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Calgary/Banff/Lake Louise--last minute family trip

Calgary/Banff/Lake Louise--last minute family trip

Aug 3rd, 2006, 03:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 6
Calgary/Banff/Lake Louise--last minute family trip

We are planning to make a last minute trip this summer, flying Tuesday August 22 to Calgary (arrive around noon) and flying home Tuesday August 29 at noon, from Calgary. We are travelling with our three kids--11 and 8, and a just turned 3 year-old, and my in-laws (young 60's, very active, but it means someone can watch Manda while we do tougher hikes!) We are inclined to just stay around Banff and Lake Louise, and not put Manda (and us) through the drive to and back from Jasper, which seems to total 7 hours. Are we making a mistake?

I would love itinerary and activity recommendations--We like hiking, have done some rock climbs with the older kids, would love some horse back riding for inexperienced older kids and pony for little one, we like boating, could skip museums and the like (is the dinosaur skeleton exhibit different from New York's Natural History--my kids didnt love it)--we could dedicate some time to things that will make the little one happy, like animals, petting zoos, special children's activities. One itinerary wrinkle--on Friday night and Saturday, we do not travel, and we need to be walking distance to whatever we do, and would also need to pay in advance--we would not ride horse or car or man our own boat, but would go onto something that was going to be moving anyway (with or without us). A place with on site activities would be great. Douglas Fir is available and reasonably priced. Should we stay in one place (I know you can do Lake Louise while staying in Banff) or move around a bit?

Would also love restaurant recommendations--we need vegetarian, pizza and fish options that are kid friendly, or even take-out.

I must say--after just a few minutes on this site, I am incredibly impressed with the helpfulness of the responses!

rebecca6438 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 04:34 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
I have not seen the dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. My husband has seen it, and he says the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller is way better.

I think your inability to drive on the Friday night and on the Saturday is going to be problematic, because most of the landmarks, sights and activities are not within walking distance of accommodation.

However, I will put on my thinking cap and get back to you.

Thank you for mentioning your arrival and departure times. It makes a big difference.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 07:02 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Hi rebecca6438,

I will suggest a couple of different itineraries. But, before I get into that, I will mention some background information.


Two stables that I know about are Warner Outfitting and Banff Springs Corral in Banff. Brewster Stables operates in the Lake Louise area. Warner Outfitting offers a larger variety of trails than Brewster does, though.


There are any number of places where you can rent canoes : Lake Louise, Moraine Lake (9 miles from Lake Louise), Johnson Lake (outside of Banff townsite), Emerald Lake (in Yoho National Park to the west of Lake Louise).


Canada’s Rocky Mountain national parks are primarily wilderness spaces, and they are not especially friendly towards very young children. There are no petting zoos and that kind of thing. I imagine it would be a challenge keep goats and sheep safe from cougars and wolves and coyotes.

Actually I’m all for keeping the national parks as natural as possible. I believe they should be unspoiled habitats for wild fauna and flora, and human beings should be permitted to enter the area only to the extent that they don’t interfere with the wilderness. That’s easier said than done. Still, if the parks department was to ask my opinion I would suggest they refrain from putting on fireworks displays in Banff and Jasper townsites on Canada Day. But I digress.

The point I’m trying to make is that there is little entertainment for very young children in the mountain resort towns. To the extent that there is any entertainment for them, most of it is to be found in Banff townsite. So that is where I suggest you stay, particularly during the time when you are confined to walking.

More in next post .........
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 07:05 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501

Douglas Fir Resort has playground equipment, waterslides, a swimming pool, whirlpools, etc. For that and other reasons, it would be a good choice of accommodation for your family group.

Banff townsite has a park with a children’s playground.

On the edges of Banff townsite, there are a number of easy walking trails, e.g., the Fenland Trail, Vermilion Lakes, the walk along the Bow River to Bow Falls, etc. Those of you who are more energetic can walk to Tunnel Mountain Summit and the Hoodoos lookout point.

You may be interested in visiting the Cave & Basin historic site.

Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies and Luxtojn Museum of the Plains Indian may be of interest. I know you said you weren’t particularly interested in museums, but you need something to keep you meaningfully occupied on the Saturday.

You can get a pamphlet from the Visitor Centre on Banff Avenue and follow its directions to do a self guided walk through Banff townsite that points out to you historic buildings.

Bathing in the Upper Hot Springs may interest you, but the walk to get there may be a bit much.


I have never heard of anyone asking to do this, but I imagine tourist operators in Banff have heard this request before. I am guessing that, if you go to them on Friday afternoon and ask to pay in advance for Saturday admission, they will accommodate your request.


I believe it would be better to stay in one base than to move around.

