Banff in the Fall and Where to Eat
Fall is my favorite season. I love the crisp air, the way the sun feels warm in the afternoons, and most of all, the fall leaves. There’s just something that makes me smile when I see trees in various shades of yellow, orange, and red. I think I tend to feel like fall is the start of something, probably because part of me still wants to go back to school, if only because I want to buy school supplies and brand new clothes.
Shopping aside, I think fall is the perfect time to travel. It’s still a bit warm (but not hot!) so walking around is always an option and you get to see all the leaves changing color. We spent a quick couple of days up in Banff – our third time this year – and I’ve got to say, Fall Banff is the best Banff, it pulls out all the stops. The weather was perfectly sunny with just the tiniest bit of chilliness and the trees…oh my goodness the leaves were amazing.
We saw so many people pulling over by the side of the road to take pictures. It was almost Iceland level photo taking obsession. What was particularly funny were these pine trees that we saw that were completely yellow. I thought they were incredibly beautiful and commented on them to Mike, who told me, “they’re dead.” Turns out they weren’t dead, they were larch trees! They mainly grow in the boreal forests of Siberia and Canada and in the fall, they turn a glorious golden yellow. Even though they have pine needles, they are actually deciduous trees so they lose their needles in the autumn, just like regular leafy trees.
Apparently Larch trees are a big tourist attraction in Banff in the fall, but the truth is, we went for not just the fall foliage, but the food, as well. Taste for Adventure invited us up for a preview of their Banff and Lake Louise food festival and it did not disappoint. Banff is holding a celebration of food and drink from October 25 – November 9, with special signature pop-up menus featuring local ingredients. Mountain air makes everything taste extra delicious and when you have a backdrop as beautiful as Banff, everything just feels extra special.
Our favorite breakfast was at Baker Creek Bistro. It was warm enough to eat on the patio, so we were surrounded by Larch trees. Mike had a Bruin Your Appetite (a bruin is another word for brown bear) and I had a mini kids version of the exact same thing. I love eating off the kids menu, especially when it’s just the same as the adult menu, but just smaller.
Food-wise, we hopped around a lot: the cocktails at Park Distillery were very good, especially the smoky cedar Observation Peak which required the bartender to burn his hand as he made our drinks. You can see his old burn scars in the photos above – that’s dedication man. We also got to learn a lot about how to make you-can’t-call-it-bourbon-because-it’s-not-from-Kentucky whisky and gin using Banff-y water in the Distillery Tour.
El Toro had Spanish-Mexican inspired tapas dishes that we enjoyed; and we had many a coffee from Whitebark Cafe. Surprisingly, we found a little bit of Louisiana in Banff at Tooloulous where we shared creole jambalaya, shrimp & crawfish etouffée and seafood sausage gumbo served over cajun dirty rice. Spicy, satisfying, and unexpectedly fun.
Where we stayed:
Baker Creek Mountain Resort – This is located right next to Baker Creek near the Bow Valley Parkway. It’s a little getaway right in the center of the Canadian Rockies and the cabins are rustic, Canadiana and cute.
Buffalo Mountain Lodge – We loved the real wood burning fireplace and had a fire every night! I didn’t have any marshmallows, but if I ever go back, s’mores are definitely happening. The location is just a couple of minutes away from Banff town and there are lots of trails right nearby and a beautiful place to watch the sunrise. The dinner at Sleeping Buffalo was particularly good – we shared a salad with addictively hicory spiced warm walnuts, local bison short rib with king oyster mushrooms, and duck confit with roasted candied beets.
Other places of note: The cheese stick at Wild Flour is fluffy, cheesy, and perfect for snacking on while walking the quaint streets of Banff town. Alpine Social does both delicious cocktails and hot chocolate and their waffle fries are good too, if you’ll looking to warm up after walking around Lake Louise.
Hope you guys get a chance to visit Banff. It really is beautiful, no matter when you go!
Check out Taste for Adventure, a 15 day celebration of food and drink Oct 25 to Nov 9:
Dine and Stay Packages (we stayed at Buffalo Mountain Lodge and Baker Creek Mountain Resorts)
Signature Menus (we had Tooloulou’s, El Toro, Sleeping Buffalo, and Baker Creek Bistro)
Park Distillery Tour (it’s free!)