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Calgary or Banff for most of a day

We'll have just spent the better part of a week going from Vancouver to Jasper, Lake Louise and then driving down to Calgary for our plane out the next mid-morning.

So, here's the question (maybe not even chowish, but of course, that's an influence), do we spend the bulk of that day in Banff or Calgary?

We aren't the "touristy" type, nor do we are about trinkets. We love real ambiance. We're from Austin, TX, so we understand big town, but also get the tourist attraction (and dislike it). We'd love a place we can really get a local feel and really appreciate our last day/evening in Canada, without pestering the locals...unless they like that sort of thing (we love letting the locals about our chicken s***T bingo and LaLa's Saloon).

We are there the end of May/beginning of June.

Many thanks, y'all!

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  1. Banff is lovely. However, if you've already been in Jasper and Lake Louise, you have to decide whether you want to see more beautiful scenery in a touristy town. In either Banff or Calgary you can get good local food, there are just more places in Calgary.

    What day of the week are you thinking about? By end of May/beginning of June, Calgary often has street festivals on the weekends which can be a great way to get a feel for local culture.

    7 Replies
    1. re: yyc_mom

      Unfortunately, it's the last Tuesday in May. I'd have loved a street festival.

      If you'd be so kind as to suggest a couple of your favorites in each town? I get the feeling we'll stop in Banff, but not make a full day of it and just head down to Calgary. My feeling is that Banff is more of a "tourist trap" than a destination. Is that your feeling as well?

      1. re: amysuehere

        I think Banff has a certain charm and its setting is beautiful. I like to eat at The Bison and Wildflour Café when I'm there. If you're up for a fancy dinner, it's a nice location, especially at a Fairmont Banff Springs restaurant. But since you've been to Jasper/LL already, I'd say your idea to just drop in is a good idea.

        Charcut is always a popular suggestion in Calgary. Maybe you'd like a fun dinner in the Calgary Tower. I heard their Sky 360 restaurant is not bad (haven't been myself).

        1. re: cellophane_star

          Thanks so much! I was seriously considering Bison, so that's a great help.

          Here's the potential restaurant line-up for the trip:

          Seattle - the market stalls (we especially like one Indian food stall)

          Vancouver - Rodney's Oyster House, Twisted Fork and Frankie's Italian (comped).

          Kamloops - Terra, Noble Pig or Duffy's Pub?

          Jasper - Sawridge Inn Walter's Dining Room (comped).
          Patricia Street Deli and Café Mondo brown bag lunch to take with us each day.
          Dinnners - Tekarra, The Raven, Evil Dave's

          Ice Explorer, Athabasca Falls to Peyto Lake to Lake Louise Fairmont

          Lake Louise - Birthday dinner at Post Hotel Restaurant

          Lake Louise to Banff/Calgary - Storm Mt. Lodge, Tommy's Pub, or Bison (now maybe Wildflour)

          Calgary - dinner comped (if we want it) at Calgary Int'l Tower

          Comments? Suggestions?

          1. re: amysuehere

            Banff is a mere 80 minutes away, you could easily have breakfast/brunch/lunch there and dinner in Calgary.

            Take a gondola trip, go for a walk in the Fairmont Banff Springs, Johnston Canyon for a scenic, easy hike. Lots of time to enjoy Calgary if you start your day early.

            1. re: amysuehere

              Salumi in Seattle, Mario Batalli's dad's place. Best salami on the planet, best salami sandwiches.
              Guu with Garlic in Vancouver. Also do some research on street food, there are some fabulous places. You are also there I think during Spot Prawn season, do some research. Likely a good place on Granville Island.
              Banff, have a drink on the terrace at the Banff Springs, tremendous view. Go see the waterfall, likely pretty big and fast at that time.

              1. re: amysuehere

                Note: Wild Flour is very casual - more of a stop-and-go café type of place, if you're short on time.

                1. re: cellophane_star

                  I had an excellent east-indian inspired sandwich there last time. Also the grilled cheese was killer. The cheese was incredible.

        2. Hello and welcome. It depends what on what you like. For another suggestion outside of Banff, in Canmore, you can walk the Grassi Lakes trail. It has an area where you can watch the rock climbers, a really nice waterfall and emerald colored lakes.

