Trip Notes: Banff

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View of Bow River from our suite in the Fairmont Banff Springs
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2 weeks ago I went to Banff, Canada with Mimi, Rafi, and JJ, one of my 5 siblings.

Banff is truly a stunning place, albeit overrun by tourists during the peak summer travel season.  Luckily it’s not too hard to escape the crowds and traffic.

Lake Bow:

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Lake Louise:

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Moraine Lake:

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I first heard about Banff from Mr. Jessy, the beloved social studies teacher who taught in Pittsburgh’s Yeshiva Achei Temimim for the past 3 decades. Last year was his final year teaching there, the biggest loss for that school since Rabbi Green finished his 2 decade run there after my senior year. I’ve wanted to go to Banff ever since hearing his ridiculously heavy Pittsburghese pronunciation of “BANFF” and his ravings about the beauty to be found there. This one is for you Mr. J!

Traveling with a toddler:

People often ask me how travel can be worthwhile with small children.  Rafi has now been on 49 flights (I keep track of them here) .  No, it doesn’t get much easier though we do have the security thing with a kid down pat by now.  Sure he may not remember the details but I’d like to think that we’re leaving an impression on him as he explores the world in ways that not everyone is able to.  He’s old enough now that he was asking questions about Banff before we left and 2 weeks later he still talks about the things we did and the hotel we stayed in.
And he’s asked to go back there daily since we came home!

This was the first trip we went on since he turned 2 a couple weeks before the flight which meant we had to get him his own ticket.  In the past we’ve done well getting him a free empty seat with strategic seat assignments like booking the window and aisle while leaving the middle empty.

We always travel with a carseat.  While Rafi was an infant traveling was at its easiest.  He didn’t walk or need to move around and we were able to bring his Chicco Keyfit 30, which was a pleasure to travel with as it connects our UppaBaby Vista via an adapter.  It was lightweight and he slept well in it.

Now things are more difficult as he wants to move around more.  I wouldn’t dream of bringing his incredible Chicco NextFit Convertible carseat as it’s far too heavy to travel with.  Instead we have a Cosco Scenara convertible carseat ($39 from Walmart) that does the trick. It only accommodates kids up to 40 pounds, but it’s light as a feather compared to the Britax and much less bulky. We use the GoGo Babyz Travelmate to push the Cosco Scenara through the airport and we checked the UppaBaby Vista with the rest of our luggage.  The Travelmate has recently been discontinued and replaced by the Mini Travelmate which I’d assume works at least as well as the version it replaced though I haven’t tested it yet.

Adding to our anxiety levels was that we just started potty-training Rafi in late June. I bought the Safety 1st Travel Potty which allowed us to do activities and keep Rafi in his underwear without worrying about being near a bathroom. And let me tell ya’ that kid had a potty with a view on this trip! We brought along several gallon sized ziplocs which attach right onto the seat to hold the deposits.

Rafi was fantastic on the flights watching some Sesame Street, playing with some toys, taking a snooze, and walking up and down the aisles a few times.

Food:
Of course there is no kosher food around Banff. That usually means making food at home beforehand for the trip. Also known as my better half spending hours on end preparing for a trip over the stove. Not that she can’t do that as she’s proven par excellence on 3 trips to Hawaii including our month-long marathon 4 island honeymoon (paid for with points of course).  But that is hardly ideal.

For kosher travelers there are 2 kinds of trips, there are trips to cities like Buenos Aires, Chicago, LA, Miami, Montreal, and New York that involve indulging in the kosher scene wile also happening to experience the city.  And there are trips to places like Kauai, Yellowstone, or the Maldives where you take in the scenery but you eat whatever local scraps you can find or bring along your own food or meals like La Briute which are edible at best.

Several longtime DDF members (whose taste-buds I trust) highly recommended the travel meals from Pomegranate Supermarket in Brooklyn.  And having Todd Aarons as your culinary director doesn’t hurt either. He founded and was the head chef at Tierra Sur, easily the finest kosher restaurant in North America.
Now when I go to eat at a restaurant I don’t tell them who I am, though they probably wonder why I’m snapping so many pictures. So full disclosure in this case, when I emailed Pomegranate they supplied me with meals for my trip and I’m free to review them as I see fit. Take my reviews with a grain of salt if you wish or try the meals for yourself to see. Frankly I don’t care if a meal is free or sets me back $100, I’ll tell it exactly as it is.

Each meal comes triple wrapped in foil and are then sealed in a plastic bag. They are individually labeled to show the contents, rabbinical supervision, heating instructions, and even when the meal is for if you supply them with your daily menu. This allows the hotel to heat up your meals as desired.  You can store the meals in your hotel freezer and have them send it up on a schedule or just keep the meals in your room and call room service to pick them up to heat up.  Hotels can bring the sealed meals back up to your room or serve them in a hotel restaurant. Or you can always buy a cheap toaster oven and do it yourself I suppose.

The meals are very generously sized. A meat meal with an entree, starch, and vegetable of your choice range from $17 and up. Most are about $20 though some are pricier.  The dairy meals start at $12 and are cheaper than the meat meals.  Those come with an even larger entree but without sides.  I think that both are great values.

You can view their travel menu online here. I dealt with Shloime at deli@thepompeople.com. He was fantastic and worked diligently to help with their extensive menu options and taking care of everything.  Tell him I sent you and ask for a DD discount 😀

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They were also labeled as being a product of the USA, something that’s required by Canadian customs. The customs agent asked what was wrong with the restaurants in Banff but after a 15 second explanation they waived us through without ever making us open our bags.

The meals could have been shipped directly to the hotel but due to customs concerns I had them shipped to me in Cleveland in dry ice. We froze the meals for a couple days before the trip and checked them in our luggage. It took some 11 hours from when we left our house until we got the bags in our hotel room but the meals were still frozen solid. I’ve never had an issue with frozen meals before and this time was no exception despite the summer weather and connecting flights it stays cool in the checked luggage compartment.

