Amazing Winter Magic on a Day Trip to Banff

I’ve been fortunate to call Canada home for a while now.

What I failed to realize though, is how much I took the beauty we were surrounded by, for granted! Take for instance, Banff National Park in Alberta. Banff is literally an 1.5 hr drive from where I grew up. And it took me moving out of Canada to California, to appreciate what a mind boggling blessing & privilege this is.

Banff national park has now been named a hot & trending 2017 destination by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Conde Nast & countless other publications. Well, looks like our not-so-well-kept Canadian secret is finally out, eh?

Lake Louise, was where my dad first took us, when he tried to convince my sister & I to move to Canada. Mind you, he took us in summer, when it was a gorgeous, sunny day at 27 degrees C; that’s 80 degrees F, my fellow Americanos! (When we did finally move to Canada, it was in winter, in -40 degrees C, but that’s another story for another time!). It didn’t take me long though, to fall in love with Canada, the phenomenal people & become super proud to call myself a Canadian.

12 years later, I visited Lake Louise again, this time in winter. And I remembered why I fell in love with this beautiful place. No matter what season you visit Banff, summer or winter, Mojo is surely waiting to be found.

Here’s what a winter day trip to Lake Louise looks like:

Walk on Lake Louise

That’s the lake!

That’s right! Lake Louise is breathtaking in summer, but how cool is it to walk on a lake – complete with a skating rink & an ice hockey rink! (ofcourse, it wouldn’t be Canadian otherwise!). Watch out for the marked areas with thin ice.

Snowshoeing on trails 

It goes without saying Canada is a paradise for winter sports. Snowboarding, skiing, cross country skiing, tubing & tobogganing are incredible at Sunshine Village & Lake Louise. Equally enthralling is snowshoeing by the several trails around Lake Louise.

Maple syrup popsicles by the lake

Oh.My.God. This dude pours piping hot maple syrup on a table of fresh snow. Because of winter magic in Canada (-10 degrees …which is actually pretty warm & amazing weather per Canadian winter standards) –  it freezes to make a popsicle. H-e-a-v-e-n. No, I did not share 😛

Talking to Canadians

I’m not even kidding, this is something you MUST do, while in Canada. Canadians have a reputation for being the nicest, most approachable people on Earth and it wasn’t till I visited Canada as a Californian I noticed this. Maybe because it’s the holiday season too, but the generosity, kindness, ease & plain heart that folks spoke with, made me feel all warm & fuzzy & incredibly grateful to have grown up here. Talking to this fine gentleman about his ridiculously adorable dog made me very happy.

Ice sculptures 

Whoa! My snowman umm…doesn’t compare….

Mulled wine & hot chocolate by Fairmont Lake Louise

The historic fairmont lodge nestled on Lake Louise has some pretty amazing, albeit pricey concoctions. I settled for hot chocolate; that mulled wine, though.  And look at this inventive chart menu for beer & cocktails! * Every * libations-place needs to have something like this!

Soaking in Banff Hot Springs

What better way to soak aching muscles? Hot, steaming water against the backdrop of the mountains & cool air = MOJO & desire to not wanna go home… unless Ryan Gosling carries us in a flannel blanket. Just sayin.

 

Banff Upper Hot Springs
Phone: 403-762-1515
Check site for hours of operation, winter hours (Nov 1 – May 17), Fridays & Saturdays, 10 am – 11 pm

Eat in Downtown Banff

Image Credit: Ruth Voorhis

Quaint & charming, walking through Banff downtown is a must. For vegetarians & vegans, you can’t go wrong with Nourish Bistro. (I recommend their happy hour cocktails, 27-ingredient Nachos & Ravioli with Lavender-garlic cream sauce. Hell.yes.)

Nourish Bistro
110 211 Bear Street
Phone: 403-760-3933
Open 11:30 am to 10 pm

Star Gazing at Lake Minnawanka

There’s too much light pollution in Banff town to see the stars. Drive out 30 mins to Lake Minnawanka & surrounding spots (Two Jacks Lake), for spectacular star gazing. Bring snowpants, thick gloves & layers; it was -25 degrees C when I snapped these! Also, this was my first-time ever doing night photography, and it was super nice & amazing Canadians that helped me with this 🙂 (Thanks so much Josh & Rahul!)

Canmore

Banff’s sister town Canmore is quieter & has lesser hustle and bustle, but is resplendent. Consider staying here, for overnight trips if Banff is sold out. Accommodation runs cheaper in Canmore, and it’s just as accessible to Banff.

Lodging in Canmore, starting at $54 USD onwards:
Booking.com
Air BnB
VRBO

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Also published on Medium.

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