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-   -   First time in Canada family trip...Suggestions? (https://www.fodors.com/community/canada/first-time-in-canada-family-trip-suggestions-35183/)

Wendy Dec 3rd, 1998 07:32 AM

First time in Canada family trip...Suggestions?
 
I am just beginning to research a two week family trip to Canada for this summer. Our children are 6 and 11. We do not own hiking boots but we do enjoy easy nature trails and watching wildlife. Museums, historic sites, and kid-friendly destinations are additional interests. Any suggestions you might have for our itinerary, favorite accomodations, or restaurants would be greatly appreciated. We will be flying out of St. Louis (to where I am not sure yet) and I plan to rent a car. I have Fodors and Frommers to start my research (as well as a file of print outs from this site). Thanks for any input you may have!

Emma Dec 3rd, 1998 11:45 AM

Hi Wendy... I'd be happy to help but your question is kind of broad. Are you planning on flying into western, central or Eastern Canada? I've been all over and each area has its advantages (and disadvantages). I'm pretty sure you don't intend to drive across country in just 2 weeks. If you could narrow it down even a bit, I'd love to help.

Wendy Dec 3rd, 1998 05:37 PM

Thanks, Emma. I didn't indicate any particular area because I wasn't sure which area offered the kind of things we enjoy. As I read more I am leaning toward Vancouver and Victoria. What do you think? Any recommendations? Or do you think I should concentrate on another area? I prefer a relaxed pace when possible, seeing more of a few places rather than very little of a lot of places. Thanks for any help!

Alan Dec 3rd, 1998 10:41 PM

I think a Vancouver-Victoria trip would be a great idea (I'm biased..I'm from Vancouver!) But seriously, flying into Vancouver, you could take a ferry to Vancouver Island and visit the lovely city of Victoria, where there are many museums and wonderful restaurants. Vancouver is interesting too. There is Stanley Park and several museums to visit. It's nice in the summer. A drive up to Whistler Mountain resort, 2 hours north of Vancouver is recommended. It is beautiful in summer with hiking, swimming, biking, golf, river rafting, horsebackriding and many summer activities. A drive into the interior of British Columbia is an option if you want to visit the hot almost desert-like Okanagan valley. There is so much do to and it's wonderful in the summer. <BR>

Bob Brown Dec 4th, 1998 05:53 AM

I have vacationed in Western Canada many times and always enjoy it. I like Victoria, and the Okanagan is very interesting. Butchart Gardens close to Victoria is a real showplace -- gorgeous in fact. The interior of BC is very hilly and, once away from the Fraser River valley, you will not find many people, except in the Okanagan. It is isolated somewhat, a little rural, but not really, with lots of nice people. <BR> <BR>If you enjoy mountains, let me suggest the Canadian Rockies. The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway is spectacular. There are many places to see and visit. The Icefields Center on the parkway is where you can ride the "ice cat" onto the Athabasca Glacier. Interesting ride. The whole drive is a succession of snowy peaks, waterfalls, and lakes. <BR> <BR>We have also been to Quebec, including the Gaspe Peninsula, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. All are interesting and pleasent. But my preference is for the <BR>Canadian Rockies. However, we like to hike so the trail systems figure in to our planning. <BR> <BR>The Rockies are reachable easily from either Calgary or Edmonton, and Air Canada from some cities was offering great fares. It might mean an early booking, perhaps too early for you, but from Atlanta we got round trip fares to Calgary for under $300 per passenger (not counting taxes) for this summer. (1999) <BR> <BR>

