Banff National Park, AB, Canada
When I was in junior high, my family took a family trip to Banff National Park. Ever since that trip, I concluded that Banff was the most beautiful place on earth. By the time I returned with my own family, more than 20 years later, I'd visited many other beautiful parks, but as soon as I saw Banff again, I remembered why it had made such an impression on me. Banff and the surrounding areas are still exquisite. Even when it's crowded, it is an enjoyable place to visit. The day we went, it started out raining and we were worried we’d be stuck with thunderstorms the entire day. We drove to Banff from Calgary. I wanted to leave our hotel at 6:30 a.m., but we ended up leaving closer to 7:30 a.m. Since it was raining, the crowds at the park were still thin when we arrived closer to 9 a.m. We drove straight to the Banff Gondola that takes visitors up Sulphur Mountain. It wasn’t an ideal day for the gondola ride because of the cloud cover, but this little ride was nostalgic for me. I have a vivid memory of going up Sulphur Mountain as a child. This is the only day we’d be here and I felt the experience would still be fun for the kids. On the plus side, there was no wait and we got special early bird pricing. Despite the clouds, the ride up was beautiful. The visitor center was fascinating and we took the walk on the boardwalk up to the weather tower. It was chilly on the mountain, but we really enjoyed it. On a clear day, the views are expansive and amazing, but it’s not too shabby on a cloudy day either. Afterwards, we warmed up with hot chocolate in the visitor center. It was still drizzling, so we decided to take a scenic drive on Tunnel Mountain Road and pull up to the Hoodoos Lookout. We spent just a few minutes at the lookout, snapped a few photos and got back into the car and drove to Lake Louise. By the time we got to Lake Louise, the sky had cleared up and the crowds had built up. Despite the crowds, Lake Louise was magnificent. We decided to make the hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House. The trail up to the tea house is a little over 3km. The trail is smooth but steep. It was nothing for the kids, but it took us parents while. The kids ended up waiting for us at the top. Once we got to the top, the trip was worth it. The tea house was crowded, but we found some tables. Luckily, we knew ahead of time that it was cash only and had brought money with us. It was chilly on the top and we enjoyed a hot pot of tea and sandwiches. After lunch, we took some pictures around the lake and walked back down the trail. We then drove back to Banff. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town and ate dinner at pizza place before heading back to Calgary. I would love to go back to Banff and spend more time there as well as Jasper. It’s on my bucket list. IF YOU GO: (Prices in Canadian dollars) Banff National Park Daily admission is $9.80 for adults, $8.30 for seniors, free for children 17 and under, $19.60 for families or groups of up to seven people Banff Gondola $53-$59 per person (Canadian dollars), free for children under 5 Lake Agnes Tea House Located at the end of a 3.5km hike from Lake Louise. Open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily from June 5 through Canadian Thanksgiving.