Calgary Escapes: A Weekend in Canmore

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I’ve never lived in a city where people were so fiercely proud of where they lived, but were so eager to escape. Winter or summer, no matter, come Friday afternoon the cars/trucks/campers/boats are packed and people escape Calgary and head north, south, east and west.


After spinning a compass, we headed west and made our weekend escape to Canmore, just outside the gates to Banff National Park. Canmore is home to golf courses, hiking trails, fishing, cross country skiing, trails, mountain biking, camping and more.

The town is going through a renaissance of sorts as many chalet styled vacation properties are sprouting up. We were guests of Spring Creek Mountain Vacations to spend a night at their new Rundle Cliffs Luxury Mountain Lodge.

rundle cliffs luxury mountain lodge

ACCOMODATIONS

20110625 canmore - 05The Lodge is a typical mountain resort; 4 floors with chalet styled suites featuring fireplaces, spacious bathrooms, modern kitchens, in suite laundry, relaxing bedrooms and a deck with bbq. We arrived late on Saturday afternoon and were delighted to find a playground on the property in the shadow of The Three Sisters.

Our family of 4 was quite comfortable in the one bedroom Suite 306:

The living space is an open floor plan that allows easy entertaining of family and/or guests.

Thoughtful and expected living amenities are enhanced with the most stylish contemporary mountain décor and furniture. Wake up to a morning tea or coffee – it’s all thoughtfully there for you. Hard wood floors are in the kitchen and living room that boasts a central real rock fireplace.

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The resort is a mixture of rental and private accommodations. The units are for sale, with owners mixing with renters in the 3rd floor hot tub. I chatted with one owner who has two suites in the property to share amongst his 5 kids and loves that the property offers such a remote escape in the mountains just a 70 minute drive from downtown Calgary.

While having a feeling of being nestled amongst the wilderness, Rundle Cliffs Luxury Mountain Lodge is a simple 5 minute creekside walk from the main strip of Canmore that is home to artisans, shops and restaurants.

FOOD

We ducked into Luna Blue for dinner, a family friendly fresh pasta restaurant. The place is pleasant enough and many other families followed us. A bottle of wine, two pasta entrees and a kids’ pasta was $85 with tip.

20110625 canmore - 11After dinner we walked two blocks back for dessert at Old School Bus Ice Cream. The ice cream is nothing special, it’s simple stuff you could buy at a grocery store, but buying it out the side of a school bus makes it fun.

Across the street from the school bus is The Grizzly Paw. It’s a microbrew pub that serves all you would expect: burgers, fries, wings and fajitas alongside pitchers and pints of their own concoctions. Just down the alley from the pub is an off-sale store where you can get cases and half sacks to bring home. Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat and Beaver Tail Raspberry Ale are two of our faves, but you can get sample packs with a variety of brews.

ACTIVITIES

20110625 canmore - 10While walking around the town, be sure to fire up the geocaching app on your smartphone. There are easily a dozen within a short walk of each other. The first one we discovered is just past The Big Head. The sculpture greets visitors to the downtown strip and was commissioned to symbolize the town’s namesake (big head in Gaelic is Ceann Mór). The $40 000 public art piece stirred up controversy when it was commissioned, but now proudly welcomes visitors to town. Note: make sure you place a stone in the big head’s ear for good luck and follow the big head on Twitter.

Mountain bikers, cross country skiiers and trail runners will get their fill at the Nordic Centre Provincial Park, home to kilometres of trails that are usable year round. Just past the Nordic Centre is the popular Grassi Lakes Trail and the road leading into K Country.

Across the Trans Canada from the townsite is Silver Tip Resort, a true mountain golf gem. You’ll only need a 4 iron to drive all the fairways on this course, the alpine air means your ball flies long and true. Just be sure to pack an extra sweater – even if it’s warm in the valley, it can be chilly on the side of the slope.

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Banff and Lake Louise may be the jewels of the Rockies that get all the press and attention – for good reason – but making a home base just outside the park makes sense too. Canmore is where many of the people working in Banff and Louise live, meaning you have a more “local” experience to your Rockies adventure than the tourist-centric spots in the park.


Camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park

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When camping with kids near Calgary you want it close, you want a variety of activities and you want convenience. Dinosaur Provincial Park has all of that less than 3 hours southeast from the core of downtown.

