Douglas Fir Inn
Located on Tunnel Mountain Road on the east side of Banff the Douglas Fir Inn is a great place to stay but there are some things you need to know first. The hotel is caters to families who are on ski trips in the winter and road trips in the summer.
If you read the reviews many people will say the hotel is dated. To be honest it is. We stayed in one of the stand alone duplex chalets. It has seen better days the carpet is worn the galley kitchen is small and dated. That being said we enjoyed this hotel. It had many amenities that made our stay here great.
Laundry: The hotel is located across the street from a large camp ground, and by large it is huge so the General Store and Laundry facility always have traffic. But, we never had a problem when we washed clothes. For long trips like this if we have access to laundry we usually take advantage so we don’t have to pack as much.
Waterslide: The hotel has two waterslides that are indoor, guests can use them as part of their stay. They are not special but at the end of each day our kids loved racing down these slides over and over. Many adults partook as well including this one. In the pool area is an area for toddlers. Outside but connected to the waterslide area is a hot tub. It is quite large and has a nice view of Tunnel Mountain.
General Store: Think any general store in any National Park and that is what you have here. It was great for quick things like a quart of milk but if you need to go to the store make the trip to town or even better stop in Canmore on your way in from the east.
Indoor Play Area: The hotel converted an old racquetball court into a multi-level indoor play place. While we would never tell anyone to book a hotel based on things like this, it was nice to have especially in the morning while everyone was getting ready to take the boys over here to burn off some steam before a car ride to the days journey.
We enjoyed staying here and would recommend it but make sure the hotel is right for you.
This is the first of many posts about an epic adventure our family took in the summer of 2017. In total we drove over 2,600 miles, we could have made it to Key West, FL from our home in suburban Salt Lake. But we did not go east we went north. 11 days, 2,600 miles and we never even left the Mountain Time Zone.
Day 1, 12 hours in the car. The drive north was long and a little painful. Night one was spent in Shelby, MT after a stop at a Lewis and Clark NPS site in Great Falls, MT. Day 2 started early, we found our selves eating lunch in Calgary. We hit some traffic heading west towards Banff and then a crazy summer storm north out of Banff, needless to say Day 2 was almost as long as day 2. 1,100 miles out of the way in 2 days. But as we rolled across the continental divide the storm cleared, and we saw a heard of Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep the trip already seemed worth the drive. Shortly after that we checked in to the Glacier View Inn, and our kids were bouncing off the walls. They were troopers to spend that much time in a car.
The whole point of coming this far north was to see and go onto the Athabasca Glacier. The views from the hotel are amazing. There is a patio with chairs where you can stare at the glacier all day. But as we arrived latter in the day we did this until dinner and then looked out the window of the restaurant.
Day 3, Glacier Tour. For us this was a once in a lifetime experience. While it was only a short time off of the bus on the glacier we felt a world away and than time froze. Our kids were having so much fun once they adjusted to walking on ice. Usually in the summer it is more slushy but the storm the night before had left ice on the surface. Being that close the deep blue ice just below the surface and being able to get an up close view of the Columbia Ice Field and the multiple glaciers that it feeds was amazing. As one might have guessed with 3 boys a brief snowball fight broke out.
After our tour was over we took the bus back to the hotel, at lunch and headed toward Banff, Lake Louise and our hotel for the next 4 days the Douglas Fir Inn.
Note: Book your tour before you get here if you can, it gets busy and the lines get long. Also.if you have tickets you do not need to wait in many of the lines you can just go to where they are taking tickets for the tour and head to your bus. We took the first tour of the day which meant there were fewer people on the glacier I would recommend that or the last tour if possible.
We did not go to the city of Jasper on this trip but if you have the time, it is a very cool city in the middle of some of the most beautiful country on the planet.
