5 Californians to Canada (Trip Report)

Jan 7th, 2006, 09:27 AM
  #1  
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5 Californians to Canada (Trip Report)

After a few months of planning and lots of help from Judy, Bob and Borealis we had a wonderful family trip in Canada! Myself, DH and three boys, 6, 4 and 18 months.

We left at 6:00 AM sharp (right on schedule!) from our home in Grover Beach, CA and drove to LAX in 2 hours and 40 minutes, which is not bad at all! We found our hotel, checked the car in and took the shuttle to the airport.

Before I go any further, let me say that DS's 1 and 2 could wheel their own suitcase around which helped a lot! The baby's stuff was in my suitcase and DH had his own bag to check plus a carry on which held toothbrushes and extra necessaries for all of us. I also had a backpack with diapers and travel documents and DS1 had a small carry-on with snacks and games. (Total luggage for 10 days: Four bags to check and 3 carry-ons. This proved to be too much.)On an added note, we brought an umbrella stoller but no carseat. The stoller was brought to the gate and stowed on each flight. I don't see how we could've made it through the airports without it but it was a major pain because it had to be folded up and scanned each time we went through security!

We flew Air Canada to Edmonton and everything was on time and the boys did very well on the flight. I was glad I had not paid for a seat for the baby because there was no way he was letting go of me! (Usally I am a big proponent of the car seat and each kid having their own seat... I just had a different feeling this time, went with it, and it turned out to be a good decision.)

In our carry on snack bag I had 4 apple juices, six pudding cups, three apples and four sandwich bagfulls of goldfish. It was ALl consumed before we got to Edmonton! Kids get hungry and they do not want to wait for service on the plane or to find a place to eat in the airport. It was great to have enough on hand to get them through the day and my DH, who had chastised me a bit for bringing so much, was very grateful and was singing my praises about midway through the day!

Our flight out of Calgary was delayed a bit so we got into Edmonton around 8:00 PM. We got to the Hertz Rental Counter and I said, "Hi, I have a problem and I hope you can help. I have too much luggage to fit in the car we reserved... might you have something larger?" I had booked through Hotwire and what I had reserved... A premium car. like a Ford Cop-car, I forget what they're called, had magically shrunked to be a Grand-Am! (The attendant let me know that was often a problem with Hotwire... and that they sometimes advertised cars that are not even in their inventory. Good to know.)

Anyway, he fixed us up with a Ford Explorer SUV AT NO EXTRA CHARGE!! So we ended up paying $38.00 per day and I will be forever grateful! I love Hertz!

We checked into the West Edmonton Mall Inn and our reservations were exactly what we had ordered. The room was ready and we were so happy to be there!We unpacked and got the boys in bed about 10:00 PM and there was a loud knock at the door... our best friends from Alaska whom we were there to meet! .
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Jan 7th, 2006, 10:06 AM
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Our dear friends stayed long enough to get the boys wound up so we had a few drinks until they fell back asleep and enjoyed catching up!

We were pleased with the hotel throughout our stay. We paid $79.00 per night and felt like it was a great value. The room was very clean and cleaned well each day. The front desk was very hepful in terms of directions throughout our stay and they very generously gave us three free passes to the Waterpark at the Mall ($89.00 value EACH!)I would stay here again anytime.

In the morning we crossed a street and had a three minute walk to Bourbon Street in the famous West Ed Mall. That place is amazing! We had breakfast at Cafe' Europa which was $12.95 for their breakfast buffet and the kids ate free with a paid adult. This buffet was very generous and the service was good.

The boys had a great time miniature golfing on Wednesday and checking out the other attractions at the mall. It became clear that during our short stay we would not have time to try everything but it was fun to look!

We then ventured over to the Canadian Athletic Club ( I think that's what it was called) to watch a hockey game! My boys are hooked! The manager of the club, her name esacapes me now, was like a hockey ambassador and she smelled fresh virgin hockey blood and came after our family with a vengeance! In just a matter of minutes the boys were outfitted with Canadien pins, thunder sticks and french fries with gravy! Gravy! (Quite good.)They loved the game and so did we! Now I have two who want to play hockey NOW and it's hard to explain why we don't have a skating rink within two hours of our house!

DH started having travelers tummy and I accused him of faking to get out of going to dinner at my cousins home, who I had not seen for 30 years. I bravely packed up three kids, grabbed the directions, forgot the cell phone and headed out to East Edmonton! ( You see where this is going?)

