|Subject: Re: Trip to Calgary / Canadian Rockies|
Barry got this going by talking about his upcoming trip, and I have enjoyed reading about others' experiences. Beverly beat me to the punch on mentioning Canmore as an alternative base. We have visited the Banff/Lake Louise area twice. Pre- kids, double income, we stayed at all of the highlight properties in the area. Just last month, in mid-March, we returned with our two young teens charged as adults and opted for a value break. Here's how it worked out:
We stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Canmore. It was a well- managed, clean property with heated underground garage (a big plus during a winter visit), outdoor hot tub, small gym and sauna, included hot/cold breakfast buffet (basic, but OK), and guest rooms with kitchen, living area and free WiFi. For family travelers, or perhaps even two very friendly couples traveling together, this property features a number of those rare 2-bedroom suites. Each bedroom has a queen bed behind a closed door, plus there is a sofabed in the living area. We are Marriott rewards members, so this property made sense for us. I will say that when researching the hotels and other Canmore options (BB's, resort condos and individual condos for lease through online agencies like http://www.vrbo.com - Google "Canmore +tourism" and see what you get), I was impressed by the many, new, fairly priced and attractive offerings. Indeed, when you are in Canmore, you can see the rapid growth and development everywhere.
Canmore as a town is nice--just a few streets, plenty of stores and restaurants and very friendly & helpful locals. We did not need the blocks and blocks of tourist-oriented retail as one finds in Banff. YMMV. We did not check out night life...if that is an important part of your experience, you may wish to stick with Banff, as I didn't gather that much was happening in Canmore!
Notes about being in Canmore: (1) Everything you want to do and see is a drive -- for our winter trip, certainly, it wasn't a big deal, we drove daily to Norquay, the locals' favorite ski resort (the best value in the area) located just north of Banff...whether you are going to the mountain or Banff, it's about 20 minutes, Lake Louise is about 40 minutes; (2) Gas prices are higher in Canada than in the US!; and (3) You will need to work out a multi-day permit with the national park service as you drive into Banff for the first time-- instead of paying the fee once & then staying in Banff or otherwise within the national park, you will pay $8-16/day to drive in/out daily. See fee structure here: http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/visit/visit23_E.asp
It was fascinating to see a bit of the Canadian Rockies during the winter. We especially had fun hiking in Johnston's Canyon where the waterfalls turn to ice in the winter. Gorgeous!
Diana Ball near Houston, TX