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stickday May 21st, 2004 07:51 PM

Banff vs. Lake Louise & Edmonton Lodging
First off. THANK YOU THANK YOU to Judy-in-Calgary, Borealis, and all the other helpful souls on this thread. I have 80% of our super-cool vacation planned, mostly due to info found here. It will be a great escape from the So.Calif smog. Just a few details I need help with.
- Through various suggestions here, we are arriving Calgary noon Friday 7/23, w/ 4 days at RimRock Banff(4th night free promo thru 5/31), 3 days Jasper Pk Lodge(AAA discount and still very expensive, but not complaining), and ending w/ 2 nights(1 full day)in Edmonton leaving 7am Sunday. (FYI-flights from SoCal are easier Calgary/Edmon vs Edmon/Calgary.
- Although we are wanting to relax and not change hotels often, I am having second thoughts about 4 nights Banff after seeing postings suggesting 2days Banff & 2 Lake Louise. Is Banff close enough to all the sights to be a practical hub? My guess is it would be an extra hour driving on days we went up to LL and back....?
- Secondly, Borealis thanks for the hotel suggestions in Edmonton. Your post suggested downtown or Old Strathcona. We will be there Fri & Sat Night 30/31. How is your downtown area on the weekend, active? A walking around area? Safe? Taste of Edmonton down there? Old Town area sounds fun to peoplewatch... well, maybe it is just a coin toss, but if anyone has a preference one way or the other, or a favorite hotel, it will be appreciated.
- We will spend the first afternoon of our trip on a quickie tour of Calgary. Anyone done the bobsled/luge? Is that at Olympic village? Other suggestions - how about dinner there? Gotta MUST go to resturant?-we eat anything.
- Thank You all again...BYE FOR NOW.

Judy_in_Calgary May 21st, 2004 09:01 PM

>>>>>>Although we are wanting to relax and not change hotels often, I am having second thoughts about 4 nights Banff after seeing postings suggesting 2days Banff & 2 Lake Louise. Is Banff close enough to all the sights to be a practical hub? My guess is it would be an extra hour driving on days we went up to LL and back....?<<<<<<

This is a tough call. I too dislike changing hotels more often than necessary. If you wanted a base in which to spend 4 nights, Lake Louise would be slightly preferable, IMO. The reason for that is that LL is more centrally located on an east-west axis through the mountains. LL has great scenery in its own right, and one also can use it as a base for exploring Banff townsite to the east and all the great sights in Yoho National Park to the west.

If you base yourself in Banff townsite, which is located towards the eastern end of the national park, you have the extra hour's drive on the day you go to LL, but you have even more of an extra drive than that on the day you go to Yoho National Park (which I recommend you do).

The challenge, however, is that Banff townsite is considerably bigger and has considerably more tourist infrastructure than LL.

It's not a matter of life and death either way. If you dislike packing up and moving every other day, and you have that 4th free night at the Rimrock, there would be merit in using Banff townsite as your base.

About EDMONTON, I'll leave it to the Edmonton Fodorites to bring you up to speed, but I was quite excited on your behalf to see that you would be there on the next to last day of the annual 10 day Klondike Days festival. I don't know where the Klondike Days excitement takes place, but I thought I would emphasize your arrival date for the attention of any Edmonton Fodorite who might respond to your question.

Yes, the luge is at Canada Olympic Park (COP), on the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1), towards the western end of Calgary.

Here's a map of Calgary.

You cannot miss COP because it's prominently sign posted, and the tall ski jumps are visible from a long way away.

I've never tried the luge, but here's a website about it. (Note the 54 inch height restriction and 10 year old age restriction, if this is applicable to anyone in your group.)

I live far away from COP, and am not very familiar with the neighbourhoods close to it. From driving by, I seem to recall that there are not many "good" restaurants within a stone's throw of it. I think there's a pizza joint and a McDonalds across the road. Canmore is an hour's drive to the west, and there isn't very much between Calgary and Canmore. I don't think it makes sense to backtrack eastwards on 16th Avenue / Hwy #1, in the opposite direction you need to go to reach Banff. I also think it would be unnecessarily time consuming to go to nice restaurant districts such as downtown or Kensington.