After driving ahwhile and consulting my map, I got confused and decided, wisely, to ask if I was on the Whitemud or not. NOT!

After getting back on track I arrived just a few minutes late and had a wonderful evening visiting with my beautiful cousin and her lovely family. My older boys were perfectly well behaved but I'm sure the baby, who was exhausted, turned into an alien child and wore me out! (They probably think I'm a terrible parent.. but hey, I made the effort!)

Thursday was my day at the waterpark in the mall with our oldest sons. (DH and the baby went to another hockey game.)
The waterpark is a sight to behold. We went right at 10:00 when it opened and there was already quite a line! They have lockers available (which we probably didn't need.) and towels to rent for $3.00 which is refunded when you return them and innertubes to rent for $5.00. We had a great time on the waterslides and my older son loved the wave simulator. Amazing to me were the parents who seemed to not be watching their kids.


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Jan 7th, 2006, 10:08 AM
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Great report. I'm so pleased you had a good time. "Hockey virgins," I really liked that one!
LuvToTravel77 is offline  
Jan 7th, 2006, 10:10 AM
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I would have been loathe to actually spend almost $300.00 to be there but the free passes made it too good to pass up. That being said, my boys would have also loved the aquarium, which we didn't have time for, or the ice skating which we also skipped. I would encourage anyone visiting to budget and stick to it.

Back in the afternoon for more hockey and this time were treated to a tour of the Zamboni! (No, they didn't get to ride on it.)Our friend scored his first goal with this traveling team he's on and we all went nuts! Since their team was from Alaska, our little group were the only spectators rooting for them and we were plenty loud!
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Jan 7th, 2006, 12:57 PM
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Good to hear the report.

I'm most of the way across the country, in Toronto, but I used to live in Edmonton.

Last week I was talking to some Californians I met in a Starbucks here, telling them about your planning. They were enjoying their visit to Eastern Canada.

And one day last week I passed three cars with California license plates. Is anyone left back home?

Come back in the summer, and see some other parts of the country, too.

BAK
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Jan 7th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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After the waterpark and an exciting hockey game, we needed to do laundry! So Roasalee and I headed out (with directions from the front desk) to the closest laundrymat while our DH's took charge of the three little guys.

I had a big suitcase full of clothes to wash and wheeled them to the laundrymay only to find there was no soap or dryer sheets to purchase and NO COIN MACHINE!!

We then walked (me towing said suitcase)across the parking lot to a gas station that had a little store. The lady was kind enough to give us rolls of quarters after we purchased a small box of Tide and a small box of bounce for $12.00!

We got back to the laundry and found that the quarters would not work because the machines were rigged to take only certain coins! For instance... one dollar coin and two quarter coins. Crazy! So we counted our loads, counted our coins and headed back to our friend!

Had a quick bite to eat and a beer at the bar next door while waiting and headed back to the hotel.

Our husbands informed us that the hockey coach had called... he was taking the boys to see the arena where the Edmonton Oilers play and that they could skate on the ice... did we want to come.. little boys included! (Since we had the car.. it was a no go, but a mighty nice offer.

Had to content ourselves with a few glasses of wine and great conversation.
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Jan 7th, 2006, 01:19 PM
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After suitcases were packed with clean clothes we got up early to head out for our 10:00 AM flight to Calgary. Said our goodbyes, managed to get the new indoor hockey game (two nets, four sticks and two balls) packed up (adding another carryon uggghhh!) and all the kids in the car, checked in the rental, back on the plane for a short flight.

Love the Calgary airport! Wonderful large stuffed animals advertising the zoo at the baggage claim entertained kids and adults alike! One couple was even videotaping them... and I was laughing! Videotaping the baggage claim? Also, the luggage carts in Calgary are free! Bless them!

Tried my plea again at the Hertz counter and once again, they took good care of us. Another Ford Explorer with toddler seat at no extra charge!

We promptly missed the exit for Banff (Highway 1) and were some reason looking for Highway 2 South, which I easily found and we happily drove off in the wrong direction!

After seeing signs for Lethbridge and no signs for Banff... my husband woke me up and said... Are we visitng you Aunt in Lethbridge? I said No, we're going to Banff. He said, not on this road we're not!

