Right in the heart of Banff National Park sits the town of Banff, where people come from all over the world to experience one of the world’s most unique and picturesque Pride celebrations. This year marked the 9th anniversary of the Annual Banff Pride Festival, where attendees were treated to an exciting array of activities, performances, and parties, all while surrounded by gorgeous mountain views. My boyfriend and I spent a wonderful four days soaking in everything the area had to offer, from attending popular Pride events to finding local hidden gems in the great outdoors.
Fall was just beginning, so we really lucked out with weather that was warm enough to enjoy but cool enough to keep the summer crowds away. We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs, which is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been hosting guests for over 130 years. We really enjoyed our time there attending drag brunch, a drag cocktail-making class, and of course, we couldn’t miss out on a little R&R at the Willow Stream Spa. The spa was reminiscent of centuries-old natural hot springs, complete with three waterfalls of varying temperatures and an outdoor hot tub overlooking Bow Valley. If the bathes were not relaxing enough, we were treated to a couple’s massage where any remnants of stress were rolled away. Not sure there’s a better way or view to relax to after a long day of hiking.
As for the Pride Festival itself, there was so much to do we couldn’t possibly fit it all in, but we were able to make it to a few of the marquee events. We really enjoyed Friday Night Kiki at Banff Ave Brew Pub, which featured Canada Drag Race star Stephanie Prince and other local performers. The pub was packed with screaming fans and the cheers seem to get louder with each flip and death drop. Saturday night, we attended the Mountain Top: Drag Show, which definitely wins the award for the most stunning backdrop for a drag show! The journey to the show was a treat in and of itself with an eight-minute scenic gondola ride up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, where the performance was held. Local queens, including Calgary’s own, Birthday Girl, performed to a full house with breathtaking views of six mountain ranges and Bow Valley just steps outside.
Melissa’s MisSteak, a local favorite in the heart of Banff, hosted the main Pride Party, where we had an absolute blast. RuPaul’s Drag Race legend, Plastique Tiara, along with Canada’s Drag race superstars, Kendall Gender and Synthia Kiss, gave it their all on stage. One thing I loved about this event was that a lot of locals showed up to support the community. To cap off our Pride events, we had a wonderful drag brunch back at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, hosted by Canada’s own, Kendall Gender. We walked into the ballroom (yes, a drag show in a fancy ballroom!) and we were taken aback by the enormous runway-style stage surrounded by a sea of round tables. We didn’t know what to expect but we certainly did not expect the enormity of the event and stage production. The ballroom and runway roared to life as soon as the queens hit the stage. These delightful divas were strutting and flipping down the runway, the crowd was screaming, and colorful Canadian bills were being tossed around like confetti. It was pure chaos, and I AM HERE FOR IT!
After all of the excitement, it was time to get outside and experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. We took a day trip to Lake Louise, one of the most beautiful places in Canada with the famed emerald green glacial lake. There are many hiking trails but one of the must-do hikes was to hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House. This family-run gem sits in a hanging valley on the shores of Lake Agnes and has been serving the finest loose leaf teas to visitors since 1905. They serve over 100 varieties of specialty teas and have a rotating menu of lunch items and baked goods. The views while hiking up were all postcard-worthy and the tea house overlooks another beautiful glacier-fed lake. We stopped for tea and took in the views before heading to Lakeview restaurant in Chateau Lake Louise for an early dinner. It was the perfect day trip excursion between Pride events.
We ended our adventure horseback riding with Banff Trail Riders on their two-hour Sundance Loop tour where we were able to explore more of Banff’s wilderness. We pass by Banff’s national historic site - the Cave and Basin, where the original hot springs were discovered. We took in the sweeping landscape view with incredible fall foliage and views of Sulphur Mountain.
Banff Pride was the ultimate package and one of the most out-of-the-box Pride events we’ve ever attended. There’s really nowhere else you can enjoy outstanding drag performances on a mountain-top reachable only by gondola, or where you can horseback ride in the morning and attend a drag cocktail-making class in the evening. The scenery was overwhelmingly stunning and really elevated this incredible experience.