More on the meals below.

Flights:
We used 12,500 United miles to fly from Cleveland to Calgary via Chicago. Originally there was only a 6am flight but a 9am flight opened up close to the flight and we grabbed it. United routinely opens up more flights on the day before and on the day of travel, so it pays to keep checking.

A regional jet to Chicago for an hour isn’t terrible but 3.5 hours is far too long to be cramped in one. Luckily on the return we flew on a 737 where you can stretch out a bit.

The new United Club in ORD’s Concourse F is fantastic with a sleek new look, brand new furniture, a better beer selection, and stylish new bathrooms. I can’t wait for the look to be rolled out systemwide.

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United Club CLE-Family Room. Nothing better than a family room when traveling with a kid:DSC00560a

 

United Club ORD:

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Car:
I used Daily Getaway coupons for a premium car at just $29.70/day instead of over $100/day. We got a Genesis which was perfect for our needs. I didn’t hand in the coupon until I returned the car. The rationale being that credit card insurance doesn’t cover the rental if you use free day coupons. So had I damaged the car I would have left the rental on my United card with free primary car rental insurance instead of using the coupon.

The 90 minute drive to Banff along the Trans-Canada highway is somewhat boring though excitement is added watching people sprint across the highway. Not something you see back home!

Banff:

The settings are so beautiful around here that it’s ridiculous. No camera can possibly capture the grandeur.

There are seemingly endless amounts of hiking trails in the most stunning environs around Banff which can leave you overwhelmed.  Of course with a stroller most of those options are eliminated though it’s tough to get a handle on which ones are stroller-friendly.  Having a stroller like the UppaBaby Vista definitely made it easier to hike in places that wouldn’t be possible with an umbrella stroller.

We tried to get Rafi back to the hotel so that he would have his daily 2 hour nap in the crib.  That made sure his schedule wasn’t interrupted though it made doing activities away from the hotel a challenge.

We brought along my brother JJ to have a babysitter on the trip.  I’m earning miles far faster than I can burn them so it made sense for us to travel with a babysitter.  We didn’t take too much advantage of him but it was a huge help. He slept in a suite with Rafi and got up with him at 5:30 in the morning and walked him around town until we got up a couple hours later.  And he stayed in his room with him at night so that we were able to walk around the town and hit up the spa.

The stores around town are surprisingly boring.  You’d think there would be more interesting stores in such a cute little town but it’s mostly chain stores and cheap gift shops.

We did however hit up the local Safeway and picked up lots of goodies that are kosher parve only in Canada. Dill pickle chips, cracked peppercorn with balsamic vineger chips, pure maple spread, and other interesting kosher parve finds always make for a fun shopping experience in Canadian grocery stores.

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Hotel:

We stayed in the historic Fairmont Banff Springs which is celebrating its 125th anniversary.  Having a lifetime of free suites (along with free massages, nail services, booze, golf, and more)  made that an easy decision. Definitely something I’m happy to have worked to make happen as it really was the deal of a lifetime.

Fairmont Banff Springs (view from Banff Gondola):

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Fairmont Banff Springs:

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The Fairmont President’s Club line will only upgrade you to a Stanley Thompson wing suite, which isn’t part of the historic hotel buidling and has poor reviews.  A quick call to the hotel directly though yielded better results and we were confirmed into a 2 one bedroom suites, which normally go for $1,200/night+tax+resort fees each.  The resort fees here are actually cool here as it includes tips for your stay. That’s right, employees in the hotel won’t accept a tip!

Even better-with the free nights you don’t pay tax or resort fees.  I splurged for the $35/night valet parking, easy to do when Fairmont gives you Fairmont gift cards as well with the lifetime status meaning.  Those meant that I paid absolutely nothing out of pocket for the stay.

The hotel is styled after a Scottish castle and is a Unesco world heritage site. While the hotel itself may be grand (if not a bit stuffy) and even a tourist spot unto itself it is far too large for its own good.  It has 770 rooms and while it charges 5 star rates it delivers 2 star service.  Definitely not up to par with service at some of my favorite Fairmont hotels like those in Maui, Pittsburgh, and Vancouver.

It took over an hour to get our room keys.  The room wasn’t ready even though it was 4pm and we had originally requested checkin at noon. The room didn’t have the crib and fridge in it as was requested and it took several phone calls to finally get that taken care of.

There were extended holds just to reach a hotel operator and often it took multiple requests to get something done.  Items like coffee pods weren’t refilled daily unless you called several times to get it done.

Quite honestly there’s no particular reason to stay here over other area hotels.

Suite 647

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Suite 647 had one tiny bathroom.

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Suite 647 had nice sized bedroom.

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Suite 647 had great living room as well with a separate entrance from the hallway.

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View of Bow Falls/Bow River from Suite 647

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Suite 942:

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Suite 942 has a narrow living room that you walk through to get to the bedroom.

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View from Suite 942.

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Suite 942 has curved walls due to being at the top of the hotel.  I still have a bump on my head to prove it.

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It’s not just the rooms on the 9th floor rooms that feel the curvature of the building, the 9th floor hallway does as well.

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Suite 942 fire escape.

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Platinum Amenity:

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Suite 942 bathroom #1:

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Suite 942 bathroom #2:

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A high-speed bathing suit dryer is always appreciated.

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Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Banff Springs:

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Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Banff Springs.  The spa facilities are very nice though everything is nice when you’re getting a hot stone massage for free:DSC00622a

 

 

Where we went:
A: Calgary Airport.
B. Fairmont Banff Springs
C. Lake Louise
D. Columbia Icefield Center

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We didn’t go to Jasper, another hour north of the Columbia Icefield center. and home to yet another Fairmont hotel.   If you go to Jasper in the wintertime you can often see nature’s most stunning show, the Aurora Borealis or Northern lights.  Had it been wintertime I wouldn’t have missed that for anything. Alas that dream will have to wait for another time and quite possibly another place in the far north.