Driving Distance: 3 hours [google map directions]
Camping Fees: $29 with electrical / $23 without (reservations accepted)
Number of Sites: 125
Facilities: Playground, Fire pits, Pit toilets, Flush toilets / Shower facility, Concession, Hiking, Fishing, Interpretive Centre
Nearest Town: Brooks (50 km)
Cell Reception: Very weak

There’s something special about camping at a UNESCO World Heritage Site and that’s exactly what you get when you go camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park. The campground is set in a cottonwood grove in the valley of one of the richest dinosaur deposits in the world. More than 300 skeletons have been found in the park and are now in museums around the world representing at least 35 different species.

The camp sites themselves are hit and miss, some are sheltered, others are wide open to their neighbour, so visit Reserve.AlbertaParks.ca and use the photos of the sites to pick your favorite spot.

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There are a couple of luxuries that make camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park a great place for kids. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can hit the concession for everything from a burger at dinner to pancakes and eggs in the morning. There’s also a great interpretive centre on the site that offers escorted hikes and bus tours around the valley. You’ll get everything from sunset photography walks to detailed dinosaur discoveries with park experts.

If you just want to do it on your own, there are a couple of sites amongst the hoodoos where you can wander bones that have been left in the same place they were found.

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Camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park was a truly magical experience with lots of exploring for dinosaur loving children in a bustling family environment. Our visit was on the May long weekend which saw us grab one of the final sites and there were kids running around the playground, riding their bikes and climbing the hoodoos everywhere.


This Is My Vancouver

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In the light of the riots in Vancouver this week, a collective has gathered online to reclaim their city. They are trying to take back what it means to live on the west coast and reset the image the riots have made to the rest of the world. Vancouverites have done it by spontaneously gathering to clean up the mess and by sharing their idea of what Vancouver means to them.

I live in Calgary now, but in the weeks before I left, I took some pictures. They now adorn my phone, my computer, my home.

This is my Vancouver.

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This Is My Vancouver.

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Share Yours.

Getting Dressed For Stampede Is A Truly Religious Experience

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A funny thing happens in Calgary in June every year. Just as people go shopping for outfits to wear to weddings, showers and reunions – people also go shopping for their “Stampede oufit.”

Even the most refined of fashionistas will be seen ditching their Dolce for gingham. Plaid, denim, hats and boots are a must.


When building your outfit at Chinook Centre‘s newly opened True Religion start with the jeans and work from there.

True Religion has an entire denim bar in their stores where you can quickly scan the cuts, seams, stitches and styles. There are literally dozens of combinations of wash and seam stitching that can take your style from understated to very very bold.

And don’t be shy about trying something a little more flashy than you’re used to. You never know until you try it!

The different denim styles all have male names associated with them, but the inspirations for the 2011 season come from – famous rodeo bulls.

Perfect for Stampede!

Once you have your jeans, toss on a button up poplin shirt. Buttons are best because they’re easy to rip open and roll up to be more casual in the beer garden (or pancake breakfast).

The biggest pancake breakfast during all of Stampede happens at Chinook Centre and the True Religion gang will be there flipping with the rest of them for the 51st edition.


Calgary’s Summer Cultural Food Festival Calendar

Ukranian beer

Like Transit says in his great new tribute to Calgary, we are not all cowboys. Actually, Calgary is one of the most multicultural cities in the country. I hate to trot out our Mayor as an example, but yeah, Naheed Nenshi can be the poster boy of the diversity of our city.


Summer is festival season in Calgary and while your Sunfest, Sun and Salsa, Lilac Festival and Marda Gras celebrate neighborhoods and business districts of Calgary, if you really want to dig into the different cultures in Calgary, you need to hit an ethnic festival.

The costumes, the dance, the food. It really is all about the food.

Perogies, rotis. dolmades, jerked chicken, samosas, and more. All, most likely, hand made by someone’s grandmother working a back kitchen to help and raise money for the local community. You can’t get more authentic than this.

Here’s a rundown of the cultural (food) festivals happening in Calgary this summer:

Calgary Ukranian Festival – June 4, 5 – Acadia Recreation Complex

Carifest – June 11 – Shaw Millenium Park

Calgary Greek Festival – June 17, 18, 19 – Hellenic Centre

Calgary Turkish Festival – July 9, 10 – Eau Claire

Fiestaval Latin Festival – July 23, 24 – Canada Olympic Park

Afrikadey – Aug 8 – 13 – Prince’s Island Park

Globalfest – Aug 19 – 27 – Elliston Park

Expo Latino – Aug 26 – 28 – Prince’s Island Park

IndiaFest – Aug 28 – Shaw Millennium Park

Calgary Highland Games – Sep 3 – Springbank Park

It’s a chance to travel around the world almost every weekend of the summer without ever leaving home! Which festival is your favorite?


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