Next post Days 4,5 & 6 – Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
Glacier View Inn
Located on Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada 185 km North of Banff, 104 km South of Jasper. The Glacier View Inn is a tale of two hotels. Located on the 3rd floor of the Glacier Discover Center which from 8 am to 5 pm is full of people coming and going from tours and hikes to the Athabasca Glacier. From 5 pm on the whole area clears out and you can have the area to your self. We spent one night here in late July. It snowed on the glacier the night before we got here. Needless to say any visit this far North even in the summer make sure you pack appropriate clothes.
As for the hotel itself it was great. A mix between and chalet and a Best Western. The room was great, we stayed in the rooms with a loft for our kids. Defiantly worth staying the night.
Restaurants: There are 2 food options here. The Dining Room is a more expensive restaurant. It serves 3 meals but has pretty strict hours so check that if you plan on eating here. There is a cafeteria style restaurant. It is open during the day when visitors are in the Glacier Discover Center. We ate at both places, neither were amazing but there were only two choices.
Coming Soon The Glacier Adventure, which is really the reason to stay at the Glacier View Inn
While we were in London we took a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge. It was about 8 hours round trip but worth the time. Stonehenge is a must and doesn’t really demand too much of your vacation but we recommend visiting because of the beauty, history and mystery surrounding this amazing site. While Stonehenge was everything that we thought it would be an a must when visiting this part of England, Bath was the surprise.
Bath is an old town that has Roman roots and tons of old English charm it became a world Heritage Site in 1987. The Bath Abby is at the center of the city’s fame and rise to prominence in history, including the crowing of an English King in the late 900s. The Abby has changed hands and been renovated a few times since then but it is beautiful and worth a stop. Not to be outdone the Roman Baths are almost 2000 years old. We love history and have always been entranced by the Romans especially when the remnants are found on the outskirts of the Holy Roman Empire, like here in Bath. The Roman Temple and Bath were built on top of a hot spring and can be visited for a fee. In addition to the the Abby and the Baths there are many beautify houses and streets that were built from the 1600s to the 1800s and have shops and restaurants. The Avon river of Shakespeare’s fame runs through Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon is just down the road.
Let’s start by saying Galaries Lafayette is not a secret nor is it hidden but there is more to this monster department store than an amazing stain-glass skylight. Near the Opera Garnier (think Phantom of the Opera) the home to the French National Opera, Galeries Lafayette operates 3 huge stores on Rue du Lafayette. It is always mentioned in the shopping sections of guide books as ‘the’ department store in Paris, and really in all of France. That being said it can be much more than a basement full of women’s shoes, and we mean the entire basement floor is stall after stall of brands of women’s shoes. It is near the Paris Metro stops of Opera and Chausse d’Antin de Lafayette.
Near the roof of the store there are multiple cafeteria style cafes. You won’t find high cuisine here but what you will find is a reasonable place to eat a meal or grab a snack, and that place has amazing views of the heart of Paris. Venture up to the roof you will find lounge chairs set up on AstroTurf and 360 degree view of the City of Light. This is a free view of the city where as most other view points are ticketed and have huge lines. We visited on a rainy day in March and the views were a little obscured by clouds but because most of Paris was built 5 stories or less you can still see all the sites that you would want to see.
Across the street from the main store which is geared toward Women you will find the men’s (Homme) store and kiddie corner from the main store is the home store. These are fun places to wander on a rainy day. The main store has a pretty fun toy and souvenir section as well. While we wouldn’t say that it is a must do we have always enjoyed the spectacle of the store and it is a great place to rest from the elements for a while.
60 days before your trip you can book your fast passes on the My Disney Experience site or Ap. This is where you make sure you get to ride the most popular rides. In the Magic Kingdom the new king of all rides is a Princess and her 7 buddies. The Seven Dwarf Mine Train is a family roller coaster that consistently has 80 minute wait times (must be 40” tall). Others that have long lines are Splash and Space Mountains and believe it or not Peter Pan’s Flight (one of our favorites). If you want to ride these rides without giving up a few hours I recommend a fast pass. Or if you want to ride the ride twice, wait in the standby line and get a fast pass. When planning FastPasses one thing to consider is the Experiences vs the Rides. In the Magic Kingdom for example one of your FastPasses can be to Meet Anna and Elsa, this can be a huge time saver for families with children that want to do this. Other experiences are reserved seats at Fireworks or Parades. For our trip this October we have 2 experience FastPasses and the rest are rides.