For dinner the first night we had boneless spare ribs with wild mushroom rice and popcorn cauliflower.  The ribs were moist and delicious, I’d order them anytime in a restaurant.  The popcorn cauliflower was fantastic as well.

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Each meal come with an entree, starch and vegetable.  The portions are humungous, we never were able to finish the meals even though we stuffed ourselves silly.

Sesame chicken, Chicken Tortellini with pesto sauce, and Balsamic Baby Portabella Mushrooms.  The Sesame chicken was good though it could have used more sauce.  The mushrooms were great and the chicken tortellini was very good as well.

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We found a photographer online and took some family pics like we’ve done on past trips to Maui and Buenos Aires.  These pictures came out awesome and my wife comments how it was worth going through those long flights with Rafi just for them so I can’t wait to see how these came out.  We took them Monday morning around the hotel and in the Cascade Gardens in Banff.

For lunch we had Eggplant Rollatini.  This stuff is unbelievable.  Eggplant loaded with ricotta, tomato sauce, and cheese. It’s probably the best eggplant dish I’ve had in my life.  An absolute must try.

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Eggplant Parmesan was the absolute best Eggplent Parmesan I’ve had in my life as well. It’s such a pleasure to eat so well while traveling.

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Penne a la Vodka was good, though overshadowed by our massive portions of out of this world Eggplant dishes.

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A third of each meal makes for a fantastic lunch.

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It was rainy and cold on Monday but that didn’t stop us from venturing out.

We decided to do the Johnston Canyon hike in the afternoon.  The 30 minute drive from Banff to Johnston Canyon along the Bow Valley Parkway is beautiful but the hike was one of the most fantastic I’ve ever seen.  You’ll be grinning the entire time!

The hike is built along the wall of a canyon overlooking the most beautiful river.  It’s a moderate hike and it’s doable with a family.  It can be a little steep and narrow in parts but we managed with our stroller even though the rain made it a bit slippery.

I’m told that this is normally a very crowded hike though because of the rain it was not very crowded.

At the end of the hike is a picturesque waterfall, be sure to go through the little cave to see it up close.

If you want to make this an all-day affair the hike continues onto the upper falls and ink pots, though those sections are not stroller friendly.  Along the hike we were spotted by a DansDeals reader and we chatted about our itineraries for a few minutes.

 

Johnston Canyon Hike:

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This picture will give you an idea of the steepest section of the Johnston Canyon Hike:

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Johnston Canyon Hike:

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Walking along the edge on the Johnston Canyon Hike:

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Along the way back home Rafi asked to use the potty so we pulled to the side of the Bow Valley Parkway and took in the view of the “Backswamp” Talk about a pretty swamp!

Bow Valley Backswamp:

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For dinner that night we had Honey Mustard Corned Beef.  This was a truly awesome mouth-watering dish.  Thick juicy slices of tangy corned beef, it’s a real treat.

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The single meal of corned beef split into 3 generously sized dishes.  Side dishes of good quinoa and green beans came in the package as well.

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Glazed dark meat chicken stuffed with pastrami was awesome.  The couscous and green beans were good as well:

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Part of the meal plated.

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I wasn’t such a fan of the Sino steak as it was a bit tough.

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1 of the 3 huge steak slices with roasted candy cane beets and quinoa.

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On Tuesday morning we left early to Lake Louise, a 40 minute drive up the Trans-Canada highway.  We beat the crowds which hit and run to grab pics of the lake though you can always avoid the crowds by walking on the trail to the back of the lake.

While it was supposed to be sunny it was still fogged in when we arrived though it created an eerie glasslike feel on the lake.

Lake Louise:

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We went to use the restroom inside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.  Fairmont provides free internet for all members of their free President’s Club loyalty program.  Best of all you can use the internet for free in any Fairmont in the world even if you’re not staying there by just logging in with your President’s Club number. It’s a pretty sweet benefit!

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise:

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We had debated whether to stay in the Fairmont Banff or Lake Louise but settled on Banff for the more historic setting, nicer confirmed suite upgrade, closer proximity to Calgary for the return trip, and the Willow stream spa.

If I was traveling without the little one we would have switched to try out both hotels but that’s just too difficult with a 2 year old and all of their stuff.

We walked along the easily accessible Lake Louise trail until the end.  I’d highly recommend it.

Of course without Rafi we would be taking the gondola ride up to hiking spots and canoeing the stunning lake, but that’s the price you pay for traveling with kids.

Once the fog lifted we were able to see Lake Louise in all of its grandeur.  These pictures are a sad joke compared to the awesome beauty of the place.

Fog just beginning to lift:

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Lake Louise:

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The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise:

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Snow capped mountain reflected in Lake Louise:

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After Lake Louise we drove up the mountain to glacier fed Moraine Lake, 6,000 feet above sea level.  The trail here seemed less accessible and Rafi was tired of being pushed around in his stroller by this point.  We didn’t walk around the lake this time as we also wanted to get back to the hotel for Rafi to take a nap in the crib.

There are several incredible looking hikes from Moraine Lake and canoeing as well.  Perhaps we’ll return here one day when doing such activities would be feasible.

Taking in and basking in the impossible beauty of Moraine Lake:

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Moraine Lake:

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Back to the hotel we went where we ate lunch.

Fettuccine Alfredo was creamy and fantastic:

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Baked Ziti was delicious as well:

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Lasagna was good, but not quite up to par as some of the other dairy meals:

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Afterward we went to “Central Park” where Rafi had a great time just running around and letting off steam.

Central Park:

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We then decided to hit up the Banff Gondola.

Don’t.

It’s ridiculously overpriced and the view from the top isn’t all that great.  There was a peak you can walk to though when we asked if we would have problems bringing a stroller along they neglected to mention the hundreds of steps it would take to get there.  Perhaps the view from that peak is something though don’t plan on making it there with young children.

While there was no line to go up the Gondola there was a 50 minute line to go back down.  Truly a miserable tourist trap experience.  I’ve heard the Lake Louise gondola is a better experience.

