A couple of weekends ago, my good friend Karin Usipuik and I took a getaway trip to Calgary, and it was such a great experience! Karin and I often joke that our friendship has made us believe in the power of online dating – simply because our friendship grew completely through connecting online.
As a little bit of backstory for you, Karin and I met through Instagram. We were both just venturing into the world of blogging, Instagram, and influencing, and Karin was brave enough to send me a DM introducing herself. I’m so glad I took the opportunity to respond and get to know this person who has become such a great friend!
Anyway, we always planned to meet up at some point, and after the scare of my heart surgery, we decided it was time to just make a plan already. So, we decided that Calgary was a great “in the middle” city to meet; Karin hopped on a plane, and I jumped in my mini-van – baby and all – (yes, I am in fact, that cool), with plans to spend a weekend exploring the city together.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit Calgary, I have to say – it’s definitely worth being added to your bucket list! Especially with it’s close proximity to Banff and the Rocky Mountains. There are literally sooo many things to do with your family, a good friend, or even on your own! Of course, my favourite part of this particular trip to Calgary (because I’ve been lucky enough to visit more than once) was hanging out with Karin, but I still want to share with you all some of the fun things we got up to that weekend and leave you with a little Travel YYC Checklist for any future wanderings you may do in Calgary and area.
Day One: Friday
Our first day in Calgary was so much fun. First of all, we got to meet for the first time in person! I had driven to Calgary the night before (in a snow storm no less, but that’s a different story for a different day) and had had the pleasure of staying at my sister (@alexsobst’s) house for the night. Karin flew into YYC bright and early on Friday morning, and I picked her up at the airport.
I’m not going to lie – there was a tiny part of me that was worried about whether or not it would be awkward. We had formed this great friendship that basically only existed through talk, text, and photography and I didn’t want things to be awkward when we finally found ourselves hanging out face to face. Luckily, I didn’t need to worry about this at all – it truly felt like we had hung out a million times the moment we spotted each other at the airport.
Karin hopped in my mini-van and she was a great sport about first heading to the Children’s Hospital to visit my sister and my newborn nephew, who had been admitted for the night due to a bad chest cold and high fever. We made the first of many Starbucks stops, and had a nice visit at the hospital where we found out my nephew was good to head home!
After that little visit, we decided to make a “game-plan” for the weekend. There were so many things we wanted to do, and truly, not nearly enough time – but we were determined to do as much as possible.
We decided to hit up CrossIron Mills, an outlet shopping centre just outside of Calgary. CrossIron Mills has all of the big name stores you would expect at an outlet mall, and truthfully, a person could spend a whole day wandering around and probably not see it all.
By 4:00 we were feeling pretty done with shopping – and had also found some fun outfits for the weekend – and decided to head to our hotel, the Sheraton Suites Eau Claire. It was such an amazing experience! Upon arrival, we were upgraded to a top-floor suite with full access to the exclusive Sheraton Club Lounge.
It was so much fun exploring our gorgeous room and settling in, and the Sheraton Eau Claire made sure we felt more then welcome with fresh smoothies, wine, flowers, and Calgary swag bags for each of us! Honestly, we felt a little like celebrities, ha ha ha! We each had our own bedroom and bathroom, and then there was a perfect shared living space in between, complete with a small snack bar.
I also need to mention the spectacular view we had from our room; I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up to this? It’s downtown location also made it so easy to explore the area on foot.
Additionally, we so enjoyed being able to experience the Sheraton Club Lounge. The wide array of snacks and beverages morning and night were delicious and beautifully displayed. A visit to the lounge was the perfect start and end to every day!
And finally, throughout our stay, the staff at the Sheraton Suites Eau Claire was so accommodating. The concierge was so friendly, and made an effort to greet us – even remembering our names (including Nora’s); the valet parking was amazing – not sure I’ll ever be able to stay in a hotel without it again!
Overall, staying at the Sheraton Suites Eau Claire was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to YYC. Our suite was so comfortable that we actually made a point to spend time enjoying it, and I know we both slept well and appreciated all the extra efforts made by the staff on our behalf. I would highly encourage anyone heading to Calgary to considering staying there as well. You really won’t be disappointed!
