William Watson Lodge – Kananaskis, Alberta

We have stayed at William Watson Lodge several times over the years. This is a really special place, nestled in the heart of Kananaskis Country, which provides year-round, barrier-free lodging for persons with disabilities, seniors and their families.

William Watson Lodge is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, on the edge of Lower Kananaskis Lake. It is about 25 minutes south of the Kananaskis Village on Highway 40.

THE GOOD

William Watson Lodge has 22 fully accessible cabins of varying sizes. Some are one and two bedroom units ($30 per night) and some are three bedroom units ($40 per night).  Every unit has a wheel-in shower, full kitchen, kitchen supplies, living room with pull-out sofa bed and dining table with chairs.

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Dining Table

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View of the Living Area and Dining Space

Each unit also has tracks on the ceiling for moving people from the bedroom to the bathroom. Some of the cabins are pet friendly.

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Ceiling Tracks

They are slowly replacing the older cabins with beautiful new cabins. We recently stayed in one of the new cabins for the first time and it was modern, clean and really nicely decorated. They put a lot of thought into the design of these cabins in order to make the space as easy as possible for those with mobility challenges. The ambience is very homey and it makes for a perfectly relaxing stay.

Our unit had three bedrooms. Each bedroom had two beds in it, a dresser and a window.

Our unit had two bathrooms. The first bathroom had a full bathtub, a raised toilet seat and a pedestal sink. One cool thing about this bathroom was that the shower rod holding the curtain could swing completely out of the way and then swing back to be tension fit on the wall. 

The second bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower with a built-in shower bench.

The flooring throughout the unit was laminate, making it very easy to wheel around on.

The main lodge, where guests check in and check out, also has a number of amenities. There is a large fireplace, a big deck out back, books, magazines, board games, bikes, sleds, and snowshoes for borrowing and coin-operated laundry machines.

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William Watson also has RV camp sites, an accessible comfort camping trailer and an accessible comfort camping hut. It is worth investigating all of the options if you are looking for a real wilderness experience.

Around the cabins are a number of barrier-free paved pathways and over 20km of accessible trails. In the summertime, they are completely clear and easy to traverse. In the winter, due to the volume of snow in the mountains, the pathways around the cabins are kept clear but the trails accumulate snow. People enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the network of trails that surround the lodge. There is a sit-ski available for borrowing as well as a sled for pulling those with mobility challenges through the snow. It attaches to a harness that an able-bodied person can wear in order to pull the sled behind them.

There is an accessible playground about 2 minutes down one of the main trails. In the summer, it is completely clear and easy to get to. In the winter, that particular trail is impassable in a wheelchair but relatively easy to get to on a sled or on skis.

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There are accessible picnic sites and campfire sites, so if you come with a group of people there are lots of outdoor spaces to use for gatherings. 

THE BAD

One bad thing about William Watson Lodge is that it is completely outside of cellphone range and there is no internet availability. The lodges also have no TVs, so you can feel very isolated. Once you get used to the lack of connectivity, it actually feels nice to have the time to focus on other things. We usually read lots of books when we are there and we enjoy the family time.

The cabins do not come equipped with any bedding, so you do need to bring your pillows and blankets with you. This can make for a number of trips to and from the car when you are loading and unloading. You also need to bring your own towels.

When you check in to your room, you are given a cleaning list. The cleaning tasks are less onerous than they used to be but they do expect you to help out to cut down on costs (i.e. you have to vacuum, clean all the dishes, wipe all surfaces, empty garbages, etc.). After I have finished packing, cleaning and hauling all of our stuff out to the car, I am usually pretty exhausted, but the price reflects the amount of work you have to put into your stay here.

One other thing to keep in mind is that reservations must be made pretty far in advance and there is a priority listing for bookings:

  • People with disabilities living in the province of Alberta get first priority and can make reservations up to 4 months in advance for the severely disabled (non-ambulatory, legally blind, profoundly deaf, dependently cognitively disabled). Those with less severe disabilities can make reservations 3 months in advance (semi-ambulatory, medically fragile). 
  • Alberta seniors (65 years and older) can make reservations up to 2 months in advance, space permitting.

THE UGLY

Some of the older cabins are getting a bit ugly. They are definitely cozy and rustic but the carpets, kitchens and bathrooms are showing their age. If any are available, I would recommend requesting a new cabin. 

OVERALL

Overall, William Watson Lodge is an absolute treasure. The fact that we have this amazing place right here in Alberta is really special. Everyone can enjoy the mountain parks and everything that the great outdoors has to offer and William Watson makes that possible for so many who would otherwise have difficulty finding a comfortable place to stay.   

