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Which trip w/ an 8 yr old...Vancouver? Banff? Cape Breton?

Birmingham, Alabama
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Which trip w/ an 8 yr old...Vancouver? Banff? Cape Breton?

We are considering a summer trip to Canada and having trouble narrowing down the destinations, they all sound so wonderful. I've read the "Where should we go?" tips in the FAQ section and it just added to my indecision. :)

We're 2 parents with a child who will be 8 at time of trip, traveling in July or very early August, flying out of Atlanta. Our son is pretty easy to entertain and is an adventurous traveler.

We'll have 7 or 8 nights to spend in our destination of choice. We are OK with renting a car, though public transport is always a plus.

We like outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming and watersports, good (casual) food, dramatic scenery, beach and/or mountains, historical sites and generally a laid-back atmosphere. We enjoy museums and culture as well, but they are not a must.

My husband prefers to limit our "home base" lodging to no more than 2 places (flying into Point A and staying for a few days in one hotel, traveling to Point B and staying a few days in another hotel, then returning to the first spot to fly home).

Here are the tentative itineraries we have tossed around. Given the time of year (i.e. weather) and our interests/needs, I would love any advice about which sounds like the best match.

1. Fly into Vancouver and spend 3-4 nights, take the train to Whistler and spend 4-5 nights, return to Vancouver for a final night before flying home.

2. Fly into Calgary, spend 2 nights, drive to Banff/Lake Louise for 5-6 nights, return home from Calgary.

3. Fly into Halifax for 3 nights, drive to Cape Breton Island for 4-5 nights, return home from Halifax.

Thank you in advance!

Edited: 26 January 2013, 01:16
Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Which trip w/ an 8 yr old...Vancouver? Banff? Cape Breton?

Welcome to the forum, Famof3 ~

I like Vancouver because it is harbour/waterfront eye candy, restaurant heaven and an outdoor paradise. You are never far from the water and have every opportunity to walk, cycle, roller blade on one seawall or another around practically every part of the downtown region. It can rain here, even in summer. We have food carts to die for and any number of good ice cream outlets. We have plenty of "stuff" for a young man to do as well. We have mountains to get up to when you're not building sand castles on the beach

Whistler is a resort town, about 2 hours drive from Vancouver. It is even more outdoors oriented. Fresh air, and opportunity to get up on the mountain by chairllift or gondola. The Peak 2 Peak is an 11 min, 4 km gondola ride across the valley from Whistler peak to Blackcomb peak. Food galore, shopping galore, cycling, mountain biking, walking, fresh air, rafting, bear tours, hiking, ATV rides, horseback riding.

I wouldn't spend 4-5 nights in Whistler though unless you are really avid outdoors folks. You might spend 5 nights Vancouver and maybe 3 nights (2 full days) in Whistler.

The Rockies is as wilderness as a World Heritage site can be. Banff is in Banff National Park, with the town of Banff quite busy in the summer. LL is only about 45 min drive down the road and provides plenty of walks and hikes around the lake. The Icefields Parkway between LL and Jasper needs to take about 10 hours to be able to visit the viewpoints, attractions, walks, waterfalls, the glacier Snocoach and walk. Good idea to take a box lunch to give you the flex for finding a great spot to take a break and eat. You will likely want to skip Calgary and head straight for Banff for 4 nights, possibly 1 night Lake Louise (which is a hotel, a parking lot and a lake, not a town) and 3 nights in Jasper before heading for Calgary and the airport. Jasper to Calgary airport is a 5 hour drive. Banff to the airport is a 2 hour drive so taking a final night in Banff to position yourself for an easy drive to the airport is often done. You would have trees, more trees, water and more water, lakes and more lakes, wildlife and more wildlife. Fresh air and cold overnight temps. You could stay in Banff and Jasper for this location.

Cape Breton is one of my favourite places in Canada. NS has down home people who are absolutely the best. Spectacular views of either the Gulf of St Lawrence of the Atlantic Ocean around the Cabot Trail, which can be done in one day or 2, even 3 stages. Halifax is good for 4 nights, with its several museums outlining some spectacular events in Maritime History. Baddeck is a central and beautiful little town to the Cabot Trail, with the Alex Grah Bell Museum and a short ride to Fort Louisbourg, an 18th century French garrison which has been recreated and staffed with folks in period costume. It's a treat and needs your full attention for a half day if you go there. Glace Bay gives an insight into the coal mining industry that NS was so well know for. Cheticamp is known for its Acadian French community, its beautiful hooked rugs. For an 8 year old there is Ross Farm Museum, a living farm museum, on Hwy 20. You could stay in Halifax and Baddeck for this location. No reason you couldn't do 2 day drives around Cape Breton Trail from there if you just wanted 2 places to stay, but I would encourage another night at the east end of the Cabot Trail to allow you to stop a bit and hike in Highlands NP.

That the best I've got. You are on the Canada Forum, which is very lonely, only a handful of regulars follow it. If you want to have people tell you about their own area. I would ask on the NS Forum for NS opinions and on the Canadian Rockies for their opinions and on the Vancouver Forum for BC opinions.

Birmingham, Alabama
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2. Re: Which trip w/ an 8 yr old...Vancouver? Banff? Cape Breton?

Thank you so much for the wonderful info! Lots to consider. I'll post in the other forums as well.

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3. Re: Which trip w/ an 8 yr old...Vancouver? Banff? Cape Breton?

Rather than Banff, I would take an 8 year old to the Canadian Badlands, Canada's dinosaur capital. I would do a circle tour beginning and ending in Calgary starting in Drumheller (about and hour and a half ne ofCalgary) and visit all the dinosaur things in it including the amazing Royal Tyrrell Museum and T'Rex, the world's largest town mascot- you can climb up its interior to its mouth for a Drumheller Valley view. Then I would head to Dinosaur Provincial Park for a guided hike to a Centrosaurus Bonebed. The park is littered with dinosaur fossils and has some amazing programs you can join. The park has roofed accommodation in these cool yurt-style platform tents or the city of Brooks and hotels with pools are within 1/2 hour or so of park which is about 3 hours east of Calgary.

4. Re: Which trip w/ an 8 yr old...Vancouver? Banff? Cape Breton?

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