Your saving grace, I think, is the Four Points Sheraton that is exactly across Hwy #1 from COP. I phoned them and asked them if they had a restaurant and they said, as I expected they would, that they do have one. They also confirmed that theirs was the only "real" restaurant within walking distance of COP.

stickday May 22nd, 2004 12:03 AM

You are up late, and spot-on. Thanks for being such a great ambassador. I will be looking at our Yoho day...

Borealis May 23rd, 2004 07:38 PM

Hello Stickday,

For the Edmonton part of your stay, you can consider three different areas for acoommodation (and what you choose depends on your interests and tastes):

1. Downtown - our downtown is not only safe but usually very very quiet, in fact, it is so quiet that some mean-spirited people refer to our very pretty city as "Deadmonton". You can walk around all you want with no problems. As Judy mentioned, you will be there on the tail end of the local summer fair called "Klondike Days" (referring to the gold rush days of the 1890's), so there will be a bit more activity downtown. If you stay at the local Fairmont Hotel (the MacDonald) or Union Bank Inn, you are within easy walking distance of the Edmonton Art Gallery, the Citadel Theatre (which might have a melodrama on for the Klondike Days festival), and the downtown City Centre Shopping Centre (there really isn't too much unique shopping there).
If you are interested in souvenirs (local art, including paintings, prints, sculpture, also postcards, jewellery etc.), you can walk to the "Made in Canada" shop across the street from the Westin Hotel (one very short block north of the Hotel MacDonald).

2. You could stay at the FantasyLand Hotel in West Edmonton Mall. The mall is the largest in the world, and has oodles of shops, plus an ice skating rink, a wave pool, an amusement park (rides etc), a casino, and lots of places to eat. It is not my cup of tea, but lots of people like it. For more info, check out this website:

3. Old Strathcona - a trendy area of town, lots of activity every evening, the street (Whyte Ave) is crowded during the day on weekends and on evenings during the week. Yes, this is the place to people watch, and most of the people here will be young and energetic. Many different and unique shops including bookstores (Greenwoods is the best independent bookstore in the area), card shops, clothes stores etc. Plus there are restaurants every two steps, so you'll have no problem choosing where to eat (our favourites are Packrat Louie and Flavours, others worth considering are Da-De-O's, Yiannis Taverna, Chianti, Three Musketeers, Symposium). And there are a plethora of coffee shops - Second Cup, Timothy's, Block 1912, and of course Starbucks. Plus a unique tea shop - Steeps (the owner started the idea in Edmonton and has now expanded to Calgary) - this serene spot serves all sorts of teas (black, green, oolong, chai, rooibos, tisanes, herbal infusions etc.) plus light snacks. Steeps is a few blocks to the west of the main Old Strathcona area (closer to the University of Alberta campus, on Whyte Ave just east of 112th street) Check out the website:

Oh - and Old Strathcona is not really that "old" - it's just the name of the area referring to what it was called in the past. Edmonton is a very young city.

The events that will be ongoing in Edmonton on July 30 to 31st are:

A Taste Of Edmonton (a festival of food samples from over 40 of Edmonton's restaurants).

Historic Edmonton Week (and Edmonton's 100th birthday is this year!!)

Edmonton Heritage Festival (over 50 ethnic groups residing in the Edmonton area showcase their culture and FOOD!!!) - this festival is held in Hawrelak Park - to the west of the University of Alberta campus, and in the river valley.

In the Edmonton area - in Stony Plain (west of the city) - Blueberry Bluegrass and Country Music Festival.

The air is usually very fresh and clean (and dry) although in late July it could be hot and even a little bit humid, some evenings with brief thunderstorms.

To get to the Edmonton International Airport south of the city limits (9 km = a little over 5 miles), it is a 45 minute drive from downtown, and a 40 minute drive from West Edmonton Mall and Old Strathcona.

