The town of Banff was established in 1883 when the trans-continental railway was built through the Bow River valley. The town is the centre of recreation, tourism, and dining in the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park. Banff has an elevation of 1,395 m (4,580 ft), but is nestled by mountains that tower a mile above. This town is "Tourist Central" for the Alberta Rockies.
Banff is served by the Canadian Rockies School District which runs Banff Elementary and Banff Community High School. The town is also home to the famed Banff Centre, which provides a strong arts programs, a new media centre, and executive education.
Visitors to Banff enjoy exploring and shopping on Banff Avenue. It has shops, boutiques, sporting goods stores, and restaurants to cater to every taste. There is also a Safeway just off Banff Avenue, and a Hudson's Bay store right downtown. Banff also many affordable motels and hotels, mostly along Banff Avenue, plus the internationally renowned Banff Springs Hotel overlooking the Bow River.
The town is home to the famed Banff Centre, the annual Banff Television Festival, the Banff Mountain Film Festival, and has a 4-screen cinema downtown. Mount Norquay Ski Hill overlooks the town, Sunshine Village is a few kilometres to the west, and the town is surrounded by hiking trails for summer or winter recreation (both flat and hilly).
Homes in Banff are restricted to those able to prove a "need to reside", which means running or working at a business in Banff. Homes are given a lease on the property, which gives the holder permission to build (subject to restrictions & regulation from both the Town and Parks Canada).