          Dinner in Calgary is also good, we have good restaurants here. I can't comment on the food at The Bow Valley Ranche, as it has changed ownership, but the atmosphere and scenery are nice,

          I went to Houston last year. The biggest attraction for me was to go to Hill Country, rent a house and visit the local parks, including the Longhorn cavern. Your state capitol is also nice.

          15 Replies
          1. re: Office Broccoli

            Thanks, Office Broccoli. We live in Austin, and I'm afraid with the huge migration of Californians, we've lost our local color and become another "Generica" big city. If you've seen Dazed and Confused or Slacker, that's what Austin used to be worthy of coming to town.

            Canmore sounds interesting and was totally off the radar. Is there a local sandwich shop there that you especially like or should I just grab something in Banff?

            We find the places we end up loving most are the "local color" places/carts with food you can only get in that region. Doesn't necessarily has to be fancy or the best; just something special.

            1. re: amysuehere

              I'm not super up to date on the Canmore restaurant scene. However, for a great sit down place, check out Crazyweed Kitchen.

              In Calgary, for good local food, I would recommend River Cafe, Rouge, and Notable. Those are all higher-end places though. I haven't been to Bistro Rouge yet (the spinoff from Rouge restaurant). I do like Boxwood Cafe, which is the mid-range spinoff from River Cafe.

                1. re: yyc_mom

                  I went to Bistro Rouge when it first opened. I enjoyed the meal but I don't think it's worth going out of the way to eat there, especially if it's your only meal in Calgary. It's in a residential area so the setting isn't all that charming, especially compared to the original Rouge.

                  1. re: yyc_mom

                    I second this recommendation. Love Crazyweed.

                  2. re: amysuehere

                    Harvest for sandwiches. I love that place.

                    1. re: amysuehere

                      You should try Valbella Deli & Cafe. They make their own deli meats. If you like soda, drop by Grizzly Paw and pickup a case. I love their ginger beer. IMHO, Canmore is less of a tourist trap than Banff.

                      When we were in Austin, we had lunch at Kome Sushi Kitchen. You guys have good sushi.

                      1. re: Office Broccoli

                        Went there today, actually.

                        Unfortunately, we'll be flying out the next day, so picking up a case can't happen, but we'll try a bottle.

                    2. re: Office Broccoli

                      Oh! Canmore is perfect! Looks like we might either go to Grassi Lakes or take the four-runner tour (depending on when we need to return the car).

                      1. re: Office Broccoli

                        We are going to drive through Banff and spend lunch and the afternoon in Canmore! Thank you for showing us that. We would have completely missed it.

                        Doing research on where to eat, we noticed two places serving poutine. We've never had Québécois food before and probably wouldn't want to make poutine a regular on the diet. However, my husband took one look and said, "I must have this!"

                        Would you recommend Crazyweed or La Belle Patate?

                        1. re: amysuehere

                          La Belle Patate is more cheap eats style, but well done and very tasty.

                              1. re: amysuehere

                                We live in Canmore and have just returned from 10 fabulous days in Austin - loved Julienne's, Kebabalicious and Pious amongst many others.

                                I would definitely skip Banff and come to Canmore - make sure you have coffee at Communitea which is a great little, locally owned cafe - a real local hangout. I would heartily recommend La Belle Patate as well for poutine, its a pretty basic place but the poutine is always good. Take a walk along the river and cross the iron bridge, hike Grassi Lakes, Enjoy the views and watch out for the abundant wildlife - bears, elk, deer, osprey etc etc

                                1. re: graemejw

                                  Wonderful info, graemejw! I hop you took advantage of our board for suggestions here. I'll be up late next week. Here's hoping the weather warms a bit between now and then!

                      2. Crazyweed was my favorite Canmore dining experience. I also liked Aroma for fresh Mexican lunch. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: J in Toledo

                          Gigi and I wanted to like Crazyweed. Then the night we showed up they had lost our reservation. Fair enough. Accidents happen. They said they'd find another table for us. Great. Then they couldn't give even the roughest of estimates as to when. While waiting, not once did they come by to give us an estimate or offer a drink. I'm sorry, but I don't care how good the food may be if it's paired with rank amateur service. We left and won't be back.