When thinking of skiing in North America, Whistler sure pops into any Canadian’s mind. This massive winter playground is located in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, 2 hours north of Vancouver and it is known for being one of the most sought-after winter sports destinations and a popular spot all year round.
Whistler is the perfect scenery for some epic skiing and snowboarding due to its snowy winters, 2 skiing mountains and a vibrant pedestrian village. But it is also a great spot for hiking, canoeing, bear viewing, spa treatments, and fun family activities all year round. Last but not least, Whistler is also home to one of the best mountain bike parks on the planet.
Now let’s check some of the very best things to do in Whistler. Maybe you will be one of the thousands of people that visit the place every year in search of all kinds of adventure and fun.
The Mecca of winter sports
All ski experts consider Whistler one of the top winter sports destinations in North America. It hosted many competitions during Vancouver’s Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, in 2010.
Every skier and snowboarder in the area heads to Whistler and Blackcomb mountains as soon as the ski season kicks off in November. These are two massive rock giants: Whistler mountain stands at 2,182 m (7,160 ft), and Blackcomb is even higher, at 2,436 m (7,992 ft). They are within the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort, the largest in North America. It is also one of the busiest, often surpassing 2 million visitors a year.
Whistler and Blackcomb have over 8,100 acres (32 km²) of snow-covered slopes. Their 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers and more than 200 marked trails make them an absolute must for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
To move between mountains, hop on the Peak 2 Peak gondola and get ready for an 11-minute scenic ride. Throughout the 4.4 km journey, the gondola serves stunning 360-degree views of mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers, forests, and the Whistler village. It operates throughout the year, but since it goes through short maintenance periods, it’s better to check schedules in advance. Book your tickets for the Peak 2 Peak online or by phone at least 3 days before your visit to secure a spot.
Here is one tip you can’t miss: if you plan to learn how to ski or polish your technique with some lessons, book as early as you can. At Whistler, winter activities like ski lessons can get unbelievably busy. Whistler offers a few unique options that are worth trying. One is the full day with an Olympian program: a private lesson taught by a ski or snowboard olympian.
Another unique activity in Whistler is ice climbing on Blackcomb mountain. It’s not your average touristic experience but it is surely a rewarding activity you can only do when temperatures drop below zero. The best option for anyone climbing on Blackcomb for the first time is with a guided tour as you guide will be able to point you to the right direction for the best ice climbs.
There are more things to do in Whistler beyond sliding down snowy slopes. Whistler is also a one-of-a-kind mountain biking destination, with seemingly infinite tacky trails. It attracts thousands of bikers every year, from the early days of spring until snow takes over in late fall.
The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is not only the hot spot for bikers in the area, but also one of the world’s greatest. It boasts over 4,900 vertical feet of unique trails for bikers of all levels. The park is separated into four main zones from the alpine to the valley, each one with its own attractions. If you are a hardcore mountain biker, be sure to book more than a weekend to fully enjoy the park.
Whistler presents even rougher terrains for the more fearless bikers. Its trail network is perfect for cross-country biking. Here you can try doing all different kinds of biking – XC, all-mountain, enduro, and more. Where you will face muddy curves, granite rock rolls, waterfalls, and spectacular views.
If you’re more into easy pedalling while taking in a gorgeous landscape, go for the Valley Trail. It is a gentle network of paved, multi-use paths connecting Whistler’s neighbourhoods. You can search online for bike rentals in the area, and then explore it on a warm, sunny day with your family or your significant other.
The call of the wild
Few other places in Canada serve such astonishing wild beauty than Whistler Its flora, fauna, lakes and trails are an irresistible call for nature lovers all year round.
If you’re thinking about what to do in Whistler in summer, exploring its many lakes and rivers has to be top of your list. Your options are canoeing, kayaking or paddle boarding on easy waters or excursions down wilder rivers. Do these while watching the area’s abundant wildlife with the mountains as a backdrop.
Those who prefer escaping on four wheels can hop on a 4×4 vehicle for a dusty ride through the rugged backcountry. Whistler’s logging roads and trails offer a wild all-terrain driving experience. You can even finish your trip with a traditional Whistler salmon bake prepared by a local chef.
The 4×4 vehicles are also part of one of Whistler’s most exciting adventures: bear viewing. Grab your camera and ride in a safari to visit grizzly bears and cubs in their natural habitat. Bear viewing goes from April to October.
For adventurous things to do in Whistler in winter, try the ice cave tours. The caves are only accessible by helicopter, making the way an adventure itself. After the scenic ride, hop on a snowmobile, snow-bike or snow buggy to visit the ice flows, volcanic peaks, and icy cave chambers. Touring these natural wonders is a luxurious experience ideal for travellers looking for out of the ordinary experiences.
