Winter in San Diego isn’t quite what most of us envision when we think of chilly mornings, drinking hot cocoa by the fire while watching the snow fall. It’s been about 70 F here! Tony and I decided to take the trip of a lifetime to Alberta Canada a few weeks ago and let me tell you… it was nothing short of magical! There’s not better place to spend your winter than in Canada, especially Banff.
We flew into Calgary and spent the day wandering around and experiencing the city before heading out to Banff National Park. The drive from Calgary to Banff takes about an hour and a half. FYI don’t speed. You’ll get a ticket… trust me!
Where To Stay
I’m going to be real with you guys. There’s only one place you want to stay if you head to Banff. The Fairmont Banff Springs is the hotel that Pinterest dreams are made of. It’s literally the most beautiful, picturesque hotel I’ve ever been to. The “Castle in the Rockies” has major Hogwarts vibes, set against a backdrop of mountains and forests. The hotel was built in 1988, originally for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a luxury resort to draw tourists to the wilderness.
When you arrive at the hotel, it feels like you’re in a movie. It looks almost too beautiful to be real. When we walked into the lobby, the entire hall was COVERED in Christmas decorations. All of my childhood dreams came true when I saw an almost life size gingerbread house. I’d also like to note that it smelled like hot apple cider and Christmas trees everywhere we went, so amazing. For being a luxury hotel, it doesn’t feel stuffy. Everyone who works at the hotel is so friendly and accommodating. I note this because I travel frequently. As a young traveler, I’m used to being looked at like I don’t belong. I really appreciate when high end hotels treat all guests with respect and are warm and inviting.
Fairmont Banff Springs Highlights
Possibly the hardest thing to narrow down. There are so many amazing restaurants and things to do at the resort. I highly recommend staying for a few days to get the full experience.
The Coziest Rooms
First of all, can we talk about the reindeer chocolate covered strawberries the hotel left us? Our cozy suite was tucked into the corder on one of the top floors, giving us an INSANE view of the mountains and stream below. We didn’t bring Doug, but I love that the whole property is dog friendly. I’d love to bring him back in the summer!
Grab A Bite
You knew this was coming. Food is one of the most important parts of a vacation for me. A nice hotel with terrible food is a total let down.
After wandering around the hotel (looking for ghosts, duh), we stopped in at 1888 Chop House. We started the night right with a champagne cart, because what’s a fancy dinner without a cart filled with champagne being wheeled in front of you? We had the most amazing meal and cocktails. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, I highly recommend visiting just for the chop house.
One of the highlights of our stay was definitely eating fondue at Waldhaus Pub. Hello my old friend melted cheese, I love you. Tony had never had fondue before (crazy, I know), so I had to order it for him. It’s the cutest little german style pub. You can even get a boot filled with Bavarian beer!
We also really enjoyed sipping on drinks and grabbing snacks at the Rundle Lounge. They have a great menu and a ton of fun drinks. There’s nothing better than getting cozy driving hot toddies by the fire, looking out at the snow covered mountains!
Relax At The Spa
The hotel was originally a hot spot for travelers visiting the hot springs. The hotel’s spa was designed to remind you of being in the natural springs. The waterfalls and mineral pool in the middle of the spa are the perfect way to relax after a long day.
The spa area has 3 waterfall plunge pools and an Indoor European mineral pool. We ran outside in our robes and slippers to jump into the hot outdoor whirlpool. It was so relaxing sitting in the outdoor pool surrounded by snow with views of the mountains and forest.
Even if you’re not visiting the spa, the resort has an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. The outdoor pool actually had indoor access. You basically walk into the outdoor pool form inside and go through a door. That way you don’t have to walk around in the cold!
If you’re in Banff during the winter, there are a ton of fun activities. The hotel has it’s own ice rink, so you can skate outdoors and look out over the valley. They also rent ski equipment if you decide to hit the slopes!
Across from the hotel is an entertainment center, complete with 5 pin bowling, ping pong, pool & a bar! How many hotels can you think of that have their own bowling alleys!?
Ride Into the Sky
You can also take a quick 5 minute trip up the road to catch a ride on the glass-walled Banff Sightseeing Gondola! I’m not going to lie, I was a little freaked out. it was definitely a steep ride, but had some petty amazing panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies. When you get off at the summit of Sulphur Mountain, you can walk around and take photos on the main level observation deck or explore the hiking trails. We took a quick walk to some of the other observation decks. That’s when I realized I had forgotten/lost my gloves at the hotel. I was majorly bummed. Luckily Tony had his gloves and could take over as official photographer and videographer.
We also grabbed dinner at the top of the mountain at the Sky Bistro. If you can make it up before sunset, you can sit and watch the sun set while grabbing a drink and some appetizers. Literally one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen at a restaurant. You’re just perched up on the top of the mountain looking out at nature.
Stay tuned for more of our Canadian vacation with tips on Lake Louise & Jasper coming soon!!
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