December 19, 2023

Forget multiple hotel rooms for your Girls' Getaway.  Bonding with your besties in the comfort of an RV is absolutely the BEST way to enjoy a mini-break in Banff.

Banff, Alberta.  The perfect destination for a Girls’ RV Getaway

As the snow blankets the majestic Canadian Rockies, the landscape transforms into a winter wonderland straight out of a fairytale. The crisp mountain air, the glistening snow-capped peaks, and the frozen lakes create a breathtaking backdrop that will leave you in awe. 

Couple this with the amazing pre-Christmas activities the town of Banff has to offer, and we’re hooked.  Girls’ Getaway … here we come!   Our Girls’ Getaways however have never been the hotel kind, and our Banff mini break was no exception. For us, it’s about bonding with your besties in the comfort of an RV, sipping hot chocolate by a roaring campfire, late night chats and the smell of early morning coffee brewing as you wake to the chatter of your room mates excitedly discussing plans for the day.
 
Tunnel Mountain Campground

And what plans we had!  With four full days in this spellbinding town, we found ourselves with more options than we had time to partake in.  Arriving in Banff, we parked our winter-ready RV at the Tunnel Mountain campground ready for adventure.  Tunnel Mountain is operated by Parks Canada who offer winter sites with electrical hookup, a picnic table and a firepit.  From there, there’s no need to move as the Banff public transit system (Roam) eliminates the need to drive anywhere within the town of Banff.

Our Banff mini break had us in the town for the last weekend of the Banff Christmas Market. Who can resist an evening of shopping … particularly so close to Christmas?  It’s a traditional European style Christmas market, held at Warner Stables, featuring some great local products, along with family-friendly entertainment, and we left a little weighed down by our purchases.

Within walking distance of the Christmas Market, we went In Search of Christmas Spirit held in the Cascade of Time Gardens.  While the tickets were free, they did require pre-purchase for timed admission.  Once in the Gardens, we were captivated by the illuminated sculptures and the engaging story of the safe space Banff National Park provides for its wildlife. 

In Search of Christmas Spirit

Girls’ Getaways are about spoiling yourself, no questions asked! So, there was no arguing when one of our group suggested the Afternoon Tea (High Tea) at the Banff Springs Hotel.  This is offered at most of the iconic Fairmont hotels in Canada, but sipping a selection of the finest estate teas with gourmet finger sandwiches and pastries at this particular hotel, gazing out upon such spectacular scenery, proved to be an amazing experience.  So much so that we ended up cancelling our dinner reservation as there was no room for more food!  Instead, we returned to our cosy RV, lit a campfire and bundled up under the starlit sky for an evening of laughter, wine and camaraderie.

Afternoon Tea at Banff Springs Hotel

As avid skiers, our Girls’ group couldn’t have an RV mini break in Banff without actually testing the powder at Sunshine Village - Banff’s closest ski hill.  Untethering our trusty stead (our RV) from its electrical hook-up, we drove 25km to the resort where we parked and took the gondola to the top. Unfortunately, being still early in the season, many of our favourite trails weren’t yet open but we enjoyed those that were before leaving early to drive to Johnston Canyon. In winter, the trail to the falls here has a whole different atmosphere. We’d all packed ice cleats – totally necessary for the experience – and had the trail pretty much to ourselves.  The hike to the Upper Falls is 2.5km and worth the decision to carry on from the Lower Falls (1.2km).  Allow at least two hours for the return trip.   With darkness beginning to fall, our drive back to Tunnel Mountain campground was full of conversation about the day’s events and another night was spent around a roaring campfire after cooking a sumptuous meal in our own cabin on wheels. Gondola and Winter Trail
Sunshine Village Gondola | Johnston Canyon in Winter

Day three was spent back in Banff itself, this time with more sedentary experiences.  Pre-Christmas activities aren’t complete without a sleigh ride. Leaving our RVs at the campsite, the Roam transit again became our ‘wheels’ for the day. From Banff Avenue it was an easy 15-minute walk to the Banff Trail Riders stables.  The blue sky and sunshine overhead made for a picture-perfect outing in the snow, albeit a little chilly.  Banff Trail Riders have that covered though with blankets for all and a fireside warmup after the ride. Sleigh Ride | Banff Avenue
Sleigh Ride, Banff – Photo: Paul Zizka | Banff Avenue, Photo Erik McRitchie
You can never do too much shopping on a girls’ getaway in Banff so it was an easy decision to hit the impressive selection of stores on Banff Avenue.  From mid-November to late December, Banff also hosts a Hot Chocolate Trail so what better thing to do than combine this with our shopping adventure and kill two birds with one stone!  So, we hit the shops and sussed out the cafes and restaurants serving our favourite hot chocolate treats.  Each had its own specialty so choosing wasn’t easy.  For a small town, Banff offers a wide variety of shops, from big brand clothing to local art and genuine Canadian goods.  This time of year, though, the most popular store was The Spirit of Christmas where the array of Christmas ornaments and all things Christmas had us walking out of it bags laden.   Another trip on the Roam bus back to base was necessary to unload all the goodies!