 

Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel – Calgary, Alberta

This hotel is located in the downtown core at 110 9th Avenue SE. I stayed at this hotel many times as a child when it was operated under a different chain and I had fond memories of it, so we decided to stay here with our kids in September of 2015. The hotel recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation in the spring of 2015 so I thought now would be a good time to check it out.

THE GOOD

The location of this hotel was great – right across the street from the Calgary Tower and accessible to the Calgary Convention Centre and the Glenbow Museum. There were shops and restaurants nearby and you could easily walk to the LRT from this hotel.

The staff at the hotel, for the most part, was very pleasant and friendly.

The nightly rate at this hotel was very reasonable. We paid $130 for one night while many of the surrounding hotels go for about $200 a night.

There were blackout blinds in the room that were operated by pushing a button on the wall. Needless to say, the kids had fun pushing those buttons and watching the blinds go up and down.

View of the Room and the Blinds

View of the Room and the Blinds

When you swiped your card to get into the room, the door opened on its own. This is really nice for wheelchair users as you don’t have to try to manoeuver on the carpet to open the door. There was also a button on the inside that you could push to open the door when you leave the room – very convenient.

Button on Inside of Door

Button on Inside of Door

Visually, the decor of the hotel and the look of the rooms was appealing. The layout of the bathroom inside the room was good and there was a true wheel-under sink, a wheel-in shower with built-in bench and a toilet with one grab bar.

Wheel-Under Sink With Good Clearance

Wheel-Under Sink With Good Clearance

Toilet With Grab Bar

Toilet With Grab Bar

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

Room Had a TV, Mini-Fridge, Iron, Ironing Board and In-Room Safe

Room Had a TV, Mini-Fridge, Iron, Ironing Board and In-Room Safe

View From Our Room - 3rd Floor

View From Our Room – 3rd Floor

The hotel had a fitness room on the third floor that could be accessed by someone in a wheelchair (this was at the bottom of the steps that led up to the pool). There was an accessible bathroom outside of the fitness area.

Fitness Room - 3rd Floor

Fitness Room – 3rd Floor

Free Weights - No other Accessible Equipment

Free Weights – No other Accessible Equipment

Bathroom Located Outside of Fitness Area

Bathroom Located Outside of Fitness Area

THE BAD

Ok… get ready…

The accessible hotel room we stayed in on the third floor smelled like sewage. As soon as we walked in, the smell hit us like a ton of bricks. It seemed to emanate from the drain in the bathroom but, regardless of where it came from, it smelled disgusting and it was really difficult to ignore.

We requested two cribs when we booked this room and they told us it would be no problem. When we checked in, they told us they had no record of the request on the reservation and that they likely didn’t have any cribs available, let alone two of them. I told them that they would need to let me know because if they didn’t have cribs, we would have to stay elsewhere. The person checking us in assured me that they would find some cribs for us and bring them up to the room. By the time we got back to our room after dinner, there were still no cribs. We called down to the front desk and they again told us that they had no cribs. We told them they would need to find some or re-locate us to a different hotel and they again assured us that they would find some. At about 10:30 pm, waaaaaay past the kids’ bedtime, they brought two playpens from a hotel across the street (Hotel Le Germaine) and it took me and the staff member who brought them about 30 minutes to assemble them (the rails weren’t locking properly).

We checked out on a Sunday morning and the standard hotel check-out time was at noon. Starting at about 9 o’clock, housekeeping began knocking on our door asking what time we would be leaving. They knocked a total of 3 times between 9 and 10:30 asking when we would be gone before I finally told them that we would be there until we left and asked them to stop knocking on our door. Luckily we were already awake but I would have been really angry if that had been my one chance to sleep in. 

There is no self-parking at this hotel. You can drive around and find a public parking lot or pay for the valet parking that is available at the hotel.

THE UGLY

And… it gets worse…

When I went to shower in our room, I noticed something all over the walls of the shower. I got in to take a closer look and – yep – it was hair! Long pieces of black hair left behind by the last hotel guest. If the housekeeping staff didn’t even see this it definitely makes you wonder what else in the room was not cleaned…

Not My Hair! Yuck!

Not My Hair! Yuck!

The pool and fitness centre were located on the third floor. The pool was up a flight of stairs but there was a lift for wheelchair users for access to the pool area. We called the front desk from our room and they sent someone up to operate the lift.

Lift to Access Pool Area

Lift to Access Pool Area

When we got up to the pool area, I have to say, I was shocked by the condition of the pool. The entire swimming pool was covered with a slimy pool liner and there was about a 2-inch strip of grime along the waterline all the way around the pool.

