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Kostroma Aug 11th, 2004 02:45 PM

Grayline Tours- Calgary To Banff
I just keep changing my blasted mind!

In about a month, I will be in Calgary for a Spruce Meadows tournament. I'll have one free day and had initially planned on going to the Zoo, however further research has caused me to look at another option.

I've found that Gray Line tours offers a daylong excursion from Calgary with stops at Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake. There's also a 2 hour stop in Banff on the way back. I realize that a half day's tour only offers a microcosm of Banff National Park, but I've always wanted to see it. I don't drive and it will probably be years before I'm back in the area and it seems worth it for $107 Canadian.

I'll be doing a lot of Googling about the tour stops, but some first hand info and "what to look for" tips would be appreciated.

BTW, I'm also aware of the possible park worker's strike and am taking that into consideration as well. I don't know how much effect that would have on a guided tour.

hugglynn Aug 11th, 2004 05:10 PM

Go for it! The scenery you will see on that day long tour will far surpass the Zoo, especially if you won't make it back for awhile. We did a similar tour with the bus company while touring the Canadian Rockies (then hooking up with the Rocky Mountaineer train across western Canada), and if I had to do over, I would drive it instead of do the coach, but I think for one day you can't go wrong!

Judy_in_Calgary Aug 11th, 2004 05:21 PM

Hello Kostroma,

I agree with Hugglynn. Going to the mountains would be an excellent way to use a free day in the Calgary area.

With a full itinerary like that, I don't imagine you'll be given time to linger at any given destination.

So, when it comes to Moraine Lake, I suggest you make a bee line for the top of the pile of rocks at the north end of the lake (to your left as you approach the lake from the parking lot). That will give you the best view of the lake.

ltt Aug 12th, 2004 07:15 AM

sounds like a great day especially if you've never seen the area before. was just at emerald lake the other day...what a color.

April Aug 12th, 2004 11:32 AM

I found the zoo depressing. The tour may be brief but you'll be visiting some fabulous, not-to-be-missed areas. Dreary & depressing vs fabulous & spectacular. I know which one I'd choose. :-)
Spruce Meadows is rather nice itself. I hope you get better weather than we did when we visited a couple of years ago.

Cruiseryyc Aug 12th, 2004 02:04 PM

Further to "April's" comments regarding Spruce Meadows and the weather. It has become quite comical over the years that we can have fabulous weather until Spruce Meadows has a tournament and then it rains, snows, hails, hurricane force winds, or all of the above at the same time. Granted they have had more luck in the recent past with nice weather but you should be prepared to bundle up and bring waterproof covering. I have spent many a tournament huddled under blankets. Whatever the weather - you will have a fabulous time. I agree with everyone else, take the mountain tour.

April Aug 12th, 2004 02:31 PM

Thanks for that weather info. I thought it was just us!

Sherry Aug 12th, 2004 02:46 PM

My advice: GO! It is truly a spectacular area. Just driving up into the mountains will be worth the trip. We spent a week in Banff last fall and think it was one of our best vacations in terms of scenery for sure. Enjoy.

Kostroma Aug 12th, 2004 03:48 PM

Thank you all for your input and suggestions.

The tour's going to make for a long day (leave Calgary at 6:15 AM, return at 9 PM), but I'm game.

There's a lunch stop in Lake Louise. Any suggestions on where to get a nice, casual lunch, e.g. sandwiches? Also, on the way back, there's a 2 hour stop in Banff. Is that enough time to take the Happy Bus up to the Fairmont hotel and have a look around? Part of me is still a little girl who wants to see the castle up close. :)

Don't worry, I'm well aware of how Calgary's weather can do the wacky. I live in the states, but I do get CBC. I'm packing layers.

