Banff: Something for Everyone

 

Lake Louise

I have to admit, before last fall, I had no idea Banff even existed. I thought we would just go to check it off of our Places We’ve Been list. Little did I know, it quickly rose to the very top of my Favorite Places list (have I mentioned that I love a good list?) and we were already planning our Next Trip Back before we reached the airport. There truly is something for everyone in Banff. As I have mentioned, we will likely never qualify as outdoor adventurers. However, if you do meet the qualifications, there will plenty for you do in Banff. If, on the other hand, your resume does not include rock climbing or kayaking, you will have an equally amazing time. When we were there, age ranges in Banff included babies to 85-year old grandparents. I’ll say it  again… There is something for everyone in Banff. So what did we do? See below.

Mackinaw Road- BanffFairmont at Banff Springs: If you never left the hotel, you would still love Banff from the Fairmont. Who wouldn’t love staying in a castle with fabulous service, mineral pools, a spa, people walking the hallways in their white hotel robes, restaurants overlooking mountains and streams? There is a good amount of shopping and restaurants on the hotel grounds. Walk down a short trail to the Waldhaus to sit on the deck for a drink and appetizer.Get a savory Indian dinner while over looking the mountains at Indian Summer (which was a pop-up restaurant for the summer/early fall season), get (another) drink on the patio surrounded by pink and purple flowers with the mountains on 3 sides of you and the castle on the fourth. Mackinaw Road- BanffDowntown Banff: Should you decide that you would like to venture out (and you really should… even if you thought you would just read your book and catch up on some Fixer Upper and maybe get back some of that sleep you lost when you had insomniac infants in the house,you really, really should leave the hotel),  downtown Banff again has something for everyone. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, ranging from Greek to Irish to Chinese; fancier dining to breweries and coffee shops. There are plenty of tourist shops but also places where you could pick something up if you forgot it at home or if the weather took a sudden turn (e.g., Lululemon, Lole, Patagonia, North Face). We found maple syrup to bring home, as well as Rocky Mountain soaps, and hilariously adorable pajamas for the kids from Little Blue House by Hatley. We even picked up some Banff Starbuck’s mugs for those in our family who are collectors. Mackinaw Road- Banff
Road Trip-
Go to Lake Louise. Just do it. I can’t imagine you would regret it. Ever. Mackinaw Road- BanffIt was so breathtaking that my eyes welled up. And this was on a rainy, 45 degree day. You can rent a canoe and row to the middle of the lake, or simply take a walk on the trail by the lake. Or, if you are more adventurous, hike the trails into the woods by the lake. Or, just take a lot of pictures. So many pictures that you need to give your camera to the person you came with because you just can’t seem to stop clicking. It is easy to see why this could very well be the most photographed lake in the world. Finish up with lunch or a drink at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on one end of the lake. (And, if you have enough energy and time, head to Lake Lorraine. It is at the top of my list for next time.) Mackinaw Road- Banff

Mackinaw Road- BanffHike- Again, just do it. You likely won’t regret it. You may not run up the mountain. You may ask the concierge for the trail on which you are least likely to see any wildlife and what to do should you see, say, a bear. You may not be an outdoor adventurer. And it may take you half a day to get up the mountain. But it is worth it. The views are stunning and just breathing in the mountain air and seeing nature (minus said wildlife) make every step worth it. Next time, we will be even more adventurous and hike up the mountain with the gondola going back down. Because, there will absolutely be a next time.

In the meantime, here are some random things to consider when planning your trip to Banff:

Incidentals-

  1. When we go back, we will try to shoot for early September/late August. When we were there in mid-September for 4 days, the temperature fluctuated between 40 degrees and 80 degrees.
  2. Bring running/hiking gear (and other outfits, of course). This is such an outdoor community that even if you don’t run/hike, you could still just wear your athletic wear around (you know, just in case inspiration strikes). You could even check into your hotel services regarding gear. At the Fairmont, they had a program with Reebok, and you could rent hiking clothes/shoes. You will likely also want to bring warmer athletic-ish jackets/fleeces, at least one with a hood. Maybe bring one nicer outfit like a knit dress or jeans and a nice top. And a sweater. Just because, in my opinion, you can never be too prepared for cold weather. (If you are going when the weather is warmer or if you plan to check out the hot springs or mineral pool, bring a swimsuit. Obviously.)
  3. If you are the kind of person who needs to know/be on top of things, you may want to review exchange rates, kilometer vs miles, and Celsius verser Fahrenheit.
  4. Rent a car with GPS built in. It made the trip from the airport and the day trip to Lake Louise so much easier.
  5. Research altitude sickness if you are coming from an almost-sea level departure city into Banff. 

