Traveling with children has entirely changed the way we travel. Gone are the days of 12 hour chicken-bus rides, or hiking with four days worth of camping gear (and food) on our backs, or taking a night out on the town to enjoy a fancy meal and a stop at the bar. Now our road trips are broken up into small increments so that the girls can have breaks outside of the car, to release their pent up energy. When we have a travel destination we see what kinds of fun things there are for a 30 year old as well as a 2 year old. And our nights usually end with us in our room around 8pm. These are measures that we have taken, while traveling with a family, to keep everyone’s sanity intake. Because no one wants to deal with a grumpy two year old who is running on not enough sleep and who is stuck in a car all day.
Banff is a beautifully romantic town. It makes me think of what walking through the alps would be like, since I have never done it myself! The houses are gorgeous and all have that extravagant log cabin feel. The stores are all cute one storey shops with pretty window displays. And the mountains are purely majestic. They surround the town, and everywhere we looked we were in awe.
We just return from a four day trip to this mountain town and we had a blast. For two main reasons. The first was because we spent some time with my mom’s side of the family who were in town for a wedding. It had been years since we had seen them, and seeing them made me realize how much I had actually missed them. They are a crazy bunch, and are super fun. The second reason we enjoyed our trip so much was because Banff is not only set up for couple’s on honeymoon vacations, it is very family friendly too. There were tons of activities to do with the girls so that they could have a blast on their alpine vacation too.
Before I get into those activities, let me mention that most Banff hotels are insanely priced! I knew it is a tourist town, and that it’s beauty merits some higher costs, but what I saw when looking around for a hotel room gave me “price tag” shock, especially coming fresh out of the DR. And if you are going during peak season, book ahead of time if you want to be there for a few consecutive days, because even the most expensive of rooms book up fast. We were extremely lucky. When I was looking for somewhere to stay everywhere seemed to be fully booked for at least two days of the four we were planning on staying. But then something great happened. Great for us, maybe not so much for the hostel. Hostel International, the Banff Alpine centre, had a cancellation and they could fit us in!
I have to say that the days of hostels being reserved for dirty solo backpackers have changed. This hostel is beautiful. It is set in the mountain, with trees all around. It has that log cabin feel, but is absolutely huge. They have everything from single dorm beds to little cottages that you can rent. We found ourselves in the “dorm” rooms, but had an entire room to ourselves. The room was perfectly set up for us, with two bunk beds, and the bottom one of those being a queen size bed. It also had an en-suite bathroom and lockers for all of our stuff. We had access to a shower in the hallway and a fully set up kitchen in the basement. Our girls loved it, they each had their own bed, and Arias immediately chose the top bunk. In the hostel, we came across people from every walk of life, a 72 year old woman traveling on her own, another family with a baby younger than ours, tons of hikers, tourists and backpackers alike. And although we didn’t partake in any of the events, the hostel puts on nightly activities like karaoke and trivia to keep everyone entertained. This place worked amazingly for our family and I will now recommend it to anyone I know heading to Banff. (Another perk is that it is nicer on the wallet than most of the places in this town.)
Arias loving her big-girl bed
Chilling with Papa
Now for those kiddy activities that we enjoyed so much (which definitely are NOT for kids only):
1) The Banff Upper Hot Springs. Give me a hot pool to sit in while I get to stare at the mountains and I am in. We were lucky (or unlucky depending how you want to see it, I will take the positive note) to have an early snow on the weekend we went to Banff. So while we sat in the Hot Springs the mountains were covered in a thin layer of white. And the air, is was cold and crisp, making for a fun contrast on the skin when you went from super hot tub to icy cold air. I didn’t think that our girls would enjoy this too much, given the heat, but the Upper Hot Springs have a children’s pool which is shallow and slightly cooler, that Ellia had a blast wading around in. The magic part about these hot springs and kids, is sit them in a hot pool for an hour and when they get out they fall right to sleep. It’s magic! As you will see in the pictures, we also opted to rent the “traditional” bathing suits that are offered at the hot springs, to complete the experience. They make for hilarious family pics, and they are only $1.50 to rent. I encourage (dare) you all to rent one and “complete” your experience.
family shot in our “traditional bathing suits”
so much steam due to the heat difference from the water to the air
Eben was slightly frustrated with me that I made him wear this snazzy swimsuit
2) The Douglas Fir hotel is set up for kids that is for sure. We did not stay there, but you can buy an entry pass to their indoor playpark and waterpark. They have the largest indoor hotel playpark in Western Canada, and it is extensive. If you are in Banff on a less than beautiful day but still want your kids to burn off some energy this is the place to go. The playpark is like four storeys high, and has a ton of things to do on each level. I was getting sweaty and tired chasing the girls around in there. Eben even got to burn off some of his excess energy. It was good for the whole family. From there you just walk down the hall and find yourself in their waterpark. It has two large indoor slides, a little tiny kiddlet slide, which Ellia claimed as her own, as well as an indoor and outdoor hot tub. I enjoyed sitting in the hot tubs while Eben played with the girls on the slides. Because I am not much of the waterslide type, and I failed miserably as a parent when I did not properly catch Arias at the bottom of her slide. So I happily retreated to the warmer pools.
Fun for my BIG kid too
It was exhausting chasing those monkeys through the playpark
I never thought Ellia would be into big waterslides
Arias waits for her OK that I am ready to catch her at the bottom of the waterslide
I fail as a parent and was not nearly close enough, letting her fall backwards into the pool
outdoor hot tubs
3) If you want to see these majestic Rockies from up high but do not have the patience, time, or strength to hike them, especially if you have two little ones to drag along with you, then I totally recommend the Brewster Gondola ride. The ride is a quick 10 minute trip up to the top, and you get the views the entire way. The girls loved the “amusement ride” feel that they got in the gondola. At the top you have the choice to make your stay as long or short as you want. There are walking paths to different levels of the mountain, different view points, and tons of photo opportunities with this amazing mountainous backdrop. One of the reasons I loved it so much is because it isn’t excessively long. Arias was cranking before we even arrived there, and I slightly dreaded the thought of being trapped in a gondola with her for half and hour. But to my wonderful surprise the guy at the ticket desk told us it is only 10 minutes, 10 minutes I can handle! And 10 minutes for that view, is so worth it.
Of course there are also the free wonders of Banff, walking around the town, playing in the outdoor playparks, and hikes galore, but on the weekend we ended up there it was rather cold and we were poorly dressed, to hikes were out of the question, and Eben really doesn’t enjoy walking that much, so once around town was good for him. Needless to say I was super happy to have found these other, above, activities to keep us busy and keep the entire family happy so that we could leave Banff with only good memories.