Hi Friends! Isn’t getting back from vacation and into work mode again so hard?! I spent almost two weeks in various cities around Alberta including Edmonton, Banff, and Lake Louise. So I’m breaking down where to eat, stay, and play to avoid my looming to-do list.
I went to Edmonton first for a work conference, so I spent four nights there. I actually really dislike conferences, especially when I go alone (without a trusted co-worker) and tend to hibernate unless my attendance is absolutely necessary. So, it is important for me to stay in a hotel I like and where I feel like I can relax and close to restaurants and sights to see.
I stayed near Jasper Ave which is home to so many of the great Edmonton restaurants. Some I’d recommend are:
I booked my room at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald using the website RocketMiles. This allowed me to earn a $325 Amazon gift card after my stay! (I highly recommend booking through this site). Although the hotel oversold their rooms for my first night and had me stay next door at the Marriott, they made up for it the next day and sent me a bottle of wine and a delicious cheese board. You’ll actually see that I spent all of my time in Canada at various Fairmont hotels so I would recommend all of them, particularly the Hotel MacDonald.
The location was ideal for exploring Edmonton. You could walk to a lot of restaurants and it was right on the river so the views were incredible. Plus, there are lots of great spots to sit outside and read or enjoy a drink.
I didn’t have a ton of time to play while I was in Edmonton, but I’d definitely recommend walking along the water where there are lots of trails and paths. You could even rent a bike for a faster/longer ride.
The Muttart Conservatory is gorgeous and worth checking out.
Did you know Edmonton is home to the largest mall in North America? You can spend more than an entire day here and it’s a little overwhelming but it’s also really fun to explore and I had a great time there.
If you’re looking to just bum around, check out Whyte Ave for a great variety of shops, bars, and restaurants since it’s near the University of Alberta.
From Edmonton, I took a short (~1 hour) flight to Calgary and met up with my parents, and then we hired a car to take us to Banff, which is a little less than two hours away. But, Calgary is the closest airport.
We were all tired the first day we arrived so we ate at the hotel for dinner and it was really good. We dined at 1888 Chop House. Other places we ate, that I’d recommend include:
- Elk and Oarsmen – great roof deck
- Chucks – one of our best meals!
- PARK Distillery – such great vodka!
- Banff Sweet Shoppe
- Cows – beware of the long lines
We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Overall, we liked it. However, we did have check-in problems (again) and some of the staff was rude. This is a very large hotel and you are constantly reminded. If you like smaller hotels, then this one isn’t right for you. A lot of the staff would make comments about being “so busy” and almost made it feel like our presence was an inconvenience. But, the hotel is absolutely stunning and that certainly made up for it.
There are so many little spots around the hotel to explore and relax. We didn’t book this hotel through Rocket Miles because it was better to do it through our credit card which gave us a deal that included breakfast.
We spent a lot of time relaxing in Banff. The first day we were there we just bummed around downtown going in and out of the shops and having lunch. The best shop for souvenirs is hands-down, “Cool As A Moose.” It’s definitely worth a stop.
My dad and I both got massages at the Fairmont spa which was perfect. I had a hot stone massage and he had a deep tissue. My parents also raved about the pool which is heated and has an incredible view of the mountains. The water is piped in from the local hot springs.
I really enjoyed walking along the river each morning on my way to get coffee, and checking out the rapids.
We did a rafting tour which was fun and a great way to take in all the natural beauty. It’s also nice that this is pretty quick and doesn’t take all day.
You can also take a gondola up to Sulphur Mountain. We did it and I’m glad we did, but I’m not sure it would be at the top of my list. It’s very crowded and once you’re up there, there’s not a ton to do other than look around and take a few pictures. It’s also a little pricey in my opinion. However, there is a restaurant and you can take the gondola up there for dinner (which is what we thought we were doing, but there was an error in our reservation) and I would recommend doing that.
The last leg of the trip was in Lake Louise which is about 45 minutes away from Banff. It is GORGEOUS! If you can only see one place in Alberta, make it this one! I was only there for two nights which honestly wasn’t long enough so I don’t have as many recommendations, sadly.
Our first afternoon there we did high tea at the hotel. It was really nice and the food was very good. I’m allergic to most seafood but they made easy and delicious substitutes for me and I didn’t feel like my experience was any less special since more than half the menu wasn’t available to me.
The first night we took the hotel’s complimentary shuttle to The Station for dinner. I’m not sure if it’s because we were a little tired or not particularly hungry, but it was just okay. It has a cool atmosphere and I can imagine that after a day of hiking, everything on the menu would hit the spot.
On my last night, we had dinner at Wallister Stube. It was so, so good and the perfect way to end my Canadian vacation. My mom and I shared cheese fondue, the chateaubriand (absolutely amazing), and finished with chocolate fondue. Everything was excellent, including the rainbow that popped up half-way through our dinner.
I have been dying to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for years and it did not disappoint! It is SO breathtaking and right on the water with unparalleled views of the lake and Rockies. The staff here was so kind and although it was crowded, it was still very nice. However, be aware that not all of the hotel rooms have air conditioning. My room did not have it, but it wasn’t an issue since it got cooler at night and I could open my window.
The first day I took a long walk around the lake and up into the mountains a little bit. It’s easy to walk around and the paths are pretty crowded, but the views make it tolerable. I wanted to canoe in the lake but didn’t have time. I was also dying to hike to one of the teahouses but didn’t have time for that either. I’m sure it’s incredible.
We did one tour to a glacier that I would not recommend solely because it takes all day and it takes you out of Banff National Park and into Jasper. I went to Banff to be in Banff, not to go somewhere else. (I didn’t plan this tour, in case you’re wondering)
While being on the glacier and drinking the fresh water was cool, that was only 15 minutes of a 7-hour tour! You spent most of your time on a bus and that just isn’t how I prefer to spend my vacations. If you actually want to do this, I think you’ll enjoy it, but you can see just as much by hiking or horseback riding in Lake Louise.
If you’ve been to Canada, tell me all about it in the comments. I’m already dying to go back and keep exploring!