Canada - west

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1. Posted by Pauline Bailey (Budding Member 3 posts) 31w Star this if you like it!

Hi,
Family of 2 adults & 2 tweens travelling from Australia to Canada for Xmas time 2020 & would appreciate some ideas please. Very early in the planning stages so I haven't looked that much into the transport side. Probably fly into Vancouver & mess around there for a bit. Wanting to spend Xmas in Whistler & I take it that travelling there is safest by public transport. Then up to Calgary (I gather flying there would be best). Visit Banff (maybe hire car). Then I come unstuck.

Thought we might fly to somewhere else ??? before flying back to Australia, to save retracing our steps. Don't want to go further east (not for this trip). Flying out of Calgary does anyone have any suggestions of where to go south from there. We have been to San Fran/California so rather go somewhere new. Just thought someone might have a good itinerary to check out.

Thank you
Pauline :)

2. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1784 posts) 31w 1 Star this if you like it!

Hi Pauline

If you're going to Banff I'd suggest continuing to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway. I found the sights up there more impressive than around Banff itself.

That said, I went in September. I've no idea how it fares in the winter snow - that's an aspect I'd check out for all of your trip. Does access shut down along with amenities?

3. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 373 posts) 31w 1 Star this if you like it!

Quoting Pauline Bailey

Flying out of Calgary does anyone have any suggestions of where to go south from there?

Portland and Seattle come to mind. They are both quite similar as far as geography (landscapes, flora) to Vancouver, but offering a different feel.

2 adults and 2 tweens could have a great time in Portland, for it's full of quirky sights and sites and there is some really good street food there (food trucks, but hey...). We also found Portland to be much more "user friendly" than Seattle.

Seattle is a wonderful city (we lived in the suburbs for several years) but always found it a real chore to get from one neighborhood to the next or from one attraction to the next. Seattle is (roughly) 20 miles long by about 3 or 4 miles wide, so things are mercilessly spread out too much, IMO.

You can fly non-stop to either city from Calgary.

4. Posted by Teoni (Travel Guru 815 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

The first thing I would look into is what sights and roads are closed and opened in the Banff/Jasper area. That will dictate a lot of your itinerary during your time there. Also if you plan on renting a car make sure you are confident about driving in snow conditions.

5. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 373 posts) 30w 2 Star this if you like it!

Quoting Teoni

The first thing I would look into is what sights and roads are closed and opened in the Banff/Jasper area

Closures generally depend upon extreme weather conditions at the time. In fact, Banff features loads of winter activities (gondola rides, ice skating, sleigh rides, several winter festivals, snowmobiling, snowshoeing) and is quite popular in the winter and therefore much if not all the sights are open.

The Icefields Parkway, for example, is open year round but can close prior to and up to 3 days after storms. Roads that close for the season in winter tend to be unsealed or secondary sealed roads that traverse very lofty mountain passes - the road to Jasper from Banff is gentle in elevation gain (2 minor passes) and loss and will very likely see few closures throughout the winter season, but....

Quoting Teoni

Also if you plan on renting a car make sure you are confident about driving in snow conditions.

True that...

Installing tire chains at certain points during the drive may be mandatory depending on pre/post storm conditions. Putting tire chains on (and taking them off) involves a bit of a learning curve and you will get dirty doing it. The car hire company will likely provide them. Again, it is often mandatory to put them on and take them off at certain points along the way.

Expect almost all Banff and Jasper sights to be open and accessible, but of course severe storms can slow things down for a day or two.

[ Edit: Edited on 03-May-2019, at 17:15 by road to roam ]

6. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 1066 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

Quoting road to roam

Quoting Pauline Bailey

Flying out of Calgary does anyone have any suggestions of where to go south from there?

Portland and Seattle come to mind. They are both quite similar as far as geography (landscapes, flora) to Vancouver, but offering a different feel.

2 adults and 2 tweens could have a great time in Portland, for it's full of quirky sights and sites and there is some really good street food there (food trucks, but hey...). We also found Portland to be much more "user friendly" than Seattle.

Seattle is a wonderful city (we lived in the suburbs for several years) but always found it a real chore to get from one neighborhood to the next or from one attraction to the next. Seattle is (roughly) 20 miles long by about 3 or 4 miles wide, so things are mercilessly spread out too much, IMO.

You can fly non-stop to either city from Calgary.

I agree with those two ideas - personally I think Seattle would have more of appeal to the youngsters in your group, and we got around OK using their public transport system. The underground tour, Pike Place, MoPop, the Space Needle, lots of museums ... Loads to do and we did it all using the light rail and bus services (https://www.visitseattle.org/visitor-information/getting-around/).

Another idea would be to fly back to Vancouver, hire a car and get a ferry across to Vancouver Island. I loved it there but have no real idea what it would be like in the winter, although if you enjoy winter beaches as I do, the west coast would probably be amazing.

7. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1330 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

The weather on Vancouver Island is very mild and it doesn't snow much there.

A place just west of Seattle where I've never been (always wanted to go but I couldn't get there from Seattle without a rental car) is the Olympic National Park, which has one of the best examples of a primeval temperate rain forest. (Of course you should expect a lot of rain)

[ Edit: Edited on 04-May-2019, at 13:59 by greatgrandmaR ]

8. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 1066 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

Quoting greatgrandmaR

The weather on Vancouver Island is very mild and it doesn't snow much there.

A place just west of Seattle where I've never been (always wanted to go but I couldn't get there from Seattle without a rental car) is the Olympic National Park, which has one of the best examples of a primeval temperate rain forest. (Of course you should expect a lot of rain)

I loved the Olympic National Park but we were there in summer (July) and even so it rained a bit, although not as much as we'd expected - mostly mist and drizzle. It too would be fantastic for winter beach walks. I found the Hoh Rainforest magical but I'm not sure what that would be like in winter. As for snow, we saw some on Hurricane Ridge in July so I'm pretty sure that gets a lot in the winter months and the road there is closed.

My blogs on the peninsula may be of interest:
https://toonsarah.travellerspoint.com/122/
https://toonsarah.travellerspoint.com/123/
https://toonsarah.travellerspoint.com/125/

9. Posted by Keep Smiling (Respected Member 26 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

I second the Vancouver Island suggestion - it was the highlight of our month-long holiday in West and East Canada and the one place to which we yearn to return. Fantastic scenery and wildlife. Don't miss it!

10. Posted by Piecar (Inactive 1218 posts) 30w 2 Star this if you like it!

As a Vancouverite, I agree that Van Island is a great place to visit. It has a completely different feel from mainland BC.

Going to Whistler at Christmastime is REALLY expensive, so be prepared for that. Whistler, and the trip up, is lovely. Some truly spectacular views.

What would you do with your rental car, in winter, in Banff? Do you have something you'd like to view? I'm not pooh poohing it, but, having spent a few winters in Banff as a young traveller, I'd wonder where you'd go that would be safe for an Australian, therefore not greatly familiar for winter driving, visitor? I guess a drive up to Jasper, also lovely, would be a thing.

In the west, after Calgary, if you didn't want to overlap your tracks....well I am hard pressed to think of a place. Edmonton is an industrial town. Regina is a fine town but really not for travellers in the winter. South into the States would be the better route, though I am loathe to send you there, and away from Canada.