Family traditions are so important which I am sure you know. I am definitely guilty of being a workaholic and being very driven which sometimes makes me fall flat on my family work life balance. Which is why I think creating family traditions like our Banff Caribou Lodge trip is so important. This trip is something we have done for the past 3 years and we keep building upon it while staying close to our original tradition. It’s a time that the whole family looks forward to, knows is coming and spends so much time together. We have 2 family traditions that are close to my heart and I am really excited to share our Banff Caribou Lodge tradition with you because I hope that it inspires you to create your own family tradition… And maybe look at staying in Banff, and at our favourite hotel and starting some of these fun activities on your trip.
So 3 years ago we took a trip to Banff Alberta, and for those that do not know it is the most beautiful mountain town that is full of so many activities. Most people seem to look at us crazy when we tell them we go to Banff and don’t ski… First my little guy is crazy and probably wouldn’t fully listen to the instructor and end up in a bush. Second skiing and rentals are expensive! We looked this year and for half a day it was going to cost all of us around $700, which is ok for some but that is some really nice dinners, a few extra days in Banff and several snow tubing days! So our trip does not include skiing but there is so much that we do in Banff that doesn’t revolve around skiing that I am excited to share with you.
So as I said for the past 3 years we have stayed at the Caribou Lodge in Banff. This hotel is our favourite and we stay here every year and will continue to stay here over and over again. I want to paint a picture for you. Imagine walking into a lodge that has all these wood beams, comfortable couches, a giant christmas tree filled with ski’s and ski poles, a real wood burning fireplace that goes constantly every single day leaving the hotel smelling like a beautiful cabin. All the hotel employees are so kind and helpful! Always giving you ideas on where you can go, what places are great for skating, best dinner choices and always with a smile.
When you have kids it’s also important to have a pool which was our original reason for staying there before we fell in love with the hotel itself. The pool is a hot pool, essentially a hot tub with jets and sitting spots all around but large enough that the kids can swim from side to side without really bothering anyone. There’s also a sauna for hubby who loves to just sit and enjoy.
What we find important is the Red Earth Spa! Jon & I save our massage benefits all year for this week so we can enjoy a week’s worth of massages to start our day. I know it might sound crazy, even our massage therapist kinda had a chuckle at the amount of times we visit. But it’s our thing and we love and appreciate it. What I do find amazing and really says something about the Caribou Lodge & Red Earth Spa is that the staff have been there every single year. We always have the same massage therapists, who remember us, and we remember them with their kids, hobbies and Christmas shopping stories. Each massage begins with us choosing an essential oil that blends with our energy that day. Most days we both gravitate to the peppermint but this trip I really found the lavender oil to be my favourite.
Finally the room. We have had different rooms each visit so I can say that we definitely have tried pretty much all of them and know that there isn’t a bad room in the house. They all have different views but my favourite is always facing Banff Ave because there is a beautiful mountain view. What remains true with every room is the style, they all have that cabin comfort style that makes you want to kick back and enjoy. The beds are so comfy, there is always a sitting area/or table for me which is where I love to sit, read, blog and work. The bathrooms all have this unique custom wood mirror that makes you just love the look and feel of the mountain lodge style.
This year we had their Mountain Loft Jacuzzi Suite which was an absolute treat for us. When you first walk into the room there was a bathroom on the left followed by a nice closet area with plenty of shelves for our boots and bags. Then you walk into the main floor which has this giant floor to ceiling picture window which I just fell in love with! If I can look at the mountains from my seat and enjoy a coffee I am an incredibly happy lady! Across from the large window was a fireplace which is such an added bonus! The main floor also had a pull out couch and large flat screen tv so it was the perfect place to sit and enjoy the Mountains, a glass of wine and a fireplace! Could you ask for more?