There was a nice discount because we bought a combo pass to both the gondola and the Glacier Snocoach for the next day but still I can’t recommend it.

View from the gondola:

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For dinner that night we had absolutely perfect Chicken Marsala though I wasn’t such a fan of the Shlishkes. The grilled Portabella Mushrooms were very good:

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Hot pastrami was very good, but just can’t compete with the honey mustard corned beef.  The Garlic mashed potatoes were phenomenal!

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The single meal of hot pastrami split into 3 generously sized dishes.

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Ancho Marinated Hanger Steak had a fantastic flavor though it got a bit dried out unfortunately.  The grilled vegetables were very good.

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The next day was an all-day drive up the Icefields Parkway to the Columbia Glacier in Jasper National Park.  It’s an incredible drive through endless turquoise lakes and ancient glaciers.

As soon as we entered the Icefield Parkway we encountered a bear on the side of the road:

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Black bear along the Icefields Parkway:

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The bear then started coming towards us and it was back into the car.  Unfortunately in the chaos we managed to miss the perfect shot of the bear crossing the highway right in front of our car!

Glacier on the Icefields Parkway:

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The massive Columbia Icefield stretches across Banff and Jasper national parks. It reaches 1,200 feet deep of snow and get 275 inches of snow yearly.  It feeds 8 glaciers and a triple continental divide with waters flowing into the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans.

It’s a 2 hour drive from Banff to the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure. Luckily for us Rafi took a great nap on the way up which meant he was great for the rest of the day.  Because he was sleeping we drove past all of the sites along the Icefields Parkway to get to our destination with the intent to catch them on the way back down.  It worked out well as we got there early enough that there were no lines.  When we finished out glacier walk there were already very long lines.

Columbia Icefield:

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This is the 6 wheel drive SnoCoach that drives up and down impossibly steep grades and onto the glacier.

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While it may be 80 degrees on the ground it feels much cooler with the winds blowing across the glacier.  You can walk on snow and ice that is over 1,000 feet deep, so that’s a very neat experience.  It’s hard to comprehend that you’re walking on a skyscraper of ice.  We couldn’t bring our stroller onto the glacier but Rafi didn’t have too much trouble navigating the snow.  It’s not very slippery.

Be sure to bring some empty bottles of water as you can fill them up from the melting glacier. It’s the most delicious water you will ever try in your life, I guarantee it.

And make sure to walk around a bit.  There are hidden rivers you just have to move outside where the masses are standing around.

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We brought lunch with us:

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The Mac and Cheese was very good, though obviously not as good as when the hotel heats it up for you.

 

On the way back we stopped at beautiful Bow Lake right off the side of the Icefields Parkway for pictures:

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There are several other spots worth stopping at like Peyto Lake, but sort of like the waterfalls along the Road to Hana on Maui you become immune to the most beautiful rivers and lakes that abound.

Back at the hotel we walked down the stairs to Bow Falls and Bow River:

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Along the way we bumped into a Caribou (at least I think that’s what it is!) :

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And for dinner:

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Spicy Southern Fried Chicken Nuggets are outstanding.  The seasonings are just amazing.  The only thing I’d like with it is a dipping sauce so it was perfect that we also had the meatballs below!

Meatballs were very good in a tasty sauce:

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Mini stuffed cabbage were excellent as were the roasted potatoes and garlic string beans:

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But this was what really blew me away.  The Delmonico steak in a red wine reduction was far superior to the steak that you’ll receive in your local steakhouse.  And when a store figures out how to make a frozen steak that is reheated taste better than what most steakhouses serve I’m left completely speechless.  Plus it’s packed with 2 of my favorite sides-the garlic mashed potatoes and popcorn cauliflower.

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Our flight from Calgary departed at 7:45am so we left the hotel at 5am.  We should have left earlier as we had to gas up the car, return the car, apply the Daily Getaways certificates, check our luggage, clear customs, and clear security.  It was close but we did make it onto the flight breaking just a small sweat.

Rafi was once again fantastic on the flights, sleeping a good portion of it.  We stopped in the United Club once again during our short connection for him to use the bathroom before getting onto the short 50 minute hop to Cleveland.

I will say this, it was really amazing to have true restaurant quality food while in a beautiful place without a kosher restaurant anywhere nearby. Truly the best of both worlds and without a doubt something we will do again.

Thanks for reading my trip notes, I hope you’ve enjoyed and are inspired to keep racking up those miles and explore the awesome world that we live in!

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93 Comments On "Trip Notes: Banff"

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Interesting

Hi Dan,

Glad you enjoyed. Project Extreme has been in Banff for the last 10 years and runs a really great program out there. You should look into it for pointers if you are planning on going back there for your Winter trip.

Mow

Wow sounds exactly like my trip I took a week ago , I flew united business straight from ewr , had 4 suppers from pomegranate (really good!)

I drove from Calgary to lake Louise and stayed in a fairmont there for one night ( Dan if you think the service in banff fairmont was a 2 out of 5 this one was a negative 2 )

Went to lake moraine , lake Louise then up to the ice fields with all the sites , then went back to banff to stay in the fairmont there for 3 nights ( I actually got suite 641 ) 3 out of 4 nights were free ( platinum for life , and cc ) and the fourth night only paid 199.
Also did the banff gondola but really enjoyed I also didn’t have my kids so prob much diff experience.

Btw this is for plainbochur

Tim

Absolutely stunning scenery

SoCal Dude

Well written travelogue w/great advice & excellent pix. Thx for sharing. This is the essence what our hobby is about!

MaaYanky

Great Trip Notes! I’m assuming your meal supplier for trips like these just got locked in for good 😉

Ornit

Dan – I love the idea of getting a local photographer to take a family picture. How did you go about finding one ? Can you recommend one in Maui ?

YGX

Looks beautiful!

Levi

Excellent trip report.
Very engaging, and answered many questions I had about Banff.
Some of which I hadn’t even thought of…

Miriam

Hi Dan,

What kind of camera do you have? These pictures are amazing!

