Tucked into the evergreen forests crowned with naked rock peaks, across the river from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and a couple of hairpin turns from downtown Banff, spreads the campus of the Banff Centre. This is the premier art school in Canada and one of the most prestigious and beautiful meeting spaces in the Rocky Mountains.
The Centre is packed with four theaters (one of them an outdoor amphitheatre), dining facilities, meeting rooms, sound and TV studios, dance stages and more advanced electronics than can be imagined — all to support the arts in all of its shapes, movements and forms.
During the summer months, an arts festival presents string quartets, dramatic readings, bluegrass and folk, orchestral performances, opera, avant-garde plays, modern dance, ballet and more only about a 10-minute walk from the end of Banff Avenue.
The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival takes place from October 27 through November 4th this year. It brings together the world’s top mountain climbers and mountain and wildlife photographers, plus the top nature writers. More than simply film and discussions, this festival includes mountain crafts, exhibitions, workshops, education sessions, music, culture, history and lore. For more information, check out banffmountainfestival.ca
Since the Banff Centre is an art school as well as a performance venue, the concerts and events continue through the winter as well. Make sure to check the program schedule whenever traveling to Banff to enjoy the spectacular surrounding nature.
Other new discoveries:
Bear Street Tavern (211 Bear Street, 403-762-2021) is a place to buy unique pizzas not found elsewhere in my experience. Try the unique smoked bison pizza with caramelized onions, edamame beans and mozzarella.
Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut (Harmony Lane Mall, 111 Banff Ave. 403-762-4106) sells some of the best handmade chocolates on the planet — worth every Canadian dollar.
Storm Mountain Lodge and Restaurant (on Hwy. 93 heading west, 403-762-4155), which opened in 1922 just about midway between Banff and Lake Louise on the road to Radium, is the quality, romantic spot for locals celebrating special occasions. The restaurant cuisine is some of the best in the park and the romantic cabins are just like they were in the olden days — no phones, no TV, no coffee makers.