Co-authored by Jeff Game
Take off to the great white north in old school style all aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train.
Sometimes, you just have to take an epic, spectacular, never-been-before, ultra cool, summer vacation - the Canadian Rocky Mountains were calling our name. For us, 2015 was one of the more memorable summers for travel and the biggest highlight of the season was booking our passage on the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train through the great white north of Canada, eh!
The term "bucket list" is way overused, however, if you had an ultimate list of trips you have always wanted to take in your lifespan, put this trip in your top five immediately! Traveling by train is a stately, adventurous and a very old school way to travel through the majestic snow-capped Canadian Rocky Mountains. This luxurious locomotive is literally the only passenger train that travels through these parts of Canada, giving each traveler an exclusive view of flying eagles, roaming rams and crystal clear Canadian blue water.
By no means are we a cruise line couple, we also are not to hip to take the regular tourist tours that some guy on PBS is pitching you to take. One of our bigger fears was that we were going to end up being the youngest passengers by 20 years aboard the Rocky Mountaineer. Our tourist-trap nightmares were squashed, as we were pleasantly surprised how diverse, eclectic and international our fellow passengers and now social media friends really were.
Service on the Rocky Mountaineer is no joke, one of the finest crews and culinary delights you will find on steel wheels, or anywhere else for that matter. The deluge of tantalizing treats begins early each day with scones and tea, or the first of two rounds of dining service in the dining car below, as the grandeur of the Canadian outdoors passes by your glass dome of windows. All day long is a non-stop siege of wine, beer, libations and the ever impressive Caesar. Not the salad, but the Canadian version of the Bloody Mary. Oh, Canada, you love to impress us so!
Our journey took us on the newly launched, and stunningly beautiful, Costal Passage route from Seattle to Banff. While there are so many different routes to choose from, we selected the Costal Passage three-day route, which offered us a chance to take in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies while also experiencing the coastal landscape of the Pacific Northwest by rails.
Hop aboard our spectacular summer vacation as we get a Canadian Rocky Mountain high and Sleep, Eat and Play our way through Canada.
Seattle: Come as you are
First stop on the coastal passage began in the only North American city on the Rocky Mountaineer route, Seattle, Washington. We both love the Emerald City, so this was the perfect place to start our wild adventure.
Sleep - For over 90 years, the Fairmont Olympian Hotel has been a historic and iconic landmark in Downtown Seattle, with an impressively warm and hospitable staff to meet any needs you may have. This hotel is now our new favorite place to crash in Seattle for a couple nights, along with having one the preeminent restaurants in the city at the Georgian.
Eat - Chef Gavin Stephenson and his rooftop bees at the Georgian bring an innovative culinary spirit, with a relaxed and chilled atmosphere to a classic dining experience. Yes, chef Gavin actually has hives of bees high above the Seattle skyline, with their honey delicately woven into many dishes on his masterful menu. This past August, chef Gavin and the hotel even launched their own hard honey cider, which paired amazingly with his delectable pork belly glazed in maple honey with truffle waffle and his sublime honey infused fudge for dessert.
Play - A short 10-minute walk from our hotel we slithered into the seedy underbelly of Seattle's forefathers on Bill Speidel's Underground Tour. The subterranean tour full of whores, drugs, drinking, and sex covers the cities original three blocks of storefronts, bars and even brothels of the booming pioneer town.
Vancouver: Windows to the world
Crossing over the American/Canadian border by train is a uniquely cool way to start your exploring this richly diverse, glass-designed city on the water. Vancouver is ranked the #2 city behind the metropolis of Hong Kong as the most expensive cities in the world. We were excited to explore all the riches this city has to offer without experiencing the hefty price tag of living there.
Sleep - Known as the 'Castle in the Sky' the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is a great central location for checking out everything Vancouver. Inspired by the terminology that train engineers used for taking the train to full speed, the Notch 8 bar and lounge is a swank cocktail bar that you easily imagine a modern Don Draper sipping on a maple hickory old fashion.