So we turned around after having lunch at the A & W in some Deer town that I don't remember and headed back to Calgary.

Then we guessed our way around there for awhile and eventually found the 1 West! Yeah... no longer lost in a foreign country!

Loved seeing the jumps from the Olympics! Easy drive to Canmore and easily found our chosen bed and breakfast, The Lady MacDonald Country Inn. Unfortunately, our room was not ready upon arrival but I didn't need a bed, after that drive I needed a drink! Coffee and hot cocoa did the trick and our room was ready in no time!

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Jan 7th, 2006, 03:07 PM
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I posted a short report about the Inn on Trip Advisor and will be happy to answer any specific questions.

Canmore is a delightful town and we enjoyed looking through the shops without the crowds. The bookstore and the Candy Shop were my personal favorites and we loved Two Wolves, which I think was mentioned in another post.

The Grizzly Paw had wonderful food, good music and a fun atmosphere and we ate there two out of four nights that we were in town because it was easy with the kids, the service was great and they have a super menu.

On the 31st we drove to Lake Louise to see what we could see and it was magical! The Chateau of course, is spectacular and the boys had fun playing in the snow.. it was actually snowing a bit and they got a big kick out of that. We wanted to make sure we knew where we were going that night, decided to have dinner at the Glacier Saloon and confirmed out sleigh ride reservations at the concierge desk before heading back for naps and to get our warm clothes on!

Dinner at the Glacier Saloon was delicious! Hubby had lasagna, which he really enjoyed and I had vegetatian chili with a parmesan crust that was to die for! The kids shared steak and were too excited to eat but I had a bite and they missed out.

Brewster's sleigh ride was fun! it cost $94.00 for the 5 of us and it was as the commercial goes... priceless. We walked out the back of the Chateau and saw the castle made of ice on the skating pond, helped ourselves to the hot chocolate and waited for the "one horse open sleigh ride!" ( To quote my DS!)

The driver was knowledgeable about the area and gave interesting comments about the area as we rode across the lake. There were mostly families on the ride, from London, San Francisco and from Australia.

We all enjoyed it so much and would highly recommend this activity! Kind of a once in a lifetime ride and seeing the Chateau all lit up at night was breathtaking.

Drove through Banff on the way home to see the Banff Springs at night and it was gorgeous. Would have loved to have a look around and a nightcap but since we had three sleeping angels in the backseat (and each town had checkpoints looking for open containers and under the influence drivers!)we opted to drive on back to the hotel.

New Year's Day we headed to Banff to see the Whyte Museum and it was closed. Picked up some postcards and decided Banff was not the town for us... too many people, too many shops. After an hour, headed back to Canmore to check out ice skating on the pond and then again, nap time!
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Jan 7th, 2006, 10:08 PM
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I've been enjoying your report, moneygirl. Glad to hear you had a good trip. Thanks for the feedback.

I thought about you at the end of December / beginning of January, because I'd warned you how cold it could be and you'd bought that expensive outdoor winter clothing. Then it turned out to be so mild!
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Jan 8th, 2006, 07:03 AM
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We had a relaxing breakfast and got a couple of the boys to nap before Howling Dog Tours picked us up for our dog sled ride. let me just tell you, Dana and Rich, the owners , are the best!

Dana and I had two very detailed conversations about their tour experience because I wanted to make sure the baby would be comfortable and I also wanted my big kids to have the chance to mush the dogs and to learn something about how the dogs are cared for. (My kids have been around boats all their lives but the snow/dog sled thing is quite foreign.)

After a warm greeting we were assigned to a driver, Byron, who introduced us to each of the dogs and helped us get situated in the sled. We were warm and comfortable and I got to mush first! The trails they use outside Canmore barely had any snow left on them... but they made the trip a great one! I LOVED driving and got to drive for the first half of the trip! We ended up at a lake where we sould watch others ice fishing on the lake, had a snack and a hot drink and then alll the boys, DH inlcluded took turns mushing on the way back.

Byron answered all of our questions about the dogs, what they eat, how they relax, what happens when they get hurt etc... and we felt like it was money well spent. (This was not a cheap activity... I think $350.00 for all 5 of us.)At the end, the boys got to help feed and water the dogs and pet them goodbye. They loved it! Even the baby was saying, "Woof, Woof!" (He's still saying it!)

