Shoulder season can be tough. You have to have a plan and know what’s going on. Bizarrely, my most popular post is this list of 25 awesome spring adventures in the Rockies, so I took my own advice and did a mini-break with my daughter Eve last weekend. Mini-breaks are brilliant because they don’t have to be far away and are way more affordable than jetting off someplace . Last year we did a fantastic starlit hike in Banff. This year, we opted for a chill weekend in Banff at Elk + Avenue.
Elk + Avenue is a boutiquey new property set smack dab on Banff Avenue. It’s the hippest hotel in Banff you’ve never heard of. They’ve go a date night package going on, so naturally I took Eve instead of The Huz to check it out. Here’s a look at what went down.
What Rocked at Elk + Avenue
The rooms were cool, comfortable and very Instagram-able. There was a super wide marble counter on top of the dresser that could fit two suitcases. This is key since anyone who’s caught bed bugs knows you don’t want to place your bag on the floor. (Note: No bed bugs at Elk + Avenue, I’m just dishing out advice here.)
I don’t really know much about design, but I know what I like. I like a comfy bed: check. I like kitchy Canadiana: check. The red kerosene lantern, the wood panel wall, the fur pillows: it was simple, but catchy. I especially appreciated the magno-mirror in the bathroom and empty bar fridge. Oh and complimentary make-up remover wipes. Nice touch. We ladies like!
The price was fantastic, too. For Banff. On a weekend!!! It’s $79 a person until the end of April. Besides the room they’re offering a bottle of wine (on ice in the room when you arrive, thank you!), admission to Banff Upper Hot Springs and a two for one admission to the Banff Gondola. Yeah, this is a smokin’ deal.
I promised that on this blog, I’d dish what rocked and what blew. I serve it up straight like I lecture my girlfriends. So Elk + Avenue, I really wish you had Bravo TV. I don’t have a TV at home, and I miss my Real Housewives.
The RG Lounge just off the lobby seemed out of place. RG is code for Ricky’s Grill. A chain doesn’t really fit the vibe of this property. Also, I noticed three grammatical errors on their breakfast menu. Longtime readers will know, I’m no grammar queen. I was quite pleased with myself for them catches. Fortunately, Ricky’s served up a decent breakfast.
Another odd thing was the plastic glasses in the guest rooms. Part of their spring promotion is the bottle of wine and it’s served with two proper (glass) wine glasses. So what’s up with the plastic drinking glasses? Elk + Avenue is owned by Brewster, which is a big company. You know they can afford to put real glasses in the guest rooms. It’s not a posh thing. It’s for the children, I mean environment. Plastic glasses scream motel, which Elk + Avenue is obviously not.
These are all small things, and I realize I look like the biggest B, but seriously, not every property is fan-flipping-tastic. Elk + Avenue? It’s pretty alright though.
Out and About in Banff
Once we checked in and I had my obligatory glass of wine, we hit Banff Avenue to find a dinner spot. I did a piece on Park Distillery for the Calgary Herald last winter and wanted to see if it was still as good. The pork chop looked fantastic, so I ordered that, but it was way too rare. I love barely cooked meat, but this wasn’t right. Every kitchen makes mistakes, especially on a busy weekend, but how they handle it is what customers remember. Park took care of it so efficiently and properly, I would go back in a heartbeat.
For sustenance later on in the evening, we nabbed a few chocolatey bear claws before retiring for the night. I introduced Eve to Legally Blonde, something I’m sure she’s grateful for. After getting our fill pancakes (worth it!) and cable TV the next morning, we hit the newly renovated Banff Gondola.
Going up on the gondola is touristy, yes, but also pretty fun and worth doing every few years. The interactive exhibits at Above Banff Interpretive Centre are so well done, Eve actually wanted to go through them. We did the 10 minute walk up to Sanson’s Peak and Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station – a National Historic Site of Canada. Who knew? Then the best part – feasting on the epic views and Canadiana cuisine served up at Sky Bistro.
The setting here is awesome – all floor to ceiling panoramic windows looking onto the Bow Valley and Lake Louise parkway. I can heartily give a thumbs up to the kale salad served with warm lardons and a lemony vinaigrette. The truffle parm fries and steak sandwich were also winners. Eve ordered the hazelnut chocolate tart (on the small side), but I wish I’d opted for the goats cheese cheesecake. Next time!
Capping off our mini-break, we hit the Upper Hot Springs for a salubrious soak. It wasn’t too crowded and was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. When you live so close to a world class tourist destination, you’ve got to take advantage of it. Yes, we hit highly touristy attractions, but there’s a reason they’re famous. Too often we forget to experience what makes this area so special.
Have you been to Banff recently? Where are your favourite places to stay, restaurants to eat at and activities to do?