As a travel writer, I get asked to stay at a lot of hotel properties in Canmore and Banff. Because I have a house in the region, I rarely do. Out of all the Canmore things to do, resting my head in a bedroom that’s not my own isn’t high on my list. Unless, of course, it’s a top notch property I’ve been dying to suss out.
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A Bear and Bison Inn
Our place in Canmore is tiny, so I’ve always coveted those large, alpine looking homes with balconies and outdoor hot tubs. A Bear and Bison Inn ticked all those boxes. The custom built inn, situated at the base of Lady McDonald mountain, is surrounded by evergreens and dotted with bright, colourful flowers.
Checking in felt as comfortable as slipping on my favourite sweater. The thoughtful process actually began a few days before our arrival, when I received an email asking if I’d like any special touches in our room, such as wine, a cheese board or some roses. As I was staying overnight with my daughter, I had to pass. The thoughtfulness extended upon check-in when we were asked if we needed any bike trail or dining suggestions and what time we’d like our three course breakfast for the next morning.
Lo and behold a few minutes before 9 am the next morning, a tray appeared outside our guest room with our tea, and OJ in crystal champagne flutes. Minutes later, another tray appeared loaded with fruit, granola and yogurt and a hot dish of eggs, sausage and potato rosti. They weren’t kidding when they said a three course breakfast was included!
Each guest room is styled differently with either a private balcony or patio overlooking the Rockies. Ours had views of the Three Sisters, high, vaulted ceilings, a two-person jetted hot tub, plus a fireplace anchored by cozy armchairs.
Our guest room was spacious enough for my daughter and I, and could easily accommodate families. On one side of the large property, there’s even a sandbox filled with toy dump trucks to occupy the littles. The inn sports a large, outdoor hot tub, too!
Apparently, A Bear and Bison Inn is quite the place for weddings, which I could totally see. The main floor has an open living/dining room and there’s plenty of spaces outside for gathering, including a gazebo. I, however, took advantage of the second level lounge and caught up with a girlfriend over a bottle of wine before hitting the sack.
Canmore Things To Do
When making your base at A Bear and Bison Inn, you’re perfectly positioned to tap into all the best Canmore things to do. Of course, you probably know all about Elevation Place and shopping down Canmore’s Main Street. But right outside A Bear and Bison lies several shops and eateries that locals frequent, but most visitors aren’t aware of. Here’s a few of my favourites – all within easy striking distance of the inn.
Mountain Blends Coffee Roasters
For the best cup of Joe in town, head down the road to Mountain Blends Coffee Roasters. This sweet spot isn’t on most tourist’s radar, likely because they’re closed on weekends. Should you be in Canmore on a weekday, you’ll want to swing in here for freshly roasted beans, killer coffee or a really well made London Fog.
Valbella Gourmet Foods
Recently renovated, Valbella Gourmet Foods is the place to build an epic charcuterie board, nab some picnic provisions or pick up a few excellent sandwiches to sustain you while you explore the surrounding mountains.
We never leave without picking up some of their thick, country-style bacon, a few frozen pot pies for busy weeknights and their special sandwich is our hiking go-to. Sadly, Valbella is closed on Sundays.
Mere steps away from A Bear and Bison lies a lovely wine shop. The wine at Cellar Door is pretty curated, so it’s unlikely you’ll walk out of here with a cheap bottle of plonk. They also sport a pretty fine selection of regional craft beer.
If you’re craving something sweet, this is the shop to pop into. La Chocolatier offers tempting truffles, chocolates and handmade chocolate bars, each made with the finest Belgian chocolate and without preservatives. The only negative is that it’s closed Sunday and Monday and its hours are tight – from 11am to 4pm.
Despite its name, the Iron Goat Pub & Grill is family friendly with a great kid’s menu. We spent far too much time here when my daughter was young. Best is that it’s only a short, wine-fuelled stroll back to A Bear and Bison Inn.
Wild Life Distillery
You can shop and nab a cocktail at Wild Life Distillery, a small batch, craft distillery producing some really fantastic vodka and gin. I alway opt for some version of a mule for its medicinal benefits. My nightcap before heading back to A Bear and Bison was the Dandy Mule, fuelled with dandelion, burdock, vodka and ginger. You can choose to sit inside or on their outdoor patio for more space.
Washagi Tea House
If you were to ask me what the most under the radar gem in Canmore was, I’d have to say Washagi Tea House. It’s a bit hard to find, situated as it is inside Bow Valley Garden Centre, nowhere near any touristy areas. Still, it’s not far from A Bear and Bison, and is worth hunting down.
Tuck into a fantastic tuna poke bowl or traditional bento boxes filled with plenty of veg, pickley things and your choice of meat. On Fridays they bring in fresh fish and their freezers are packed with wild caught fish and other goodies.
Charming Inns of Alberta
Whether you’re looking for a spa escape, somewhere cozy to rest your head after hardcore adventuring or a romantic getaway, you’re sure to find your bliss at any one of the Charming Inns of Alberta. That’s because each inn has something special about it.
To be part of this prestigious collection of inns, the property has to be distinct and special. The innkeepers also have to be present on the property, so you know standards are going to be up to snuff, plus you’ll have a legit local able to provide good recommendations.
There are only a dozen boutique independent inns and hotels as part of this collective. Membership is kept tight as their standards are high. Here’s a few other Charming Inns you may want to consider booking into:
Overlander Mountain Lodge
Overlander Mountain Lodge is a total Rocky Mountain retreat with lodge-style rooms and chalets you can rent. Last summer I popped in and was so impressed, I decided the next time I’m in Jasper, I’m staying here! Their Stone Peak Restaurant delivers incredible value. I had their tasting menu paired with wines and it was well under $100 – and I’m pretty sure I threw back 3-4 glasses.
Prairie Creek Inn
Quite possibly the most romantic looking property in all of Alberta, Prairie Creek Inn is another place I’ve been dying to stay at, but the timing has never worked out. Near Rocky Mountain House, this inn sports deep soaker tubs, stone fireplaces and thick duvets to snuggle under. I’d love to bring my cross country skis up here this winter.
The Heartwood Inn & Spa
Situated in Drumheller, near all those specular looking hoodoos and sandstone cliffs, Heartwood Inn & Spa consistently receives great reviews. Some of their rooms have 3 beds – ideal for families and girl’s weekends. I can’t wait until their spa reopens.
Have you ever stayed at one of the Charming Inns of Alberta? What was your experience like?
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