30 Days before you leave you can Order your meal at Be Our Guest. If you are going to eat here you can enter your food order on the My Disney Experience App or site. The rumor is the try the “Grey Stuff” for dessert, ‘…it’s delicious!’ we will be trying the ‘Grey Stuff’ in October.
Around 30 days before your trip luggage tags arrive at your house. Shortly after that then Magic Bands will be delivered. They will appear like an unexpected present hidden far beneath your Christmas tree. Make sure to customize your bands before it is too late. You are now only a few weeks away from your trip, start packing your bags.
Next up traveling to Walt Disney World……
Sometimes long vacations land us in unexciting but necessary places. Most extended trips find us at a laundry facility because we like to pack light and bring home lots of souvenirs in the form of clothes, chocolate and fun things for our kids. One morning in Rome found us at a laundry mat that was just north of our hotel, near Piazza Navona tucked down a street just wide enough for a Vespa. For those not familiar with laundry it takes some time and on vacation it seems to take twice as long. We usually try to plan it around a meal, usually the last breakfast before we travel to the next city.
After we started our wash we wandered the tight streets in the neighborhood. We seemed to be the only non-Romans around, which for us is always a good sign. Then we saw a café serving pastries. As we walked in again we were the only non-Romans is the house. In Rome at breakfast your drink choices are usually fresh orange juice, coffee or espresso. This particular place was serving fresh Blood Orange Juice. So we ordered what looked and tasted like croissants with orange crème and 2 glasses of orange juice. This was by far my favorite breakfast of the trip and probably any trip as the Blood Orange Juice was amazing. So if you find yourself in Italy, especially in the spring make sure to have some fresh orange juice it will make your morning.
Dining Reservations. 180 days before your first day at Walt Disney World you can book Dining Reservations. Depending on how busy it is when you go, reservations go from highly recommended to a must. Be Our Guest, in the new Fantasyland is one of those restaurants that you need a reservation for even in the lowest of the low season. Le Cellier the French Canadian Steakhouse is another I would book if you wanted to go there. What I will say is if you want to eat somewhere specific get a reservation and if you have a dining plan with sit down service you should get reservations. You should plan out what parks you want to visit and on what days and then look at the restaurants and book a reservation. Some of the best restaurants on property happen to be at hotels.
So, where should you eat? Here are some of our favorites and a few key points on each of them:
Sit Down Restaurants
Akershus ($$$): Norway. Go for breakfast, there’s a great buffet and a whole bunch of princesses (it’s even fun for the boys).
Le Cellier ($$$): Canada. This is a great steak dinner for two adults. We made a deal with family members to allow each couple to have a date night while the others took all the kids. This date night dinner is highly recommended. It can cost 2 sit down meals on some dining plans.
Chefs de France ($$): France. If you truly love French food as we do this is the best of Paris bought to the US. The dining is French Bistro style so the tables are smaller and closer together.
Rose and Crown ($$): United Kingdom. If you love a good British Pub the Rose and Crown will exceed your expectations, we love to eat here on the patio after a long day of walking.
Coral Reef ($$): Future World. An EPCOT Classic, dining under the sea.
Quick Service and Snacks
Liberty Inn ($): America. Do you need a hot dog for a child? This is your place. The burgers have always looked good but we can eat in America all year round.
La Cantina de San Angel ($): Mexico. Right on the lagoon this is a great place to grab lunch before your trek around the World Showcase. La Cantina provides an elevated form of street tacos. Our kids loved the churros with caramel sauce.
Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe ($): Norway. Home to the Troll Horn. It is Cloudberry Jam mixed with whipped cream in a crispy pastry-sugar coated shell.
Karamel-Kuche and Sommerfest ($): Germany. Pretzels, Bratwurst, Strudel, Black Forest Cake, and Caramel. Enough said.