Hope this helps.

stickday May 24th, 2004 03:38 PM

Borealis... Like Judy, what a great ambassador for your town! Sounds like we could even spend more time there than we have. Can't wait, THANK YOU!

taggie May 25th, 2004 05:23 PM

I love Calgary (grew up there not far from Canada Olympic Park actually), but COP is not in the most interesting part of town. Judy is right that there isn't much in the way of dining around COP and the Four Points Sheraton is a pretty basic motor hotel as far as I can tell - I'm sure the restaurant is OK but nothing great. If I were you I would spend the extra 20 minutes it would take to go from COP back in to Kensington or a bit further to Eau Claire to eat supper. Eau Claire has great ambience and eats. Driving in Calgary is pretty easy - traffic's not bad at all - and those are much more interesting areas.
Or, why not go somewhere more in the centre of town for a big lunch, look around the city a bit, then stop by COP later on your way out of town to Banff? Then you could even stop off in Canmore for dinner (The Quarry is good) or just go straight on to Banff.

stickday May 29th, 2004 09:54 AM

Taggie, that sounds good. I was foolish to think the luge/bobsled facilities would be open that time of year anyway! Instead we will likely do more of a 3-4hr Calgary city tour before heading up the hill after dinner. TOUR SUGGESTIONS REQUESTED!

Judy_in_Calgary May 29th, 2004 12:05 PM

Stickday, Canada Olympic Park apparently has an "Ice House," which is an enclosed, refrigerated building that turns luge into a year-round sport.

Be that as it may, I'm afraid of activities that involve speed, so I feel no attraction whatsoever towards this sport.


If you want a short tour of Calgary, the downtown core is the place to go. Its 2 most interesting areas are the 8th Avenue / Stephen Avenue pedestrian mall and the banks of the Bow River. The tour on which I take personal guests lasts the better part of a day, but you could see it in half a day if you didn't dawdle.

When you land at Calgary Airport, retrieve your luggage and clear customs and immigration. Find an ATM in the airport, and withdraw Canadian cash. (This will come in usefully for parking downtown.) Collect your rental car.

Here, again, is an overall map of Calgary

From the airport, follow the signs that point to City Centre. Essentially this route takes you south on Deerfoot Trail (Hwy #2) and then west on Memorial Drive NE. If you keep following the signs to City Centre, you will turn south from Memorial Drive over the Bow River and then west onto 4th Avenue South.

Keep heading west on 4th Avenue. Keep a lookout for Centre Street, which will intersect 4th Avenue. You will be turning 2 blocks after Centre Street. From 4th Avenue, turn right (north) into 2nd Street SW. Once you're on 2nd Street SW, go through the intersections at 3rd Avenue SW and 2nd Avenue SW. After the 2nd Avenue SW intersection, turn right into the parking lot.

This parking lot has an attendant during normal business hours, and this person will be able to change the notes you will have gotten from the ATM at the airport. If, for some bizarre reason, there is no attendant in the booth, walk across the street to the Eau Claire Market complex, and ask one of the stores to change notes for coins that you can use to purchase a parking ticket from the parking lot's automatic ticket dispenser. Some automatic parking ticket dispensers in Calgary accept payment by credit card, but I cannot remember if this is one of them.

This parking lot is a 5 block walk from the start of your mini tour of Calgary. The good news is that it is close to the point at which your tour will end, so you'll be able to hop in your car and be off to Banff.

To get to Banff, exit the parking lot and turn left into 2nd Street SW. This will have you heading south. After 2 blocks turn right (west) into 4th Avenue SW. Stay in one of the two right hand lanes of 4th Avenue SW. Eventually the two right hand lanes of 4th Avenue SW will veer right, taking you onto a bridge that crosses north over the Bow River and becomes 10th Street NW. From 10th Street take the west exit onto 16th Avenue NW / TransCanada Highway. Once you're heading west on the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1), you don't have to think about driving directions again until you reach Banff.