LA2NYC

@Dan

Trip looked amazing…you’re killing me here sitting at my desk.

Regarding the Fairmont Free Suites, do they have an expiration date within the year or can you hold off and stack them?

Also, did you buy more than one package?

Thanks!

Dave

Food looks great. How much does each meal cost? Or what is the range?

Shalom

How is EVERYTHING Pomegranate makes so good!!! They should just make direct withdrawals from my account weekly.

Shuey

Dan,

You did a great job reviewing everything. I was there last year and I have to disagree with your view of the Banff gondola. The Banff Gondola I found to be way more breath taking than the Lake Louise gondola. I also was traveling with a child and your right you don’t want a stroller for the gondola but I used a baby carrier which I found to be great.

Gary

Dan-As per you great trip reports I did Vancouver & Whistler (sea to sky can’t be captured in pics) last week which was spectacular (Hilton in Whistler was great). Cathay was certainly the tripmaker! If only Cathay flew to Banff/Calgary or other North American destinations. 🙂

ARI

though you write youll grade the food as it really is i cant help but take it with at least a “grain of salt “being you were commped the meals

DZ the Telzer

How much did the food cost

Dan

@Mow:
Always good to hear from another lifetime Platinum member.
What happened to you at the Fairmont LL?

If we didn’t have a stroller it probably would have been a very different experience. I’m just ticked that they told me the attraction was stroller friendly when there was only a few feet a stroller would go.

And the place was so packed you couldn’t move. And the line back down was just enormous but they never hint to that either.

@Tim:
Indeed!
And a camera doesn’t capture a tenth of it.

@SoCal Dude:
Thanks for the feedback!

@Ornit:
I just use Google, compare the top 30 result’s work and prices and go from there.

In Maui we used http://waileaphotography.com/ though her prices have literally doubled since we were some 19 months ago!

But the pics are just amazing.

In Buenos Aires we used ttp://duffandfrancesphotography.com/ also awesome pics and the price is just ridiculous cheap if you pay in Pesos bought on the “blue” market.

It’s such a special way to highlight a trip. If you’re a sleuth/stalker you may even find some of our pics on those sites…

@YGX:
@Levi:
🙂

@Miriam:
This was my first TR without a point and shoot camera. I used a Sony Nex-6 compact mirrorless camera.

@LA2NYC:
I have to use them every year.
And my entire family got packages out of the deal 😉

@Dave:
Meat meals with an entree, starch, and vegetable of you range from $17 and up. Most are about $20 though some are pricier.
The dairy meals start at $12.

Both are great values.

@Shalom:
Lol, sign of a good business.
The restaurants here in Cleveland just don’t get that.

Truth is I’ve yet to make it to their store though I’ve heard amazing things, what else do they make that’s great?

@Shuey:
Fair enough. With an infant that might work but no 2 year old will go in a baby carrier.
Perhaps part of the problem is the view from the room and fire escape were so amazing that I wasn’t that impressed with the Gondola view.

Did you walk along all of those steps? How was the view from there?

I’ve heard the trails around the LL gondola are very special.

Also I compared it to the Vancouver gondola which was a really great experience, this was rubbish compared to it.

@Gary:
Well you can always fly Cathay to Vancouver and then backtrack to Calgary 😀

@ARI:
Fair enough. That’s why I wrote what I did in the disclosure.
I believe that I reviewed each meal as I would otherwise though I perfectly understand that it doesn’t look as objective.

I also wrote which meals didn’t leave me as impressed as others and there were a few like that.

But the meals that I wrote were outstanding were truly outstanding. Try ’em yourself if you live in NYC and feel free to voice your own opinion in this comments section.

@DZ the Telzer:
See response above.

schneur

dan you gota get nexus! especially if you cross the border at least once a year, and you save some time you’ve made your money back. as it’s only $50 per person for 5 years. kids are free!
you can cut the line at security and customs…
the only catch is that you need come up to the border for the approval meeting once your application is approved, but for you that shouldn’t be a big deal! you can contact me for more details

Nitantnel

Really enjoyed the read, thanks!

Dan

@schneur:
I actually paid for Nexus/GE (well AMEX and United both paid for it leaving me in the plus column), I just never had a convenient time to sit for the interview.

@Nitantnel:
Thanks for commenting!

It's me

Just a tip, get the book “understanding composition” by “Bryan Peterson” and your pics will never be the same. You don’t need a DSLR for amazing pics (although it does help) you just need to understand how to fill the frame.

Dan

@It’s me:
Thanks, just requested it from my local library.

Brian C

I have been to Banff twice and both times to ski. It is as if not more beautiful in winter. Check it out sometime. Most people I talk to that visited go back and forth on this. Summer or winter. If you do not do winter sports, then I understand the summer argument. Great notes though!

Yehuda S

Hi Dan,

I’m working on my Alaska trip report. I’m sure your readers would be interested in seeing it. Would you like to post it on the main site?

Dan

@Brian C:
I’m not a skier, though those northern lights in Jasper in the winter seem otherworldly.

@Yehuda S:
Post it on DDF and we’ll go from there.

YouG

Awesome trip report Thanx!!
The meals look great just curious were those single meals or the packed few together?

Dan

@YouG:
Single meals. They are VERY generously sized.

A

Hey Dan-

Great report.. Question: About how much does Pomegranate charge per meal? Can’t find the info. online. Going on a trip and wouuld love to use them.

Thanks

Moshe

You can do the kosher way with KMRTOURS every summer.
Their program is at the Fairmont.

Highly recommend.

LA2NYC

@Moshe:

Or you can do the @Dan’s way and go for free 🙂

jonr

I’m curious why you didn’t travel with a baby carrier for such a nature-heavy destination? I’m planning on relying on my carrier for an upcoming trip to turkey where I think the sidewalks will be sub-par and stairs plentiful (and ramps scarce).

Dan

@A:
See comment 17.
Or email them for the full menu.

