Our visit to Calgary included a week touring in the Rockies. We began in Banff, only about one hour drive from Calgary in a car we’d hired there. As you approach the mountains, you have to purchase a pass to drive into the National Park. This is quite expensive, but we went for the annual pass as it gave another year free! We passed it on to our son who is using it frequently for weekend visits.
In addition, the pass gives free entry to some of the attractions owned by the Park, such as the Cave and Basin Museum in Banff where we began. It showed how Banff was first established by explorer/pioneers who discovered a cave in which there was a basin/pool of hot water – hot springs, ideal for bathing, healing, “taking the waters”. Needless to say, today there is a much larger ‘swimming’ pool of hot spring water where visitors can relax and enjoy the warmth of an outdoor pool surrounded by mountain peaks. We gave in to the temptation to get into the spirit of the venue and hire old-fashioned Victorian-style swimming costumes – my wife won’t allow me to add the photos!
Of course Banff is a big winter sports centre but in summer the chair/ski lift/gondola still operates to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The views from the top are apparently superb, but we couldn’t really appreciate them, as on the day we went there it was unfortunately very cloudy and wet. Our family have visited since and had a much better experience!
A good tip for those visiting the area is to buy a ‘combo’ ticket, where you pay for the gondola ride, a boat trip on the nearby Lake Minnewanka, and a visit to the Athabasca Glacier all together at a reduced price.
We liked Banff very much and spent two days there. More about the glacier in a separate review.