So once again, I won’t bombard you with photos in this post because I know you’re most likely here because you honestly just want itinerary ideas. I’ll keep photos to a minimum, just a few to highlight the itinerary items, but for those of you wanting to peruse my the rest of the photos from this trip, here’s the link.
Let’s get to it!
Day 1: Arrival in Calgary
We flew in to Calgary at 8pm, so we didn’t do much other than picking up our rental car and heading to the Airbnb.
Our Airbnb was very close to the airport and also close to the downtown area. Our host was friendly and the house was cozy and cute. As always, if you’d like me to send you the link for the accommodation, just shoot me a message!
We tried to get dinner at a trendy pizza place we found online, but they were still closed for Christmas holiday, so we just ended up eating at a pub called Rose & Crown downtown. It was there that I ate the best sandwich ever (turkey, strawberry, and brie yummmm). Downtown Calgary was also pretty cool to see at night when it’s all lit up.
Day 2: Calgary to Canmore for check in, then exploring downtown Banff
We woke up early to get breakfast at Tim Horton’s and head out west to Banff.
The highway was well maintained and the drive was easy, even in the middle of the winter. We arrived in Canmore and checked in to our Airbnb before heading on towards the national park.
We took the afternoon to explore downtown Banff, walked along the Bow River, poked around the Banff Fairmont Springs, and went souvenir shopping on Banff Avenue.
Day 3: Skiing at Mount Norquay
If you’ve read my post about all the snags we had on this trip, you’ll know that this is where our plans started to fall apart. If not here’s the TL;DR version: I have really muscular calves, couldn’t fit in ski boots, had to switch to snowboarding.
Anyways, this was a day that was [supposed to be] dedicated to skiing. Pretty self explanatory.
Norquay was a quaint ski resort. It’s where the locals go, since it’s the closest resort to the actual town of Banff. It has the most limited amount of runs and lifts compared to the other resorts, but the prices are also cheaper for lift passes as well as lessons.
Day 4: Ice skating at Lake Minnewanka, hiking at Johnston Canyon
Here’s where life started to deviate from our planned itinerary. We were supposed to spend this day on the slopes at Sunshine Village, but life had other plans.
We ended up trading in our ski and snowboard gear for ice skates and heading out to Lake Minnewanka. The drive out to the lake is magnificent! The scenery is picture perfect. And the lake itself is just amazing to behold. It’s framed by mountains all around, and the ice is a dark blue color with lots of frozen methane bubbles trapped in it. It was the coolest thing we did on this trip.
After skating we headed up to Johnston Canyon to do some hiking. We only made it to the lower falls before the sun started going down and we decided to head back to the car because it was getting dark and too cold for us.
For dinner we chose a spot in Canmore called The Grizzly Paw Pub & Brewing Co. We tried poutine for the first time (10/10 would recommend) and got a beer flight to try out some of the local brews. You’ll notice that half of the flight is dark (mine) and half is light (his), we obviously have different tastes in beer. The food at Grizzly Paw was just as amazing as the beer. It was my favorite restaurant on this trip.
Day 5: Snowshoeing and ice skating at Lake Louise
This was the day that we were supposed to spend on the slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort.
We still headed up to Lake Louise, but rented ice skates and snow shoes from Wilson Mountain Sports when we arrived, and then headed for the lake.
We snowshoed to the scenic overlook to get the best view of the Chateau Lake Louise. And also just to cross snowshoeing off our bucket list…
Then we headed down to check out the Chateau, as well as grab lunch before going out to explore the frozen lake and ice skate as the sun set behind the mountains.
Day 6: Exploring the town of Banff
We chose to spend New Year’s Eve exploring the town of Banff a little more. We visited Cave & Basin National Historic Park in the morning, which I really enjoyed. I learned a lot about the history of Banff, the Canadian Rockies, and the Canadian National Parks at the museum, and I got to explore the cave and hot spring system. And it was super cheap to get in, about $4 per person! We missed the whole free national parks thing by a few hours, but for that price I can’t really complain.
After that we headed up to Surprise Corner to get the best view of the Banff Fairmont Springs. You can either hike there from downtown or drive up the mountain then walk down a much shorter distance to get there. We tried to hike there, but it was a cold, windy, snowy day, so we gave up and did the scenic drive.
We also visited the Vermilion Lakes and did some sightseeing there. There are also lots of beautiful trails to hike around the lakes and enjoy their beauty. You can also walk out onto the lake in some spots and ice skate, but we didn’t see any people when we were out there.
We ate dinner at the Grizzly Paw once more before heading out to Lake Minnewanka to try catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights. It was too overcast, but the experience was definitely interesting. That’s a story for another post though.
To celebrate the New Year we went downtown to check out the festivities. Banff Avenue was closed off to traffic and there were lots of tents and activities set up. We listened to the bands that were playing music to the crowds, we test rode some fat tire bikes, we learned about Japanese New Year traditions, got to hang out in a giant teepee, danced in the street, and nearly froze because it was so cold. I was excited to count down to the New Year, but there was no actual count. Just a bunch of fireworks going off and everyone screaming “Happy New Year” in whatever the opposite of unison is. It was still a great way to celebrate 2017!
Day 7: Canmore to Calgary, exploring the city
Once again, we had different plans for this day but they changed. This time it was due to the weather. Tubing at Mount Norquay and an ice walk at Grotto Canyon were on the itinerary for the day, but it was a windy day with lots of snow flurries, so we knew we would be miserable spending a few hours outside. We decided to hit the road earlier than planned and find a museum or something in which to seek sanctuary from the cold.
After checking back into the Airbnb from our first night in Canada, we did a little research into a good place to visit.
We decided to visit the Calgary Tower. I was very pleasantly surprised by this attraction!
We chose to do the audio tour that comes free with regular admission, and it taught us a lot about the city of Calgary’s history and urban geography.
Day 8: Depart Calgary to go home
We woke up to the coldest weather since we had arrived in Canada over a week prior.
Luckily all we had to do was throw our suitcases in the car and drive to the airport. We enjoyed our trip but we were happy to leave the -11 cold for the 78 degree warmth at home in Houston!
Changed Plans and Such
A few things we wanted to do but weren’t able to…
- Ski at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resorts: Y’all know all about this by now.
- Tubing at Mount Norquay: We wanted to do this on New Year’s Day, but it was just too cold. It’s also kind of pricey. We knew that if we did pay to do it, there was a big chance we would just get so cold that we would give it like 30 minutes before giving up and going inside to get warm. It didn’t seem like the best use of our money.
- Grotto Canyon: We really wanted to do an ice walk here, but the day we planned to do it was so cold, snowy, and windy. We knew it would be miserably cold to us, so we decided not to go.
- Jasper National Park: I wish we could have gone a little further north to visit another one of Canada’s most famous national parks.
- Columbia Icefields: I would have also loved to see a glacier in Canada, since glacier hiking is kinda my thing…
Happy adventuring, friends!