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Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

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Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

Hello All,

I need help picking a Canadian Vacation/Adventure with my Wife and 2 kids Ages 3 and 1 year. August 1-8

It would be a hybrid Road Trip/Vacation with the longest stay in one spot 2-3 days. Our Choices to this trip are

1. Banff, Lake Louise and the Rockies/Calgary/Glacier NP (Arrive/Depart from Great Falls Montana)

2. Acadia NP/Quebec City/Montreal or Charlevoix (Arrive/Depart from Bangor Maine)

3. Acadia NP/Bay of Fundy/Nova Scotia/Halifax (Cape Breton Highlands unless it’s too far) – (Arrive/Depart from Bangor Maine)

Another factor that we have but don't really need to use this is that we have 4 free nights at any Fairmont Hotel, i know the 3 Fairmont’s in the Canadian Rockies look Grand but I was wondering if Rockies hotels should be more of a couples retreat instead of Family Trip. Again, we don't have to use these 4 free nights, its just out there to consider.

Factors to Consider

1. Scenery/Outdoor Activities

2. Kids Activities

3. Sights to See

4. Beautiful Drive

5. Good/Fair Prices for everything from Food to Hotel Accomdations

6. Good and Unique Food

7. Culture/People

8. Fairmont Hotels in Rockies or Quebec

9. Safety (Bears on Hiking Trails, Tide Safety, etc)

Any help would be greatly appreciated

Thanks

Toronto, Canada
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1. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

I'd go with choice one for scenery, access to the fairmont hotels, and less driving than going through two to three provinces for the most part...

Calgary, Canada
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2. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

Wow, what a tough call! All three are great destinations. However, the scenery in the Rockies tops the eastern destinations that you've listed, IMO. (I do think Prince Edward Island scenery gives the Rockies some strong competition, though.) So a definite winner for criteria 1. 3, and 4. Banff can be an expensive destination, but your Fairmont nights can help with that. The Chateau Lake Louise is very family-oriented in summer - in past summers, they've run special kids' activities - while I've found the Banff Springs Hotel to be a pretty family-friendly hotel. Banff has a ton of great restaurants, but if you're looking for a wider variety of food, you'll find great seafood in Nova Scotia, while Quebec cuisine has some unique flavours. (Though poutine is available across Canada Culturally, you'll find Quebec and Nova Scotia to be further from mainstream US culture than the Rockies, I think. Quebec has the French language and Quebecois culture, while in Nova Scotia you have the Gaelic and Celtic traditions, and of course the Acadian area around Cheticamp. However, driving to Nova Scotia can be pretty boring, as the highway is bordered by dense trees on either side for much of the time.

As for safety, I suspect that the ocean claims far more swimmers every year than bears, as bear attacks are extremely rare.

Calgary, Canada
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3. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

Here is a bit of my opinion on the three locations. They all have something special to offer.

Rockies - my only negative for this would be that if you are driving from Great Falls, MT all the way up to Jasper - that is a lot of driving with young kids. Maybe consider going to Glacier National Park (Montana) and Waterton National Park (Alberta) as these are closer to Great Falls. ...the scenery there and in Banff/Jasper is beautiful and it is a great place to see wildlife. The Banff to Jasper is one of my fav road trips on the planet.

Montreal/Quebec - both great cities and will be a great cultural experience. You won't get the same sense of nature as in the Rockies as you will be in large cities. Lots of activities to pick from (amusement park, museum, festivals etc). This will be the best choice for a variety of food as they are larger cities.

Nova Scotia - you get the ocean here and trips to the beach are fun with the kids. The nice thing about a road trip in Nova Scotia is that there are lots of little towns to stop in for lunch or to spend the night. The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island is the most scenic part of the province. In Nova Scotia you'll get the chance to whale watch and view marine life. Halifax is a great city with lots to do...they have a busker's festival on the waterfront in early August that is enjoyable for the whole family.

Kansas City...
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4. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

Thank You for your help, this is a tough choice. Which one would be the easiest to do in 7/8 days? I agree the Jasper to Great Falls drive is long, i think its like 10 hours

Edited: 14 March 2014, 01:19
Edmonton, Canada
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5. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

One thing to note, is that August 4th in Alberta is a civic holiday, so the mountains will be busy as a lot of Albertans have a long weekend, and for most of us with young ones, that is one of the last weekends to camp in warm weather so the Rockies will be busier than most.

Edited: 14 March 2014, 01:36
Newmarket, Canada
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6. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

If you plan on using your Fairmont free nights, be sure to check to see if any of your chosen properties have blackout dates for the time you plan to be there. I'm assuming these are free night certificates on your electronic FPC profile? It seems that Aug 1/2 is blacked out at Charlevoix, so you may not be able to use a free night there at that time.

https://www.fairmont.com/fpc/limitedaccess/

For options 1 and 2, you have some nice Fairmont properties to choose from. I wouldn't waste a complimentary night at the Fairmont in Montreal--it's a good location but the property is not that special and not that expensive if you just paid for the room. Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs are among my favourite properties and can you can get a lot of value using free nights there. Other Fairmont options in the area of your Option #2 are Ottawa and Tremblant, which are both nice properties as well as nice destinations.

I think it comes down to whether you want scenery/outdoors or culture/history. If the latter, Quebec City/Montreal/Ottawa have tons of it, with some nice natural beauty thrown in. But the Rockies trump the other options if your main interest is outdoor exploration.

7/8 days is a rather short time to take in all of GNP, Banff/LL and Jasper. I would consider dropping GNP if you went with option 1.

Kansas City...
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7. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

GNP is kind of hard to skip since we are flying into Great Falls, I will probably skip Jasper since its like 10 hrs from Great Falls. Maybe flying into Great Falls is a deal breaker when it comes to Banff/Alberta? Scenery isn't end all but something that has a good mix all of all the factors would be a huge deciding factor in all of this.

Calgary, Canada
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8. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

Actually, I show Great Falls to Banff as only about 6 hours... It would only take 9 hours if you went the very long route which goes around the outside of GNP. You can't actually drive through GNP directly into Canada (border crossings are outside the park), so it's not an automatic stop along the way.

Is there any reason you aren't flying to Canada direct? Any of your routes adds a lot of driving. I'm not sure why Great Falls to Banff would be worse than Bangor to any of the other locations.

You can get some pretty good deals flying to Canada, and you have to go through immigrations/customs no matter how you go to Canada (remember that the kids will need passports). You can rent a car in Canada as easily as in the US - no one will bat an eye at a US license around here and your AAA membership will give you all the same benefits & discounts up here. (AAA and CAA/AMA are more or less reciprocal).

I would pick your location based on what you and your wife will enjoy and can tolerate with two very young kids- the kids are too young to remember anything. And there aren't going to be any specific activities for a 1 year old, and very few for a 3 year old.

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9. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

We were trying to use our airline miles for this trip; Bangor and Great Falls has the best availability for using our miles

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10. Re: Help with a Canadian Vacation? Banff, Nova Scotia or Quebec

And as a consequence your car hire and driving costs will be substantially higher .............