@jonr:
Baby carriers are great for kids under 1, but at least my 2 year old would never agree to be put in those things.

sam

how do u become a life time Fairmont member ?

traveler

awesome notes. 1. how many days do you really need for this trip (i understand that you can be there for a month, but 3 days sounds short to me)? 2.anywhere to be for shabbos close by? 3. when you changed for 9am flight, what fees you pay for that (or how to avoid them)?

whats app

good for you dan

Harry Mayer

Went to Banff a few weeks before you with KMR and loved it as you did. One question re: food from Pomegranete. Did you special order those meals and make them up wih all the sides, etc. or was it stock items?

thanks
Harry

Dan

@sam:
Buy a time machine and read this site 2 years ago 😀
That deal is long dead.

@traveler:
Sunday to Thursday/Friday is enough time unless you also want to hit up Jasper.

If you want to include Jasper I’d recommend flying into Calgary and then out of Edmonton and staying at places along the way for at least 8 days.

@whats app:
I do it all for you guys, my readers 😀

@Harry Mayer:
They were ordered via email from Shloime at deli@thepompeople.com

He’s great and will take care of all of the ordering and packing logistics.

It’s really an amazing way to go on a trip while having the best of both worlds: Beautiful scenery and restaurant quality food.

Fred

You skipped yoho national park!
Takakay falls and emerald lake! How could you miss those? I guess next time……..

Dan

@Fred:
There’s only so much you can do when traveling with a 2 year old who sleeps 13 hours at night and takes a 2 hour nap!

Besides you can spend 2 weeks in Banff and not even scratch the surface.

My philosophy when traveling isn’t to think that I have to do every last thing for a trip to be worthwhile.

When you get in that mind you wind up sacrificing the fun of the trip to check more items off your list at the expense of the enjoyment of your spouse and kids.

Besides if you do everything in a place you’ll never want to return!
When my kids are grown up I have no doubt I’d do this trip again with them and the trip notes will look very different.

Moshe

Any idea where I can get a menu with prices of the meals from pomegranate?

LA2NYC

Looking like Pomegranate is getting their money’s worth 🙂

Dan

@Moshe:
Looks like they have a menu online here:
http://www.thepompeople.com/pomtravelmeals/

Doesn’t look like it has prices, but if you email Shloime at deli@thepompeople.com he will get that over to you.
And ask him for a DD reader discount 🙂

@LA2NYC:
They make a great product so good for them.

Anonymous

Just came back from banff 2 weeks ago . Few points: super Canadian supermarket in Calgary. Says lots of kosher food, including meats & fresh baked goods(chol stam pc stam ) & wraps
There is also small kosher cafe in jcc

Lake Louise gondallo & hikes a must! Yoho – emerald lake & the falls there a must
Golden is very cool with amazing rafting.
Most hotels have best rates under aaa
Global entry is life saver & only made flight because of it- saved me 2 hrs in both Newark & calgary

robert

if you have excess points, why don’t you sell them?

AMZ450

Awesome TR Dan!!-keep up the good work!

ari613

Nice! For my trip to Kauai, I ordered from Gourmet Glatt in Cedarhurst. Also, made my trip.

ira

DAN I WOULD LOVE TO OPEN ALL THESE CREDIT CARD OFFERS BUT HAVE NOTHING TO SPEND THEM ON………….WHAT DO YOU BUY THAT YOUR ABLE TO RECEIVE ALL THESE OFFERS ??????

Leah

Tx so so much for these TR it really helps us whenever we travel, we copied you itinerary’s numerous times.

Now with food from Pomegranate and pics you posted it makes it easier to travel, and helps regarding what to select from their large selection of choices.

flo

@Interesting: Good Program!!

mysterious

Funny you say that about the water on the Icefields…

Banana

Great trip notes, Dan! Looking to spend a few days with my family before school starts up again and the notes on Pomegranate food has really been helpful. Can’t make it to Banff yet…still working on our points 🙂
And thanks for bringing up Mr. Jesse: one of the few teachers at YAT that i truly respected and am grateful to have had for my 4 years there. Kinda miss his quirky stories 🙂
Kol tuv and keep up the great work!

Dan

@Anonymous:
Heavy duty hikes and rafting is gonna have to wait a decade for me…
How did global entry help you in EWR for a flight to Canada?

@robert:
I don’t sell my points. I’m not going to risk 5 million United miles and a lifetime club membership 😉

@AMZ450:
TY!

@ari613:
Nu, trip report?
http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=1643
How was the food? You’ll have to get some from Pom next time to compare…

@ira:
Lol, you have to be kidding.

I just bought another $5,000 in Vanilla Reloads from CVS today to meet the spending requirement on my 6th Ink card to lock in the 60K bonus.
Amazon Payments lets you send free money every month.
Chase lets you buy free gift cards you can load to Bluebird.
Etc, etc, etc.

@Leah:
Happy to help.

@mysterious:
How so?
Many companies bottle their water there, but fresh and free is best.

@Banana:
Was beginning to think I didn’t have any YAT readers, thanks for commenting and start racking up those points!

LA2NYC

@Dan:

Was this you’re 6th Ink card from the 60k bonus from June or 6th overall?

Savingsbigtime

Did they stop the direct united from ewr to yyc I don’t see it available only air Canada ?

dansdeals reader

Dan,  thank you very much for the nice report. I was actually the one that bumped into you at Johnson canyon, I couldn’t decide between Switzerland and banff, I ended up going to banff  and I’m not regretting my decision, I was there for one week and enjoyed it very much, lake Louise was beautiful, lake maurine and the 10 peaks stranding it is even nicer imho, emerald lake and takakay falls, canadas  second highst  waterfall, are not to be missed. icefield parkway was certainly the highlight,  Johnson canyon is beautiful, and the encounter with dan was a nice little surprise. All made possible thanks to you dan (and to chase)

traveler

what fees did you pay for changing your flight to 9am?

Dan

@LA2NYC:
6th active, 2nd from June.

