If you’re in the mood for a getaway from the city but don’t want to shell out the money for a hotel, we’ve got great news. There are plenty of amazing places to visit that are less than two hours away from Calgary, and totally worth the trip. So, what are you waiting for? Load up your family, fill up the gas tank, and get ready to explore some of the amazing gems that are practically in Calgary’s backyard.
86 km from Calgary
Kananaskis is the roughly 4,000 square kilometre mountain and foothill area that encompasses such popular tourist areas as Banff, Canmore, and Lake Louise. There is “snow” shortage of winter activities to keep your family busy in Kananaskis! If you love wandering the great outdoors, there are tons of incredible cross country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking trails to discover. If you’d rather not tackle the mountainous terrain on foot, why not try out a snowmobiling tour? Friends of ours raved about their incredible experience taking a dog sled tour through the Kananaskis trails, and this is something that is high on our family’s to-do list. If you’re looking for a great place to stop for a bite, the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge has 5 different restaurants to enjoy.
99 km from Calgary
If you’re looking to ski or snowboard in the mountains at a destination that’s close to the city and a little more budget-friendly than traditional ski resorts, Nakiska is an excellent option. Nakiska is a popular choice for families since it has a great variety of runs for riders of all ability levels. There are 4 chairlifts and 64 trails, and many repeat visitors have said that the wait times to hop on the chairlift are short. If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your things, there’s also the option to visit the Wanidu Tube Park, where anyone over 3 years of age is welcome to zip down one of the three groomed tubing tracks!
105 km from Calgary
Photo: Town of Canmore via Facebook
Canmore has long been one of our family’s favourite places to visit at any time of year. There is so much to see and do in this cozy little town just 25 minutes from Banff. One of the benefits of Canmore is that you can enjoy many of the perks of being close to the mountains without having to pay for a day pass into the provincial park (although $19.60 for a carload is totally worth it). Some of our favourite things to do in Canmore include hiking to Grassi Lakes (although it’s arguably more beautiful in the summer, it’s still a great, easy winter hike), wandering around the cute little shops downtown while sipping a coffee or hot chocolate from Beamer’s, and grabbing a bite to eat from one of the incredible restaurants in town (there are too many to list them all, but we really love Crazyweed, communitea café, The Grizzly Paw Pub & Brewing Company and the Drake Inn & Public House). Things we haven’t tried yet but are on our list include taking a cave tour, exploring Elevation Place, and renting some snowshoes or fat bikes at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
127 km from Calgary
Banff is another destination that tops our family’s list when it comes to winter day trips – if I could visit every weekend, I definitely would! I’ll take any excuse to visit the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), even if it’s just to roam through the lobby and take in the views from outside the hotel. It’s not uncommon to see caribou wandering the grounds, too! For guests of the hotel, there are some pretty awesome kids programs available for a fee, like scavenger hunts, science experiments, outdoor games, stargazing, pyjama parties and more. Visiting the Banff Upper Hot Springs is another fun and affordable activity that many families enjoy. A trip to Banff wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Fudgery for a candy apple and some other sweet treats to munch on while exploring what has to be one of the most scenic downtowns in the country. Some of our favourite places to grab a bite in Banff include Tooloulou’s, Park Distillery, The Bison, The Balkan, and Beaver Tails, for a classic sweet treat on the go!
143 km from Calgary
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Sunshine Village is a ski resort located within Banff National Park. With 9 chairlifts and 120 different trails to explore, there is something for every skier and snowboarder in the family to get excited about. Sunshine Village was always a go-to for my family growing up, and we are excited to take our one year old out once she gets a little older and has the whole balancing thing figured out. Sunshine Village boasts the most modern ski lift system in Canada, one of which includes the country’s first heated chairlift – Teepee Town LX. Because Sunshine has the highest elevation of any ski and snowboard resort in the country, they receive some really incredible snow, creating perfect deep powder runs that snow junkies crave!
150 km from Calgary
Johnston Canyon is an extremely popular hiking trail outside of Banff because of its incredible views of streams and waterfalls. This 5.4 km hike becomes even more breathtaking in the wintertime when the falls freeze and it becomes the definition of a winter wonderland. In the summer, this hike can be done with a stroller (if you have young children like we did the first time we took this hike), but it becomes a bit more slippery when things begin to freeze. Many hikers recommend wearing ice cleats on the bottom of your boots for extra grip, although it’s definitely possible to do the hike without them if you’re cautious. This trail is free to explore, but tours are also available that offer not only a guide and a snack but also hiking poles and ice cleats so you don’t need to worry about finding them yourself. Evening ice walk tours are available as well.
159 km from Calgary
Although Sylvan Lake is one of our family’s favourite places to visit during the summer, we never really realized just how much there is to do there in the winter, too! Visitors are invited to skate on one of the two huge outdoor rinks that have been built on the lake, so whether a game of shinny or a few laps around the rink are what you’re into, this is the perfect spot to do it. Until March 30, the entire Pier and lakeshore will be decorated with lights, creating Sylvan Lake’s Winter Village – the perfect backdrop for a magical winter walk. Bonfires are even available to enjoy the perfect winter picnic every weekend. Want to try your hand (or rod) at ice fishing? During the winter, about 100 ice fishing shacks are set up across the lake, some of which are decked to the nines with couches and even TV sets. A visit to the English Rose Tea Rooms is the perfect way to warm up after a busy day in the snow, but if you aren’t too chilly, we can never resist a visit to The Big Moo for an ice cream cone!