“Great Canadian Weekends” feature customized itineraries of the nation’s finest destinations prepared by Vacay.ca, the Concierge to Canada. Travellers looking to get the most out of their stay will want to follow these tips and ideas from our travel experts. The series continues with a look at how to spend a Thrilling Winter Weekend in exciting Banff, Alberta.
Story by Guillermo Serrano
BANFF, ALBERTA — While many Canadians begin to think about the sun getaway of their choice when December arrives, many romantics and outdoor sports’ lovers from all over the world opt for one of the greatest winter wonderlands on the planet. Gorgeous and enduring Banff will welcome thousands of visitors who descend on the jewel of the Canadian Rockies to ski, snowboard and slosh around in this warm-hearted and merry town. Here’s a guide for your perfect winter weekend in Alberta’s popular national park:
3 PM: Check-in at Bow View Lodge (228 Bow Avenue, Banff)
Rooms here can be booked for as low as $99 a night even during the Christmas season and while there are some grander hotels, the Bow View Lodge, the only hotel located on the Bow River, is plenty grand for a weekend getaway. There’s an indoor heated pool and storage for ski and snowboards.
6 PM: Dinner at Park Distillery (219 Banff Avenue)
Ask any staffer why it’s called the Park Distillery and you will be told this simple fact: Live in Banff and in close proximity to the Banff National Park and you’ll get hungry and thirsty. That’s why this restaurant has taken all the cravings you get from a day of park life and packed it into one place where you can have campfire-inspired cooking like the $26.75 pork n’ beans of smoked pork hock, whisky-baked beans and corn bread, which is a bit fancier than what you find in a can.
11 AM: Breakfast at Evelyn’s Coffee Bar (215 Banff Avenue)
Wout and Marini Pauw were born and raised in the Netherlands and moved to Banff in 1988 just around the time of the Calgary Olympic Games. One night, after walking into Evelyn’s and ordering his regular medium house and cappuccino for Marini, Wout joked that he was going to buy the coffee shop. They now bring in coffee from all over the world including Papua, New Guinea, Nicaragua and Colombia Tima. Their breakfast toast and jam prepares you for every activity including …
1 PM: Ice-fishing at Banff Ice Fishing Guides
Gear, lunch and transportation are all provided and there’s even a heated fish catching lodge so the freezing part is at a minimum. The fish is ready to be hooked and cooked. The little ones get fried with butter and onions right by the hole-side while the fatter ones are filleted and cooked in olive oil.
4 PM: Soak in the Banff Hot Springs (1 Mountain Avenue)
In a Disney-like world, this is the kind of bath the fish you just caught is having, minus all the minerals. But don’t worry, it’s just a steam in the Banff Hot Springs, not a full cooking. The hot springs has been a destination for travellers who have been soaking up the water temperature, kept between 37 Celsius and 40 Celsius degrees for the last 100 years.
8 PM: Dinner at Nourish Bistro (110 211 Bear Street)
Once you’ve steamed up, let the good healthy vibes continue with dinner at Nourish, which celebrates all things vegetables. Stuffed roasted red pepper at $17 is a pocket for quinoa, beans and, unexpectedly, berries, while the $18 Mac n Squeeze includes coconut and smoked paprika.
9 AM: Breakfast at Melissa’s Missteak (218 Lynx Street)
Breakfast begins at 7 am at this landmark restaurant, which began operating in 1978. Its eggs Benedict is rightly famous but try a hearty bowl of Hot Red River Cereal, with blueberries, at $5.75 instead. It includes a porridge with wheat, flax and rye served with milk and brown sugar.
11 AM: Heli Snowshoe Adventure at Banff Adventures (211 Bear Street)
It’s a pricey adventure at a cost of $285 per person but this is the way to kick winter sports up a big, big notch. It begins with a 20-minute helicopter tour through the Rockies then an hour-long snowshoe experience. The lift off is from the foothills at the Kananaskis Base and then over the snowy peaks with views only seen by birds or helicopters. Snowshoe through a backcountry trail to a frozen alpine lake then end the route with hot chocolate before getting back on the helicopter.
3 PM: Tubing at Mount Norquay in Banff National Park
If the idea of sliding down very fast on lanes of snow with rubber circles keeping your butt off the ground sounds like fun, then head over to Mount Norquay. The snow tube park has a magic carpet of densely packed snow that will have you gliding quickly down the slopes.
7 PM: Dinner at The Bison (211 Bear Street)
After a full day outside wringing every second of snow and daylight, it’s time to wind down in the welcoming warm wood and stone interior at The Bison. The restaurant has some vegetarian dishes but is most well known for its hunks of meat including venison striploin for $44 and bison ribeye for $49.
10 AM: The Whyte Museum (111 Bear Street)
This museum celebrates the Canadian Rockies and makes the history and culture of the region accessible through its collection and exhibitions. The personal stories of the men and women who explored and built the Rocky Mountains, including the museum’s founders artists Peter and Catharine Whyte, is told through photographs and paintings and archives. It’s a sombre and uplifting spot to reflect on how life in the mountain began and continues.