A Winter Wonderland | Banff, Alberta
Happy holidays, everyone! If you are anything like me, you have been so busy with traveling, gift buying and giving, talking (and talking and talking and talking), WORKING, and just not sitting for two seconds. Personally, I have been all over the place for holidays AND my birthday and I have been working on top of that. WHEW.
SO. It is time to recap some of the amazing things that have happened throughout December -- which, to winter babies like myself, is a magical month that may be cold, but is filled with possibilities.
Let's begin with that trip that you are all here to see.
Being from Virginia, I have been left out of all that fun winter stuff. It just gets cold and ugly and that's about it. No snow, no outdoor skating, no sledding, no rides in a one horse open sleigh. All of the Christmas songs we listen to during this season are folklore to us and we listen to them 24/7 because we are all imagining a winter world that we never get to see. The south is a weird place, but some people would call that heaven, so I guess I really shouldn't complain -- especially when we hopped off the plane back in Richmond and cried from happiness. We could walk outside without a jacket and THE WORKS (gloves, boots, hats, wool socks, thermals, etc). Richmond was suddenly Tahiti, and I was quite happy to be there.
Our travels to Alberta would have been more smooth if Calgary's belts didn't stop working. Unfortunately, this little mishap gave us a 3-hour good time in the airport. I got to see people at their worst, guys. My spirit did diminish just a bit, but when we finally got on the road and saw the sun begin to descend behind the Rockies, I fell in love and my happiness returned. Those mountains could change a person.
We stayed at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge, which is about 5 minutes from town. It was a sweet little lodge, with a fireplace in the room. Honestly, I wish that our fire-starting skills were better, but we still used it as much as we could! If you are going to Banff, there are so many tasty places to wet your whiskers and fill your bellies. My personal favorites were The Eddie Burger + Bar (YOU HAVE TO HAVE THEIR MILKSHAKES AND ROCKY MOUNTAIN BURGER) and St. James's Gate Old Irish Pub (have a blackberry Somersby cider on me). When it comes to the reviews on Yelp in this area, for the love of God, trust them.
This town is an amazing destination for those who love a low-key and non-stressful vacation. Everything is a 10-15 minute drive from each other and we only had to fill up on gas once. It was amazing. We were able to squeeze in many things in a short day (only about 8 hours of daylight during the winter there) and still have some downtime once it got dark. And when it does get dark, I recommend following The Aurora Watch website to try and see some Northern Lights. Our meter unfortunately never got over 12% during our time there, but you may get lucky! Our recommendation for a good view would be Lake Minnewanka. It is close by (Lake Louise is quite a drive for a last minute trip), and it is also more secluded.
There are a few things that you can book, but our recommendation is some type of ride with Warner Stables. Whether you have a wagon or sleigh ride, it is still a good way to see the town and hear some cool history about Banff. The horses are also incredible creatures -- give them some love after your ride! There are a lot of things that you can do yourself without a tour guide or without paying a ton of money. For example, we just rented some snow cleats from town and did the Johnston Canyon ice hike by ourselves. There are many shortcuts that you can take in Banff, so try not to book too many things in advance. You'll thank me later. Also, don't expect much when thinking about going to the Upper "hot springs"....its a hot, man-made pool that fits maybe 20 people comfortably. And there are no good views soooo...go if you want, but we decided to keep our layers on for that one. Not impressed. There are other hot springs to visit, so maybe you could check those out, but most were under construction when we were there.
Overall, the trip was marvelous. We drank lots of peppermint hot chocolate and had time to slow down and really enjoy one another's company. We did get to see some snow, despite the temperature being "high" for the season. We just headed 30 minutes towards Lake Louise and BAM, we walked through the wardrobe. All we needed was a light post and I would have been sold that we really had found Narnia.
Winter or Summer, Banff is a picture perfect location and I would love to go back.