If adventure is at the heart of a memorable family getaway, Whistler is a tough destination to beat. Venture this way and you’ll have landed in Canadian outdoors at it’s best with so many ways to explore it boggles the mind. It’s hard to sip a drink in this town without feeling intrepid, jaw-dropping scenery coming at you from every angle and there are more ways to kick back than you could feasibly tackle in a month. Quite simply, this mountainous favourite is ideal for a summer escape with adventurers both young and young at heart.
It’s also a place to remember that holidays aren’t purely for the children. Immersing yourself in quality family time whilst unwinding is a fine art that’s mastered here. A peripheral benefit that never gets tired is that, by 7pm, your children will be. With so many places to run, climb, ride and slide, you’ll need to fuel them up like a Tour de France cyclist and still, they’ll be shattered once you step foot back in your hotel. Enjoy the resulting calm, and dial in some room service. Alternatively, you can call Whistler Dine In (604 966 6866) who will deliver food from a variety of the town’s restaurants to your door.
In the Village
Image: Whistler Farmers Market © Nick Hewitt
Whistler’s village is served by a central, pedestrianised stroll that is flanked by everything you could possibly need for your stay. Running right up to the base of the mountains, it hosts restaurants, bars, shops, convenience stores, a cinema, parks and more. The only problematic feature is Cows ice cream shop, a sugar-filled trap made all the more impassible by young ones with a keen sense of smell.
Olympic Park, a scenically set multi-purpose space, comes conveniently encircled by cafes, giving you a chance to boost your energy level up to somewhere near that of your kids as they charge around the playground. If bungee-assisted trampolines, luges and mini golf are your things, the Kids Zone over at the base of Blackcomb mountain will tick all your boxes. And if the weather gets overcast, there’s a climbing centre in the Core gymnasium, where you can book your kids into a class of clambering.
Depending on the temperament of your children and, let’s face it, your partner too, dining out with the family can be a minefield. Fortunately, there are some reliable places to eat out, all within walking distance. Here are our family favourites:
El Furniture Warehouse: Like a little chaos with your culinary experiences? El Furniture Warehouse offers a budget-friendly option that comes with blaring music and a lively crowd.
The Old Spaghetti Factory: Have some toddlers in tow? The Spaghetti Factory provides simple dishes that kids adore with the added extra of as much garlic bread as you can forcibly ingest. Consume with caution.
Merlin’s and The GLC: These two popular joints (one at Whistler’s base, the other at Blackcomb’s), are run by the mountain resort so therefore have similar menus. It’s fortunate, then, that these menus are filled with comfort food of gargantuan quantities, the pinnacle of which is an immense platter of nachos. On select days both venues also host The Hairfarmers, a legendary local band, who crank out tunes popular with the whole family and designed to make you dance.
La Cantina: Offshoot of the delectable Mexican Corner, La Cantina offers a low key way to enjoy tacos en masse. Drop in and dig in on a whim.
Pasta Lupino: I don’t know what they put in the sauce here, but it’s highly addictive. Housed in a tiny room on Main Street, Pasta Lupino brings a little Italian authenticity to Whistler.
Eating on the run?
Try Gone Bakery, Mount Currie Coffee Co. or Lift Coffee Co. for quick refilling in the shape of well-crafted bagels, wraps, sandwiches and salads.
On the Hill
The easiest way to experience the resort’s heights is to grab a sightseeing ticket and hop on the Whistler Village Gondola (which will happily fit a pushchair). 25 minutes and 1,175m of vertical later, you’re up at the Roundhouse restaurant where you can eat al fresco looking down at the village or hop on the Peak Chair and reach the very top for 360-degree views. Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time to jump aboard the world’s longest and highest gondola of its kind across the valley to Blackcomb, where the vistas continue.
Kids and adults who like their views at velocity can sign up for downhill biking lessons. With runs to suit varying abilities, instructors will have you whipping through the woods in no time. Every now and then you’ll just need to remind yourself to look up and enjoy nature as it whizzes on by.
Image: Downhill biking gear © Nick Hewitt
Alpine Trails (recommended for family members over seven) are accessible from the tops of each mountain. They’re graded in difficulty and duration, much like ski runs, and come well signposted, so it’s easy to wander off for a vitalising trek. Bring full water bottles and empty camera memory cards. The views will not disappoint.
Around the Valley
Saddle up the family on locally rented bikes and the valley is your oyster. Bike paths snake through the valley, leading to lakes, parks, faraway patios and secluded views. Not having to compete with traffic makes riding a family-friendly exercise, ideal for hunting out sun-drenched picnic spots and maybe even spotting a bear or two.
Image: A bear on Whistler © Nick Hewitt
Fancy setting adrift of one of the waterways around Whistler? You’re in luck. Canoeing, paddle boarding and white water rafting tours suitable for young ones can be arranged from the booking offices around the village stroll. My personal favourites include drifting down the river of golden dreams on a kayak or taking a gentle tumble down Green River in a raft. If you’re just up for reclining lakeside, Rainbow Park is a particularly scenic and a pretty bike ride from the village, as are Lost Lake and Lakeside Parks.
Image: Green River Rafting © Nick Hewitt
My favourite way to dangle. Two operators, Ziptrek and Superfly, offer some of the fastest, longest and highest zip lines in North America. Doubled up as informative ecotours, you’ll discover another side to Whistler whilst climbing and zipping through and around the forest.
Whistler Your Way
Many holidays come malleable, but the breadth and convenience of what’s on offer in Whistler leave you to concentrate less on the logistics of how to get things done and more on the enjoyment of your well-earned vacation time. Whatever pace you’re looking for, Whistler can facilitate in a town where you can park the car and not see it again until it’s time to leave. There’s something about this place that makes you realise, you’re not in the office, you’re not at home, you’re in Whistler. Leave your day-to-day concerns on the Sea-to-Sky Highway and flick all switches to holiday mode. Resistance is futile.
See some of our favourite family-friendly hotels in Whistler here.
Nick will openly tell you he is addicted to travel. In his own words, it’s an addiction to discovery. Having travelled to an enviable amount of places, and with an ever-growing list of new destinations to be conquered, he always has an entertaining tale to share about where he’s been or is going next.
He spent five winters and three summers living the good life in Whistler so knows it better than most. And as most people who know and love him will attest to he is a giant kid himself so there really is no-one better to help you and your family explore his spiritual home.
You can find more tales of adventure on his and partner Elle’s blog FollowMeEast. Their blogs have been featured across the web in places like Virgin Travel and Lonely Planet. They have even created a viral video sensation that made the news in the UK, Australia and the USA.
Have a read, it’s more than worth it.