I’m not a super outdoorsy type. I don’t ski, I don’t snowboard, I don’t—what do they call it? Oh right: hike. So I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by Whistler. But I quickly discovered what everybody else in the world already knows—Whistler is amazing. Like, girl, THESE are mountains. Even the drive from Vancouver along the gorgeous “Sea to Ski Highway” was jaw-dropping. Mountains on the right, the Pacific on your left…pretty crappy, right? But the great thing about Whistler is that there’s so much to do—especially if you go during the Children’s Festival, which happens every July— that you don’t have to be Daniel Boone to enjoy it.
If you’re doing Whistler in the summer, think about timing it to coincide with the annual Children’s Festival. It’s a 3-day cornucopia of performances, classes and fun activities—many of them included with the price of admission—that includes everything from the Burton Riglet Park, where even the tiniest tots can “try” snowboarding, to native storytelling and craft or circus skills workshops.
But if you can’t make it then, the Family Adventure Zone at Blackcomb is up and kicking all summer with cool stuff like the Westcoaster Luge, Mario and Friends Mini Golf, batting cages, bouncy castle and go karts. Looking for something more low key? Right next to the Olympic Plaza there’s one of the prettiest little playgrounds I’ve ever seen (and, bonus: it’s right next to two coffee shops!). The play structure looks like a forest wonderland with totem poles and nature/animal-inspired motifs throughout. There’s also a beautiful public library, where you can go for free activities like story time or LEGO club.
But of course, being in Whistler is really all about those crazy, enormous, awesome mountains. There are great hiking trails (omg, did I just say “great hiking trails? Who am I?!) and you don’t want to miss riding the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb. Don’t bother waiting for the “glass-bottomed” cars, which are few and far between. All you get is a small square of glass in the centre of the floor, and you’ll end up standing in line a lot longer. Also, tip: Even at the height of summer, it is COLD at the top of those mountains. Like, really cold. Like I-had-to-buy-a-Lululemon-sweatshirt-and-it’s-not-just-because-I-was-in-B.C-and-wanted-to-fit-in cold. There is snow in July up there. ‘Nuff said.
For brunch, we loved the adorable Crêpe Montagne, an old-school French creperie. For lunch, hit Whistler Brewhouse. They have a kids’ menu with cut-above pub fare, but the real draw for the underage set is the tiny train that chugs along over the bar. For a fancier (but still kid-friendly) dinner out, putter down the road in your car machine for some haute Canadiana at Aura in Nita Lake Lodge.
The village is packed with stores, many of them big name brands (Gap, Lululemon etc) but slip off the Village Stroll over to the quieter Lorimer and Main Streets to find cute smaller shops. Kids can get their sugar rush at The Great Glass Elevator Candy Shop, pick up some Playmobil or Lego at Whoola Toys Corp and get decked out in the coolest clothes for mini hipsters at The Circle Kids.
There’s a mind-boggling array of accommodation options at Whistler (which has two main mountain ranges—Whistler and Blackcomb, and two “villages” with corresponding names), from high-end joints like The Four Seasons to more affordable places like The Delta Suites. We stayed at the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa, which was perfect for families with it’s outdoor pool and primo location in the heart of the action on The Village Stroll. Book one of the roomy suites with a kitchen to save on restaurant bills (you can stock up on food from two grocery stores in the village), but kids will also dig the massive buffet breakfast at the on-site Cinnamon Bear Grill.
Some of the writer’s costs were covered by Tourism Whistler and Destination B.C. They did not review this article.