Penner: Staycations allow you to explore Alberta’s beautiful backyard

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Although we didn’t make it the entire way (it’s not magical when you get saddle sores), our slower-than-average pace and the sweet mountain views made for a memorable, family-friendly journey. If you don’t bring your own bikes you can rent some wheels at Snowtips Backtrax, conveniently located on Bear Street in downtown Banff.

The view from the top of the Banff Gondola is spectacular. Courtesy, Andrew Penner
The view from the top of the Banff Gondola is spectacular. Courtesy, Andrew Penner /jpg

Speaking of “downtown,” this is definitely the place you want to end up after any activity. (However, catching the sunset at the top of the Banff Gondola — Banff’s #1 attraction on Trip Advisor — is also highly recommended. The panoramic views from the top are breathtaking). This year, thanks to the need for more social distancing, the busiest two-block stretch of Banff Avenue is closed to vehicles, allowing for sun-soaked patios to spill out onto the street. Without question, there is definitely more of a “European” flavour to Banff now as these downtown shopping and pedestrian zones are, in many ways, what makes visiting cities like Munich, Milan, and the like, so good.

For us on our two-night staycation (we hunkered down in a rustic chalet at the newly renovated Tunnel Mountain Resort), the culinary magic we experienced downtown on the patio at the new The Radiant restaurant was off the charts. The restaurant, which opened in April during the peak of the pandemic, is known for its shareable plates, live entertainment, and boutique cocktails. (Try the Tandoori Chicken ‘N Waffles).

Thanks to the warm weather, we definitely had a little paddlin’ in our plan as well. And the perfectly placed Banff Canoe Club (it sits on the junction of the Bow River and Echo Creek on the west side of town) was a hub of activity during the weekend. Dozens of SUPs, canoes, and kayaks were hitting the waterways. And, of course, a few lucky souls got up close and personal to the infamous “spirit goose.” Or, if you prefer, the trumpeter swan. (My wife did some research.) Either way, it was a magical staycation in Banff.

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