Day Two: Saturday
After an amazing nights’ sleep at the Sheraton, we woke up bright and early to head out for coffee and breakfast. We ended up going to Alforno Bakery & Café, which is only a short walk away from where we were staying in downtown YYC. We may or may not have gotten a little turned around on our way there – but I swear this has way more to do with our lack of navigational skills than it’s actual proximity to our hotel, lol. Once we finally found it, Alforno definitely did not disappoint, and I highlight recommend stopping here if you find yourself in Calgary.
It was trendy, comfortable, bright, and humming with activity; it’s clearly a very popular spot! For as much as I love my Starbucks, I would way rather visit unique restaurants and Cafés for their specialty treats and drinks.
The other really special treat at Alforno was that Karin had arranged for a photographer to come and snap some gorgeous shots of us, and of myself with Nora. It was truly so so thoughtful of her, and so fitting considering our connection is through photos and influencing on Instagram. MJay Photography was amazing, and we had such a fun time – her eye for capturing the perfect shot is so keen, and the fact that I have some lovely professional photos of Nora and myself is just so special.
Once we had finished up at Alforno Bakery & Café, we went back to the hotel and hopped in the mini-van with a list of places to explore that afternoon.
Both Karin and I had done story polls on Instagram asking our followers for suggestions for the best places to visit in YYC, and you all did not disappoint! We literally had so many suggestions roll in – I think we would have needed an entire week to see everything! However, we did get to check some really special spots off our list!
Some of my favourite stops of the day included Plant Shop– an amazing, eclectic store full of greenery and all things plant-related. I don’t have much of a green thumb, but I’m told they also offer amazing workshops. Recess Shop – located just a couple of doors down, was literally a dream store for me, as it was filled with all things writer-related: fancy pens, notebooks, journals, stationary, you name it. I have a slight obsession with school/teacher supplies, so this little shop had me swooning!
Finally, we stopped at the loveliest bakery, Pretty Sweet Bakeshop, and I swear, I could have spent all afternoon there, taking pictures, and sampling all of the delicious and stunning goodies.
Instead, we loaded up on all of our favourite things, and went back to the hotel to do some serious flat-lay making. I guess that’s how it goes when influencers get together! Ha ha!
Saturday evening was our “night on the town” – and by that, I mean, our nice supper out. We invited my sister, Alex to join us, and we went to an authentic Mexican restaurant downtown called Native Tongues. There literally aren’t even words to describe how delicious everything was, and the atmosphere was so trendy and buzzing with the perfect blend of music, conversation, and mouthwatering aromas. We definitely ate too much, but #iregretnothing. So many of you suggested this restaurant and I can absolutely appreciate why. It was a total highlight – so much so, that I didn’t even pause to take any pictures!
Day Three: Sunday
Sunday was our “road trip” into Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains. One of my favourite things about Calgary is how close it is to the mountains, and since Karin had never been before, we knew that it had to be included on our list of activities for the weekend.
Driving through the Rocky Mountains is truly stunning, and if you ever get the chance, I absolutely recommend that you go. We decided to drive to Lake Louise first. In the summer, Lake Louise is a sight to behold in and of itself, with its renowned turquoise water (seriously, google it if you don’t believe me). But, in the winter, despite the fact that it’s frozen over, there is still so much to enjoy and see, including the Fairmont Hotel, and the many winter activities such as ice skating, hockey, and ice sculpture displays.
After visiting Lake Louise, we drove to Banff, which is truly one of my favourite places to visit. I always feel so “Canadian” when I’m at Banff in the winter. It’s the cutest mountain village with so many fun tourist shops. We spent our afternoon wandering through some iconic shops, including the Hudson’s Bay Company, and generally just enjoying the warm winter weather while window shopping.
We wrapped up our day in Banff with a nice supper at The Keg, and then headed back to our hotel room for an evening of treats, masks, and blogging. Honestly, that evening was so fun – to just relax and hang out as friends in our gorgeous suite was really special, and the perfect end to a great weekend.
Day Four: Monday
As is probably no surprise, Monday came way too soon, and it was time for Karin to hop back on the plane and head home to BC, while I loaded up the mini-van and made the trek back to SK. It truly was such a wonderful weekend, and amazing proof of the friendships that can be formed through online conversation and connection. I feel so blessed by the many amazing women I have met through the network of influencers I have the privilege of knowing! I know for a fact that our weekend getaway is only the first of many, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to connect!
Thanks so much to everyone who followed along with our stories the weekend of our trip – reading all of your comments was so much fun, and we both so appreciate the support you’ve all given us through following along on our social media journeys! To read Karin’s account of our trip, click here!