Last week, Dave and I snuck away to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary! We had been dreaming of this trip since having Jack and knew that we wanted to go somewhere new for the two of us. We initially thought California then maybe New England in the fall but after revisiting a photo of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, that I had pinned 6+ years ago, we came up with the idea to make the trip. I received so many comments on Instagram saying, “Only two Chicagoans would be crazy enough to go to Alberta in the fall/winter,” because of the snow which haha, you’re right. BUT, I knew we had to take the risk to experience the mountains during this time of year—it was either going to be yellow Aspens or snow-covered mountains and both are pretty special in my book. When we initially started talking about this trip, I asked for hotel recommendations on Instagram. Out of pure luck, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Banff Springs reached out and offered to accommodate us during our trip which basically allowed everything to fall into place. A serious perk of the job is getting opportunities like this to organically experience and review these hotels to share with my followers who may want to visit one day! So although our hotel stay was paid for, we still paid for flights and majority of our meals. Just to be completely transparent! We are so grateful that we got to visit both of these beautiful places and I hope this post gives you some insight into our stay.
^^ these last couple photos were taken at sunrise at 7:30am and the colors were amazing!
Can you even with these photos?! Our first stop was Lake Louise which is about a two-hour drive from Calgary which we flew in to directly from Chicago! It was the easiest flight (just under 4 hours) and with only an hour time difference we felt great stepping off the plane. We rented a car to make the drive which was BEAUTIFUL. You drive into the mountains and Banff National Park which basically guides you into quaint little mountain towns every few miles until you get to Lake Louise (side note: you actually pass Banff on your way to Lake Louise, it’s about a 45-minute drive past Banff).
When we arrived at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on Monday it was 45 degrees and the views of the lake were like a bunch of heart eyes slapping you in the face. The COLOR!! It’s seriously breathtaking. Honestly, the photos don’t do it justice. When you’re there it’s honestly like you can’t look away—I’m pretty sure I took 793649823 of the exact same photo of my phone trying to capture the beauty. We immediately got to our room which was a lakeside room on the club level (helllllo pretty breakfast spread every day, afternoon canapés, and cocktail hours), changed and ran downstairs to take in the views. We walked to the opposite side of the lake to see the hotel from the other direction (see below!) and breathed in that fresh Canadian air! We had dinner at the newely remodeled Fairview Bar which is so chic and gorgeous with the most amazing cocktails and dinner menu. We then settled in because we had an early hike scheduled for the morning and I was trying to fight off a cold.
Well, overnight a huge snowstorm came through and it snowed almost 12 inches! You can see a before of when we first arrived here and compared to the next morning here. Needless to say, our hike was canceled which was okay because we spent the morning taking in all of the snowy sights. The hotel was pretty busy—their busy season ends right after Canadian Thanksgiving which was yesterday!—but thanks to all of the visitors, lots of paths were created and we got to explore the lake in the snow. We were hoping to go canoeing on the lake which looked like a dream but it ended up being closed due to the weather. I have to say I LOVED witnessing and experiencing the snow but I was happy to remind myself that we still have a couple of months before it snows in Chicago. That night we had a romantic fondue dinner at the Walliser Stube which was such a cozy setting and maybe my favorite meal of the trip. It reminded me of an old Swiss Mountain restaurant and was just really lovely.
On Wednesday morning we woke up and enjoyed a big breakfast followed by a quick workout and then we hit the road for Banff! Before we left Lake Louise we took the prettiest drive to Moraine Lake. The snow-covered trees on the drive there were literally out of a movie! I was really living the snowy mountain vibe and loving it. Here is a picture from Lake Moraine! It’s just a 12-minute drive from Lake Louise and has that same turquoise blue color because they are glacially-fed. The color stands out even more with the snow and the reflections were pretty incredible. On to Banff!
*note: We really didn’t leave the resort while we were there! I did have a few followers recommend grabbing lunch at the Post Hotel if you wanted to leave the resort. A huge perk of staying at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is that it literally sits right at the edge of the lake. No reason to leave!
Banff is about a 45-minute drive from Lake Louise and closer to Calgary (so a nice backtrack for departure!). As beautiful as Lake Louise is, I was so excited to visit Banff and take in all of the cozy vibes. I had heard people describe the Fairmont Banff Springs as Hogwarts in the mountains and it’s kind of true. A castle that is settled into the most beautiful landscape! The entire space feels historical (which it is!) and warm and familiar and just like home. While Lake Louise was somewhat of a tourist destination, Fairmont Banff Springs was like a little slice of heaven that felt like a warm blanket. I mean can you even believe the photos? It’s such a beauty!
So what we loved about Banff, in general, is that it is more of a town feel—with so many shops, restaurants, bars, etc. to explore outside of the hotel. We heard amazing things about Chucks Steakhouse, had a fun lunch at Eddie’s Burger +Bar and afternoon drinks at Banff Ave Brewery! It’s such a cute little town to explore and super close to the Fairmont. Again, we had a beautiful mountain view room on the gold level and the gold level at the Fairmont Banff Springs is a DREAM. It’s been newly remodeled in the past 5 years and is just cozy and comforting and a place that we were so grateful to have during our stay!
The Fairmont Banff Springs looks out over Bow Falls which is the prettiest intersection of the Mount Rundle trailhead and the Bow River. The rapids and the river leading into the mountains in such a tranquil scene and it was so special to wake up to this view in the morning! It was a short hike down to the river with so many trails around the area to get the best views of the mountains! It’s truly a destination for those who love to explore but also appreciate some relaxation and good food options. While Lake Louise was centered around the outdoors, Banff was focused around indulging. We had the most DELICIOUS dinner at 1888 Chophouse on Wednesday night—truly one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. On Thursday morning we had a yummy breakfast followed by a couples massage which was probably one of the best massages I’ve had in my life made even more special with Dave. On Thursday afternoon we did a food tour of some of the amazing restaurants within the hotel—called “Eat the Castle” (seriously the number of restaurants at the Fairmont Banff Springs and the QUALITY is out of this world) and it’s safe to say we were in a food coma for the remainder of the night. Dave and I ended up sipping wine and playing gin rummy by the fire on the Gold Level for 3 hours before calling it a night. Honestly, the most ideal trip ever.
Our trip was so perfect it almost feels like it didn’t happen! I think that’s what you can expect when you get home and have to dive right back into parenting and mom life. There is no ease back into reality, it’s just kind of a slap in the face and that time away already feels like a distant memory—ha. I had a lot of questions about which destination was my favorite and if I had to do it again I would probably only stay at Fairmont Banff Springs and then take a day trip to Lake Louise (since it is only a 45-minute drive!). We just felt way more at home in Banff and Lake Louise is such a hot spot for tourists that being on the lake felt a little overwhelming with the crowds. The accommodations at both locations are amazing and if you’re able to visit Lake Louise during a time of year where you can hike and canoe then GO! But if we were going to do it again then I would call Fairmont Banff Springs home for as long as possible.
I wouldn’t call this post a “guide” to these locations, just a general experience as we didn’t really explore much outside of the hotels! Both places are absolutely BEAUTIFUL and it was truly a bucket list trip for me. You can see more photos on my Instagram + my Instagram highlights under CANADA!