Large, non-smoking hotel within a 20-minute walk to downtown and close to the bus
A bang-for-your-buck value property with tons of features
Two restaurants, plus room service
Pub with menu, live music, and cheap drinks
Indoor pool with sauna and seven-person whirlpool
Ski, bike, and scooter rentals
Coin laundry on site
Free bus passes and bear spray
Free Wi-Fi and parking (both heated indoor and uncovered outdoor)
Pets allowed (for a fee)
Dated and sometimes dirty rooms
Restaurants and pub have seasonal hours
No free breakfast
Indoor pool area is worn and has no windows
Maze-like property not ideal for those with mobility issues
No AC in rooms (though there are fans)
Lower rates and tons of features make this pet-friendly value property popular with young families and budget tour groups. Most of the 244 rooms look worn and are in need of a complete makeover (particularly the Standard Rooms), though higher category rooms are clean, contemporary, and go beyond the standard amenity offering of coffeemakers and flat-screens. There are plenty of on-site features, including a gift shop, scooter rentals, indoor pool and sauna, pub with live music, and selection of restaurants, but there's no free breakfast. Parking, Wi-Fi, and bus passes are free. If you're looking to be closer than a 20-minute walk to downtown, check rates at the Red Carpet Inn, though it has fewer features.
Large resort-style property in need of renovations
Inns of Banff was originally built in the late '70s, and in 2007 was taken over by the Banff Lodging Company and combined with the aging Swiss Village Hotel next door. The addition of the Swiss Village expanded the size of the already large, maze-like property without adding much in terms of quality. Navigating through the property can be a bit difficult, thanks to the random crosswalks that connect the separates buildings, lack of efficient maps, and large plot of land.
During our visit there was dated signage, mismatched and worn furniture, musty smells, and visibly dirty fabrics. Though there were a few upgrades to the Superior Rooms in 2013, this property is decidedly worn and in need of the full renovation planned for 2018. On paper, the wide variety of features can make it seem like a bargain. In the winter it's a popular choice for younger couples, groups of friends, and European families with small children, and in the summer it's popular with large tour groups, particularly from Asia (it's not uncommon to see signs in Korean or Japanese). Until renovations are complete, guests looking for an affordable Standard Room may want to compare prices with the nearby Voyager Inn, where rooms feel fresher.
On the eastern edge of Banff Avenue, within a 20-minute walk to town and bus stop out front
Inns of Banff is located on the eastern edge of the Banff Avenue strip, within about a five-minute drive of most trailheads. It's about a 20-minute walk or six-minute drive to the concentration of restaurants, shops, and action in the downtown area around Caribou Street, but there are plenty of hotels on Banff Avenue that have restaurants and are within closer walking distance. The local bus service to Sulphur Mountain picks up across the street and drops off in front of the hotel, and the free shuttle to the Banff Gondola and Upper Hot Springs (which returns from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel) is a 15-minute walk.
Eight-minute drive to the Banff Pedestrian Bridge
Nine-minute drive to Cave and Basin
Nine-minute drive to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
11-minute drive to the Banff Upper Hot Springs
12-minute drive or 33 minutes via public transportation to Lake Minnewanka
A wide variety of rooms, most dated; some with full kitchens, balconies, and contemporary touches
All 244 rooms come with coffeemakers, large flat-screen TVs, and makeup remover. There are fans but no AC, and you can expect soft double beds with motel-style bedspreads and lumpy pillows, hard carpet floors, and dated, generic furniture and wall art. Bathrooms are generally contemporary in style, sport Rocky Mountain Soap Company toiletries, rough towels, and hairdryers, and may have visible mold on the ceilings or in tile grout.
Rooms here vary greatly, so chose carefully. Standard Rooms are all located in the 1960s-built Swiss Village section and are the most dated and in need of attention. These rooms are likely to have dirty dust ruffles, motel decor, and a musty, dirty laundry smell. Upgrading to a Superior Room gets you out of the Swiss Village and into the main building, with the added bonus of a semi-private balcony. These rooms feel less dated, less icky, and don't smell, thanks to the 2013 upgrades that brought in new white comforters, larger tubs, tables and chairs, newer carpet, and contemporary light fixtures. Mountain View Superiors have larger balconies with laminate floors and Cascade Mountain views across Banff Ave.
Junior Suites (also upgraded in 2013) start to feel borderline contemporary with (worn) light brown leather pullout couches, updated drapes, work desks, king-size beds, microwaves, and mini-fridges. There's less wear and tear on the furniture, and lots of natural light thanks to the long balconies that stretch across the front of the rooms. The Three-Bedroom Condos, set in a detached building to the back, are the most contemporary of the bunch and feature a wood smell, spacious living rooms with queen-size pullout couches, hardwood laminate flooring, and views of Cascade Mountain and the pine forest. Expect unfinished wood doors and cabinets, a kids' room with bunks and sliding barn door, knotted carpeting, and full kitchens with acrylic countertops, stainless steel appliances, and tableware for eight. Bathrooms have slate tile floors and old but deep tubs.
Loaded with resort features including a gift shop, restaurants, indoor pool and sauna, and popular pub with live music
Most of the hotel's features are located in the main lobby building. These include the gift shop, with local products, snacks, and souvenirs for sale; bicycle rentals, available by the day or hour at the front desk; a ski and scooter rental shop; and the Wildfire Grille, which serves up Canadian comfort food for breakfast and has seasonal hours for lunch and dinner. Wildfire can also cater functions in the large event room. One level up, you'll find Miki, the resort's Japanese dinner-only spot with bento boxes, sushi, and tempura. The Bear's Den Restaurant & Pub is located on the basement level and is a favorite spot for live music from local and international acts, pub grub, table games, and decently priced drinks, though the quality of the food and service tend to be up and down. During summer season, Bear's Den is only open on Friday and Saturday nights. Room service is available during breakfast and dinner.
The hotel's indoor pool, sauna, and seven-person whirlpool are also located in the main building. The space is clean but looks bit grotty thanks to the worn changing rooms with beat-up lockers, graffiti carved into the sauna walls, and old metal tables and chairs. The lack of windows and heavy chlorine smell can make it feel a little claustrophobic.
Other features include a hair salon in the basement, ice and vending machines in every building, coin-operated laundry in the Swiss Village building, and both porter and concierge service. Wi-Fi, public bus passes, and parking (both heated indoor and uncovered outdoor) are free. You can also grab free bear spray for hikes and pool towels for free. The resort has a limited number of highchairs, board games, and playpens that are free on request, but cots will cost you extra. Pets are welcome for a per-day fee and get their own bed, dishes, treats, and toys.