@Savingsbigtime:
I’m assuming he meant Air Canada booked with United miles.

@dansdeals reader:
🙂

Fred

@dan
I hear you…..but it’s just 25 min from lake Louise. It would have been about 2-3 hours total. However really you should make another trip to do jasper so when you o that you cn chap-Arian all the stuff you missed. Stay in the fair mount jasper and then you can check out the 2 nd half of the icefield parkway including the famous Athabaska fals etc.

Racer7400

Would it be possible to microwave the meals from pomegranate or are they served in aluminum pans?

Dan

@Fred:
Are you a parent?

We only glanced and snapped a few pics at Moraine Lake as we wanted to get Rafi back to the hotel to have a good nap in his crib.

An extra 2-3 hours was definitely not in the cards.

As I said the lakes in the area are like the waterfalls along the Road to Hana. They’re all stunning but after a while you start to lose the awe as they’re all beautiful.

Listen, Banff is great, but there are lots of amazing places I want to explore.
I don’t see myself running back anytime soon just because I missed a lake or waterfall.

Now to see Aurora Borealis is another story though Jasper isn’t the only place for that.
As I said I’ll probably go back when my kids are grown and can appreciate the amazing hiking that Banff has to offer.

@Racer7400:
They can package it to be microwave or oven friendly.

Shuey

@Dan
I found the walk along the steps by the Gandola of Banff the best views from everywhere (though I haven’t been to Vancouver). When you walk to the end of the steps you get a great 360 views with no interference. I also stayed at Banff Fairmont Springs and the view the room was amazing! And having a babysitter too was great, we take a sibling along too and it’s the best way to travel!!

Dan

@Shuey:
Oh well. Chalk up another item I missed out on with a 2 year old in tow.

Vancouver is great by the way, http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/24056

And having a sibling along was really amazing. My wife read this report today and said it was all accurate except the part about not taking too much advantage of my brother 😀

We did get him a nice present though after the trip 🙂

petzel

Dan you say that the GoGo Babyz Travelmate has been discontinued, where have you confirmed this? (I spoke to the company & they said they hope to have it back in stock within a few months)

Dan

@petzel:
Didn’t conform it, just assumed that was the case when every single retailer doesn’t have it in stock.
Strange either way.

ava

Dan, were you ever in Iceland?

Dan

@ava:
Nope. Almost pulled the trigger to go there for $61 some 10 years ago when I was in yeshiva but decided against it.

On my bucket list still.

Fred

@dan
I am a parent. We left the kids behind……I’m not such a huge traveler like you so when I do get away I kinda lik to do it all….I actually went there before I was maried and I loved it so much I had to take my wife so we went back. You are right it’s not an easy trip with a baby. But there is something special about a canoe on moraine lake on a quiet afternoon. I did take my kids places and we tried to ignore their nap schedules and it made things very tiring and probably wasn’t worth it.

U-da

Dan,
Thank you.
You can now sell your “banff national park pass” on eBay.
This is how I got my pass and sold it right after my trip for the same amount…

Aarony

Nice report. When we were there a few years ago we rented a gypsy GPS based tour guide at the airport it gave us a running commentary on everything and was the best investment. Also we stayed at lake Louise one night and I got up to canoe at sunrise. They told me to bring gloves as the oars are metal and it is very cold overnight. Since I don’t travel with gloves in the summer I improvised with socks!

Chani

Just wanted to say thanks for the info on the Pomegranate Travel Meals! I didn’t know that they had that service and will definitely take it into account on a future trip. Thanks Dan!

LA2NYC

@Dan:

Re: 6 active Ink, 2 since June.

Would there be any way to do a post (or explain in the comments/DDF) how best to get multiple cards of the same type? Once you explain split expenses, HSA, etc – there are only so many reasons you can use for having the same card multiple times.

Any thoughts?

Travelbloggerbuzz

I also did the Fairmont Banff Springs & Lake Louise thing a few weeks ago. Missed running into Dan by a day or two. I actually did 12 nights in area hotels (5 in the two Fairmonts) all for free/points, yes I was proud of myself.

I am only on my fourth Ink card because I am not Dan:-)

In the near future I will post my trip report from my family’s vacation in the Canadian Rockies. Yes it is even more pretty than the pictures. The hiking in the mountains surrounding Lake Louise and the two teahouses up there are, well, magical. Dan must return to get Rafi up there when he is a little older!

George
another Fairmont Lifetime Platinum member, the deal that keeps on giving!

L'chaim

1) fortunately we had a really good experience at the fairmont Banff apparently it is all about dealing with the right people over there. Personally we did not like any of the rooms in the Van horne suites and we found the main building rooms to be the newest and nicest.

2) when we asked for the internet they told us we can either pay daily or sign up for the fairmont club which is free and that is what we did

3) on the advice of some locals we downloaded the Gypsy app which was truly incredible and had really good tips and info along the way.

moshe

Dan, Rafi sleeps 13 hours a night? you know how lucky you are??
when my son sleeps 13 hours a night on a green Tuesday its our best vacation ever…..

Shalom

@Dan:

Dan,

Their Thursday night cholent is pretty good, did not expect a supermarket to have such good cholent. Most of the soups I’ve tried (not a fan of the vegetable though) are really good.

Every time I get their meat (raw) and cook it – the same way I’d cook it from other places – it often seems to come out better as well. I made a pepper steak last week where the meat had so much flavor I didn’t even need the sauce or veggies.

Dan

@Fred:
Ignoring naps and schedules doesn’t work with most kids. Unless you know for a fact that you will never ever return then it’s just not worth pushing things in my opinion.

We got lucky on our full day trip up the Icefields Parkway that Rafi took a full nap in the car.
Had he not it would have been miserable on that glacier.

@U-da:
I didn’t buy the annual pass.

@Aarony:
I’m more of a guidebook person.