Some of the most popular things to do in Banff year-round include a dip in the Banff Hot Springs and a ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain on the Banff gondola, both of which we’d done in the summer but never in winter.  As they are close to each other, it made sense to combine these two activities and again the Roam bus provided the most convenient way to get there.

The Banff Upper Hot Springs have been welcoming Guests for more than a century and are the highest operating hot springs in Canada. It’s a great way to recharge after a full day of adventure in Banff.  As we had rented our winter-ready RV through CanaDream, we were fortunate to receive a 15% discount through their CanaDream Club program, simply by showing our CanaDream key tag to the admissions desk. We timed our visit late in the afternoon as the sun set over the surrounding peaks, illuminating the sky in brilliant yellows, oranges and reds. Magical!   Nightrise at Banff Gondola | Banff Upper Hot Springs
Nightrise at Banff Gondola | Banff Upper Hot Springs
For visitors to Banff between mid-November and mid-March, an after dark trip on the Banff Gondola to the peak of Sulphur Mountain is a must! Pre-purchasing timed entry tickets for Nightrise is recommended although we noted that there was still availability at the ticket desk as we boarded.  Nightrise is an immersive after-dark multimedia experience created for Pursuit in conjunction with Moment Factory and the Stoney Nakoda Nation, transforming the site into a place for exploration and contemplation through vivid multimedia effects, video projections and original soundscapes.  We were totally blown away by it and haven’t stopped recommending it to others.  Allow 1-2 hours for the full experience.

The return trip to our campsite from Nightrise turned into a bit of a drama when one of the girls inadvertently left her cellphone on the bus!  Of course, we didn’t realize this until we were warm and cosy back in our RV … but we all know how distressing it is to lose our phones!   ROAM to the rescue! We dialled the cellphone number of the missing phone, and it was answered by the bus driver who had found the phone as he was ending his shift.  He agreed to have us meet him in Banff to retrieve it.  Down the mountain we drove in our RV for a night rendezvous with the driver – happy to be reunited with one of our most precious conveniences.   A big thank you to ROAM, and it was wine all around back in the RV to celebrate the phone’s return!

Roam Transit Bus
Roam Bus – Photo: Roam Creative | On Board the Roam Transit Bus

Day four of our Girls’ Getaway in Banff brought more sunshine.  We’d heard that Banff had an outside skating rink in the meadow behind the Fenlands Recreation Centre and we were keen to end our mini break on a high note. However, we arrived to find it hadn’t yet opened for the season. Warmer than usual temperatures in the Rockies have meant a delayed start to their season so hopefully visitors to Banff from around mid-December will be able to enjoy winding their way around the rink when it eventually opens.
 
Fenlands Outdoor Meadows Rink, Banff

The last day of any Girls’ Getaway is full of mixed emotions. We’d done a lot in the four days we’d been together, but it was time to return to life’s normality and our own families. Dropping off our CanaDream RV was a little sad, but we’ve already begun planning our next RV escape – Waterton anyone?
Time to drop off the RV

Good to Know:
We rented our RV from CanaDream.  CanaDream has a custom-manufactured RV that is winter ready.  That means that you can use all facilities (shower, toilet, kitchen) in temperatures as low as minus 30C. Forget multiple hotel rooms for a girls’ getaway – our CanaDream RV kept us warm and toasty throughout our trip.  On our own get-away, we rented two winter-ready units, but one unit can accommodate four people. While we chose to travel in winter, CanaDream rents RVs in Canada year round from six convenient locations and seasonally from its Whitehorse location.  Price your dream RV vacation online.

We stayed at Tunnel Mountain Campground.  Parks Canada operates a year-round campground here with electrical hookups, toilet and shower buildings and shelters with fireplaces.

We used ROAM transit to get us to and from the Tunnel Mountain Campground and around Banff. Single rides on Routes 1 and 2 are $2 per ride with a day pass costing $5.
 
 

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