Funnel Cake ($): America. This one is self-explanatory.
Club Cool ($): Future World. Sample beverages from all over the world.
Sit Down Restaurants
The Hollywood Brown Derby ($$): Still to this day one of the best meals we have ever eaten. The Grapefruit Cake and Chop Salad are a must for at least one member of your party. But don’t plan on wanting to share. You can get reservations here that will get you a saved seats at Fantasmic. It can cost 2 sit down meals on some dining plans.
Hollywood and Vine ($$): This is an old school buffet but they do character meals here, we went to the Disney Junior one our kids loved it.
Quick Service and Snacks
Pizza Planet ($): Modeled after “THE” Pizza Planet from Toy Story. It is a fun place to grab a quick meal. There is shaded seating outside.
Sit Down Restaurants
Be Our Guest ($-$$): Fantasyland. Since opening along with the new Fantasyland it is hard to get a seat here. Disney has added a quick service lunch to try and meet the demand but if you want to eat here and we recommend it you will need to get a reservation. 30 days before your trip you can pre-order your food. This is cool because your food appears almost as soon as you sit down. A huge win for parents of hungry children and a win for Disney since this allows more people to enjoy the Beast’s Castle.
Crystal Palace ($$): Main Street USA. Another buffet to meet characters. We tend to eat breakfast here on our first day in the park. It helps to keep stomachs full past the busy lunch hours.
Tony’s Town Square ($$): Main Street USA. Think Lady and Tramp but for people and really good.
Plaza Restaurant ($$): Main Street USA. Classic American food in a great location where you can watch parades and fireworks from your table.
Cinderella’s Royal Table ($$$): Fantasyland. Who doesn’t want to dine in a castle? Especially a Disney Castle. The food here was exceptional and while it took a while to get through all the courses it was a welcome respite after a long day in the Florida heat. Try the pretzel rolls. It can cost 2 sit down meals on some dining plans.
Quick Service and Snacks
Gaston’s Tavern ($): Fantasyland. Billed as the manliest of manly places, this is a great place to refuel. The food is great but it is known for its Cinnamon Rolls and LeFou’s Brew, a non-alcoholic beverage, which consists of Frozen Apple Juice with a hint of Toasted Marshmallow and topped with All-Natural Passion Fruit-Mango Foam. Dining Plants are NOT accepted here.
Columbia Harbor House ($): Liberty Square. Located at a crossroads between Fantasyland, Liberty Square and near Adventureland this nautical themed restaurant is a great place to mix things up. While they have the usual kids fare adults can switch it up with fried fish, shrimp or lobster rolls.
The Launching Pad ($): Tomorrowland. Crème-cheese filled pretzels and frozen carbonated beverages in flavors like: Coke, Cherry, Fanta and Minute Maid.
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café ($): Frontierland. Located on the edge of Fronteirland right by Adventureland. If you are craving a chili cheese fries or western style quick service this is a good place to get some vittles.
Sit Down Restaurants
Restaurantosaurus ($): DinoLand USA. American quick service near the DinoLand part of the park, if your kids play in the play area they will be ready to eat when they get out.
Rainforest Café ($$): Main Entrance. If you have never been it is worth sticking your head in to see the spectacle that is the Rainforest Café. Their food does not disappoint, but if you are looking for a quiet place to eat this might not be it.
Quick Service and Snacks
Yak and Yeti ($): Asia. At a crossroads in-between Expedition Everest and the Kali River Rapids this is a great place to grab some excellent quick Asian food. There is also a sit down restaurant here with some amazing Thai food.
Sit Down Restaurants
Dinosaur Café & Rainforest Café ($$): The Dinosaur Café is louder than the Rainforest Café but the food is great and the kids thought it was awesome.
Quick Service and Snacks
There are lots of options here but the food trucks seem to be the best option.