The older, more central part of Calgary is built on a grid system. Avenues run east-west, and are numbered sequentially as they move outwards, north and south of Centre Avenue. Streets run north-south, and are numbered sequentially as they move outwards, east and west of Centre Street. Each street address ends in NW, NE, SE or SW, and that tells you which quadrant of the city it's situated in.

Here is a map of the downtown core

Fodors also has a good map of downtown Calgary. Go to Fodors / Destinations / Canada / Calgary / Map.

Judy_in_Calgary May 29th, 2004 12:08 PM


From the previously mentioned parking lot, walk 5 blocks south to 7th Avenue SW.

My official tour begins at Toronto Dominion Square, a high rise building that occupies the block between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue SW and between 2nd Street and 3rd Street SW. Take the escalator or the elevator to the fourth level and walk through the 2.5 acre Devonian Gardens. Try to imagine what these indoor gardens mean to us Calgarians when we take our sandwiches there during a lunch hour on a ? 15 deg F winter day. The outdoor pool that you'll see is converted into a skating rink in winter.

Observe the way in which the downtown buildings are connected to each other by overhead glass tunnels. This is called the "Plus 15" system (because regulations
specify that the tunnels be built 15 feet above ground level). The Plus 15 system enables us to walk from one end of downtown to the other without coats and boots in winter. The value of this not readily apparent in summer, but we really do notice it in winter.

Return to ground level and walk eastwards along the 8th Avenue / Stephen Avenue pedestrian mall. One way or another, you eventually will get to The Bay at 1st Street SW. To someone who doesn?t know its background, it looks like a regular department store. You won?t have time to go into it, but I?ll give you its history anyway.

The Bay is housed in a fairly elegant building that is old by Calgary?s standards. Its real name is The Hudson's Bay Company, and it's the oldest corporation in the world. It received its charter from King Charles II in 1670. It was created to manage the fur trade from North America to Europe. The canoe routes that Hudson's Bay traders learned from First Nations people, the trading posts and forts that Hudson's Bay officials created in remote outposts, and the surveys they undertook helped to open North America up for subsequent European settlers.

The distinctively coloured stripes of the logo that appears on The Bay?s shopping bags represent the characteristically striped blankets that The Bay traded in exchange for furs. One can still buy those blankets as well as coats made from the blanket cloth. My experience, however, is that the coats tend not to be on display during the summer.

Cross to the other side of the 8th Avenue mall from The Bay, and go into Riley and McCormick, a western outfitting store. It's a cultural experience to see that many cowboy boots under one roof, if you've never been exposed to that sight before.

Keep walking eastwards along the 8th Avenue mall. You'll cross Centre Street, and from then onwards the street names will end in SE instead of SW.

You'll pass the Glenbow Museum, which depicts First Nations culture, early European prairie settler culture, and the oil industry, but you won?t have time to go into it.

Beyond the Glenbow Museum, you'll arrive at an open air square called Olympic Plaza. This was where the medals were presented during the 1988 Winter Olympics. The
shallow wading pool that you'll see is converted to an ice rink in winter. Bands
sometimes perform there for free during summer lunch hours, and office workers take their sandwiches and listen.

At the west end of Olympic plaza is a group of statues of "The Famous Five." They were Alberta women (Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung) who in 1929 persuaded the Imperial Privy Council to
include women in the definition of "persons" in the British North America Act (which served effectively as Canada's Constitution).

Opposite Olympic Plaza is the older, sandstone City Hall and next to it the newer, mirrored glass Municipal Building.

Cross the 7th Avenue train tracks and walk northwards along 1st Street SE.
On the lawns outside of the Calgary Board of Education building you'll notice a group
of aluminium statues that I find quite interesting. They are human figures created by an
English artist, Mario Armengol. The group is called The Brotherhood of Man. It was erected several decades ago. I rather suspect that, if this piece of art had been created today, Armengol would have used "Humankind" instead of "Man." I say that because he went out of his way to be inclusive. He deliberately designed the figures so that one could not tell their race or gender.

Keep walking northwards till you reach the river trail. You will pass Chinatown on your left. You may enjoy venturing into Chinatown but, as you meander through it, keep walking in a generally northerly direction, so that you eventually reach the Bow River.

