One of the joys of living in the Inland Northwest, especially in Spokane, is how close we are to our northern neighbors. My wife and I, for example, spent four days last weekend in Banff, Alberta.
And, yeah, the drive took eight hours (with a couple of rest stops). And, yeah, the weather was a little hotter than I would have liked. And, yeah, it seemed as if every international tour bus picked that very weekend to clog Banff's main drag, plus the Trans-Canada Highway between Banff and Lake Louise.
All that aside, we had dinner on Thursday night at a decent French-style restaurant, Le Beaujolais, at which I drank an Okanagan sparkling wine that was one of the best I've ever tasted (Cipes Brut, Summerhill Winery, from British Columbia). Our Friday dinner was at the more down-home Melissa's Restaurant and Bar was just as enjoyable, if less effete.
In between, we drove to Lake Louise and walked around the shoreline (hearing six different foreign languages in the process), drove to nearby Lake Moraine and did the same and returned to Banff for some Cows ice cream (not gelato but close). We toured the classy Banff Springs Hotel (photo above, out of our price range), bypassed the Banff Gondola (too crowded) but took in the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum (behind the log fort on the Bow River).
So, even if you're vacationing on a budget, it is possible to enjoy — and let your children enjoy — an international experience. Just drive north.