If you missed my last blog post, we started our trip out west to drive me to my next travel nursing contract up in Northern BC. You can read that post here. To continue on, let’s just talk about Banff. It’s a huge tourist town, especially during ski season. It’s way busier in the summer months so a winter vacation here is pretty attractive if you want to avoid crowds. The crowds are still there though. After a few days here, we were pretty good at judging where everyone would be and when. Want to go to the hot springs? Don’t go at night when every other person wants to soak after a long day outside. Most people would go to the ski hills all day then come back to town…all of a sudden the restaurants and shops and streets were filled with people. We tried to hit the high tourist areas in the off-times and when we drove to Lake Louise, this plan worked. We left town around 7:30am and were one of the few standing on Lake Louise by 9:00am. By the time we left the lake around lunch time, the parking lots were FULL of cars.
I think this is my fourth or fifth time seeing Lake Louise…my second time standing on it. It’s a completely different place in the winter. The turquoise water is gone for now and a thick layer of ice lays on top with the same mountain view directly behind it. Ice castles are sculpted and the huge Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise towers near it. People are skating and going for sleigh rides and it’s the perfect winter wonderland experience. We brought our own skates from home and rented a couple of hockey sticks and a puck for $10 total from the Chateau. We had tons of fun passing the puck back and forth then headed inside when we were done.
We went inside the castle and walked around then had lunch in the lounge with the most incredible view. It was a dream. We had delicious spiked hot chocolates and enjoyed the famous view of the lake from the warmth of the castle. This was one of my favourite parts of the entire trip!
You honestly feel so rich and privileged sitting in there! We took our time driving back to Banff and stopped to take a few pictures along the way. I could take a million photos of the mountains and it still wouldn’t be enough!!
Our next stop was the Banff Upper Hot Springs! It only costs around $8.00 to get in which is pretty reasonable. We went in the afternoon and it was pretty packed in there. We didn’t end up spending much time in the water but enough to relax and soak our cold bodies after being outside most of the morning.
We quickly stopped at Bow Falls on the way back to town but it was pretty hard to see anything! The hill to get to the actual viewpoint was pure ice so we stayed on level ground from afar.
It was pretty underwhelming to be honest! Much prettier in the summer. We stopped at the Banff Springs Hotel which is the Fairmont castle. It costs about $500 CAD a night to stay here! There’s a spa and all kinds of restaurants and shops inside. I wish I had taken more pictures but here are the ones I did take.
We had reservations for one of our favourite restaurants for New Year’s Eve… The Grizzly House! I feel like I have definitely mentioned it before, but in case you’ve never heard of this place…it’s a must do when in Banff. It’s the ultimate fondue experience in the coolest building. It used to be a swinger’s club back in the 70s so every table has a phone at it that you can call using the map on your placemat. It’s so much fun! We started with delicious french onion soup followed by a cheese & bread fondue with roasted garlic. For our meals, I chose the seafood option with prawns, scallops and lobster. Andrew chose the Alberta option with venison, beef, elk and buffalo. We cooked on a hot rock that was 650 degrees Fahrenheit and used garlic butter to cook everything. For dessert, it was fruit and chocolate Toblerone fondue! Word of advice if you come here…don’t wear any clothing or jackets that you are planning on wearing again. You will reek like oil when you leave this place!
After dinner, we took part in the New Year’s Eve celebrations on the street. They closed most of Banff Avenue down and had a big stage set up with a live band playing. There were a lot of people but not as many as I thought there would be. We counted down to midnight and when the clock struck 12:00, fireworks set off! Although they weren’t fireworks. They did a silent pyrotechnics show of fireworks because real ones disturb all of the wildlife in the National Park. I thought that was pretty neat!
What an amazing place to welcome a new year and a new decade! There’s honestly no where else I’d rather be. There were a lot of other activities during the day and evening that the Town of Banff put on but we were too busy with other things to check them out. We wanted to go out after midnight, perhaps to The Dancing Sasquatch which is supposed to be a great time, but we had to be up very early for our drive to Jasper. Looking back it was worth it and you will see why in the next post! Thanks for reading!