hike up and take the gondola back down). For more experienced hikers, the South East Ridge Trail takes you up to the true summit of the mountain. The gondola operates year-round, and provides spectacular views that will leave visitors breathless.

By Casey Corn for

Don’t miss more destination guides from the Ask the Locals series with our Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio map:

View Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio in a larger map