Best things to do in Banff on a budget
I know you are wondering if this is even possible, I mean Banff does seem like one of those magical places that only the rich and famous could afford. A little known fact is that people living and working in Banff are neither rich nor famous. Heck most of the folks here are just like you, looking to stretch their dollars as far as possible. Of course we also enjoy having a great time, which includes having fun and talking about it over food and drinks!
Straight up the cheapest thing to do in the area is explore the local trails and window shop in the town. Likely this will make you slightly peckish and because of the altitude very thirsty. So here are a few of our favourite cheap eats and drinks and activities in and around the town of Banff.
Where to eat in Banff?
Cheap eats, cheap drinks and live music, has made this establishment a long time local favourite. Lots of places to sit, in the summer get there at the right time and enjoy the roof top patio. This is also great place to order a water, sit back and enjoy the usually free live music.
Downstairs you’ll find the family restaurant, come early for breakfast because this place is packed ALL.THE.TIME. The menu is fantastic and won’t hurt your wallet too much. Upstairs is the bar and it’s a great place to snap up $2.75 highballs every night and M-F sink your teeth into a $9 steak sandwich.
What to do in Banff for free?
Toboggan on the nearby hills
In winter, check out the time honoured Canadian tradition of Tobogganing. You can tramp a few 100 yards from the hostel to the lookout or head into town to the Fairmont Banff Springs. Toboggans can be rented in town if you're unable to fit one into your backpack.
Ice skating at the Banff Highschool and The Waldhaus Rink is free if you have your own skates. Don’t own skates? You can rent them downtown at Snowtips-Bactrax. HI members get 10% off with their membership card.
Hike through Johnston Canyon
You can hike through Johnston Canyon all year long, but there is something very magical about this place in the winter, as frozen waterfalls seem suspended in time. Psst, bring some ice cleats just so you don’t take a slip on the ice.
Explore the local trails
Bow Falls is another iconic image in Banff and it’s also free to visit. If you are looking for a spectacular view of the Bow Valley, follow the trail up to the top of Tunnel Mountain. It's only an hour round trip (if you run) from HI Banff Alpine Centre.
Take a dip in the hot springs
Now for the cheap and easy activities that you can enjoy in the Town of Banff. Did you know that the Fairmont Banff Springs has a bowling alley? Mondays are the cheapest day to bowl about $39/hour + $3.50 shoe rental, if you can find 5 friends it makes it very reasonable and if you book for 2 hours you get a 20% discount! Tuesdays are cheap movie night at The Lux Cinema, so you’ll won’t have to miss that blockbuster even in the wilds of The Rocky Mountains. Thursday night is Bingo at the Legion, cheap fun and drinks and hopefully you can win back some of your travel fund.
Check out Taxi Mike’s Guide, for more cheap and cheerful activities in the area.
Where to stay in Banff?
HI Banff Alpine Centre is by far the most affordable place to stay in town. It's a great property for backpackers and groups. You have the option of renting a bed, a private room, a private cabin or even an entire building (!).
The hostel also has its very own restaurant on property. Yep, just steps from your room is a place to get delicious breakfasts and dinners for a couple of bucks only. There's also a pub—The Storm Cellar—which is the perfect place to meet your fellow travellers. You can even afford to buy your new friends drinks. $3.25 highballs and $3 shots are on the menu nightly. How amazing is that?
What is there to do in Banff at night?
At the hostel you can participate in many free activities put on by the hostel staff. Tuesdays are Trivia Nights, Wednesdays Jam Night and Friday Karaoke Night. For $1.25 join them on Sundays for their infamous Banff Pub Crawl.