Getting around the village
Of all things to do in Whistler, chilling in its central neighbourhood can be just perfect for many reasons. It is at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, and its pedestrian Village Stroll features many attractions. Renowned publications and awards have recognized it as one of the top resort destinations year-round.
In the winter’s peak season, there’s no better way to refuel your energy than going to the village and having your après-ski. Warm up by the fire, have a sip, and celebrate a great time in the mountains.
But the village offers more than just the après. There you can enjoy a vibrant cultural scene any time of the year. Visit its many art galleries, events, workshops and exhibitions of First Nations history.
Are you more into relaxing your body and soul? In that case, indulge yourself in relaxing treatments and therapies at one of the many spas and wellness centres around the village. The Scandinave Spa, the Vida and the spa at the Nita Lake Lodge are some of the most renowned.
Here are two valuable tips for enjoying the village to the fullest. The first is: unless you are unable to do it, walk. Put on some comfy shoes and walk as much as you can. You won’t regret exploring the area’s shops, cafés, restaurants and other attractions this way.
The second is: always book restaurant tables in advance. It is crucial especially for dinners, for large groups and during the holidays. This tip also applies to other Whistler attractions, like the Peak 2 Peak gondola, the lift, Heli-Skiing, and more.
Loads of family fun
Whistler is definitely a destination for the whole family, even the little ones. With so many things to do in Whistler with kids, planning a holiday here is a sure ticket to fun any time of the year.
On a snowy day, take your kids to Whistler’s Winter Wonderland for fun day of snow angels, snowmen and snowball fights. During the holidays, the Whistler Conference Centre welcomes the Holiday Experience. It is a big indoor playground full of games, crafts, and bouncy castles that your kids will love. Also, if you are planning a budget-conscious vacation, this is one of the best free things to do in Whistler.
Taking your kids on a Whistler summer vacation? The Adventure Zone is loaded with fun for children of all ages. It is at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, and it offers a mini golf course, indoor rock climbing and even luge rides.
If your kids are 10 years or older make sure to book a ride on Whistler’s Sasquatch Zipline. This is the longest zipline in North America with over 2 km of high- speed scenic trills. It is one of the best experiences in Canada that your family will never forget!
Whistler’s adventure day camps are another great option for your children during summer. There they can do activities like biking, arts crafts, music and even skiing or snowboarding during the summer.
If cool weather is what you are looking for, mid- to late March is the perfect time for a family trip to Whistler. The days are longer (so the kids can spend more time playing), and the mountains are still packed with snow. Additionally, the tube park, the Tree Fort at Whistler mountain and the Magic Castle at Blackcomb will be in full gear.
Action for the younger crowds
Whistler is fun for families with kids, sure. But the young crowds can also have a fantastic time in Whistler. They can enjoy the excitement of its action-packed events and the energy of its nightlife.
Take the World Ski & Snowboard festival, held every April: it is hands down one of the best things to do in Whistler. Visitors can enjoy five days of non-stop winter events that match the spirit of the upcoming spring with the local mountain culture. Besides skiing and snowboarding, there are also music events, art showings and a fiery nightlife. All these make some of the season’s best après sessions.
Speaking of nightlife, Whistler goes full-blown party mode with its nightclubs, bars, pubs and lounges. They are all close to each other, pulsating with action all year round. If you are going with a group, go on a club crawling or a bar hopping adventure and try some of the best bars and clubs in Whistler
How to get to Whistler
Ready for some Whistler adventures? Whistler is 120 km (75 miles) north of Vancouver, and Vancouver International airport (YVR) is the closest airport. Seattle (SEA) and Bellingham (BLI) are good options too, since they all have transfers to Whistler. During the winter peak season, you can take a shuttle from Vancouver International airport or downtown Vancouver every hour.
If you prefer to drive, you’ll have the sea-side road trip of your life on the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99). This is one of Canada’s most scenic routes, taking about 2 to 2.5 hours from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler. Since it’s a mountain highway, we recommend you to check road conditions, notices, and winter tire requirements before you start your road trip.
Where to stay in Whistler
For all thrill seekers, looking to experience all that Whistler has to offer, staying in a cabin, a condo or a ski chalet in the heart of town are popular options. For the best après-ski with family we recommend staying in a ski-in-ski-out cabin, most of them offer amazing mountain views, private hot tubs and cozy fireplaces. The spacious condos in town are also a great alternative for groups travelling on a budget and those who want to be close to Whistler’s main attractions.
To ensure you have the best experience during your next Whistler escape make sure to plan your trip ahead of time. Winter season accommodations show the highest demand every year, we recommend booking your winter trip to Whistler at least 6-3 months in advance. If you are visiting in the summer a 3 month pre-planning is still recommended.