Hotels & Resorts
Sit Down Restaurants
Kona Grill ($) & ‘Ohana ($$): Polynesian Resort. The Kona Grill offers an American/Asian fusion meal while ‘Ohana will take you to the setting of a Polynesian long house and a character meal that is served family style.
California Grill ($$$): Contemporary Resort. You will need a reservation for this signature restaurant, as it is one of the hottest places to eat at Disney World.
Artist Point ($$$): Wilderness Lodge. A fun family style BBQ joint, the food is reminiscent of Big Thunder Ranch in Disneyland.
Victoria & Albert’s ($$$$): Grand Floridian. This AAA Five Diamond Award winner (Since 2000) is the fanciest place to eat on property, and possibly in Central Florida. Make Reservations and bring your wallet as a seven-course meal can cost more than a night in most hotel rooms at Walt Disney World.
Coming up FastPass+, Magic Bands and Luggage Tags …….
For our 10th anniversary we left our kids home with both sets of grandparents and checked off a few items on our bucket list. Italy was on our list and Rome as part of it, but a place we went back to almost everyday and most nights while there was the Piazza della Rotonda and all the pedestrian shopping streets around it. This is the Piazza right in front of the Pantheon. One of the nights we were there eating dinner and it felt as if the world walked by our table as we shared pasta and a 4-cheese risotto.
By itself it is an amazing building built over 2,000 years ago it evokes an idea of how amazing Rome must have looked during its heyday. With solid columns quarried and built in Egypt, Italian Marble and a dome made from one of Rome’s greatest inventions cement. To get a better sense of the History of the Pantheon (and many other locations in Europe) we like to use the Rick Steve’s Europe Ap, we download and listen to the History Podcasts in our hotel and we download the Audio Tour podcast to listen to while on location. You can listen to the actual podcast here: Rick Steve’s Pantheon
The Pantheon Is on every ‘night-walk’ list we found. Besides being a close walk from the Trevi Fountain (a must at night) the Piazza comes to life at night and suffice it to say it is no ghost town during the day.
We ate 2 meals right by the Pantheon and one on the end of a shopping street heading towards the Trevi Fountain. As mentioned above one night we sat in a restaurant shared pasta and risotto and watched the piazza come alive. There were at least 3 other restaurants where your view could be similarly amazing. One day at lunch we stopped by a family run pan pizza shop, Super Pizza. It was within earshot of piazza. Here we got in line behind touring students and Father who ran the shop with his 20-something son was artfully and quickly cutting, weighing and plating food all while running the till. His son waited on the 12 or so tables they had for people who were not on tour or in a rush. We did not know this was separate at the time. We ordered and then sat down. They almost seemed embarrassed that we would have had to wait in line and then sit down. The son and father playfully jabbed back and forth at each other about who knows what the whole time we were there. Even though the food was not as good as the risotto this was my favorite meal.
For dessert we would opt to not order of the menu of where we were eating but to go to one of the many gelattaria’s and order gelato or a hot waffle with Nuttella on it. There are few things better than eating gelato and window-shopping this is especially true here.
One of our favorite things to do on vacations is go to the grocery store. This may sound a little lame but it is true. It is even truer when traveling outside the country. Right next to Super Pizza was a grocery store. The first thing we found here was Loacker Wafers. http://www.loacker.com/usa/eng_2297d969.html We carried a pack or 2 of these with us for the rest of our trip, it was a sad day when they were gone. We found fun Kinder chocolates to take home for our kids Easter Baskets. When we find a store we usually buy bottled water, other drinks and any snack that sounds good as they are much cheaper here and nice to have back in the hotel.
From the piazza there are at least 6 pedestrian shopping streets leading in all directions. While all directions will have what will be deemed ‘tourist trap’ stores there are many other stores that are worth walking by, even if you are just window shopping. Our favorite was a store that sold pottery from all over Italy. The funny thing is the shop was the part that stole the show; all the shelves were adjustable but appeared to have been built by a skilled carpenter a long time ago.
Whatever you do near or at the Pantheon you won’t be wrong because you are in Rome and in the moment…