View of the Pool

View of the Pool

Here's a Closer Look - Note the Grime Along the Waterline

Here’s a Closer Look – Note the Grime Along the Waterline

The steps into the pool had obvious signs of mould on them.

These Are the Steps Leading into the Pool. Gross.

These Are the Steps Leading into the Pool. Gross.

The kids wanted to go in, so I took them for a quick dip and I kept getting big chunks of hair stuck on my hands – disgusting!! I honestly felt like I was jeopardizing my health by being in that pool. The hot tub was better than the pool but it was difficult to enjoy the entire area given its state of repair.

Hot Tub

Hot Tub

The front desk staff told us to call the emergency phone when we were ready to go back to our room and they would send someone up to operate the lift for us but – SURPRISE – the emergency phone at the pool area did not work. I had to walk down to the fitness centre to find a working telephone. If I hadn’t been there, my husband would have been pretty much screwed.

Trip Down the Stairs

Trip Down the Stairs

As soon as we got to the hotel I started coughing, my nose was running and I was sneezing like crazy. I figured all of the travelling had finally caught up to me and that I was getting sick. Interestingly though, as soon as we left the hotel, I was completely fine – no sneezing, no runny nose, no coughing… Something at this hotel had a major effect on my allergies, which rarely flare up anymore. You could smell a lot of things in the air here between the sewer smell and some type of chemical smell which seemed to be coming out of the carpets. I have never stayed anywhere before where this was an issue but it is clearly an issue here. Anyone with allergies should beware!

OVERALL

I can sum up this hotel in one word – RUN!!! Multi-million dollar renovation or not, this still needs a ton of work and, in my opinion, it is not worth risking your health to stay here. 

Hotel Le Germain Calgary – Calgary, Alberta

We stayed at this hotel in December of 2011 for my sister’s wedding. It was a beautiful hotel with a very unique style. The wheelchair accessible room was large and well-equipped for anyone with mobility issues.

THE GOOD

The decor at Hotel Le Germain Calgary is very modern and you can tell that they have put a tremendous amount of thought into the design. The room felt more like a trendy apartment than a hotel room.

Our wheelchair accessible room came with two queen beds, a desk area, a flat-screen TV, and a huge closet area. I’m not sure why I thought this in the dead of winter, but I recall being tremendously excited that the windows actually opened. 

Two Queen Beds, Desk Area and Flat Screen TV

Two Queen Beds, Desk Area and Flat Screen TV

The bathroom in our room was huge and had a toilet with grab bars, wheel-under sink and wheel-in shower. The fixed shower head was a cool rain-shower type shower head but a wheelchair user would likely need to use the handheld shower head closer to the controls. 

Wheel-Under Sink and Wheel-In Shower

Wheel-Under Sink and Wheel-In Shower

The suspended toilet seat was a bit different but had grab bars both behind and beside the toilet seat. If you travel with a padded toilet seat, I’m not sure that it will fit on this design, but you could rent a commode from one of the many healthcare stores in Calgary, if necessary (most will drop off and pick up any rented equipment at your hotel if you ask them).

Toilet with Grab Bars

Toilet with Grab Bars

At the entry of the hotel room, there is a huge walk-in closet area. The rods are lower and within easy reach for someone in a wheelchair. Given that we were here for a wedding, it was really nice to have a lot of room for hanging up our dressy clothes and a lot of space to get ready in. 

Closet Area - Lowered Closet Rods for Easy Access

Closet Area – Lowered Closet Rods for Easy Access

The lounge area near the lobby of the hotel, Central 899, has a very cool atmosphere. They have beautiful, modern lighting and comfortable chairs and it stays pretty busy there for a hotel lounge.

The hotel is right in the heart of downtown Calgary. It is within walking distance of the Calgary Tower, the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts, the Glenbow Museum, the TELUS Convention Centre, and Stephen Avenue. You will have no trouble locating nearby accessible shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars. 

THE BAD

One unfortunate detail about this hotel is that the lounge area on the main floor, Central 899, is down about four steps and there is no wheelchair access to this area. You will have to ask for assistance to bounce down into this space if you want to have a drink here or hang out with friends. 

The parking situation in downtown Calgary is always bad, but at this hotel there is no good place to stop to unload your vehicle. You really have no choice but to use the valet parking service as otherwise you are stuck trying to unload on the side of a very busy street. 

THE UGLY

There is definitely nothing ugly about this chic hotel. 

OVERALL

This is a beautiful hotel right in the heart of downtown Calgary. They have clearly spared no expense on the design of the hotel. The rooms are well-equipped and stylish in the sense that the accessibility features blend seamlessly with the overall design. The hotel itself would be perfect in terms of accessibility if the lounge area on the main floor was also wheelchair accessible. 

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