More .........
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 07:06 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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As you might expect, there are excellent hiking trails in the mountain national parks. One that you and two older children might enjoy is the Lake Agnes – Beehives – Plain of Six Glaciers circuit that departs from Lake Louise.


Banff has more than one pizza joint. Fish, especially salmon and trout, is a common feature on menus in Banff restaurants. The only "official" vegetarian restaurant that I know about in Banff is Nourish Vegetarian Bistro and Tea House on the 2nd floor of Sundance Mall at 215 Banff Avenue (which is Banff's main street). There are other restaurants that are not vegetarian as such, but that include vegetarian items on their menus. I recently had the most delicious vegetarian bean soup at Coyote’s Grill. I believe Melissa’s also has a couple of veggie items on its menu. Pad Thai at the back of the ClockTower Mall on Banff Avenue may have some vegetarian offerings. The Silver Dragon (Chinese) in Park Mall on Banff Avenue has many vegetarian items on its menu. The Balkan (Greek) includes meatless options on its menu, and it provides great value for money.

The Tyrrell Museum, the one with the dinosaur skeletons, is 3 hours’ drive from Banff. I do not believe it is feasible for you to visit it in the amount of time you have and with the constraints that you have.

More ...........
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 07:19 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Now I will turn to suggested itineraries.


Tue 22 – Land in Calgary, drive to Banff. Stay in Banff the whole time, and use it as your base for exploring the area.

Wed 23 – Visit Moraine Lake / Lake Louise.

Thu 24 – Takakkaw Falls / Emerald Lake / Radium Hot Springs / Kootenay National Park round trip.

Fri 25 - Visit Johnston Canyon in the morning. I recommend that folks walk at least to the Lower Falls. Energetic people like yourselves probably would enjoy walking to the Upper Falls or, indeed, even further to the Ink Pots. Return to Banff townsite in the afternoon, and buy admission tickets to any places you want to visit on Saturday.

Sat 26 – Walk around Banff townsite and its environs. Suggested attractions, landmarks and walks are listed in one of the messages above.

Sun 27 – Drive up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper as far as you can. Stop to look at Peyto Lake. Ride the Snocoach onto the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields. Continue to Sunwapta Falls. That may be as far as you can get in a day. Energetic folks like you may find the Snocoach lame. You may prefer a guided walk on the Athabasca Glacier. Snocoach rides are sold on a first – come – first – served basis. However, if you do the guided walk onto the glacier, reservations are essential.


Mon 28 – Horse back riding. Go up Sulphur Mountain gondola. If you have time left over, rent canoes at Johnson Lake.

Tue 29 – Leave Banff at 7.00 a.m. (8.00 a.m. at the latest), and drive to Calgary Airport for flight home.

More ...........
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 07:21 PM
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Tue 22 – Land in Calgary, drive to Banff.

Wed 23 – Drive to Jasper.

Thu 24 – Explore Jasper’s environs.

Fri 25 - Drive to Banff, buy tickets for Saturday’s activities.

Sat 26 – Explore Banff townsite and its environs.

Sun 27 – Visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.

Mon 28 – Horse back riding. Sulphur Mountain gondola. Canoe rental.

Tue 29 – Leave Banff at 7.00 a.m. (8.00 a.m. at the latest), and drive to Calgary Airport for flight home.


I’m sure you know about mountain clothing, so you don’t need to go to the TIPS section of my website for that. If you go there, however, you also can find information on Canadian national park entry fees and other practical information:


This page explains Calgary Airport logistics:



If you depart from Banff at 7.00 a.m. without breakfast, you could have breakfast at the food court at Calgary Airport when you get there around 9.00 a.m.

Well, rebecca6438, I think that's about it. Hope that helps.

Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 02:46 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 603
If you have some time to spend in Calgary, there is an excellent zoo which your kids might enjoy. There is a dinosaur/prehistoric exhibit there also.
Cruiseryyc is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 07:11 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 257
oh Rebecca...can I possibly impart to you how extremely jealous I am!!! We were in same area for 1 1/2 weeks 2 weeks ago...and in a word...breathtaking!!!! Judy has already come to your rescue, as she did mine, with wonderful itineraries...

Our highlights: canoe (approx $32 CAD for 1 hour per person) on Moraine Lake!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE DON'T MISS THAT ...Our lunch there on the patio was also divine. I'm a Texas gal, but that bison burger was the best I've ever had.

Our hike in Jasper to Mt. Edith Cavell was wonderful. Lunch at the lake, admist the icebergs and ground squirrels was really quite a treat...listening/watching the glacier calving was fabulous.

