Banff Trip Report
Thanks to everyone on the forum for all your help and suggestions. Your thoughts and ideas really helped make this a wonderful trip. If I hadn’t read about the Gypsy guide here, I probably never would have made this trip because we really didn’t want to go on a regular tour.
Arrived in Calgary 3 hours late on the direct flight from Chicago. Plane had to turn around and go back due to pressurization problems. Took off again at the time we should have been landing in Calgary. We arrived close to midnight.
The Alamo rental car place was still open and they gave us an upgrade which was great. The Gypsy Guide place closed at 11pm so we had to pick that up the next morning. It was a good thing that we had decided to overnight at the Hampton Inn close to the airport. Front desk people at HI were very pleasant and room was fine.
The next morning after our breakfast at the hotel, we went to the airport and picked up our Gypsy Guide and headed for Jasper. I was worried that there would be no place to eat and nowhere for pit stops---but no problems in that department. We stopped at the Lake Louise shopping area for lunch at Lannigans. It was okay. Lots of people there so I guess people must like their pastries. There is not a big selection for lunch. There are public bathrooms in the shopping area. Another pit stop at the Icefields center. It was quite busy there.
Gypsy Guide—what an amazing addition to our trip. This is like having a tour guide right in your car. The voices are very pleasant, not like a regular GPS. The information it gives you as you drive to different locations is terrific. It included historical info, geographical info, animal info, sites to stop along the way. It was just amazing! It is not cheap—about $200 for the week, but well worth it.
Then on to Jasper.
Hotel_We stayed at the Park Place Inn right in the center of town for 2 nights. We loved the place. There are only 10 rooms upstairs and 2 suites downstairs. Bathrooms are huge with a whirlpool and separate glass enclosed shower. Room was nice and pillows were soft and to my liking.
Restaurants-We ate at 2 restaurants right across the street--Evil Daves (delicious Lollipop shrimp appetizer-buffalo meatloaf and sole were all excellent) and Andys (lamb was good and apple crumble was tasty, not real sweet). Both excellent. Breakfast one morning at Soft Rock around the block from the hotel—good omelets and potatoes. One breakfast at Cafe Mondo great homemade muffins. Lunch one day at the Jasper Park Lodge on the patio overlooking the lake….very nice and beautiful location.
Tour Drove to Maligne Lake and took the narrated boat ride which I think was $55 each.. Beautiful and interesting info.
Headed to Banff for our next 3 nights.
This was the day we did the stuff along the Icefields Parkway. The Athabasca falls, Sunwapta Falls, and the Athabasca Glacier. The Athabasca Falls were amazing---steep high stone walls. The Sunwapta Falls are not as dramatic as the Athabasca Falls. We took the Snocoach glacier tour which was around $50 each. This is definitely something not to be missed. The guide told us to be careful about stepping in puddles, which of course I proceeded to do and got one cold wet foot up to my ankle. We grabbed a snack there-they have 2 sides for dining—cafeteria and snack.
In Banff, we stayed at the Fox Suites. Accommodations were fine. Bathrooms are very very tiny, but we had a balcony overlooking the main street with mountains in the distance and the living area had a couch, table with 4 chairs, small frig, sink and microwave. There is a Chilis restaurant at the hotel and continental breakfast is included at the restaurant (waffles too). They will also give you a free bus ticket which you can use to get back and forth to town if you don’t feel like driving. If you are a walker, you could walk, but we didn’t. There are lots of shops on the main street—both souvenir and pricey outdoor type clothing places.
Things we did from Banff
Banff Springs hotel is beautiful. We had lunch on the patio overlooking the Bow River. This is a beautiful location. We walked down the stairs and path to the Bow Falls below the hotel. Nice to see, but not an Athabasca! Saw lots of people taking off for raft trips from there.
Day trip to Lake Louise driving on the Bow Valley Parkway.–Beautiful location for the Chateau Louise—ate lunch on the patio overlooking the lake—fabulous! The lake is a gorgeous color and surrounded by mountains. You can rent canoes to paddle around. We also drove to Moraine Lake and walked on the trail around the lake. Many people rented canoes here also.
Drove up tunnel mountain and saw the Hoodoos. Amazing views down to the city.
The last day we drove the Minnewanka Loop and saw some long horned sheep, but missed the boat tour.
We ate at Bison Mountain Bistro in town. Excellent Bison, sole, and charcuterie for appetizer (although we didn’t like the duck—too fatty)
Another dinner at Buffalo Mountain Lodge on tunnel Mt. Rd. where my husband had elk which he returned. It was too tough. I had scallops that were good. Charcuterie platter with mustard melon and berries was very good. Lemon shortbread which was more like a heavy pie consistency was delicious.
Animals We saw a bear, big horn sheep, goats, deer and reindeer. (no moose, elk or caribou) The overpasses that have been built for the animals to cross the Icefields Parkway sure are interesting.
Spent the day at the Heritage Park Historical Village which was very interesting. 60% of the buildings are original and restored. We ate at the old hotel. took a paddle boat ride and train ride and went into some of the buildings.
Our flight out was the next morning at 8am so we turned in our car and the Gypsy guide at night and stayed at the Hampton Inn again. They have a complimentary shuttle and picked us up when we called and they also took us to the airport the next morning at 5:30am. We had a nice surprise and got an upgrade to a suite which was really very nice. I didn’t even know that the Hampton Inn had suites. We got to the airport 2 ¼ hours before flight time. Check in was with kiosks and went quickly. You cannot go into US immigration and customs more than 2 hours in advance of your flight. The line is a bit long, but we were through in less than an hour.
All in all an amazing trip!