emma Dec 4th, 1998 06:36 AM

Hi Wendy! Okay, here goes: First of all, I agree with the above posters that Vancouver is a great destination. It's absolutely beautiful and you would have a great time. However, given that you have kids and two weeks, I would lean more toward Alberta, specifically Calgary. You could easily start in Vancouver and drive to Calgary/Edmonton area. Or you would likely find enough to do in the province of Alberta to fill your entire vacation. I think the activities are simply more kid-friendly. <BR>For example, perhaps your trip might co-incide with the Calgary Stampede (July 3-12). It is a fantastic week-long western party with all kinds of exhibits, a midway, rodeo, chuckwagon races, nightly fireworks, music and entertainment. <BR>Also, the kids would love the famous Badlands in Drumheller, a 1.5 hour drive from Calgary. They call it the "Dinosaur Capital of Canada". Here you'll see rich fossils and dinosaur skeletons. There's a great dinosaur museum with fascinating information about the pre-history of the area when dinosaur apparently roamed in very large numbers. <BR>There's the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Centre! This is the oldest and best preserved buffalo jump in existence. It's 5500 years old and details the Blackfoot Indian history. <BR>There's the Bar U Ranch, which is a living historic ranch with lots of special events, demonstrations and kids activities. <BR>There's Heritage Park Historic Village, which recreates a complete pre-1914 village. <BR>There's Kananaskis village, great for hikes. And of course, as mentioned above, there's Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise, etc. if beautiful nature and the rockies is what you're after. <BR>Of course, there are tons of museums and the Calgary Zoo. <BR>You could venture to Edmonton. There's the giant West Edmonton Mall with midway, arcades, skating rink, swimming pool, submarine rides, etc. But overall, I prefer the Calgary area. To me, Edmonton felt too much like a grade-school field trip: Too educational, political and not so much hands-on fun. I really liked the unspoiled Western "cowboy" feeling of the Calgary area. It was like stepping back in time. Even the so-called educational stuff was really fun. And the scenery and wildlife... WOW!! <BR>I loved Vancouver but I really didn't find it to be as enjoyable for the kids as Alberta. I guess it really depends on what you're looking for. <BR>A completely different option is the Toronto-Montreal-Quebec City thing. (I live in Toronto.) But I think that would be better saved for when your kids are a little bit older. <BR>BTW, check out www.discoveralberta.com <BR> <BR>

bob Brown Dec 4th, 1998 10:10 AM

I would like amend my earlier post by saying that the museum at Drumheller is a very special place. Check out the website for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology and see if you don't share my opinion. And, yep, there is lots to see and do in Alberta. Lots of nice folks there, too. <BR> <BR>To improve on an old cliche, "I been there, done that, and I am going back for more." <BR>

Toni Dec 6th, 1998 07:59 AM

Emma, Emma, Emma! Please call me next time you're in Edmonton and I'll make sure you have the time of your life in our beautiful city! <BR> <BR>You want history? Try Fort Edmonton, Canada's largest Historical park, with plenty of hands-on activities and themed characters set at the turn of the century. Or, for a slightly different flavour, The Ukranian Village Historical park.... depicting the life of the immigrants who settled this area. The park is divided into three time periods, with the last one set in the 20's. The costumed characters will offer you work at 50 a day if you are a woman, or $1 a day if you are a man and give you an inside view of life as a new Canadian. <BR> <BR>Exercise? How about renting tandem bikes from Rundle park and exploring our extensive bike paths through the river valley. The city above disappears in the quiet ride along the North Saskatchewan River. Want to work up a sweat? Lazer tag will exhaust most parents. Did I mention wall climbing? <BR> <BR>Entertainment? Our summer is FULL of back-to-back festivals including Klondike Days, our 10 day exhibition, The street performers festival which is non-stop, pass-the-hat entertainment in Sir Winston Churchill Square downtown, Heritage days, a huge multicultural family festival taking place on the long weekend in August in Hawrelak Park, The fabulous Fringe Festival in August, another 10 day extravaganza (again of the pass-the-hat variety) with guest performers from all over the world. <BR> <BR>Music? My goodness... where do I start? There is the Folk festival, the Jazz festival... I love musical theatre and am looking forward this year to Annie, Evita, Fame and River Dance. <BR> <BR>Creative family night life? The Japanese Village will entertain you while they cook on the grill in front of you. Or, how about sampling one of our three dinner theatres, Jubilations, Celebrations (both actor-served dinners punctuated by an always entertaining production), or Mayfield Dinner Theatre, a more traditional eat-your-dinner-first, then the show. <BR> <BR>Ok, ok... There's also educational stuff here, I admit. The Space and Sciences is a not-to-be-missed hands-on facility. Round off your visit there with a seat in the Imax Theatre with your choice of three different daily shows. <BR> <BR>The Alberta Provincial Museum is a first class museum featuring many themed exhibits, including things like Bug World, Dinosaurs, Carnivores, etc. <BR> <BR>A short jaunt to Wetaskiwin will take you to another family favourite, The Alberta Reynolds Museum. Full of antique cars, and trucks and other interesting stuff, even Dads go for this one. This museum also caters to families and features things like the "assembly line" where you try to put model cars together as they go past you on a conveyer belt. <BR> <BR>Gee.... did I forget anything? Oh....If you had time left over after doing all of the above, you COULD make a visit to The West Edmonton Mall, the World's largest shopping and entertainment complex. If you happened to get an inclement day, you could spend time at the water park and water slides, Galaxyland amusement park, skating rink, mini golf, submarine ride, movie theatres, hundreds of shops and restaurants, and never have to go outside. <BR> <BR>I have only listed the highlights of Edmonton and have left out lots of other stuff that I know some people would really enjoy. I would be more than happy to supply any information or help needed to plan a vacation in Edmonton and Alberta ... We are VERY friendly here and welcome guests from around the world. Come up and see us some time!

