July 27, 2006
Camping in Banff with KidsTweet
Last year, my wife and I decided that we should try camping to see if the kids would like it. Oh, yes - very much so. Confident that we would make good use of a camping trailer, we ended up buying a TravelStar 18SB this spring. Then the question came of where to go camping? We knew we wanted to visit friends of ours in Calgary this summer, so we thought that Banff would be a perfect camping destination, being so close to Calgary....
We decided to break up our trip by stopping in Drumheller along the way. We camped at the Dinosaur Trailer Park, which was overall a good experience. The mini golf was fun, the staff were friendly, but showers weren't the cleanest... however, the fact that our campsite was directly across from the playground made it a great place for us. We would go back.
Drumheller is FUN for kids! There are a lot of things to do and we weren't able to squeeze them all in, considering that we were only there for one night's stay. We did climb the world's tallest dinosaur, we did visit the wildly famous Royal Tyrell Museum, and we did spend a couple of hours at the free public spray park. But then we had to pack up and take off for what we thought was our ultimate camping destination on this trip, Banff.
A few hours of driving later, and we arrived in Banff. The campsites at the Tunnel Mountain Trailer Park are all very clean and seem well laid out. Certainly, there are more trees in the "Trailer Park" part than in the "Campsite 2" part, so we were happy to have a bit more privacy. We met some neighbours (Bruce and Christine from Wetaskiwin, AB) while setting up, and our kids played together for a bit. I asked Christine what they were going to do while in Banff, and she said not much - they were just there for the night, on their way to further destinations.
After the activity of setup was complete, we all got back into the van to drive around the campsite and locate the playground. That turned out to be impossible... there was no playground. A theatre, yes.... but no playground. Hmm, only in Banff. So we stopped at an info kiosk and grabbed some tourist pamphlets, hoping to find something to do. It was becoming apparent that we didn't think this whole "camping in Banff" concept out enough.
We put the kids to sleep and thumbed through the pamphlets, discovering that there was nothing of interest to us. Not only that, but even if there was, it all seemed to start at $80/person (horseback riding, rafting, guided tours, etc) We turned in for the evening, not quite sure what we would be doing the next day.
It turns out that the funnest thing for our kids in Banff was droppings from deer that they found a little ways from our campsite. Yes, deer poop. They looked at it, poked it with sticks, and generally talked about it for over an hour. Eventually my oldest daughter asked if she could take a picture, so I laughed and handed her the digital camera... she took a picture of her sister posing by the poop.
My wife and I took this as a pretty clear indication that Banff was not for kids. Just to be sure, we did walk through downtown Banff (lots of overpriced stuff that we didn't want to buy) and we also checked out the hot springs (what? no cold water pool? you're kidding, right?) Having our thoughts confirmed, we decided to check out of Banff two days early.
When we got back to the campsite that afternoon, I ran into Bob, a Geography teacher from Oshawa, ON. He was camping just down from us with his wife and three younger kids (the oldest was just in his teens). He was a very nice guy and easy to talk with. I asked him what he was planning on doing in Banff for a week... he replied, "I don't have a clue. I really don't know why we're here for so long - this place is boring for kids!" I laughed and agreed, telling him that we were leaving early. After commiserating, I didn't feel so bad about being turned off of camping in Banff.
After phoning a few campgrounds around Calgary, we ended up at Calgary West Campground. This was a beautiful place with lots for the kids to do... swimming pool, playground, mini-golf and nature hike were all on-site and all very nice, and the general store was well-stocked and reasonably priced. Our campsite was overlooking the playground and only three sites away from the pool. We had more fun in one afternoon at this place than we did a few days in Banff. The shower and laundry facilities were very clean at this campground, and we do plan on staying there if we're ever camping in Calgary again.
With our kids easily forgetting the boring Banff days between and only remembering the good times in Drumheller and Calgary, we can consider this vacation a success... and an experience to learn from, as far as planning our camping trips.
Posted by Hammer at July 27, 2006 11:51 PM
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