Sherry Aug 12th, 2004 05:48 PM

I remember there being this little mall in Lake Louise where we stopped and grabbed a sandwich. There was a tour bus there at the time so I'm not sure if this is where all the tour buses stop, but there isnt much else in Lake Louise, so maybe it is the spot. Anyway, cant remember the name of it but it was a little spot in the corner. A few tables to be had but lots of people doing take out type of place. Grabbed a few quick sandwiches which were good and if I'm not mistaken my husband grabbed something decadent for dessert which he proclaimed to be good. Hopefully someone on here will have the correct name of the place to direct you.
Re Banff and the "castle". Well, I'm one of those who is underwhelmed by it up close, found it to be much more majestic looking from afar, from the other side of town so to speak. But thats just my opinion, I know lots disagree, and I guess everyone should see it once. Two hours is lots of time. Where does the tour bus stop? Right downtown? Or does it go to the Hotel itself? I'm envious, this is bringing back the fond memories, have fun!

hugglynn Aug 12th, 2004 06:12 PM

Well, stopping for lunch for me would depend on how long I had in Lake Louise. If I only had an extended amount of time, and if weather is nice, I'd be setting out on a hike around the lake on one of the many trails...the folks at the Chateau can get you there....grab a box or "to go" lunch to eat on the bus, but if it were me, I'd be out soaking up the beauty of Lake Louise rather than eating, even if I just sat there and stared at it! Plus, you're going to be sitting long enough on that bus!.....JMO

Judy_in_Calgary Aug 12th, 2004 07:03 PM

I think Sherry may be referring to Laggan's Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen, which is in Samson Mall in Lake Louise village. It sells baked goods, sandwiches and soups.

Another place in Samson Mall is Village Grill and Bar. It serves a variety of simple meals, including sandwiches, burgers and steaks. Passengers from a tour bus came in and ate there while we were having lunch.

I don't know that Hugglynn's suggestion of spending one's lunch break looking at Lake Louise is practical. Tours by their nature are regimented. From what I've seen, most tour buses take their passengers to the village for lunch, and the village is a sufficient distance from the lake that it isn't practical to walk to the lake or even catch the local shuttle bus to the lake during the brief lunch break. I think one is pretty well limited to seeing the lake when one's tour bus takes one there. But I've never visited Lake Louise as part of a tour, so I can't say for sure.

As far as the Banff Springs Hotel is concerned, I think it's worth going there if for no other reason than to look down at the view of the Bow River Valley from the hotel's front terrace.

I think you could walk to the hotel and back, and still have time for a quick supper if you don't dawdle.

Here's a map of Banff townsite:

It's a movable map.

I imagine the tour bus will drop you at the Greyhound Bus Depot, across the street from the hospital, marked by a big H on the map, on Lynx Street. (From its website, Gray Line appears to be a division of Greyhound.)

Walk south till you hit Buffalo Street, walk a block east, and use the Banff Avenue Bridge to cross the Bow River. Once you're on the south side of the Bow River, walk east on Spray Avenue till you get to the Banff Springs Hotel (there's no danger that you'll lose sight of the hotel :-D ).

To see the view in question, it's not good enough to look from the front steps of the hotel, where cars pull up to drop off guests. You have to walk through the hotel and out to the terrace that faces north.

Then walk back to town. There are any number of little places to eat, especially on Banff Avenue.

Websites on Banff say that the Happy Buses departs every half hour. Apparently there are two different routes. One of them picks up passengers from the Banff Avenue hotels and goes to Tunnel Mountain. The other collects passengers from the Banff Avenue hotels and goes to the Banff Springs Hotel. Obviously the latter route is the one you want. A one way ride costs $1.00. I don't know how well the timing of the Happy Buses would coincide with your tour bus's arrival in, and departure from, Banff townsite.

It could be that you would be best off to walk in one direction and catch the Happy Bus in the other direction, but I don't know enough to give you more precise advice than this.

Sherry Aug 12th, 2004 07:23 PM

Judy, that is precisely the place I was talking about. I knew someone would understand what I was describing! And I agree, I think the bus tours get taken to the mall for their lunch break and I dont think it's all that long. We saw one or two come and go while we were dawdling around.
I'd be tempted in Banff to ask some kind local to drive me around for an hour or so to see all the "views" from different angles. Offer them a reasonable amount and who knows :) Then again, I'm the type that would drive you around, so maybe my thinking is warped, lol! Cant imagine a local gets asked this too often! Silly thoughts, but yes, the view from the castle is spectacular, if not the castle itself, as I said i prefer the view of the castle from the other side.
Thanks Judy for helping out my memory for Kostroma.

ltt Aug 13th, 2004 06:23 AM

since it is a long day, if you feel like sitting down in a restaurant at lake louise village, i'd recommend the station.