Let me just say that we are usually do it yourself never take a tour people but for these activities I just tried to choose the best I could and it paid
off. We were very pleased and I would highly recommend Howling Dog Tours.
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Jan 8th, 2006, 07:11 AM
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I'll spare you the details about how United's computers went down on Tueday and backed up all the flights. I'll just say that when a 7:00 Pm arrival turns into a 1:00 Am arrival.... one questions I've never seen asked or answered n this forum is: How do you get sleeping kids... I mean fast asleep... off of the airplane? UGGHHHHH!

We are home safe and sound... ready to plan our next family trip!

Judy, although we only used the snow clothes two days out of the whole trip,I'm glad we were prepared. There were people all over the place who did not have the right clothing on and were miserable! (On both our sleigh ride and the sled dog ride.) Thanks again for your advice.
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Jan 8th, 2006, 07:26 AM
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Okay, so since I survived the trip... here's my sage advice for anyone planning to travel with small kids to this area.

1. You will not seee everything or do everything. Not even close.

2. Know when to call it a day even if it's 1:00 PM and you haven't seen the Banff Springs Hotel, or the shops you wanted.

3. Do not plan too much. Kids need sowntime and to veg out a little bit.

4. It's hard to eat out for 10 days straight. One meal out a day is about enough so I kept breakfast foods, cheese, yogurt, salami and fruit around. Make sure your rooms have refridgerators!

5. Have the right clothes. Nuff said.

6. A good attitude helps a lot. This post doesn't mention that all of the kids, in addition to Dh had the flu for a portion of the trip... but somehow we al had a great time.

Thanks Canada!
moneygirl is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 03:34 PM
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At first I was beginning to wonder if I should read all the way through, with all the details, but then I saw the reference to "french fries and gravy" and knew instantly that you'd been given the authentic intro to Canada.

Aside from the bacon on our pizzas (so we think, anyway) there is very little on this earth that passes for "Canadian food".

One exception, as I've always known and lived it, is "french fries and gravy". (now don't everyone remind/tell me that the combo was first tested/offered elsewhere)

(in fact, since I'm at a travel guidebook website, I should take a moment to mention to Fodors people that the phrase "Canadian food" in reference to restaurant cuisine tells exactly nothing!)

Anyway, even I really enjoyed YOUR trip!

NorthwestMale is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 09:20 PM
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Hi moneygirl - Great trip report!! - I had been wondering about your trip, and especially about your stay in Edmonton. So sorry that we didn't have a white Christmas this year!! It still is very mild and hasn't snowed (much - we had maybe three flakes total yesterday, but not enough to cover the grass and gardens) - this must be some sort of record for our part of Canada.

Glad you enjoyed West Edmonton Mall (did your kids get to go on any of the kiddie rides at Galaxyland??), maybe on your next trip to Edmonton you could visit some of our other attractions, so come back soon!!!!.
Borealis is offline  
Jan 9th, 2006, 05:39 PM
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Thanks... I'm sorry this was so detailed... my first real trip report, guess I got carried away!

I especially wanted to cover the parts about packing for small kids, plane travel with them and activites for them because there are always posts on these boards titled, " How to fly with an infant?" or "What to do with kids in Hawaii?" I hope that someone sometime will get some use out of my comments!

French fries and gravy sounded weird to me... but it was good!

If we ever get back to the West Ed Mall we'd hit the aquarium and the ice skating rink!

And yes, we'd love to go back in the summer to see the sights and do some hiking.

You have a beautiful country.

Now you come to the Central Coast of California and let me return the favor!
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Jan 9th, 2006, 06:42 PM
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RE> I should take a moment to mention to Fodors people that the phrase "Canadian food" in reference to restaurant cuisine tells exactly nothing!)<

Maybe not. Canada is full of restaurants that have neon signs out front, often with some burned out letters, saying "Chinese and Canadian Food." Candian food is everything that isn't Chinese, including lasagna probably, and macaroni and cheese, and probably some goulash. If these restaurants are in the west, look for perogies, too.

About the detail: I loved it, and think it is valuable, and am pleased you went to the trouble of giving all the info, even the price of Tide.

BAK
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Jan 11th, 2006, 03:35 PM
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Yeah, and some of the convenience stores in Canada like to advertise:

"We sell Canadian cigarettes" !!

That tells (the rest of us) about as much as the travel guidebook that suggests "Canadian food".
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