Winters in Calgary can stretch on seemingly forever. The bitingly cold days trudging back and forth to school and work can leave you wishing for an escape. Unfortunately, winging away to a tropical destination isn’t always feasible. Thankfully, there are lots of winter escape options close to home that offer winter fun without having to fly away.
Canmore is a quaint resort town 90 kilometres west of Calgary just outside the Banff National Park gates. With less hustle and bustle than Banff but just as much charm, many families choose to stay here and visit Banff a quick 20 minutes down the road. For more information, visit www.tourismcanmore.com.
Where to stay – Falcon Crest Lodge is one of Canmore’s newest condo style resorts. Large one and two bedroom suites come with full kitchens - perfect for a family getaway. The resort has an outdoor hot tub but for a pool, a visit to Elevation Place is required. For more information, visit www.falconcrestlodge.ca.
Things to do – With 77,000 square feet, Elevation Place has plenty of fun for the whole family. The aquatic centre boasts a lazy river, a water slide and a children’s play area. After enjoying the pools, take a dip in the 25-person hot tub to warm up. If water fun isn’t your thing, there is a public library, a climbing gym with 10,000 square feet of climbing surface and a state of the art fitness facility. Two parent family full facility day use for $29. 8:30am to 5:30pm, seven days a week. For more information, visit www.elevationplace.ca.
Educational and fun for families, the Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre is dedicated to telling the stories of our mountains and communities for present and future generations. The Museum also offers numerous public programs, including lectures, walking tours, bus tours, book signings and other special events. For more information, visit www.cmags.org.
All of the attractions of Banff are easily accessible from Canmore.
Where to eat – Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.: Flatbreads, soups, salads and pasta all made in-house while supporting local farmers and suppliers. The kids menu features flatbread and three kinds of pasta (with free refills). Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. is located at #1, 838 - 10 Street, Canmore. For more information, visit www.rockymountainflatbread.ca.
Chez François: One of my family’s favorite places to have brunch, Chez François serves up delicious eggs benedict and both sweet and savory crepes. Chez François is located at 1604, 2 Avenue, Canmore. For more information, visit www.restaurantchezfrancois.com.
Banff Town Centre is 125 kilometres west of Calgary in the heart of Banff National Park. One of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, Banff offers a wide variety of outdoor activities.
Where to stay – Douglas Fir Resort offers family-friendly lodging on Tunnel Mountain four minutes from downtown Banff. Newly renovated condos, specialty suites, chalets and family suites offer accommodation options for up to 10 people. Amenities include two giant waterslides, pool, outdoor hot tub, game room, fitness centre and Western Canada’s largest hotel indoor play area.
Things to do – Skiing at Mt. Norquay or Sunshine Village Ski Resorts. Both offer a wide selection of winter activities from skiing, snowboarding to tubing. Lessons are available at both hills for all ages.
Winter guided tours and adventures are offered through a few companies in Banff. Check out Banff Adventures Unlimited (www.banffadventures.com); Brewster Travel Canada (www.brewster.ca); and Banff Lake Louise (www.banfflakelouise.com) for a multitude of activity choices. Make sure to confirm that the activity you have chosen is appropriate for the age of any children in your party.
Where to eat – The Bear Street Tavern: What kid doesn’t like pizza? The Bear Street Tavern welcomes kids with open arms and their wide variety of pizzas (and cocktails) will keep kids and parents happy. Bear Street Tavern is located at 211 Bear Street, Banff. For more information, visit www.bearstreettavern.ca.
Magpie & Stump: Standard Tex Mex fare with ample portions and lower prices than most restaurants in this resort town. Kids will love the chips and salsa, and the relaxed atmosphere. Magpie & Stump is located at 203 Caribou Street, Banff. For more information, visit www.magpieandstump.ca.
Lake Louise is a village situated in the Banff National Park. It is approximately 184 kilometres west of Calgary and 60 kilometres west of Banff. The actual lake, Lake Louise, is a stunningly picturesque location nestled between snow-covered peaks.
Where to stay – The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise would never be called a budget option, but how often can you say that you stayed in a castle? Breathtaking views of Lake Louise and the grandeur of the Chateau make this a must-stay recommendation (at least once in your life). For more information, visit www.fairmont.com/lake-louise.
Things to do – Plan to visit during the Ice Magic Festival, January 17 to 26, 2014. The first weekend is the International Ice Carving Competition weekend where professional ice carvers sculpt pieces of art from blocks of solid ice on the banks of Lake Louise. The second weekend is the Little Chippers weekend featuring the art completed during the competition, and family-friendly activities throughout the Lake Louise village site.
Visit the Lake Louise ski area for 4,200 skiable acres with 139 named ski runs. A green run down from every lift, a full selection of lessons and childcare options make this resort a family-friendly option.
Where to eat – Laggan’s Mountain Bakery & Delicatessen: Laggan’s is a great place to pop in for a bowl of soup, sandwich or pastry. The sausage rolls are a big hit as well. Laggan’s Mountain Bakery & Delicatessen is located at 101 Village Road, Lake Louise. For more information, visit www.laggans.ca.
Bill Peyto’s Café: A favorite of locals, this café is inside the HI Alpine Hostel. The café offers a wide variety of entrees, pastas and sandwiches at lower prices than most other restaurants in Lake Louise. Bill Peyto’s Café is located at 203 Village Road, Lake Louise.
Located 100 kilometres southwest of Calgary, Kananaskis Village includes the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis, Nakiska Ski resort and Boundary Ranch.
Where to stay – The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis is all about families. With a variety of suites and room types, families of all sizes will find a rooming solution to fit their needs. On-site amenities include the Summit Spa and fitness centre, pool, large hot tub, skate pond, toboggan hill, daily free children’s activities and an indoor playroom complete with a tree house play centre. The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis offers ski and stay deals throughout the winter. On-site babysitting is also offered for an additional fee. For more information, visit www.deltahotels.com/Hotels/Delta-Lodge-at-Kananaskis.
Things to do – The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis has a variety of on-site activities, including miles of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails. Equipment rentals and guided tours are available through Kananaskis Outfitters, which is located in Kananaskis Village.
Nakiska ski hill is a family-friendly ski resort, which offers a full range of winter sport fun including a new tube park and a new magic carpet opening for the 2013 ski season. Nakiska offers a variety of lessons and childcare options for children from 19 months to 6 years of age. For more information, visit www.skinakiska.com.
Looking for a way to enjoy the great outdoors without so much exertion? Boundary Ranch offers sleigh tours.
Where to eat – The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis: There are six restaurants on-site that range from a coffee shop and deli to an adults-only pub and lounge with everything in between. Kids menus are offered in all of the restaurants - except the adults only lounge - and offer standard kids menu fare.
Whether you are looking for a day away or a weekend getaway, an escape from winter is just a short car ride away. With this many winter escapes so close to home, you might even feel a pang of sadness once Spring rolls around.
Merry writes about food, travel, Calgary and family on her blog, www.merryabouttown.com.
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