Banff and Niagara Falls Adventures

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Niagara Falls, NY + Canada!

After our stop in Upstate New York, Esteban and I made our way up to Niagara Falls (on both sides – the NY and Canadian) and I can now say for sure that the blog I read stating, “you can feel the falls on the American side, but see the falls on the Canadian side” is so so so true! It felt like it was drizzling when we looked at the falls from the American side, but when we arrived on the Canadian side the views were spectacular!!

We went into the Cave of the Winds, but it wasn’t spectacular. I’ve heard it’s better on the American side, but everything on that side was closed due to it being winter and all 🙂 I hope we get a chance to come back and take the Maid of the Mist boat ride to the bottom of the falls! Overall, Niagara Falls was the most beautiful part of the trip.

Banff, Alberta

After we saw Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, we travelled to Toronto and flew out to Banff, Alberta. Banff is the cutest mountain town, nestled between a huge mountain range, but when in town it looks like two mountains are on either side, like bookends.

Where we Stayed

  • We stayed at the Fox Hotel because it has a pool that mimics Cave & Basin, one of the original tourist traps of Banff. Naturally, we went in the pool and ALSO went to Cave & Basin to compare the two. The pool was definitely a lot bigger than the original landmark, but Cave & Basin was great for learning about the history of Banff becoming a National Park and attracting tourists.

Adventures

  • On the first day we took the gondola up to the top of a mountain (which was crazy high and I was terrified thinking I was just a cable snap away from rolling down the mountain) that had a nice viewing area and scenic (mile?) long walkway. We climbed the millions of stairs to make it to the top and were rewarded with breathtaking views of the town of Banff and its surrounding mountain ranges.
  • Unfortunately, many of the activities we had planned were closed due to the weather, but we made the best of it by walking on as many frozen lakes as possible 🙂 Lake Louise is definitely a must see! If you go in the dead of winter you can ice skate on the lake.
  • If you’re looking for a lake that is more local to Banff, look no further than Vermilion Lakes, which is literally the first turnout on the right after you turn off of the highway on the way to Banff. It is just minutes from the town, has great views, and even has benches and mini docks that you can sit on and take in the scenery.

If you visit Banff in the winter (we went in April, which was a bit late to call it winter time), you may have a chance to spot the Aurora lights or the MilkyWay. Unfortunately, the visibility when we visited was less than ideal. I heard Lake Minnewanka is fairly close to Banff and a good place to see the sky clearly.

The second day in Banff we tried to hike Johnston Ice Canyon, but it was closed. Instead, we went to Lake Louise where we saw a wolverine along the freeway, and then we hiked part of the Tunnel Mountain trail.
As you drive to the trail, there is a scenic lookout pullout on the right where you can see the infamous Banff Springs Hotel. The hike was only three to four miles, but I had 3 cysts in my foot so we only got to do less than half of the hike. only a quarter mile in though, we were rewarded with seeing a herd of elk! They were hanging out along the mountainside and some people passed right by. Make sure that you’re always looking for animals!

On the second day we also visited Cave and Basin, which gives a history lesson of how Banff became known as what it is today – so this includes history of national parks, etc. It was really interesting to learn about Banff’s humble beginnings. To the right of the Cave and Basin building is Sundance Road that leads to the almost uninhabited Marsh Loop Trail. Esteban and I walked the entire area and loved seeing the nature, and stream leading down to the lake. I definitely recommend taking a stroll along the boardwalk-like trail to the bottom where you can spot several different species of fish.

Eats

  • While in Banff, Esteban had fondue for the first time at The Grizzly House. He decided that we should have the chocolate as an appetizer, and our waitress told us we were the only people to ever order dessert first. 🙂 We liked it so much we couldn’t even finish the cheese. On the second day, we had A-mazing pizza at The Bear Street Tavern with some type of infused honey that we raved about the entire day. Right before we drove out of Banff, we bought sandwiches and coffee from WildFlour Cafe. The sandwiches were so unique and tasty! I highly recommend all three of the above mentioned restaurants!

Recap: All of the places we visited/mentioned in Banff

  • The Fox Hotel & Suites
  • Vermilion Lakes
  • Banff Gondola + Scenic Boardwalk
  • Cave and Basin + Marsh Loop Trail
  • Tunnel Mountain Trail
  • Johnston Canyon Ice Walk (was closed)
  • Lake Louise
  • Lake Minnewanka
  • The Grizzly House
  • The Bear Street Tavern
  • WildFlour Cafe
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