Our family recently traveled north into Canada for a long weekend. Andy and I have loved our many trips into Canada but neither of us had been to Calgary or Banff. So when Tourism Calgary invited our family to explore the area and document our adventures, we were all high fives for the opportunity.
We left early Thursday morning and drove up the glorious Rocky Mountain front. The clouds clung to those giant mountains, withholding the view and disorienting our kids. Ruby was especially grumpy so many stops were in order. To take deep breaths, stretch our legs and deal with the blasted bunchy leggings.
The drive was easy enough (you know how hindsight makes a parent forget the backseat protests?) and six hours later we found ourselves at the first stop: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a holy site where a ritualistic method of hunting was used for nearly 6000 years. We learned so much, made especially poignant by our surprise guide Quinton Crow Shoe and his inspired knowledge and appreciation of the land and story, and his commitment to education and preservation. Isn’t it amazing how an encounter with a human can change an experience? Can shift perspectives, stretch thinking, connect dots, ignite fires? This is one of my favorite parts of schooling my kids while traveling. I saw this quote recently and I love it so much:
“The purpose of education isn’t to fill the mind but to form the heart.”
– Rea Berg
It was a few more hours to Calgary where we checked into our hotel (Hotel Arts), deposited our luggage and 117 stuffies and headed out to dinner.
Native Tongues Taqueria. Probably the best margarita I’ve ever had. Other highlights: bean & cheese tostada, guacamole, pollo asado, Margot holding a wet napkin to her puckered lips after accidentally eating a giant jalapeño, our lovely and patient and sincere waiter.
We slept well that night which was great because the next day was full. First: breakfast. Well, first first: coffee. Andy and Margot walked to get coffee while I let Ruby sleep as long as possible, realizing homegirl needed some shut eye. Then, breakfast.
The Beltliner. This was my favorite breakfast of our whole trip. I had The Beltliner benedict and didn’t want to share but I did a little bit. Waffles also a hit. Their hot sauce was killer and I tried to buy some but they didn’t have any to spare. Next time.
That day our explorations happened via bike. Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals delivered bikes to our hotel and we were off. It was chilly and navigating a big city on bike is definitely out of our kids’ wheelhouse but we were so proud of them. We rode all day long between activities and they rocked it with their tiny, mighty legs and souls.
Contemporary Calgary was in between exhibits but Tourism Calgary arranged a sneak peak for our family. It’s always such a gift to interact with humans passionate about what they contribute to the world. Our kids were still getting some of their road trip energy out so this first (not-open-to-public) stop was perfect for our wiggly bunch.
Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. We had lunch at a lovely and nourishing restaurant right off the riverfront bike trail. We met the owner, Aviv, a man who wowed us with his fervor for bread, hummus and experience. I ordered the veggie pita and dang it was great. Full of flavor and freshness, my sandwich encouraged Andy to order something even though he wasn’t that hungry. Our kids devoured hummus, salad and bread.
We biked along the river to the Bow Habitat Station Fish Hatchery where we took a tour of the space. We learned a lot about recreational fishing and the impact it has on population and ecosystems. My favorite part of this experience was our kids’ engagement: they loved it and asked so many questions. How do you know how many eggs are in that dish? Why are the baby fish in a darker room than the bigger fish? How do they get from these tanks into lakes? Why do you do all of this? They also really enjoyed the interactive floor because, of course, handstands and general goofiness were encouraged.
Our bike back to the hotel was in cool dark and dropping temperatures but the excitement of city lights warmed us. Also, the visibility of our hotel tower creeping toward us as we made our way there was helpful for every single but how much longer? We settled into our crisp, white sheets for some Food Network television which we learned is our daughters’ absolute favorite thing to watch. See, we don’t have tv so the tv in the hotel is a fun perk for all of us. Turns out the Clines can all dork out on bacon cheese brunch twists, factory-themed cake competitions and how to incorporate Spam into an appetizer.
Double Zero Pizza. We walked to the restaurant hungry and ready. My husband’s first job was making pizza in high school and he’s had several pizza making jobs since, including his current role as pizza maker in our home. His standards are high and this restaurant was his favorite meal on our whole trip. Highlights include: brussels sprouts salad, meatballs, quinoa salad and, of course, pizza.
Day two started with excellent coffee at Analog. We are always on the hunt for *that* coffee shop and it’s so satisfying when we find it. We went back after breakfast too. And again the next morning.
Galaxie Diner. A restaurant set up like a galley kitchen and packed with jolly customers, we stood in the doorway with kind strangers waiting for a tiny table to open up. It was cozy and hearty and classic.
We then made our way to TELUS Spark, a science museum. The space was bright and inviting and our kids felt right at home with all the hands-on and exploratory activities in weather, math, science, electricity, geography. Andy and me too because we enjoy being kids. We spent much longer here than we anticipated, having so much fun generating electricity, constructing river channels, watching colorful explosions and rolling around on the floor.
We skipped lunch that day and did a bit of shopping (CrossIron Mills) because there is a special deal right now for folks who stay in participating Calgary hotels: they get a $75 gift card to spend on shopping for every night they stay! Ruby is especially excited about her new footie racoon pjs she purchased. We went for a walk on the Peace Bridge, a futuristic-yet-retro structure spanning the Bow River. Margot challenged herself to do front walkovers all the way across, Ruby jumped on ice patches. Andy spotted spawning fish in the cool water below.
Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse. This was Margot and Ruby’s favorite meal. We started with a giant, healthful salad bar; the girls love being able to choose their own things and this mama loves seeing them pile veggies and stew on their plates. We were given these little paper coins to reveal when we were ready for meat that traveled out of the kitchen on skewers and was served up at the table. We drank delicious wine and every little thing was lights out awesome. I need chimichurri in my everyday life.
We were eager to pack up and head out the next morning because the next thing on our itinerary was skiing at Sunshine Village. Skiing in mid-November doesn’t really happen in Montana and this year is especially unsnowy thus far. So, what a treat this was to be!
Yellow Door Bistro. Located right in our hotel, we again ate so well. The kids especially loved the cocooned high back chairs. This was Andy’s favorite breakfast; he had the short rib egg benedict.
We knew it was an hour and half drive to Banff and we knew we’d be cruising through the Canadian rockies but we were unprepared for the glory of those mountains. Around every corner someone in our car would gasp at the landscape. The temperatures were surprisingly pleasant and the early season conditions perfect. We begged the clouds to lift and they eventually complied. Our local ski hill has super slow double chairs so we thoroughly enjoyed all riding together and zooming around on high speed quads, including the new lift with HEATED SEATS.
Lookout Kitchen and Bar. As much as Andy and I wanted to push though a lunch break and ski, the kids weren’t having it. And it did feel good to stop and I always love nachos.
We checked into our hotel late and were absolutely blown away by what we drove up to. A castle. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is absolutely magical and we immediately headed to the pool, of course.
Waldhaus. A German restaurant located just behind our hotel we loved the fondue. But, honestly, I think next time we will grab take out and hang out in the hotel. That hotel is just so cool. I couldn’t get Fondue for Two out of my head for the rest of my night. Oh, Brittany.
It was hard to pry ourselves away from all this awesomeness but we did have to head home. The drive through Banff and Kootenay National Parks was one of the most spectacular we’ve ever been lucky enough to witness. Those strapping mountains!
We rolled into our driveway well after dark, the girls and me asleep, Andy behind the wheel. Excited to see our pets and home, abuzz with the new things we experienced. Thank you so very much, Alberta! We will surely be back.
Trip Details ADVENTURE
Trip Details FOOD
This wonderful weekend was sponsored by Tourism Calgary. Of course, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my very own.