Oh Canada! Banff & Vancouver Travel Guide

Banff & Vancouver

Before going to Banff and Vancouver the only part of Canada I had ever visited was Niagra falls, which is quite touristy.  I didn't really get a sense of Canada, but the second I saw photos of the turquoise lakes in Banff I knew that was more our style.  We planned a visit last year and we're in luck that Canada was celebrating their 150th anniversary by making all of the national parks free to the public!

Banff & Vancouver

banff line

Where to stay in Banff?
We stayed in an Airbnb in Canmore, which is a less touristy town 25 minutes away from Banff. The Airbnb was a motel, not a house, but the location was in the middle of town and we could walk to restaurants, bars and hiking trails. I would recommend checking out Airbnb's because hotels in Banff can be very expensive in the summer and even three star hotels can go for $250-$300/night.

Things to Do in Banff:

If you enjoy hiking then this is the place to be.  The Banff national park is expansive with hiking trails ranging from an hour or two to whole day adventures. We hiked the Tea House trail which starts by Lake Louise in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This is a moderate trail that takes you to the Plain of Six Glacier's Tea House, which was built in 1924 as a refuge for hikers. It's a great place to  rest your legs and get some fuel in the form of biscuits and tea.  The people that run this tea house actually stay on the mountain for days at a time, returning to the mainland on their day off and most ingredients like flour are actually helicoptered in. After the Tea House we hiked to the Plain of Six Glaciers and made our way to the Lake Agnes tea house, which turned into a five hour hike. You don't need to do the whole hike, but it's a beautiful place to spend a few hours.

Banff & Vancouver
Banff & Vancouver
Banff & Vancouver
Banff & Vancouver
Banff & Vancouver

We spent one afternoon kayaking down the Bow River with kayaks we rented from the Banff Canoe Club. Theres a chance you might see some muskrats, ducks and beavers so you have to keep your eyes peeled. You can kayak this river for hours without ever looping, which we realized after an hour of kayaking.

Banff & Vancouver

Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
We made a pit stop at the Yanmuska Wolfdog Sanctuary  on our way to Alberta Airport and I'm so glad we did.  This is a safe sanctuary for wolfdogs who have been neglected, abandoned or displaced. In Canada it is legal to have a wolfdog as a pet, but it turns out that owning a wolfdog is quite challenging because THEY ARE PART WOLF. Most are not easily trained and they require a lot of space to roam.  It was fascinating watching them roam their enclosure and learning about their lives.  This place also has a bunch of goats and geese which are always entertaining to watch.

Banff & Vancouver
Banff & Vancouver
Banff & Vancouver

What to eat?

Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. This is a super chill bagel shop in Canmore with the most delicious rosemary salt bagels. I had one every day I there.  If that doesn't tell you how much I liked it,  I don't know what will!

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co These flatbread pizzas are made with all local in-season ingredients that went really well with a Rock Creek Dry Cider.

The Grizzly Paw Pub & Brewery Beer samplers and comfort food, what's not to like?


We only spent a few days in Vancouver, but this city is beautiful in the summer.  It's seaside mountainous landscape was such a treat and the food was so good!  I definitely want to pay another visit and explore a little more.


Where to Stay?
We did another airbnb in Renfrew Heights because it was affordable and we had a car, so we didn't want to pay for city parking every night.  There are a lot of cool neighborhoods in Vancouver, so you really can't go wrong.

What to Do?

See a Comedy Show Vancouver has a great comedy scene.  We were lucky that one of my favorite comedian's Graham Clarke from Stop Podcasting Yourself was having his weekly Comedy Show while we were there.  It was super fun and J won an amazing Russian space hoodie t-shirt, which brings me much joy.

Grouse Grind The Grouse Grind are 2,830 steps that go to the top of Grouse Mountain.  In our naïveté we took this climb lightly and thought it would be tough, but not anywhere as bad as it actually is. It's hilarious to think about how badly we were sweating midway through, gulping down our water, feeling our shaky sore legs and knowing we were only half way. Honestly it was seeing older people making the climb that inspired me to keep going.  You do feel really proud once you make it to the top and catch your breath for a few moments.  Once you're at the top there is so much to see like its two resident bears and you can catch different shows, which are all free. I wish NY had its own Grouse Mountain because I'd go every year and maybe one day I would climb it without breaking a sweat (yeah right).

*One little note on the Capilano Suspension Bridge.  This is a very popular place to visit, second to the Grouse Grind, but we found it to be very expensive compared to the activities you can do once you're over the suspension bridge, and in the summer it's very crowded.  If you do want to make the visit bring a student ID because it can save you money ($42CAD for Adults/ $33CAD for Students 17+).

Banff & Vancouver
Grouse Mountain IMG_2014-3

Rent Bike and Ride Around Stanley Park It seems that every tourist does this, but thats because the park is huge and it's such a scenic fun ride along the waterside. The park also has a beach which was awesome.  Why can't Central Park have a beach?

Banff & Vancouver

What to eat in Vancouver?

Let me preface this by saying that Vancouver has an amazing food scene and we were only there for three days, so we barely scratched the surface.  If we ever go back I'd definitely like to hit up the Richmond night market, which looked like a food paradise.

Beaver Tails These are everywhere in Canada, but we only found these at the end of our trip after seeing a few people with them on Grouse Mountain and we were grateful we didn't miss them!  Fried dough topped with an array of sauces and sweets, my favorite being the Nutella and banana because it's a match made in food heaven. Have one on Grouse Mountain to congratulate yourself for not dying on the Grouse Grind.

Go Fish Granville Island is definitely a tourist stop, but if you walk out of Granville Island towards Kitsilano and down by False Creek Fisherman's Wharf you can get delicious fish and chips from the Go Fish shack. Enjoy it while watching the boats come in and out of the harbor.

Rain or Shine Ice Cream This is phenomenal ice cream.  J got the honeycomb ice cream and we couldn't stop talking about how DAMN GOOD it was. We still talk about it because our relationship is built on food memories that we reminisce on, not weird at all.

Maenam  I found out about this Thai restaurant from a random tweet from vancouverite Seth Rogan where he was recommending good eats in Vancouver.  Maenam's refined traditional Thai food and delectable craft cocktails really blew us away.  The 8 spice ling cod is something else we reminisce on because it was perfectly crispy, sweet, and tangy. Just do the tasting menu and enjoy this blissful place.  There is also a Rain or Shine shop super close to Maenam so have an ice cream cone after dinner. Yes, that's an order.

Our trip to Banff and Vancouver was definitely one we look back at with fond memories of sore legs and full bellies and hope we return someday soon.