Emma Dec 7th, 1998 12:40 PM

Toni... Sorry - I didn't mean to imply that I was Edmonton-bashing in any way. You're right - it IS a great city and (as you've already proven) the people are very friendly. Maybe between the two of us, we have convinced Wendy to spend the family vacation in Alberta! Thanks for all the good advice... Emma

Brian Kilgore Dec 11th, 1998 02:34 PM

Take the Alberta-BC advice, flying into Calgary and home from Vancouver, or the other way around, driving between the two cities. Make sure you get to a small town rodeo in Alberta or central B.C.; they're more fun for the kids than the Calgary Stampede, incidentally. Take the ferry to Vancouver Island and take the kids to the museum there. Get yourself Best Western and a Delta Hotels directories.Tehse will serve you well on the drive between the two cities. While Edmonton is a fine city (I used to live there) you do not have time to go there. <BR>Two weeks is just enough time for the Vancouver-Victoria area, a couple of nights in the mountains, and a couple of nights in Calgary. A side trip to Drumheller and the dinosaur museum is well worth the effort. <BR> <BR>BAK

Toni Dec 13th, 1998 07:18 PM

Brian's right. Although there's only a 132 mile difference between Calgary and Vancouver (652) and Edmonton and Vancouver (784), there's too much to do in Edmonton and area to share it with a trip to Vancouver and Victoria. If you're wanting to go that route, for sure stick with Calgary. <BR> <BR>If you are interested in seeing Edmonton and some of the rest of Alberta, two weeks might be enough time to take in the must-see places. I would suggest a round-trip tour starting either in Calgary or Edmonton. If you started in Edmonton and went south, you could hit the Alberta Reynolds Museum, Grab a train ride on the Alberta Prairie Steam train in Stettler, catch the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Heritage Park and / or the Zoo in Calgary, Then turn west and visit Banff and take a dip in the hot springs, north up to Lake Louise for a "must" hike up to the tea house and the plains of the six glaciers (no hiking boots necessary), through the Columbia Ice Fields where you can take a snow coach on to the glaciers, then through to Jasper where you can take a trip on their tram, book a river raft ride and drive up to see one of the world's most photographed lakes, Maligne Lake. <BR> <BR>Finish up your tour in Edmonton with any of the numerous things I mentioned previously and you will have a complete and well-rounded holiday that the whole family will enjoy. I guarantee you will be exhausted when you go home. If you are like us, you want to pack the most you can into your holiday. I think with the ages of your kids, you couldn't do a more diverse or interesting tour than this. <BR> <BR>Again, please feel free to contact me if you would like further information on Edmonton or Alberta! <BR> <BR>

Toni Dec 13th, 1998 07:23 PM

Oh my... I just went back and re-read your answer to Emma and so I see you would rather concentrate yourself in one place... well again.... I think Edmonton has the most to offer, although if you want to spend your holiday at the beach you'd be better off on Victoria Island. Other than at West Edmonton Mall, we don't have a lot of surf to offer.

Wendy Dec 13th, 1998 08:01 PM

Thank you all so much for the great information. I must say that you have been very convincing about both Calgary and Edmonton. You all have mentioned so many places that sound perfect for my family's interests. I'm going to read some more about Alberta and then start using your input in getting some reservations for this trip! Thanks again!

Dana Dec 18th, 1998 09:01 PM

Hi Wendy ... I think all the above mentioned plans sound great ~~ one thing that I would recommend you stop to visit is a wonderful Provincial Park just 1.5 hours southeast of Lethbridge, AB! The park is called Writing-On-Stone and I guess I may be biased as I worked there this past summer as a Park Interpreter/Naturalist. It is a wonderful little oasis and a really interesting place! If you have any more questions please contact me :) <BR>

Andrew Bond Dec 30th, 1998 06:50 AM

I recently to a trip to Vancouver Island (mainly Victoria) and loved it! One book that really helped us out was "Quick Escapes: Pacific Northwest" It has trips ranging from sightseeing in Victoria to beaches to Indian Villages. I also recommened staying at the Royal Scot in Victoria. It is a suite hotel near downtown.


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