Eat - Overlooking the beautiful Vancouver harbor and right next to the artistic looking 2010 Olympic torch; the Cactus Club is a globally inspired mix culinary greats, from beef carpaccio to Thai red curry Pacific lingcod to a BBQ duck clubhouse.
Play - Granville Island is an eclectic hotspot of public market place, wildlife friendly, artists blended, green environment with sweeping views of the water. Have lunch alfresco along the water, take a spin in a water taxi or catch a performance at one of the many theaters that inhabit the island.
Kamloops: Working for the weekend
We love discovering a city we have never been, let alone never heard of before. Kamloops is one of those great outdoorsy cities, with a college-town vibe with surprisingly so much to see and do, we wanted to soak in as much as we could on our one-night stopover.
Sleep - First great surprise in Kamloops was the very hipster-friendly Hotel 540. Everything from the very large leather couched laden room, to the rooftop hot tub was just what we needed after a hard day of train riding; sipping on a hand-crafted cocktail, taking in the late summer sun setting over Mount Peter and Mount Paul.
Eat - You had me at pigs, beer and a few block from the hotel. The Noble Pig is a pleasantly simple neighborhood brewhouse hangout that also boasts an amazing pub menu of fried Cajun pickles, duck confit poutine, and the kneel at the alter of bacon & beer mac & cheese.
Play - After filling our bellies full of pig and beer, we headed over to a great Kamloops local summer sensation at Music in the Park. Local and international touring acts hit the Riverside Park stage every night in July and August. A perfect way to squeeze out every ounce of Canadian summer night fun.
Banff: You are so beautiful - Easily the most beautiful route on our epic train journey was experiencing the eclectic scenery that shifts from Kamloops to Banff. From stark desert landscapes to lush mountains and beautiful lakes, Rocky Mountaineer pulled out the awe-inspiring scenery on our last day of train travel.
Sleep - The long windy road up to the classic Rimrock Resort was our first clue that this resort was going to something special. Built into the side of Banff Mountain, the Rimrock's rooms cascade down the mountain offering exclusive views of the popular gondola ride and Banff valley. We enjoyed pure-bliss sipping outstanding Canadian beer and enjoying a mouth-watering plate of charcuterie in the Larkspur Lounge while delighting in the ever-changing scenery.
Eat -For over 30 years, Melissa's Missteak in downtown Banff has been the place to devour some tantalizing pure Alberta beef. Voted Banff's favorite restaurant seven years in a row, Melissa's is a locally owned landmark steakhouse that offers not only amazing steak dinners but also a legendary breakfast with the famed thick cut French toast.
Play - A short two-minute stroll from the Rimrock sits the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Visiting the hot springs was a first for both of us, but it didn't take long for us to soak our cares away, relaxing under the Canadian purplish sky in the healing powers of the hot mineral waters that have been enjoyed by visitors for over 100 years.
Calgary: Long may you run
Ending our epic Canadian summer vacation in the friendly confines of Calgary was a great way to say so long for now to Canada - we will be back very soon. Calgary gives off small town affectionate vibes in a modern, urban oasis.
Sleep -Calgary's hospitable ethos resides in the metropolis backdrop at the Fairmont Palliser in downtown, one of the premiere hotels in this dynamic city. Pampering ourselves in the rejuvenation spa was a great way to start our day in the Stampede city.
Eat - We met up with our local and longtime friends Linda and Ken at one Calgary's rising restaurant stars at the Nash. Located in the hip Inglewood neighborhood, the Nash has that congenial Calgary communal feel, while utilizing a creative menu of bellies, cheeks, tails and offal, along with their awesome...
Co-Authored by Jeff Game
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Ride in the steps of the Cisco Kid, gaze into the rings of Saturn and catch some great music at an institution of Rock-n-Roll.
