Like resort towns around the world, Banff  has a deserved reputation as a party town, especially among seasonal workers, the après-ski crowd, and young Calgarians. Crowds seem to spread out, with no particular bar being more popular than another or being a place where you can mingle with fellow travelers. Given the location and vacation vibe, drink prices are as high as you may expect, with attitude thrown in for free.
Wild Bill’s (upstairs at 201 Banff Ave., 403/762-0333) is named for Banff guide Bill Peyto and is truly legendary. Bands play most nights; as a general rule, expect alternative music or underground country early in the week and better-known rock or pop Thursday–Sunday.
Across the road, the Maple Leaf (137 Banff Ave., 403/760-7680) has a stylish downstairs space set aside as a bar. The Elk & Oarsman (119 Banff Ave., 403/762-4616) serves up beer and more in a clean, casual atmosphere that is as friendly as it gets in Banff.
Across the road from Wild Bill’s is the Rose and Crown (202 Banff Ave., 403/762-2121), serving British beers and hearty pub fare. It also features a rooftop patio and rock-and-roll bands a few nights a week, but there’s not much room for dancing.
Also down the main drag is Tommy’s (120 Banff Ave., 403/762-8888), a perennial favorite for young seasonal workers, and those who once were but now consider themselves as locals.
Away from busy Banff Avenue is Melissa’s (218 Lynx St., 403/762-5776), which is a long-time favorite drinking hole for locals. It has a small outdoor patio, a long evening happy hour, a pool table, and multiple TVs. From “Mel’s,” cut down Bear Street to reach The Bison Restaurant and Lounge (Bison Courtyard, Bear St., 403/762-5550), where prices are reasonable. Add funky surroundings and a sunny courtyard to the mix and you have an excellent choice for a drink and meal.
Saltlik (221 Bear St., 403/762-2467), best known as an upscale (and upstairs) steakhouse. At street level, the lounge opens to a street-side patio. Around the corner, the St. James Gate Olde Irish Pub (207 Wolf St., 403/762-9355) is a large Irish-style bar with a reputation for excellent British-style meals and occasional appearances by Celtic bands.
Banff  has two nightclubs. Cavernous Aurora (downstairs in the Clock Tower Mall at 110 Banff Ave., 403/760-5300) was formerly an infamous gathering place known as Silver City, but renovations in the late 1990s added some class to Banff’s clubbing scene. It’s respectable early in the evening but becomes one obnoxiously loud, overpriced, smoky pickup joint after midnight.
The other option is Hoo Doos (at 137 Banff Ave. but enter from Caribou St., 403/762-8434), a stylish setup with similar city-like surroundings.