Road Trip: Our Weekend in Calgary

We’re not a family that hits the road very often. To date, “family trip” has generally meant flying to Saskatoon to visit relatives, but we’re trying to expand our horizons a bit. In that spirit, I decided to plan a long weekend in Calgary for the boys. Justin, who has always been an enthusiastic traveller, was literally counting the days (in Spanish…sigh) until it was time to go. Brayden was puzzled as to why we weren’t flying (clearly we’ve set the bar too high) but was otherwise looking forward to the trip.


I was fairly confident we could get an early start, and Justin was certainly happy to get up (he greeted me with “Happy Calgary day, Mom!” when I opened his door), but Brayden had to be dragged out of bed and coerced into eating breakfast. Nevertheless, we managed to get underway by 7 a.m. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and we were determined to enjoy the sun while we could, since the forecast called for monsoon-like conditions in Calgary all weekend (more on that in a bit). The kids kept themselves occupied looking around at the scenery (they especially loved driving through the mountain tunnels), listening to the car stereo and coloring in their activity books. We didn’t even have to get out the iPods until after our lunch stop in Golden, four hours into the trip, which has to be some kind of record. For lunch, Chris and I bought subs and had a little picnic with the boys – the kids sitting together on a hill eating from their lunch kits was both very cute and very reminiscent of many family trips I did as a kid. It was slightly surreal to be the adult this time.

We got to Calgary by 4 p.m., and while it WAS cloudy, it wasn’t actually raining, so we figured we might as well do Calaway Park before the crappy weather arrived. After munching on leftover burgers at the hotel (I was wise enough to get a room with a fridge and a microwave), we got to Calaway at 5:30, only to find out the park was closing at 7. Still, we really wanted to try the rides while it wasn’t raining, so we bought tickets and took our chances. That was probably the smartest thing we did all weekend – the day crowds were gone and with a thunderstorm threatening, no one wanted to be at the park, so there were no lines for anything. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we did more in that hour and a half than we could’ve done in a whole day with normal crowds. We fully appreciated that when we went back to Calaway Saturday afternoon (insane!) I wasn’t sure how Brayden in particular would react to the rides, but both boys had a total blast (which got me thinking about a future trip to Disneyland…but I digress.)

The main reason I chose the hotel I did was the fact that our room had two queen beds and a separate sitting room, so we could put the boys to bed and sneak into the other room to eat munchies and watch TV. That was the theory, anyway. That first night, however, things weren’t quite so relaxing. Thanks to the time change and the fact that both boys had napped in the car, neither of them would settle until 9:30, which is when Chris and I went to bed. Then Justin woke up around 1 a.m. and was just wide awake, hyper and talkative for three straight hours. Brayden slept through all that (thank God for small favors) so at least one of us got a full night’s rest.


The forecast had warned of a possible 35 mm of rain on Saturday, but we woke up to cloudless skies and a temperature that was warm enough for shorts, much to our delight. We decided to celebrate the sunny skies by going to the zoo. We usually go to the Saskatoon zoo once a year, but the place is pretty tiny and really only has the same animals you’d be likely to run into on the prairie anyway. The Calgary Zoo is in a whole different class. For one thing, they have a whole section called Prehistoric Park that’s filled with dozens of life-size animatronic dinosaurs (way cool). It seemed like exactly the kind of thing that would trigger Justin’s anxiety, and there were a few spots where he was too scared to move and Chris had to carry him along the path, but overall he seemed to enjoy it (when we were ready to head back to the car, he started demanding to see the dinosaurs again, but we managed to dissuade him). The part both boys liked best was the children’s play area with its animal-themed playground and even a little zoo train that they could ride all by themselves. Good stuff.

After three hours at the zoo, we took a break at the hotel and pondered our next move. The kids had really enjoyed Calaway the night before, and I noticed the park has cheaper rates if you go in the afternoon, so I suggested we go back there around 2:30 p.m. Everyone was excited about this plan, until we got to the parking lot. When we saw the sea of cars, it finally occurred to me that Saturday afternoon of a long weekend might not have been the wisest time to visit an amusement park. We lucked out in that the guy ahead of us in the ticket line had some discount tickets he couldn’t use, so at least we got in for cheap, which was good, cause we were in the park for a full 40 minutes before we finally got on our first ride. Hence the second “zoo” of the day. The kids did awfully well with the heat and the crowds and all the stimulation, but after a couple hours they were just DONE.

You’d think that would mean they’d crash hard. They did go to sleep at their normal time, and Chris and I got to enjoy an hour or so of kid-free time in the sitting room, but Justin pulled his nocturnal act again and stayed awake talking between about 1 and 5 a.m. Brayden joined in the fun for about an hour this time. Neither kid was unhappy or fussy – just AWAKE. Sigh.


The long-predicted rain arrived Sunday morning, so we figured it was a good time to check out the children’s museum at the science centre. It was smaller than we were expecting, but the kids seemed to have fun running around trying the different interactive exhibits. They had a special Lego theme that really seemed to impress Brayden, although more than once I caught him crawling under the barricades to try to get closer to the displays. Justin was fascinated with the “jam room”, which was filled with all kinds of metal and plastic objects that the kids could bang to create different sounds. The whole place would have bored me even as a kid, but the boys had fun.

The rest of the day was a mish-mash of stuff to fill the time. We checked out the hotel pool, which had a two-storey waterslide that Justin was initially afraid of but eventually fell in love with. Then we went to a nearby school to let the boys run and climb on the playground, but the mosquitoes were pretty fierce, so that didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. We finally went out for dinner for the only time the whole trip, and that worked out really, really well.

So the day ended on a positive note. The boys finally did crash hard, and slept all night, and even though Brayden woke up at 5 a.m. I wasn’t too concerned.


And today we drove home. We were on the road by 7 a.m., but we needn’t have worried about traffic – it all seemed to be going the opposite direction. There were the usual construction areas but nothing really slowed us down too much, and we made it home by 2 p.m. Then of course I had to unpack, clean the car (ewww!), clean the house, do the laundry…but the work is done, the kids are in their own beds, and I think we all agree it was a highly successful trip.