I’ve been asking the hubs for a winter vacation for the last couple of years. There is always something a little magical this time of year to go to a mountain town during winter. Maybe it’s because I love getting in the holiday spirit or the fact that I spent some of my childhood living in Germany. My parents would always take my brother and I to several holiday markets throughout Germany. The snow, the scenery, the Christmas music and cute unique towns are something I always go back to in my mind during this season.
Our friends were so kind to invite us and another couple on their trip to Banff, Canada. I had been to Canada but only to Winnipeg for horse shows when I was in high school. All it took for us to say yes was to lay our eyes on the beautiful Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. I have longed for a castle and my winter vacation, so off I went to book our vacation.
Leading up to our vacation, I actually did not do a lot of research. Our friends had been there before so we wanted to just come along for the ride and see what activities landed in our lap. We are pretty flexible travelers and not everything has to be planned out. When we go on a vacation without our son, it’s nice not to have everything planned out to the minute.
Packing was a little more challenging than I thought it would be. Bulky sweaters, winter boots and ski clothes take up so much room.Here is a helpful tip…vacuum seal bags! They are amazing ha. Just remember they still weigh a lot but they will give you some extra room. Just be sure to weigh your bag before you leave home. Our big bag was 48 lbs!!
Apparel in Banff is very much what you would expect to see in a ski town. Casual, warm and fun winter boots. I kept my outfits to mostly leggings, sweaters, vests, winter boots and of course a little fur in the mix. I packed flannels, jeans, thermals, sweaters and winter boots for the hubby. We each brought a nicer outfit for one night, but nothing too fancy. Majority of the restaurants are very casual and if you leave your hotel this time of year there is mostly going to be snow on the ground, so you won’t be wanting to wear those fancy heels.
To get to Banff we flew into Calgary. We ended up renting a van for the six of us. Figured it would be easier to be able to go where we want and explore. There are airport shuttles that run to Banff, so that is always an option if you don’t want to drive. Calgary is about two hours from Banff, so that may change your mind on rental vs. shuttle. If you do rent, be sure to get windshield coverage! We never add the extra coverage but when our friends went in the Summer as soon as they got onto the highway, a rock flew up and cracked their windshield, it was not a cheap fix. Apparently it is pretty common to happen, so beware (we did make it back without crack this time, but there were some dicey moments. Phew).
Banff is located in a National Park so you will need to pay a daily park fee while you are there. You will come to a check point before continuing on the highway for Banff. For the 5 days we were there it was 85 CAD. There are some other check points while you are in Banff if you are out exploring, so be sure to keep it taped to your windshield.
Once we got passed the check point to the National Park,the scenery gets much better. The drive from Calgary to Banff reminded me of the drive from eastern Colorado to the Rockies. So just know, the mountains are coming. Once we pulled into the town of Banff it immediately reminded me of a European town. It was decorated for Christmas, lots of people out walking around in their winter attire, skiers coming back from a day in the snow and we even saw some deer at the Bank ha. There is also a photo opportunity with the BANFF sign as you come in. If there is no one there, hop out and grab one for the scrap book.
The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel was just a few minutes from the downtown area. As soon as we got sight of it, it was unbelievable. It was just like the pictures I had seen. Here was this beautiful castle in the sky that was going to be my home for the next 5 days! The hotel has been open for more than 125 years.
When we booked our rooms we upgraded to the Gold level. It was a really nice perk. Once we valeted the van, they took our bags and told us to head to the 5th floor for concierge check in. We had a king room with a mountain view. It was a priceless view. Hard to believe that it was our room. The gold level had it’s own lounge area for guests. It was very classy. Lots of seating, a fireplace, an adults only section, breakfast, snacks, happy hour, evening snacks, NA beverages all day and after 3 pm beer, wine and spirits. Those were not free but a help yourself/honor system. The breakfast was not just a standard continental breakfast. It was an amazing spread that included your normal breakfast items along with some Canadian fare, meats, cheeses and maple beans. I also forgot to mention the espresso machine, hot coco and smoothies. For snack time they had macaroons, pastries, snack mixes and they set out some candy bowls, yum. The happy hour had meats, cheeses, a soup, dips, veggies and salad. There was so much it’s hard to remember it all. It was really nice to have access to this and we enjoyed relaxing up there before heading out for the day or dinner.
The rooms come complete with mini fridge, bathrobes, slippers, your toiletries and then some. There are multiple restaurants and bars on sight. So if its a snowy cold evening, you never have to leave. I will share more about the restaurants on a separate blog. They have an amazing spa on sight, but book your reservation before your vacation. We were too late to the game and unable to make an appointment (always good to save something for the next time). They have an indoor and outdoor pool. In the winter the outdoor pool becomes a giant hot tub. It was pretty amazing and the view was priceless.We also got a nice little surprise of snow the evening we did the hot tub.
Ok, I could keep writing and writing, but I may lose some of you ha. I am going to break this trip into a few blogs as there may be other things you are interested in reading about and somethings you may not. I’ll have a section on dinning/drinking and activities.
I hope this has sparked your interest in visiting Banff. I promise you will not regret it!