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Where the heck is Banff?!

Yeah, I didn't know either until a couple years ago. Someone sent me pictures of what looked like Paradise and I just had to go. I was SHOCKED to find out this "Paradise" was in Canada!! Say what??! Yup, Alberta Canada! Just over a 2 hour flight from Minneapolis!

My husband and I usually do a beach vacation for our anniversary, if we do one at all. Well, this year, we decided to change it up! He's a snow baby and would choose snow over sand any day...what a weirdo! However, being the amazing wife that I am, ha...I surprised him by saying, "Let's go to Banff this year for our anniversary!" He was STOKED! So was I. If I'm being honest, there was about 5% of me that wished we were on a plane to a beach somewhere instead, but this vacation was so amazing, I have no regrets! I'm just going to break this down day by day for you so you have an easy access guide if you ever decide to visit.

Now, I know the summer pictures you can find online look glorious, but word to the wise...They told us that it is PACKED there in the summer. It was not in the winter. We never waited more than 10 minutes for anything. We rarely waited for anything at all. We even got gorgeous pictures with no one in the frame! Okay, so people don't bother you, buuuuuut that glacial water might. As beautiful as it is, it's FREEZING year round, so this is not a summer beach vacation. If you are avid hiker, this is a perfect summer vacation for you. If you are not, well there will be much more for you to enjoy in the winter months than in the summer, including, but not limited to, hiking (winter hiking is actually amazing), snowmobiling, skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, and horse drawn carriage rides. Again, these are just a few. So, here's our trip in a nutshell:

Day 1:Here’s what I can share so far. The Moose Hotel is incredible. The Caribou is not. I messed up and forgot to change our reservations when we moved our flight. So when we finally got there at 1130pm and tried to check in, they were like, “Ummmm, you’re an idiot!” Just kidding. They were amazing and acted like it was their fault. The rooms were full as were most hotels, but they called around until they found us a room. Which they definitely didn’t have to do. And then the next day, we weren’t supposed to get to check in until 4pm. They called me at 11am and said our room was ready and apologized again that they couldn’t get us in the night before. Ummm, guys, it’s my fault. I’m the idiot here, not you. The first night there, I also accidentally dropped and unfortunately shattered Jared’s cologne on our bathroom floor and they were there within 3 minutes to clean the floor and ensure we didn’t have glass that could be stepped on!  This hotel is amazing for many reasons. I just gave you a couple.

So, day one! We went to the downtown area, literally straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie, and visited Banff Adventures to book all of our excursions. I recommend this place, but please note there are many things you can do on your own such as the gondola and Johnston Canyon. Seriously, no need to book these through anyone. Johnston Canyon is a beautiful hike that you can do on your own for free! However, Banff Adventures was great to book our snowmobiling trip and our sleigh ride with! Really anywhere you are needing transportation for. Had we gone skiing, we'd of booked this through them too.

So many of you have told me, “I could never do a winter vacation!” I’m here to tell you to step out of your comfort zone and do it. It’s not busy there. It’s quaint, cozy, relaxing, and such a different beauty than our normal, hot climate vacations. Not to mention such different activities. Normally, my ass would have been planted at a pool or beach all day with a drink in my hand. Nothing wrong with that, but this provided me with something very different and so very beautiful.

We took a gorgeous drive to Lake Louise. Unfortunately, because it had been snowing nonstop there for almost two days, we didn’t get to see the clear blue ice, everything was snow covered. Like literally as you are walking on the lake, it’s blue and you can see all the way down. Bummer to miss that. But the beauty was there. The images do no justice.

On the way back to Banff, we stopped at Johnston Canyon and hiked a mile and saw such beauty. I am not a hiker, but this was incredible! A must do!

We ended the day in the hot pools on our hotel rooftop! It was an incredible, perfect, beautiful day. This is the first anniversary vacation we’ve had that we have regretted not bringing the kids! We will for sure have to bring them back. And though summer is insanely beautiful here, it’s also insanely busy (we’ve been told), so probably another winter vacay. I mean they are the kids that complained about being in MAUI on Christmas because there was no snow!  

Day 2: Our 13th wedding anniversary. I can’t believe how fast 13 years have gone!  

As I wrote this, I was laying in bed moaning. No no, you dirty minded buggers. Not for that reason… We just had just ate at the most fantastic restaurant and I stuffed myself well beyond my limits. It hurts. I hurt. It was so worth it. I’ll get to that in a minute though.

Today was our spa day and it was incredible. Our hotel has one of the best spas in town so we took advantage! A private hot tub on the roof, delicious tea in the relaxation room, and a 90 minute couples massage. We tried to add more services, but turns out we should have done that when we originally booked. They were full! We booked the massages about a month in advance. Oh well, it was fantastic. We followed that up with a lazy afternoon and a nap! Bliss! We never get naps anymore!

Then it was off to supper! Chuck’s Steak House was incredible! From drinks to dessert it was beyond delicious. We both agreed it was one of the best steaks we’ve ever had. And one wouldn’t think broccolini could make you moan in delight, but it sure can. The corn crembrule was different, yet delicious. The Oysters Rockefeller were my personal fave! Jared LOVES crembrule! It’s also what we served at our wedding. He always has it on our anniversary. He refuses to share. I was lucky to get a bite. So, I ordered some “mud pie” thing and it was amazing. I definitely couldn’t finish it, but I’d order it again if we ever get to go back.

Random thoughts to share as I’m sitting on a bus for two hours to go snowmobile in the mountains…

1. The metric system is stupid. STUPID. #teamimperial

2. They don’t give passport stamps anymore!!  What?!?

3. The faucets are backwards here. I said to Jared, “The faucets are backwards. The hot is this way!” To which he replied, “Yeah, the toilet flushes opposite too!” Pause for the dumbfounded look on my face. “Yeah, it swirls the opposite way!” .2seconds I fell for this.