Then walk westwards on the river path. You'll pass the Centre Street Bridge. Then the street addresses will end in SW again.

Keep walking along the river path till you reach the Eau Claire Market complex, which is by the river in the vicinity of 2nd Street and 3rd Street SW.

taggie May 29th, 2004 12:09 PM

Canada Olympic Park itself will be open - it goes all year, has tours and has other things like antique sales and mountain bike competitions. Here's the website:
I think there's quite a bit to see there.

If it's a tour all around the city you're interested in , try Gray Line - they have a Calgary city tour with highlights and a stop at Fort Calgary as well as Canada Olympic Park. It's 4 hours and leaves from downtown hotels, but I'm not sure you could get there soon enough after landing.

If you don't want an organized city tour, I'd maybe go to the Eau Claire market area (lots of restuarants, market with little shops, by the river at the edge of downtown), and Prince's Island park, then go out to COP for a quick tour, then on towards Canmore and Banff.

Calgary is a very new, pretty typical North American city. It's a nice place to live, but apart from at Stampede time (which you'll miss - too bad!!!)not perhaps the most touristy place, (although more so than Edmonton in my opinion). Heritage Park is neat and Fort Calgary too, and the zoo is v. good, but I think its main drawing point for tourists is its proximity to the Rockies.

Re: Edmonton... Taste of Edmonton is good (or was when I lived there). Don't forget mosquito repellent!! Especially needed in the river valley!!
Have a good visit.

Judy_in_Calgary May 29th, 2004 12:15 PM


Of the places you will have been so far (if you've followed my suggested walking tour), there will have been three main areas in which you could have eaten. One is the 8th Avenue / Stephen Avenue pedestrian mall, where you will have noticed several restaurants as you were walking.

Another is Chinatown where, again, there are several Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, and reasonably priced ones at that.

Lastly there is the Eau Claire Market complex, the riverfront shopping complex between 2nd Street and 3rd Street SW, where there are still more restaurants.

At Eau Claire Market, Good Earth Café is a casual, cafeteria-style place, but its food is healthy and tasty.

A casual but nice restaurant at Eau Claire is Joey Tomato's, which claims to serve Mediterranean food. I find that, while it does offer several Mediterranean selections, its menu is quite eclectic, and some of the offerings have what I would call a Thai twist to them. It's nice to sit outside, under an umbrella, if the weather is sunny. Main courses range from C$10 to C$25, with most being around C$15.

An upscale (and of course expensive) restaurant is River Café. It's in the park on Prince's Island, accessible via a pedestrian bridge from the Eau Claire Market area. It too has an outdoor patio that is wonderful to sit on in good weather.

I recommend you have dinner in the Eau Claire / Prince's Island area. If you've done the above mentioned walking tour, I think it'll be close to dinner time, and you'll be hungry by this point. Banff is a 1.5 hour drive from Calgary, so I agree with your idea of eating before you head off to the mountains. It will be easy to do the drive after dinner because we have many hours of sunlight during the summer, and you'll be able to have dinner in Calgary and still get to Banff in daylight.

I don't know that my suggested walking tour would leave you enough time to visit Canada Olympic Park (given that you already would have flown from somewhere else that morning, you would have done quite an extensive walk in downtown Calgary, you would have had dinner, and you would still have a 1.5 hour drive to Banff ahead of you). I guess it depends how energetic you are, and how badly you want to try the luge.

ltt May 31st, 2004 02:38 PM

for edmonton - i'd recommend staying at the met hotel on whyte avenue - 434-6111 - ask for a room facing the north though so you are away from the street noise. certain floors you'll have a view of downtown. or an older one is the varscona.
or, if the taste of edmonton is going on then staying downtown would be alright. check out alberta place suite hotel, coast edmonton plaza, crowne plaza - they are the only ones i can think of off hand but if you do a search, i know there's plenty more. getting one within walking distance of churchill square would be best.

stickday Jun 1st, 2004 04:58 PM

Thanks Folks!!! AGAIN above and beyond.

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