Also in Jasper, the tramride and hike to the summit of Whistler was great. Again, my kids loved this!! Restaurant at the top of the tram was good. Be prepared for a wait unless you go early for the tram. We arrived about 10:30, and had about an hour wait.

The Athabasca Falls, closer to Jasper, was also a real WOW!!! Right at the parking lot, but hold the 3yr old's hand! Don't get confused..these falls are way on up the road towards Jasper from the Athabasca Glacier.

My 11 yr. adored the Snocoach tour to the Athabasca Glacier (takes about 90 minutes). Take an empty water bottle with you to have yummy glacier water. It's a great stop if your going to/from Jasper. Perfect place for a leg stretch. One wording of warning: the buffet lunch upstairs was HORRIBLE. There was a cafeteria, but the line was too long....big mistake. Visitor's Center temp. has registered 110 degrees (fah) below zero in winter..burrrr!!

We stayed our last 3 nites in Rm 100 at Douglas Fir. It is above the lobby. Bad part was that we had to drag all luggage up 2 flights of stairs..no elevator..It has king bdrm with jacuzzi tub/shower, queen bdrm, living room with 2 couches that make beds. A full kitchen and dining table that seats 6. My 75 yr. mom went with us, too. Kids loved the water slides for a few hours..nice workout facility in room with glass windows that look out at the waterslides/hot tub. Plus, they also have, in a separate area, an indoor pool/hottub. It also has a small grocery store, liquor store and laundry mat attached. Banner bragged about fully air conditioned. We were there in a bit of a heatwave, and we felt no A/C. Thank goodness rooms all had ceiling fans. Very clean....no view
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visormom is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 07:33 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 257
and before I forget it, we planned on getting lunch at the Calgary airport while awaiting our US return. Another mistake...the choices there are VERY slim. In the area where we were, there were only 2 places to grab a burger or a sandwich. No real restaurants...so, stop and eat or pick up BEFORE you get to the airport.

If/WHEN I get to take this trip again...I would limit my time in Banff. Quaint town...wonderful mainstreet browsing/shopping...but I'll head to the hills as fast as possible. It did take us, with just a couple of stretch stops....7 full hours to drive from the airport (just getting out of Calgary is ugh) to the Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge (Can't say enough about this property)

I think you'd love staying mid-way at Lake Louise. I believe it took us about 30 minutes to get there from Banff. Check out the Paradise Bungalows...they "looked" awesome????

We did the 2 hour horse ride, Brewster Stables, in Lake Louise. They are located just before you arrive at the Fairmount Lake Louise's front door. The ride took us to the end of the lake and back...plenty far if you haven't been on a horse in awhile. Great guides! At Lake Louise do the hike Judy recommended. (Plain of Six Glaciers- Bee Hives_Lake Agnus Teahouse) Start early and have lunch at the teahouse...a real treat! Laggan's Bakery in the Lake Louise Village had yummy sandwiches, desserts, soups...I'm a Texan (eat Beef) but I do remember a vegetarian menu

FYI...In Banff, an their rec. center, they do have an indoor climbing wall.

We didn't get to eat there, but there have been serveral good reviews of The Station Restaurant in Lake Louise. We saw it..I think you can eat in an old railway car...while the trains pass you. Kids would enjoy that...

Enjoy your trip...post when you return..

visormom is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 07:44 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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>>>>>>and before I forget it, we planned on getting lunch at the Calgary airport while awaiting our US return. Another mistake...the choices there are VERY slim. In the area where we were, there were only 2 places to grab a burger or a sandwich. No real restaurants...so, stop and eat or pick up BEFORE you get to the airport.<<<<<<

I'm sorry to hear you had a poor lunch experience at Calgary Airport, visormom.

The airport actually has a very respectable food court, in which there is a wide selection of kiosks. In addition to that, there are a few "real restaurants" in the airport building. The most upscale of them all is across the walkway, in the Delta Calgary Airport Hotel.

I strongly recommend that anyone arriving at the airport and wanting a meal take a minute and ask the way to the food court or, if they want, directions to a "real restaurant."

At this stage Calgary Airport is still contained in one terminal. You don't have to switch terminals as you do in some other airports. To my mind that makes Calgary Airport more manageable than some others I have used.

But once you have checked in and gone through US immigration and customs and airport security and are at your departure gate, the food choices are underwhelming. It is very beneficial to eat before you check in for a US-bound flight.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 5th, 2006, 08:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,104
I'm sure the children (and the grown-ups) would enjoy the Heritage Park at Calgary if time allows.
marg is offline  
Aug 5th, 2006, 09:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 6
Thanks you all so much! This is so helpful as i work through an itinerary. Appreciate the help!
rebecca6438 is offline  

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