Built around the fireplace was a staircase leading to the upstairs level which because of that large window also had a great view and lots of light. On the upstairs level was a king size bed, another tv which was great for when the kids went to sleep, we had our own private space to watch tv without disturbing them. Glass double doors lead into the jacuzzi room which might be another personal favourite of mine. This room held of course the jacuzzi, a sun roof, another wet bar area and the largest closet space! It was all so spacious, bright and inviting. Just behind the jacuzzi room was the second bathroom which had a walk in shower with an etched deer on the glass and more of those custom mirrors. I should also add that each bathroom had Rocky Mountain Soap Company Lavender Soaps. If you haven’t tried Rocky Mountain Soap then you must! And if you have then you know that I cherished those and maybe put a few into my suitcase to take home… We also stopped at the store to pick up more.
This hotel is definitely our favourite part of our stay. It has everything in it including a Keg Restaurant, perfect for lunches and casual dinners. Another perk is the underground heated parking, although the first day we arrived there was zero snow (an absolute irregularity for Banff) but the very next day it snowed up a storm and closed highways. So the underground heated parking is definitely the biggest perk in not having to start your car or brush all the snow off.
So I think I have bragged about the hotel enough, but really when it’s this awesome it’s hard to not share every single detail. Now let’s talk about what to do in Banff.
Obviously there is skiing, which is what the majority of people do when they visit Banff. I’m not going to go into too much detail because it’s not part of our family tradition but I will share the main locations that you can ski
- Sunshine Village
- Mount Norquay
- Lake Louise
- Ski Big 3 has a lot of details on each mountain and also a 3 pack!
Ok onto what I know & love!
WHERE TO EAT:
We are big foodies when it comes to visiting Banff and we have pretty much gone to every restaurant. This is the one place that has amazing food at every spot pretty much so if your a foodie then your in for a treat! There are plenty more than I listed but these are our must eat locations plus on extra that is a must try but not every visit.
- Maple Leaf Restaurant – Our hands down absolute favourite restaurant of all in Banff. This one is pricer but the atmosphere, the service and the food are amazing! We always get the 2 tier seafood platter every single visit and sometimes we go back more than once, we love it that much.
- Chuck’s Steakhouse – If you are a steak lover than this is the place to go to to get a really good and sometimes really large steak. They dry age their steaks in house which gives them a melt in your mouth tenderness. Their menu is a la carte so you will have to pick your sides but they are so delicious, try the broccolini & roasted beets!
- Block Kitchen & Bar – Every trip we try to get into this restaurant and never have been able to until this year. Their dinner menu becomes available at 5pm so just before 5 we popped into Block to grab a seat. It’s a small restaurant with only 5-6 tables & no reservations so you need to be there early or be prepared to wait to get a table. The style of food is tapas and appetizers and the food is so delicious! Definitely try the Cheese & Charcuterie Board, also watch their specials because we had this delicious Ramen Coconut Curry Noodle Bowl that was the best soup we have ever had!
- Eddie’s Burger Bar – Anyone want to make their own custom burger? Beware it will end up being huge but really yummy! When your there make sure to enjoy a trash can! It’s a drink our friend shared with us and definitely a novelty drink that we try to enjoy most visits!
- Banff Sushi House – We are big sushi fans (kids included) so this is our favourite place to stop, we probably went here for lunch 3 times during the week we stayed last. If your kids likes sushi then they will love the fact that the sushi is delivered to you by a train that runs in circles. We love it because the sushi is phenomenal and they make our favourite chop chop for us whenever we come in.
- The Grizzly House – This is one we don’t do every visit, it is super delicious but you must be warned… when we visit we plan in advance and I bring 1 coat that I DO NOT plan to wear again the rest of the trip because it smells like fondue big time. I later put it into a bag and store it until I get home to wash it. That said if this is your first visit to Banff or have just never been there it is pretty cool. The restaurant originally was a disco and known for touring bands and go go dancers. They still have the phones at each table that allowed tables to communicate, or as the story goes it was great for “swingers” & “hookups”. The atmosphere is definitely something to enjoy and wonder over and the food really good. FYI it is no longer for swingers & hookups so feel free to enjoy the fondue dinner.
WHERE TO SHOP:
Banff Ave is lined with plenty of tourist shops, a few that we really enjoy to go in for the kids so they can pick out some toys. For myself there are 3 stores that I really enjoy.