Kostroma Aug 13th, 2004 06:38 AM

You are all so helpful! I'm printing out this thread.

The tour does stop at Lake Louise itself before the lunch stop in Lake Louise village, which is at the Samson Mall. I've e-mailed Brewster (Grayline is apparently just their agent) to ask approximately how much time is allotted for each place since their website is only specific about the Banff layover. Now, I just need to study maps and research Banff restaurants.

Only 27 days to go!

Kostroma Aug 13th, 2004 10:07 AM

Well, Brewster just e-mailed me back with more info and apparently their website needs to be updated.

The lunch stop in Lake Louise is 90 minutes and is at the Chateau Lake Louise, which means I can grab lunch and go to the lakeside. In Banff, we'll be dropped off at Mount Royal Hotel and that stop will be about 90 minutes.

She also told me that 30 minutes will be spent at each stop and that everyone will be allowed to do their own thing at each stop as long as they're back to the bus on time. That's good, because I didn't like the idea of being herded. I definitely have to study maps now, as I don't want to waste precious time finding what I want to see.

Okay, now I need lunch suggestions around Chateau Lake Louise. :)

Judy_in_Calgary Aug 13th, 2004 11:03 AM

Hello Kostrama,

Hugglynn was right. You have a pretty good stop at Lake Louise, and certainly would be able to eat your lunch while you look at the lake.

As you'll see from Chateau Lake Louise's website, it has several restaurants, including a deli from which you can buy take-away food. (I called Brewster and confirmed that tour bus passengers were allowed to use the Chateau's facilities.)

If you are fit, you would be able to do the uphill walk to Fairview Lookout, which would allow you to look down at the lake and the hotel. It's a very pleasant view. The walk is a mile, but there is a fair gain in elevation. The walk starts from the canoe docks, which are the first thing you'll reach when you get to the lake from the parking lot.

If you are not up to doing a quick-ish uphill hike of a mile, followed by a mile of downhill walking on your return, your other option is to walk along the flat path that follows the shore on the far side of the lake.

Either way, if I were you I would avoid the temptation to exit the bus, walk up to the lake, and ooh and aah. That's what the vast majority of people do, and it's fine if you have lots of time.

In your case, I would suggest you go straight to the chateau, pick up a take-away lunch from the deli, and THEN take in the view of the lake along your chosen walking route.

As far as Banff is concerned, the Mount Royal Hotel is a very central, convenient location to be dropped off. It's at the corner of Banff Avenue and Caribou Street, which you'll be able to find on the map to which I provided a link in a previous message.

The other places you'll be visiting do not require advanced perusal of maps. In those cases the scenic views for which you need to head are "no brainers."

Kostroma Aug 13th, 2004 11:20 AM

I forgot to thank you for the map link, Judy. It's so comprehensive and straightforward that I printed it out.

So, I'll grab lunch at the Chateau's take away deli and then head to the lake. I'm pretty fit, so I'll do one of the walks that you suggested.

I was pleased to find out about the Banff stop, since it puts me right in the middle of town and closer to the Fairmont. About how long is the walk to the Fairmont from my drop off location? Looks like it will take about 15-20 minutes each way, so I won't have time for a sit-down dinner. I'm sure I'll be able to find a take-out place though.

Thanks again for all your help.

ltt Aug 13th, 2004 12:30 PM

there are buses that run along the main banff ave frequently. you could start walking up to the hotel and if a bus comes along, jump on it. then you can walk down from the hotel and make a detour to the bow falls which would be a wonderful place to eat your take out dinner.

hugglynn Aug 13th, 2004 04:22 PM

Judy IC that was exactly what I had in mind when I mentioned not sitting at the Chateau, and sometimes I forget because I am so active physically and keep on the move constantly that others aren't quite the same! But I know of the hike you speak, and would recommend that to Kostroma or as you suggested, just taking the trail around the lake. It will be breathtaking either way.

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