Edmonton & Banff, Alberta, Canada June 14th – 19th 2017
This was a super spontaneous quick adventure for us. Hollie was supporting a young gentlemen with autism to attend a ‘fur convention’ in Edmonton, visiting all the way from Devon, UK. So for the first few days Hollie was working with him in the morning and evening, just to ensure his trip was running smoothly (which it did, and everyone’s super proud of you Ed!). Hollie took two of the smallest planes she had ever seen over to Edmonton from Chicago, and the journey was urm bumpy. We stayed at Days Inn Downtown Edmonton, about a 30 minute taxi ride from Edmonton International Airport and the location was ideal for everything. Definitely look on various sites before you book your hotels, Hollies room was $200 less than Edwards for the 5 nights, as she had booked via booking.com and Ed had booked through their website. Also, you need a credit card in your own name to pay a security deposit (& rent a car), otherwise you basically can’t stay there. The hotel was basic, but comfortable and was undergoing some refurbishment to their dining/ restaurant area. We wouldn’t have eaten there anyway as Jasper Avenue is full of places to grab a quick bite or have a sit down meal.
Before you go tips
- Visa or Electronic Travel Authorisation
- Warm clothing, we visited during their ‘summer’ time, and it was pretty chilly
- bug spray!
- Credit card
- Register for a free Parks Canada Discovery Pass, all admission to the parks are free in 2017. Display it in your front screen and be off!
The busy days
14th June, Hollie & Ed arrived around 6pm and jumped straight into a taxi to Days Inn Downtown Edmonton, freshened up then went out for dinner. We ate and drank at Pub 1905, it had a bit of atmosphere and looked popular. Snails, Pizza, Hot Dogs and fries were eaten here, and would only recommend for a quick and cheap re-fuel.
Day one, We got some great coffee and breakfast at Lock Stock Coffee, you must try. I actually took David for breakfast once he arrived as we had enjoyed the food and coffee so much. Order the Lox breakfast biscuit or muffin (in the above photo). Creamy eggs, bacon, spinach and a chilli jam, super yummy and filling. Visit Edmonton City centre for shops and great access to public transport. Ed went on to enjoy his first day at the Fur Convention, and I continued to mooch around the city centre, try a fresh juice from Booster Juice, and hunt for some warmer clothing. Winners, similar to an english TK Max, American TJ Max has got some great bargains, including funking designed yoga matts for $15! Pick up your groceries at Save on foods, they have everything.
Day two, We had breakfast waffles and bananas bought from Save on foods, and Ed went on to enjoy his second day. I took a long walk from the hotel to William Hawrelak Park, a great way to view more of the city and I even saw a huge grey bunny (I actually thought it was a kangaroo!) and some lovely houses. The park was nice, surrounded by tall pine trees, a large lake in the centre and little cafe (unfortunately it was closed). After a short walk, I decided to order an uber to West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America. The mall is incredible, it has a water park, amusement hall, theatre and sea lions and tonnes of shops. I stopped for lunch in their food hall and had to resist the New York Fries, they looked delicious. Instead I went for a spicy thai soup at Wok Box as I was trying to clear myself from a head cold, and it was pretty good. The transport is great in Edmonton. I got a bus from the mall, back to Jasper Avenue in 25 minutes as was able to pay with exact change. David arrived that evening, and once Ed returned we spent some time chatting before the next early morning wake.
Day three, we all woke early and visited Lock Stock Coffee again for the same order, and David was also very impressed with the food and coffee. David and I went to collect our rental car from the airport, Avis and had the best experience. Hollie had rented the car under her name, as Canada car rental companies are quite strict and you needed a credit card (unlike Miami, Alamo). So the rental was a bit pricier than usual as you have to pay a surcharge if you are under 25. Anyway, we chose a standard basic economy car, when we were collecting the car we asked how much it would be for GPS (we didn’t want to rely on our phones for the Banff adventure) and the receptionist kindly upgraded us to a brand new Jeep Compass with a full built in GPS system for an extra $13 a day, winning. We then drove straight to Elk National Park, and it was beautiful! stopped at the visitor centre for a map of the park, and chose the walks we wanted to do. On the drive there are so many places to stop, we saw Elks and Bison’s on the drive up to Astotin Lake. Once we arrived, we followed the trial number 6, it was beautiful. We had a great view of the Astotin lake, small dams that beavers had built and a very peaceful, quiet 3km stroll to the sound of the birds.
