A student guide to a day in Banff
By Blaise Kemna, Contributor
Here’s the scenario: you’re heading to Banff for a day trip with a bunch of your friends. It’s been a while since you’ve made it to the mountains, so there’s pressure to cram absolutely everything into the day. Plus, you want your friends along but suddenly feel obligated to cater to every whim of a group with a wide variety of abilities, interests and expectations.
Considering all these factors, even deciding what to do in the first place can be a daunting task.
Under the time restraints, you can’t just go skiing for the day. Don’t get me wrong — skiing’s amazing, but it’s pricey and since you’re pressed for time, it’s all about maximizing the things you’re able to do.
You also obviously want the classic photo-op but you still want to do stuff that’s actually authentic and fun, not just something that will look good on your Instagram. Because seriously, that’s just vain.
The requirements only grow and grow.
But have no fear. I’ve been in the same position and I’m here to give you a road map. Here’s my classic Banff day trip — with a little something for everyone!
Stop 1: The Fudgery
You haven’t lived unless you have had a candy apple from The Fudgery. Crunchy, green apple flesh covered in smooth, chewy caramel. You can even watch employees make them in front of your eyes. My mom remembers going here in her childhood, I’ve gone there in mine and one day, so help me God, I will drag my own sorry kids into that shop by the lobes of their unhearing ears and force feed them the sweet family tradition started all those generations ago. Cute, I know. Trust me, it’s a tradition you want to start too.
Stop 2: Skating
In my last article, “Five ways to maximize the cold weather this winter,” I ranted about how amazing skating (specifically playing hockey) is. And I’m going to do it again. There’s truly nothing better. Okay, I retract that statement. There is perhaps only one thing better than hockey — hockey in the mountains. With the crisp air and echo of skates carving ice, combined with the most epic stadium in the world, this isn’t just the best way to spend an afternoon with friends, it also might be the perfect photo-op we talked about earlier. There’s a rink in the middle of Banff, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can go to Two Jack Lake or the Bow River.
Stop 3: Starbucks or McDonalds
While you may be able to keep warm during hockey, you’ll cool down fast once you stop moving and the air reaches the sweat between your skin and waffle-print thermal. Plus, you drove for a couple of hours and skated for a few more — chances are you’re getting pretty bagged. Sounds like you could use some warmth and caffeine. If only there was this crazy drink that combined both… Whether you’re a boujee coffee snob or a thrifty drinker, Banff has you covered, with a Starbucks and McDonalds where you can warm your hands and thaw your cheeks.
Stop 4: Old Spaghetti Factory
By this point in the day, you’ve also worked up an appetite. You probably woke up early, grabbed a coffee and a light breakfast and hit the road. Who has time to pack a lunch anyways? So you’ve just played hockey and got your second cup of joe for the day, but the caffeine isn’t enough to dull the small pang of hunger in the pit of your stomach. You’re ready to feed a small army. I’ve been there. The Old Spaghetti Factory, located in the Cascade Shops shopping mall, has developed a bit of cult status for me and my friends. I don’t really know how it started but it’s the go to spot for a warm, hearty, homestyle meal when you’re famished and in need of good value.
Stop 5: Banff Hot Springs
Now that you have 20 pounds of pasta in your stomach, you’re all prepped and ready to go into hibernation. If someone told you it was fun to soak in a cesspool of sweaty humans for a few hours, it might not sound very great. But somehow, it’s undeniable: there’s nothing quite like the Banff Hot Springs (there’s actually no note of sarcasm in that statement). Warmth over your body, exposed to the elements just hours before. Steam coming off the water and obscuring the details of faces across from you. The dark sky, moon and stars above you. The looming presence of the mountains around you. I’m serious, it’s magic.
Having exerted yourself, fed yourself and soaked all your deepest insecurities away in a hot pool of sulfur, you’re ready to go home. But make sure you trust whoever’s driving. Let’s just say that after the massive meal and hot water soul therapy you’ve partaken in, falling asleep at the wheel isn’t the least likely outcome!