Every New Year’s Day, since Josh and I have been together, we have spent it wandering a new city. This year was no different, as we explored Canada. With 5 days in Vancouver and 3 days in Calgary/Banff, we had our hands full, packing every day with fun activities.
In retrospect, this was the most unprepared we have ever been for a trip. Not only did we not have any plans or know what there even was to do in each city, we literally forgot to book a hotel in Banff. This is how the Jan 1st, very hungover conversation went:
Me: “Hey, can you pull up the Airbnb we are staying at tomorrow night so that I can screenshot the directions from the airport?”
Josh: “I can’t seem to find it, didn’t you get it with your Chase points? Can you check?”
Me: “I can’t find it either, can you check yours?”
We spent 2 hours trying to find our reservations for a place that we did not book (*or at least, to the best of our knowledge*). Our only conclusion was that we must have thought the other person booked it and in the end, we didn’t book anything at all. Thankfully, even with the crazy holiday traffic, we were able to find a great hotel in Banff. This might of been a blessing in disguise because from the faint memory we both have, this hotel was much better than the one we “booked”.
Even with all the shuffling around, I do not think we could have planned a better trip. With absolutely no expectations, we found our way around, ate some of the best food, and even got to cross off an item on my bucket list.
Vancouver: Dec 28th-Jan 2nd
With the intention of spending New Year’s Day in Canada, Josh and I decided to spend 5 days in Vancouver to simply get a sense of the city. Immediately upon arrival, the city felt very welcoming. A combination of cleanliness, fresh air and not so crowded streets, made Vancouver feel like a smaller town, despite the high story apartment buildings surrounding us.
Very similar to San Francisco, downtown Vancouver is engulfed mostly by water with a nicely sized park but surrounded by mountains covered with snow. For our first 3 nights, we stayed on the northwest side of Robson in the Buchan Hotel. The hotel was in a perfect location and very cheap, hence why we decided to stay there. We got a nice room that shared a bathroom on the floor, which didn’t bother us at all. But I do have to mention that the walls were VERY thin (I could hear the guy snoring next door to us) and there was mold growing on the ceiling of the shower. However, it was great for our intended purpose.
The best part of the location was the excellent food surrounding us. You will not find better Asian food then the northern part of Robson. Ramen at Santouka, dumplings at Dinesty Dumpling House, Japanese at Kingyo, dessert waffles at Nero Belgian Waffle Bar…I mean, food that makes you want to LIVE there. And all within a few steps from the hotel.
Besides the food, we spent our days traveling around the area.
Day 1: Granville Market
We took a very small, very adorable ferry to the Granville Market to check out the “island” (FYI, it ain’t an island…not sure why it is called one). The market reminded me a lot of the La Boqueria market in Spain, where locals sell there food and goods. We had some delicious soup to warm us up from all the rain we walked through to get there and got some fudge, which we snacked on the following three days.
Day 2: Capilano Suspension Bridge
We managed to wake up early and catch a city bus ($3 CAD) to the Capilano Suspension Bridge right when it opened up. Surprisingly, even in the early morning, it is packed with people. By getting there early though, we did manage to not wait in line to get on. When we went back a few hours later, there was a 50 min wait JUST TO GET ON THE BRIDGE.
The bridge is expensive, running $47 CAD per person, but you do get to see more than just the bridge. There is also the treetop trail, which goes from tree to tree, and the cliff walk.
Day 3: Stanley Park / New Year’s Eve
One of the most recommended adventures in Vancouver is to rent a bike and go around Stanley’s park seawall. The reason for that is because it is freakin’ awesome and everyone should do it.
The path is really easy, takes you around the parameter of the park and has some paths to take you inland if you want to check out the lakes. We biked around the whole park, which has stops at the totem poles and bridge. We packed our own lunch and sat on a very nice bench with a view.
After the park, we headed to our new hotel, the Moda to celebrate the New Year. For the New Year, Josh and I splurged and booked a night cruise that went around the bay, where we saw the fireworks above the city skyline. We came up with the idea after going to the Granville Market and seeing all the yachts. We thought, “I wonder if you can rent a yacht for New Years?” Which then lead to us finding a Great Gatsby themed event on Eventbrite.
For not knowing anyone, leave it to Josh and me to get drunk on a boat with strangers and dance like baffoons! It was so much fun and an easy walk from our hotel.
Day 5: Hangover Recovery / Gastown
After getting some ramen to manage our wonderful hangovers, we headed to Gastown, a district in downtown Vancouver. There we found a very famous steam clock and got some souvenir shopping done.
I also had my very first 10/10 latte at Revolver. A co-worker recommended the coffee shop to me and it was the best part of my day. And second, cause we went back in the afternoon for a second cup.
This is also the day Josh and realized we did not book a place for the following two days. On the bright side, we were happy to find out the day before, instead of in the car on our way to said hotel…
Banff: Jan 2nd-5th
On January 2nd, we hopped on an airplane for a quick flight to Calgary. From there, we picked up our rental car and headed to Banff. We stayed at the High Country Hotel, which was wonderful and perfectly located downtown, walking distance to everything.
Banff so much reminded me of home, Estes Park, CO. It was a small mountain town, with very cute shops downtown that was meant solely for tourists, like ourselves. Everything was a little pricey, but that made sense, given we were surrounded by just mountains and an hour away from another town.
One of the items on my bucket list was to try cross-country skiing. So that night, we managed to find a rental shop, Ultimate Sports, for only $16 CAD. The guys there were incredibly nice and ended up using them again a few days later for a snowboard rental.
Day 7: Cross-Country Skiing
After doing a quick search online, Josh and I went to Louise Lake for some cross-country skiing. The second we arrived in Banff, it started to snow and it didn’t stop for the next 48 hours. Throughout that time, it dumped 77 cm (~30 inches) of snow on the ground, making it perfect for skiing.
We went around the bow river loop (map), as well as made our way halfway up the Lake Louise route, before heading back to our car. We covered around 4 or so miles of breathtaking views in the blizzard. My biggest concern was 1) being too cold, which wasn’t a problem because it was a good workout(!) and 2) leaving our car for too long and not being able to get out of the parking lot. Thankfully, we got back in plenty of time to get our car out and head up the Lake Louise for the views.
With the snow coming down as hard as it did, we actually didn’t get much of a view at the lake. Instead, we found a frozen lake with an ice castle on it, ice skaters and some horse-drawn carriages. Despite not getting to see the iconic views of the lake, due to the storm, we did get to enjoy walking ON the lake and taking photos.
Day 8: Skiing at Sunshine Village
With as much snow as we got, Josh got really excited to go snowboarding at one of the resorts nearby. This was not at all on our agenda, but it became obvious that that’s what we should do. So we spent some serious money (for us at least) to rent some gear and check out Sunshine Village.
Growing up in Colorado, you’d think I would be a great snowboarder/skier, but in reality, my parents were not into snow sports and I didn’t hope on my first snowboard until I was 17. Even then, I didn’t own a pair of snow pants and wore jeans to the slopes (sadly, not kidding). After years of trying, I just simply suck at snowboarding. So for this trip, I decided to try skiing.
Josh was going to join me for a lesson since he only knew how to snowboard and thought it would be fun. But with the conditions as nice as they were, he rented a snowboard and decided to hit the slopes, while I enjoyed my class on the “mitey mite” bunny slope.
After our day on the slopes, we drove to Calgary for our last night and stayed in a small hotel close to the airport so that we could sleep in as much as possible before our early flight.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip and recommend it to everyone. Vancouver was incredible and I am convinced that I will live there at some point in my life.
Here are some videos to enjoy from our trip as well:
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