We said not to forget the bug spray, and this is when you definitely need it! We didn’t know, and it hadn’t crossed our mind and both ended up with a lot of bites – even through our clothes! We continued the walk, even though we knew we were getting eaten alive and stopped back at the main lawn by the car park. There was a lovely food truck which was very popular, so we got some chips and enjoyed the view of the lake.
Once we got back into Edmonton we went to The Needle Vinyl Tavern, sampled some Canadian brewed beers and shared a dish Pretzel Poutine, wow. Basically it was a hot, salty, fresh pretzel, with a side of hot fondue cheese and a pot of mustard to dip. We both love cheese, and this was delicious. We sat outside with a view of Jasper Avenue and as the evening went on the bar became very popular. It is known for its live music, which is on every night and charges $10 entry. We left as we started to get asked for the money, we had already been there for a few hours and headed back to the hotel for a early-ish night.
Day four, the alarm went off at 5am and we left the hotel just before 530. We arrived into Banff town centre before 11am, and we were instantly blown away. From every angle you can see the rocky mountains and the town itself is so picturesque. The shops are mostly supported by wooden beams, and the centre has everything you would need. We had a mooch, and stopped for coffee at Wild Flour, good coffee and bakery items, we went for a gingerbread bear! and sat outside in the sun. We were educated at the tourist centre, that Banff park was the first ever established Canadian park.
After about an hour or so mooching in the lovely boutique shops, we headed back on the road for another hours drive up to Lake Louise, both of our ‘must see’s’ whilst in Banff National Park. The roads are great, like a highway with again stunning views of the mountains and lakes as you travel up, we stopped at a few lay-bys on the route to take in the surroundings. Parking around Lake Louise was a bit difficult, we had been warned that the park would be busy seeing as it was free! but after two laps around the car parks, and a bit of eagerness we got a space. We headed straight to Lake Louise, and no pictures could do it justice.
It was busy, but there are plenty of places you can go and walks you can take to get away from the crowds.. dependent on how much time you have. The sun continued to pop through the clouds, along with a chilly breeze and we took a relaxing 3.5K walk around the lake side. It is possibly the most beautiful place we have ever been, the water really is so turquoise, and its incredible to see the snow upon the mountains next to the sun. We both wish that we had more time to stay in Lake Louise, but considering we were cramming this trip into one day.. we wanted to see more. If we had the time we would have driven up to Lake Moraine and Jasper National Park, but we didn’t.. after a few hours we headed back down to the town to visit the caves.
Again, we stopped along the way and we even got to see a bear and a dear to close to each other! We got out of the car to watch the grizzly and was soon asked to get back into our car by a park warden, but it was amazing to watch them move around in their natural habitat. The caves are close to the town centre, and on our route back out of Banff. They were really beautiful, but very smelly. Cave and Basin is a cluster of natural thermal mineral springs, along with the bath house and swimming pool. Have a look out for the tiny Banff Spring Snails! They had put on a replica of the surroundings from 1887, and there is a lot of history to be learnt in this area. The views were incredible, the best we had seen all day and there are paved walks you can take above the caves, whilst spotting out the wildlife.
This is where to find the endangered Banff spring snails.. you have to look very closely as they are tiny.
Soon we headed back on the road for Edmonton, both feeling blown away from the sights! On the journey we stopped at Dairy Queen for an oreo milkshake, yum! both of our first times at this fast food chain and it was delicious. Everything was going to plan until our car told us one of our tyres had low pressure, so we stopped at the next petrol station to top them all up, only to find a nail in the tyre. So we had a completely flat tyre, and we were about 130km away from Edmonton, it was a gorgeous evening so we got ourselves comfortable in a small town, called our car rental company and watched the sunset. Our tyre was changed within 30 minutes, so we definitely recommended Avis, and we had taken out their full damage weaver insurance so we didn’t have to pay anything extra. Luckily, what could have been a very stressful situation, was actually quite fun! It’s great that we had such a new car to tell us that the tyre pressure was low, otherwise could have been in serious poop.
We made it back to Edmonton before 11pm and although we were both obviously shattered, we wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was such a memorable trip because of its spontaneously and obviously the beautiful nature that we got to see! We would both love to go back to Canada, and hopefully have more time to spend in Banff, but after all.. this is how we always travel so we can see as much as we can.