I enjoyed these:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1612385281/?tag=cl03f-20
http://www.amazon.com/dp/111842218X/?tag=cl03f-20

@Chani:
Enjoy, they’re a real treat.
I’m going to bring some on the airplane next time I fly and have them heat it up. 1000x better than the onboard kosher meals!

@LA2NYC:
Multiple businesses.

@Travelbloggerbuzz:
Hiking, canoeing, and rafting are most definitely on the agenda for the return trip when the kids are grown.

@L’chaim:
I think you mean the Stanley Thompson wing?

Our Van Horne suite was on the 9th floor of the main building.

@moshe:
Ya’ know, for the first few months he was miserable/colicky and cried almost 24/7.

Now he sleeps 12-13 hours at night+2 hours nap and is the happiest and sweetest kid in the entire world.
Everything in cycles I suppose.

@Shalom:
Guess I should’ve ordered cholent as well 😀

Shame we don’t have a place like that in Cleveland. 85,000 Jews and nobody knows how to run a food establishment…just pathetic.

Mutty

Thanks so much for the TR, Dan. IYH that will be our next trip, maybe next summer. We are past the point of having to bring children so it seems we’ll have more to do. We live in Flatbush and this was the first I heard that they make travel meals, so that’s great. Would my starwood points help in getting flights for this trip? Sounds like I may want to start in with this “ink”? card? Thanks again.

moshe

@Dan: Even my 2 year old just sleeps as a newborn…. he is still the sweetest boy ever….
anyway you should see lots of naches. thanks for everything.

Oscar Asher

Pictures are stunning. And the contrast of Lake Louise on a cloudy/foggy day to a clear sunny day is a world of a difference.

Few points regarding the FBS:

1) This is one hotel where practically every room is different than the other. Some rooms are stunning and some aren’t. So seeing one or two rooms doesn’t really tell you all the hotel has to offer.

2) Having stayed there many times over the last 5 to 8 years, I was surprised to hear that you were not satisfied with their service. To me their service ranks with the best in the business.

3) Officially they are meant to be rated a 5 diamond but bc of technicalities resulting from the fact that they are in a National Park they can only achieve 4 diamond.

danfan

btw what camera did you use to take these awesome pics?

Dan

@Mutty:
Both Starpoints and Ink points will get you there for free, sure.

@moshe:
Amen!

@Oscar Asher:
Of course. Just from the 2 suites I saw there was a world of difference.
Though both were looking a bit tired.

You need to stay at more Park Hyatts 😀
-It took 30 minutes just to pull in behind a long line of cars checking in.
-The FPC line was slow as molasses to checkin.
-Just reaching the “royal service” operator is a real chore and they rarely did things without calling twice.

Others I spoke to also agreed on the service, not sure how anyone can mistake them with the best in the business.

There’s a reason even among Fairmont hotels that they’re not ranked very highly.
http://travel.usnews.com/Hotels/b-Fairmont_Hotels_Resorts/

Though the hotel exterior it truly stunning.

@danfan:
Sony Nex-6.

Mutty

“Both Starpoints and Ink points will get you there for free, sure.”
I surely don’t want you to repeat what has already been written somewhere, but perhaps someone can point me to the forums that discuss how to get flights and hotels on a Banff trip using Starpoints??? (And of course, that it’s worth using the points for that).

Joe

I went to bannf with KMR this year, it was awesome, michael Schick did a gourmet job with the food
I agree somewhat with Dans assessment of the Fairmont, but it was perfect with minyanim, beis medrash and gourmet food

Martin

Just ordered a few meals for my trip
thanks Dan

Is there any other place that does this too ?

Oscar Asher

Park Hyatt in CA is indeed in a league of their own; Four Season caliber.

Will concede, reaching the operator can be murderous.

The upper management and conference staff (Coordinators, banquet staff, culinary etc.) at the FBS, are no doubt from the best in the business.

Anonymous

@dan : global entry works to get u TSa pre in all major airports for domestic – but here’s the beauty : even when they don’t have it ( eg: international or say Long Island ) the security will always tell u/allow u to go first class or simply cut to head – haven’t waited on reg. security line in 2 yrs- and fly alot!! Most worthwhile free item ( that Amex) I ever got. Literally saved me 90min in Newark for this flight to Calgary

photo junkie

We loved the Gondola ride and did the walk. I’m sure it would be hard to do with a carriage but telling readers not to bother is a shame. I sent a group of senior ladies there and they loved it as well. Love the food report. We just returned from a two week road trip and made and froze all of food in advance.

men

we were there around the same time. from your pics, i would say our suppers were definitely better! next time go to SHICKES in borough park, it was very very good. i stayed 2 nights at the rimrock hotel right next to the gondola, the service was amazing! then we went to the fairmont at lake Louise for 2 nights, this is a winner! gorgeous !! the stunning lake was our back yard!!!

Shmuel

Thanks Dan for all you do. you wrote by returning your car, “if not for the coupons you would leave it on the Chase United” why wouldnt you use the Sapphire, dosent the Sapphire have the same rentel insurance plus double points?

joey

Dear Dan, Thanks a million for all your timely help. We were in Banff several weeks ago for 1 week from 7/23 – 7/30. Were you there then? We traveled with some friends and chose to stay at the Rimrock Hotel, which I must say was a beautiful experience. If I would have known that you were taking such magnificent pictures,I wouldn’t have bothered taking myself. We met up with some friends and thanks to Godaven.com we had a minyan everyday 3 X a day. On Wednesday, 7/24/13 there were 25 men davening. There was a sefer torah and of course a baal koreh. We had a wonderful week seeing the G-d’s most beautiful creations.

joey

We chose to bring frozen meals from Chap-A-Nosh of Brooklyn and every night was a gourmet and delicious meal. It really enhanced our vacation and it felt like we were eating a freshly cooked meal in the restaraunt on Avenue M. Wishing you a G’mar chasima tova! Please let us know where you are going next.

Eden

Dan-
Would you recommend doing this trip in the winter or not really?

chana

Dan – do you think it would work in the winter with a 9 month old? how did you warm up your food?

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