4. Banff people are very similar to the Midwest. They are all so kind. Tourists are not.

5. Winter vacations are a lot more fun than I imagined they’d be. I should have known going to a place where I can wear sweats all day would be my happy place!  

6. People are way too serious about their skiing  

7. Alberta beef is incredible! And that says a lot coming from a girl with South Dakota roots.

8. The exchange rate is great. Our bill says, $200, but our bank charge is around $155 (for example)! I like it.

Day 3: Jared and I are really good about stepping out of our comfort zones to do something that the other fully enjoys. Yesterday was one of those days for me.

We went snowmobiling up the side of the Rockies from Kicking Horse Tours. We each had our own sled, which was great because I wouldn’t have done well at all as a passenger. I have some control issues , so if I’m going on a snowmobile off the side of a mountain, I at least want to be “in control”!  I was one of two chick drivers in our group! The rest were passengers! I was either brave or stupid. Maybe a little of both!

The trail started out going down a very steep hill, which I slid way too close to the side of. My heart was racing. Made it thru that one, only to turn and see another one, a bigger one! Full anxiety mode ensued. Made it down that one, rode a tiny bit, and came upon a huge downhill pass, dip, straight back up a very steep hill.  I pumped my breaks down the first two. This time the guide said that we have to gain speed about half way down so we have enough momentum to get back up the large hill after the small dip!  I didn’t hear much after he said, “You’ll be going quite fast!” Oh Jared, the things I do for you. Well, I did it. I did it all twice as these aforementioned hills were on the way back as well.

After getting thru these, we rode the trails for awhile before stopping again. I wasn’t taking in any of the beauty I was surround by because all I could think about was how I was going to be able to stand the look on his face when I told him how awful this was for me. My face was not going to be able to lie. He had been looking forward to this for so long, I didn’t want to ruin it for him.

Luckily, we rode quite a ways before we stopped and could talk to each other. By this time, I had gotten comfortable with the sled and even started having some fun!!!! Yay!! I didn’t have to let him see my miserable face!

Our first big stop was in “the bowl”, which on a good day or during a normal winter rather, (the winter was mild there too believe it or not) is a wide open space full of fresh snow that you get to rip around in. It’s normally a lake and because of the low snow amounts it was very chopped up, rough. So we ripped around for a bit but it was so rough it wasn’t that enjoyable. It was here that we got to have hot chocolate and cookies though!!  

Off to the top! The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. I wish I could have gotten more pix of the trails! The pix and videos I did get do NO JUSTICE to the beauty! Unbelievable Indescribable.

When we got to the top, we had a fire, roasted marshmallows, and had a bbq lunch. Can’t say I’ve ever done that in the winter…or on top of a mountain!

As we journey down we got to go off trails a little bit. I got more and more comfortable with the sled. So comfortable, I felt safe enough to stand and lean during turns etc… at one point I looked back at Jared and he gave the “sizzle sign”!  Apparently, he thought it was hot when I handled that sled like I stole it!  

Needless to say, I ended up speaking his love language on the side of that mountain!  

We were exhausted after about six hours on the sleds and the two hour drive there and the two hour drive back. We hit the hot pools just for a bit when we got back to the hotel. Then Jared left to get food and that’s all I remember. I was out before he got back at approximately 8:30p!  

What an incredible adventure! It’s REALLY hard to step out of my comfort zone sometimes, in all aspects of life, but it’s always 100% worth it!!

Random Conversation: Oh Jared.

J: Should we use the washroom before we go?

M: Stop saying washroom, you’re an American!

J:Fine! Do you need to use the pisser?!

Day 4: We explored the town of Banff! It’s crazy how this quaint and cozy little town seems to have just been dropped right in the center of the mountains! Literally mountains on every side! Such beauty that cannot be captured well on camera. It’s indescribable. It’s incredible!

We tried some new restaurants, shopped at a couple of the little shops, and rode the Gondola to the top of the mountain. This was definitely not a ride I was expecting! I found myself having a small panic attack on the way up. It's very very very high up and quite a steep ride. The way down was better after I finally psyched myself up enough to do it. There may have been wine included in the psych prep! The beauty we got to take in was worth the intense ride! There was a guy working there that said he had been working there for 10 months and that day was by far the clearest day he had seen. I guess we got lucky!

We found this great little place to have dinner as well, The Grizzly House.

Day 5: A day of no plans! We started with a great breakfast at a fun little place called, Touloulou's. They had a huge menu! We'd recommend here as well. We shopped until Jared could take no more!  Stopped to have “a drink”, which ended up being a few too many!  We hit the hot pools and sauna for a bit then headed to supper! This time at Hello Sunshine Sushi. Jared said it was again one of the best steaks he’s ever had! The sushi was good, not the best I've ever had, but, I too, thought the steak was delicious! We filled our bellies and then ended the night back in the hot pools!

Day 6: What an incredible trip! We had a sleigh ride scheduled for our last day, but apparently there wasn't enough snow and they canceled it.

 However, we were ready to get home to our babies. We drove down to Calgary for our final night! Before leaving Banff we had a nice pizza lunch and did just a bit more shopping. We should have stayed longer in Banff. Calgary doesn’t have much. That or we just didn’t look hard enough.

We hung in our room the whole afternoon watching funny reels! I worked a bit and Jared enjoyed uninterrupted tv…

It was an incredible break with nothing but time together. I can't tell you how much we'd recommend going and going in the winter!

Thanks for reading all about your trip! If you read about it in it's entirety, I'm assuming you're going! Enjoy every second! It's so beautiful!

Until next time,


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