We’re continuing our series, I Love This Place, by heading a bit north (for me, anyway—and for our writer). Brooke is based in Sydney, Australia, so I was surprised she didn’t want to start with her iconic city. But then I read about Canmore—basically the area around Banff National Park—and then I understood.
If you’ve been to this area, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments. Or if you’re like me, you’ve now added another place to your bucket list. Enjoy. -Tsh
After graduating from university in 2002 and working full-time for a year, my now-husband (then-boyfriend) and I decided to take a gap year. Most of our friends were heading to London, but we decided to try living and working in Canada instead – the mountains were calling.
So we packed up and headed to the Rocky Mountains, and never having seen snow before, naturally decided to work at a ski resort as lift operators. While the work was fun, the place and the people have left a mark in us that has never faded.
In fact, the older we get, the more like home this part of the world feels, and when we had the opportunity to take our family back there recently it felt like a homecoming.
We spent our time based in the beautiful town of Canmore, just outside the Banff National Park, and from there were able to explore some of the most incredible places in the world.
The Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park, Lake Louise, the impossibly pretty town of Banff where we spent some of the best times of our lives.
But Canmore? That’s a place I could live.
On Canmore’s most obvious must-see landmark:
The Rocky Mountains. Anywhere you go, you’re accompanied by the grey stone, green pines (and usually white snow caps) of the soaring mountains and it’s genuinely breathtaking.
Canmore sits in the Bow Valley in the Rockies, so anywhere you find yourself you’ll be surrounded by the most incredible mountain peaks stretching out as far as you can see.
On eating out with family and friends:
Communitea Cafe is pretty delightful. Whole foods menu, great coffee and an insane number of teas, plus a sweet little play area for the kids. I love that the outdoor seating is full of locals and their dogs, and there’s a real sense of community as you watch people catch up with friends.
Tavern 1883 is a great place to have a lazy afternoon on the patio – craft beers, good food and a great vibe. Plus kids are more than welcome and the people watching is outstanding.
On a great date in Canmore:
Depending on the season, but if it’s winter (or spring) my husband and I would head to Sunshine Village and spend the day snowboarding. Hot chocolate breaks (of course) and lunchtime beers and burgers at Trappers on the hill.
Springtime means the beers and burgers are outside, winter might see us indoors; either way there aren’t too many other places I’d like to be.
On Canmore’s attitude, demographic & style of its residents:
Mountain-town chill. Outdoorsy and active and laid-back and family-friendly and pretty much perfect.
On a morning or afternoon entirely outdoors in Canmore:
It really depends on the weather, but if we had our 5 and 7-year-olds with us and it was warm, we’d either do an easy hike like Grassi Lakes, or cycle some of the Legacy Trail that runs between Canmore and Banff.
If it was wintertime, we might go for a walk and ice skate on the pond near Main Street or find a hill to toboggan down.
On how to spend $20 here:
Quickly! But probably by buying some traditional poutine and steamies from La Belle Patate.
On a great holiday to spend in Canmore:
As an Australian whose Christmases have always been stinking hot, I can’t go past a white Christmas in the Rockies.
Drive out to Lake Louise, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the shore and go ice skating in one of the most amazingly beautiful places in the world. Then visit the Chateau Lake Louise, listen to the carolers in the foyer, head in to the Lakeview Lounge, have a French onion soup and pretend I could actually afford to stay there.
For families, there are also a lot of fun activities – both indoor and outdoor. Indoor rock climbing is great fun, skiing, skating, tobogganing, walking in the snow and marveling at just how beautiful it all is (can you tell I didn’t grow up with long, northern winters?)
Even just walking around Banff and Canmore that time of year is magical.
The decorations and the cozy pubs and coffee shops are so inviting, and the lights lend everything a storybook quality that’s so magical to me. Snuggling in with hot chocolates and a movie when the winter chill gets too much… It’s the perfect place to be both active and slow.
On a great place to shop in Canmore:
Mountain Mercato is a cheese lover’s dream and a great place to pop in and grab some bread, a French brie and some other goodies to go with a red wine in the evening. Great coffee too!
And not to sound too much like a nerd, but the public library is beautiful—the kind of place you could curl up on a lounge by the fire and write for an hour or two.
On spending only 48 hours in Canmore:
Spend a day exploring some of the Icefields Parkway if the road is clear, keeping an eye out for bears, mountain goats and elk in the spring and summer, and a day exploring the pretty town of Banff.
You could head up to Norquay and either go snow tubing or for a hike, or visit the Upper Hot Springs for a touristy soak in the water. Also add in a wander around the Fairmont Banff Springs and make sure you take in the views from the back patio area. It’s incredible.
Then back to Canmore in the afternoon for a walk along Policeman’s Creek, a drink or two at Where the Buffalo Roam (try the Whiskey Sour and the Old Fashioned – they’re both outstanding), poke around the second-hand bookstore, Cafe Books, and finish with dinner at Tapas, or one of the great pubs in town.
On sharing favorite memory:
When we visited Canmore in April of this year, one of my favourite bands happened to be playing at the Canmore Hotel the same night our old friends were in town (they filmed this video that night!) It was a complete coincidence and one of the most fun nights of my life.
Old friends, amazing music, hours of dancing and one of the most beautiful places in the world—it really doesn’t get much better than that.