Oh, Banff, I can’t wait to visit you again!

*Please note that I may be compensated through the above links.

 

A Long Weekend in Northern Michigan

 

Mackinaw Road- MI water

Just look at this view! THIS is why I love Michigan. And this is just not even touching on all of the cute, gorgeous towns along the way (I’ll save that for next time) or the MANY activities we did not get too (more on that in a bit).

Mackinaw Road- Spanglish

Traverse City is a great town~ the downtown is nice, the food is delicious, and the views are spectacular. We had a voucher to use at The Grand Traverse Resort, so we decided to head up that way for a night… only to find out that our very close friends were also headed that way. Major bonus! We all had someone to play with~ always a good thing. Here are some places we hit up on this trip.

Mackinaw Road- Fairy Trails

Spanglish and The Fairy Trails: We met up at Spanglish, a restaurant in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons; this place has an interesting history. It used to be the Traverse City State Hospital and before that it was the Northern Michigan Asylum. The Village has been renovated and is just a really neat place to visit with various shops, restaurants, and beautiful grounds. Anyway, back to Spanglish, I don’t know if it was having to keep kids happy in a car all morning or that is was later in the lunch hour, but I was hungry. The tostada I ordered was tasty. Fueled up and ready to go, the nine of us headed out to the Fairy Trails in search of fairy houses. The kids were thoroughly entertained and needed constant reminders to stick by the parents~ hiking is in a favorite activity amongst this crew! After our somewhat chilly trek, we headed inside to get some hot chocolate and warm up.

Mackinaw Road- Bonobo

Bonobo and Jolly Pumpkin: Bonobo winery on the Old Mission Peninsula is a must. The views are spectacular and the kids (and adults) were completely entertained with the Scrabble tiles provided. (Side note: An adults-only trip on the wine trail on the Old Mission Peninsula would be another really fun trip to TC. Next time.) Jolly Pumpkin was next on our list for dinner. It didn’t disappoint. The Jolly Pumpkin is a staple on all of our trips to TC. Any restaurant that brings warm potato chips and aioli to the table is bound to be a winner in my book.

Mackinaw Road- TumbleweedsMackinaw Road- Dylan's Candy Bar

The Grand Traverse Resort: We often stay here in May for a conference, so this wasn’t our first stay. It is a great resort complete with a spa, pool with a slide, tennis courts, golf course, workout facility, etc, etc. This resort is great because if one adult is with the children while the other is, say, working, the other adult is able to entertain the kids within the hotel grounds. Tumbleweeds, complete with all the good Melissa and Doug toys, is a favorite of ours. They even have a toy kitchen, fake food, and puzzles out for the kids to try. I typically stop for a coffee and then take the kids to the store. Another favorite is Dylan’s Candy Bar. So.Many.Yummy.Choices. Mud Pie is also a fun kids and home store located within the hotel.

Mackinaw Road- Mackinaw Bridge

The next day, the four of us headed even farther up north on our own to Mackinaw City to catch the ferry to Mackinaw Island. Just a little word to the wise.. if you are going in the fall, bring your hats and mittens. It can get cold on the boat ride over. When we got off the ferry, we were greeted by a cute downtown complete with all kinds of fudge shops and horse-drawn carriages. Because cars are not allowed on the island, people get around mostly by foot, bike, or carriage (note: it may take some time to get used to the smells that come with this). We walked the few blocks up to The Grand (all luggage from the ferry is delivered to your hotel). It was quite stately and there is so much history behind it that I’m not going to even try to go into it in this post. I am, however, committed to watching Somewhere in Time, which was filmed on the island. Below are some brief descriptions of what we did on this trip. We already have our list for next time.