The restlessness stirs inside and the feeling of roaming in wide-open spaces is overwhelming - start up the convertible- the desert is calling.
Just over a two hour drive outside of Los Angeles awaits an affordable and very hipster-friendly getaway in the California Desert towns of Twentynine Palms and Pioneertown U.S.A. Take a 24-hour road trip to the mystical and authentically Americana part of the golden state, which has inspired such bands as U2, Queens of the Stone Age and the Foo Fighters.
Living in Los Angeles, we literally have the city that never sleeps at our doorstep. Oftentimes though, we find ourselves in need of a serious escape from this non-stop metropolis. When that time comes, there's nothing better than a short 24-hour escape from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to get out of the city and recharge our batteries, all while keeping our budget firmly in tack.
A trip like this needed a shot of Steve McQueen cool -- we hit the open highways in our newly rented American icon of muscle cars, the Mustang convertible.
With the top down on the Mustang, and the wind blowing in our hair, we blew right past the Hwy10 exit of the more well-known desert vacation spot, Palm Springs, on our 24-hour journey.
We were looking for a desert location that offered a unique vibe, lots of adventure and hidden gems that we wouldn't find anywhere else. If you want to splurge, we've got you covered with some jaw-dropping picks, and if you're into saving some dough, your options are just as cool and social media worthy.
Check out our list of Sleep, Go, Explore and Eat picks for Twentynine Palms and Pioneertown.
Splurge It: 29 Palms Inn
For more than 85 years, the sprawling 29 Palms Inn has been a mystical oasis in the desert, with an eclectic assortment of room and cottage choices. The West End Cottage is a roomy upgrade, with two rooms, a kitschy kitchen, backyard with BBQ and your own piano in the parlor. The West End Cottage starts around $255.
Saving Dough: JT Village Park Experience
A steal of a deal has to be a cool Air B&B special near Joshua Tree National Park. This 1940's remodeled home is walking distance to the historic Joshua Tree Saloon, and comes with a stylish cowboy pool in the rustic backyard. This little gem has everything needed for a desert dwellers escape. The JT Village Park Experience starts around $115.
Splurge It: Coyote Ridge Stables
One way that a city slicker can take in the openness that the desert offers is by horseback. The folks at Coyote Ridge Stables have a private 2-hour riding tour with just you, your riding guide and the serene desert wildlife. The Lizard rock private tour will run you $150.
Saving Dough: Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace
The legendary and family run music desert haven Pappy & Harriet's Pioneer Palace has been packing in crowds for decades now. On a given night, music lovers can catch such chart-topping acts as Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, Lucinda Williams, and hall of famer Robert Plant once stunned the Sunday night crowd by sitting in with the house band of the night. Big name acts can run $35; however most of the shows at Pappy's start at the low, low price of free!
Splurge It: Coyote Telescope Star Tours
The desert sky is already lit up with a stargazer's buffet of celestial delights, so why not get up and personal with the heavenly body. A 2-hour private star tour with Coyote Telescopes is one of coolest ways to see a galaxy far, far away. The 2-hour guided tour for six or less people is $175.
Saving Dough: 29 Palms Creative Art Gallery
Get your artistic side on with a relaxing a creative class at the 29 Palms Creative Art Gallery, a short walk from 29 Palms Inn. Classes range from painting pottery, to hand building clay creature or painting of all kind. Classes range in a variety of prices; a couple can build their own dinosaur family starting at $55 per couple.
Splurge It: 29 Palms Inn Restaurant
Farm-to-table is all the rage in the world gastronomy; however at the 29 Palms Inn Restaurant, it is a way of life with their own Faultline Farms providing the freshest ingredients. It does not get much fresher than housemade breads, soups, dressings and desserts, along with a bountiful crop of fresh from the garden fruits and vegetables. Dinner at the poolside setting bistro start around $50-100 for two.
Saving Dough: Pie for the People
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