Thursday 30 July 2015

Five Fabulous Free Ways to have Fun in Banff

After taking my daughter on a tour of some of my favourite childhood haunts in Banff, she sighed and said "Mom, you had a great childhood."  Well said!  Banff is a much busier place than it was when I was a kid.  Many of the paths I thought were made purely for my friends and me are now constantly filled with people and much wider than they once were.  Still, Banff is a magical place to visit with children.  Here are some of the things I enjoyed then and now.  They are simple places, mostly close to my childhood home.

1.  The Top of the World - I believe our neighbours named this favourite place.  It's really not that high, especially when you can see much higher peaks from this little lookout, but it's a great title and my children have continued the tradition.  The little trail close to the Bow Falls is rarely busy and boasts a great view of the Banff Springs Hotel and has been used for games, sketching and plant identification.  In my days of Irish-obsession, I imagined it looked a bit like Ireland.

2.  The woods - Across the street from my family home is a small meadow surrounded by pine trees.  There is a tree filled with weird bumps that we called "The Booby Trap" (!), a swamp known for swallowing shoes, a dilapidated tree house, and tall ferns perfect for making "beds" and hiding places.  It's also a great place to snowshoe in the winter.  It amazes me how small it has become as I've grown older.
The old treehouse.  It looks like someone has made a new ladder.

3.  Bow River Trail along Central Park - I used this particular pathway as the meeting place between Catherine (Cate) Morland and Henry Tilney in my novel Banff Springs Abbey.  It's a beautiful path peppered with benches and other places to watch the river and mountain sky.  Further up the path, one can rent a canoe allowing further exploration.

4.  Cascade Gardens - This historic garden is often featured in photographs of Banff.  The Parks Canada administration building was constructed in 1935 and is sometimes available to the public for tours.  The garden is filled with gazebos and bridges perfect for children to climb and explore.  The little ponds were once filled with water but lately have been dry as Parks Canada restores the crumbling pools.  I had a personal lesson on greed one day on the way to piano lessons when I tried to fish out a quarter from one of these little ponds.  This lead to me falling into the pond in a brand new outfit!

5.  The Banff Springs Skating Pond - This magical little place is only available in the winter when it has been cold long enough to create ice.  The hotel makes and maintains the ice throughout the winter and lays out a wood fire to keep guests warm.  It is an idyllic setting beside the Spray River and can be seen from The Waldhaus Restaurant.  While natural ice is a more difficult way to start children skating, I think the incredible sights of the Rundle Mountain Range and nearby Bow Falls make this the perfect place to teach your child to love the ice.

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