An August 1999 trip
to Calgary by Jim Rosenberg
Quote: Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies are well-known locales among the traveling public, but the pleasant surprise is that they are less-crowded and costly than destinations of their genre south of the U.S. border.
Hotel | "Holiday Inn Calgary Downtown"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 30, 2000
Hotel Arts and Event Center
119 12TH AVENUE SW
Calgary, Alberta T2R0G8
Mount Robson Inn
902 Connaught Drive
Jasper Alberta T0E 1E0
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 30, 2000
Edmonton - The Palace (Holiday Inn)
4235 Calgary Trail N
317 10th Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta T2R 0A5
+1 403 269 8889
Restaurant | "Chianti Cafe"
Chianti Café and Restaurant
1438 17th Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta T2T 0C8
+1 403 229 1600
Restaurant | "The Keg Steakhouse & Bar"
Keg Steakhouse & Bar
8020 - 105th Street
West Edmonton Mall
Attraction | "Banff & Jasper National parks"
Jasper National Park
Calgary, Alberta T1L 1K2
http://www.rc.gc.ca/visitors/ -- fill out the form and mail it in with ORIGINAL receipts and your boarding pass showing your flight leaving Canada (proof of export is required to claim the refund). If you are leaving by car, you can take care of your refund at the duty-free store at the border. Do NOT use commercial services, which often display brochures or run ads in visitor guides. The fees are outrageous and the claim form is very easy to complete and submit.
While you should always be careful with money and alert to unsafe situations, no special safeguards beyond what you would normally take while traveling in the U.S. are required in Canada. It's as "safe" a place as there is.
Over the past several years, we've found great airfares into Canada -- even during the popular summer months -- by using zone fare coupons from Northwest Airlines. Once you're there, a rental car will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. Banff and Lake Louise are an easy day trip from Calgary, but we opted for a circle tour, staying a night in Calgary, a night in Jasper and two nights in Edmonton. (It's not that Edmonton necessarily deserves more time, but by timing things out, we were able to essentially spend two days in the mountains while enduring only one night of mountain lodging prices).
The drive from Calgary to Banff and on up to Jasper is a leisurely day-long adventure if you stop to catch a few sites along the way; some may prefer to take even more time and I couldn't fault them for it. It's well worth whatever time you spend. Jasper is a relaxing stay and perhaps a bit less commercialized than Banff, although there are plenty of dining choices and diversions available.
Keep your camera handy on the first 90 minutes of the drive from Jasper to Edmonton, since there are many scenic vistas and plenty of wildlife. The final two-thirds of the drive to Edmonton are admittedly not very exciting, nor is the the three-hour drive from Edmonton to Calgary -- but it's small price to pay for your experience. (The comparative lack of scenery is probably made more apparent by the eye-popping scenes you've been enjoying over the prior two days).
Both Edmonton and Calgary are safe, clean cities to enjoy at the edge of the Canadian prairies. We've given you some suggestions for places to stay and resaurants to visit, but there is no shortage of discoveries to make and it would be difficult to find more friendly and accommodating people than our Canadian neighbors. It's easy to get into a friendly conversation in nearly any situation and you may easily find yourself having cold ones for an evening with your new friends.
The West Edmonton Mall is a mandatory stop -- you have to see this fantastic facility to believe it and you need not be a shopper to enjoy hours of diversions. (If you've been to the Mall of America in Minneapolis, you've seen the 'smaller' version of this experience. The West Edmonton Mall is larger and offers a more complete entertainment experience).
Overall, this circle tour offers a little something for everyone of any age and it is well worth putting on your list of things to do. And those package prices? Well, we were able to cover all expenses including airfare, lodging, rental car and meals for a family of four at around $600 per person in high season for a 5 day/4 night self-drive tour, thanks to good planning and the attractive exchange rate.