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The Grand Hotel: If you are staying at The Grand Hotel with children, they have a great green space out front (by the pool) that includes croquet, bocce ball, and bean bag toss~ all great activities for the kids. They also have two game rooms in the hotel- one with more teenage-geared games and one with a cute picnic table with board games, paper, and crayons/markers/colored pencils for the younger ones.Mackinaw Road- The GrandI also attempted both breakfast and dinner with my two kids. They actually did quite well and made it through the 5 course meal! It is quite an experience to dine in the main room. If you are staying at The Grand, don’t skip it. And be sure to bring your Proper Attire.Mackinaw Road- The Grand

Biking: Rent a bike to ride around the island. There are several places to stop for a picnic and many different plaques to read about the history of the island. My 6-year old was able to ride her own bike and my 3-year old was happy on a tandem bike. The views were breathtaking, and it is always good when our kids are able to move as part of the activity. If you are on the island without children or with older kids, you can choose to bike on the trails that are a bit more hilly.

 img_0647Mackinaw Road- MI bike ride

Mackinaw Road- Bike Ride

Downtown: Plan to spend an hour or so (depending on how much you like to shop) downtown. Sample the fudge and pick some up for all of your loved ones back home. There are also some historic buildings and churches downtown or close to the downtown that you may want to check out. We are talking 1800’s brand of history.

Well- that’s it! Our 3 day trip to Northern Michigan.

Mackinaw Road- MI swing

6 Kid-Friendly, Rainy Day Activities in Boston

 

6-kid-friendly-rainy-day-activities-in-boston

 

Cheers!!!

Mackinaw Road Cheers

The crew and I made it to Boston. We were so excited to see the sights and walk the city… And then it got cloudy…and sprinkled…and rained. The Freedom Trail and all that goes with it was out. The Duck Tours were possible but not probable for us. Whale watching seemed considerably less desirable. Wandering down Boylston and Newbury Streets was unlikely. So, here is the list of 6 things we did in Boston with our children on our rainy day(s) trip.

Mackinaw Road- Quincy Market

Quincy Market– an indoor market full of really good food options, including food you can purchase to go and then sit in the center dome to eat. There are also a few restaurants in the marketplace, including Cheers… you know, just in case you are feeling especially touristy (as we usually are). Also surrounding the marketplace are different clothing and retail stores.

Mackinaw Road-Boston Public Gardens

Public Garden– When it is nice and in season, you are able to ride the pedal-propelled Swan boats. Unfortunately, we were not “in season.” However, the children thought it was fun to find the island from the book, Make Way for the Ducklings, as well as climbing all over the statues of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings. If it isn’t raining, it is also fun to walk up Beacon Hill just across from the garden. (Side Note: Click on the link above to purchase the book from Amazon before your trip. Disclosure: I may get an advertising reward but I really would have recommended the book regardless.)

Mackinaw Road- Curious George

World’s Only Curious George Store– If you do brave the elements and take the T   (subway) to Harvard Square, be sure to check out The World’s Only Curious George Store. Although somewhat small, it is packed with all the things kids love. These storeowners know what kids like. And, while in the neighborhood, be sure to check out Russell House Tavern. The ambiance and food are beautiful!

(Just a quick aside…Remember how I mentioned the T a while back? Well, I have a tip. Children 11 years old and under ride the T for free when accompanied by an adult with up to 2 children per adult. We were told this after buying 2 round-trip tickets for our children. Lesson leaned.)

Mackinaw Road- Children's Museum

Boston Children’s Museum– I cannot say enough good things about the Boston Children’s Museum. I remembered it being amazing as a child. And, believe me, as an adult with my own children, it was equally amazing. You may even want to go here on a sunny day! Children learn about the arts, science, and culture all while having fun. There are even prompt cards at some exhibits for parents about things to look for, questions to ask your children, and conversations to listen for from your children. We spent 4 hours at the museum and could have stayed longer. There is even a large lunchroom if you bring your own lunch or you can walk through a small area to Au Bon Pain, eat, and then re-enter the museum. If you are looking for a deal, check out their website. When we were there, admission on Friday nights was only $1. Also, if you go for the last hour they are open on any other day, admission is discounted by half.

Mackinaw Road- New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium Again, this is great on a rainy day because you can spend a good portion of the day here. There are also in-and-out privileges, so you are able to leave to grab a bite to eat (there is a Legal Seafood very near to the front entrance of the museum that is kid friendly) if don’t feel like eating in-house, and then head back for more fun with the sea. Our children’s favorite exhibits were the hands-on exhibits. We literally had to drag them away from these exhibits. There is also a huge tank in the center of the museum that spans four stories containing various sea creatures. The penguins were a lively bunch on the day we visited and another favorite attraction. A final tip is to leave your stroller at the free stroller check-in counter. The Aquarium can be quite crowded, especially on a rainy day, so if you don’t absolutely need your stroller, leave it. It will make navigating the four floors easier.

And, there you have it, 6 Kid-Friendly, Rainy Day Activities in Boston.

*Please note that I may be compensated through some of the above links.