- House Of Angelica – This is a new store and has only been open for a year but exciting that Banff has another fashionable boutiques to enjoy! House of Angelica is bringing some glamour with their gorgeous dresses (lots since New Years was only a few short days away when we visited), cute sweaters and accessories. I love this store and the owner Marquesa because she is totally glam and inspires me to be glam even when mom life ain’t so glam all the time. The picture above is House of Angelica! Make sure to check her out and support local (I ALWAYS buy local when I am there). PS House Of Angelica is just off Banff Ave – 204 Bear St, Banff, AB T1L 1C1.
- Cabin 108 – Cabin 108 has been around for I don’t even know how long, as long as we have been going to Banff. This boutique is located on Banff Avenue and carries lots of cozy mountain weather kind of styles, meaning cozy sweaters, cute booties and accessories.
- Rocky Mountain Soap Company – We have access to this store at home but for some reason when in Banff we treat ourselves to a trip to the Rocky Mountain Soap Company. They have the most amazing in house made soaps and they believe on not putting all these unhealthy chemicals into their products. PS for anyone pregnant I swore by their belly butter to protect against stretch marks.
WHAT TO DO:
Ok since we don’t ski everyone always asks what we do when we go to Banff… well there is a lot that we do so here is some of our family activities. Some are Banff specific, some we could do at home but it’s part of our tradition to do them there as a family.
- Snow Tubing – We tried to do this last year but Brayden was too little still but this year he was able to go. We all agreed this is our newest family tradition that we all enjoyed. Mount Norquay has the best hill for Snow Tubing with a magic carpet ride to take you up to the top of the hill with your tube. I’ve added the video below for you to check out! Super amazing!
Big Note: Make sure to dress warm! Toques for my Canadian friends, and that would be beanies or hats if you didn’t know what a toque is. Also a scarf that wraps around your face and of course snow pants, winter jacket, snow pants and warm mittens. I would even recommend ski goggles for the kiddos. When we went it was -10C in Banff but on the hill which was in shade was about -16C and you go down pretty fast! So your face can and will get frozen pretty easy. Plus if you get turned around (happens easy when all 4 of you go on tubes together) the people facing up the hill get all the snow kicked in their face. This is something I HIGHLY RECOMMEND doing! It’s fun just be prepared to stay warm.
- The Fudgery & Mountain Chocolates – Another must when you are visiting Banff! There are 2 great Chocolate stores on either side of Banff Avenue. Try some chocolate treats, maybe a candied apple and definitely some fudge! We usually bring back fudge for our family.
- The Banff Candy Store – This store has been around for years and was recently closed due to a fire in the hotel near by but thankfully has opened back up. This is where you can find some old school candies and such a huge selection. Our kids obviously love this store.
- Visit the Banff Springs – The Banff Springs Fairmont Hotel is known as the “Castle in the Rockies” and is so stunning. It really is a giant castle that you can get lost in with beautiful architecture, stunning ballrooms and plenty of ghost story history to keep you wandering the hotel for hours taking in the sights. One thing we also always do when we are here is stop off at their resort bowling alley. There is never anyone in there, maybe not many people know it exists, and play neon bowling with the kids. They love it, we enjoy them laughing and being super competitive with each other and we get a cocktail while we play.
- Crock a Doodle – This one we started last year on a really cold day when one of our outdoor actives had to be cancelled due to the cold. So we went into Crock a Doodle and each picked out an ceramic ornament for our tree to paint. This year we made it a tradition by doing it again and painting another ornament each. We could do this at home but then it wouldn’t be as special.
- Lux Cinema – Another thing we could do at home but make it special on our trip is to go see a kids movie. This year we went and saw Ferdinand.
- Go For A Drive – We do this so many times because it is always just so pretty no matter where you go and you never know if you are going to see wildlife on your trip. Take a look at the Best Scenic Drives in Banff National Park to see all the options plus photos!
I feel like this was such a long post but I am so passionate about it because it’s close to home, we visit so regularly and really love all the places and things to do that I listed. For your next stay make sure to enjoy the Caribou Lodge because you are in for such a treat and the location is great and nice and close to all these activities!
Happy planning for your next Banff Alberta Vacation!!