Whistler Farlow Family Travel Guide

We have never really been a “Whistler family”. On occasion we would make a day trip out of it and go to play at the playground, enjoy the snow and some good eats! We also have been known to take the scenic route from the cabin in Bridge Lake (Cariboo) and swing by Whistler on the way home. However enter a Pandemic and all of a sudden you start to appreciate and explore places that you took for granted previously.

We did end up making a vacation out of a few Whistler trips over the past year, the hotels we stayed at were Pan Pacific and The Westin. I would say both resorts were great. We were happy with the rooms at both hotels in terms of space and affordability and most important was the pool. Both resorts were doing pre-scheduled pool times which was really nice as it felt like we had a private swim. Both resorts had good locations for walking into the village, but the Pan Pacific was closer to Olympic Village and also offered a complimentary breakfast so it was probably a better value. That being said the beds and pool can’t be beat at The Westin.

Playground in the Olympic Plaza
Nan helping Row do Whistler Nature Kids activity
Base Camp at Vallea Lumina
My favourite was the music (Vallea Lumina)
Lights at Vallea Lumina

Activities

The top attraction for our kids in Whistler have always been the playground in the Olympic Plaza. It’s funny because I don’t even know if the play area has a name but my kids have always loved it. We have never even taken them up Whistler Mountain or Blackcomb but they still love the town.

This year I actually did look into doing family lessons but was surprised at the cost to rent equipment, have a family lesson and a lift pass for us and we opted to try a less expensive mountain closer to the cabin for our ski school stuff. It just goes to show that even if you aren’t heading to Whistler to ski there is lots to do and see. However if you are thinking about skiing Whistler look into the Epic School Kids program. It offers free lift passes for K-Gr 5 BC residents. It is a great program and was easy to register for.

The first trip we took was in September just as school was going back into session and it was our kick off to homeschooling, we went up with my sister and nieces and my mom. It was fantastic, and was one of the last group trips we have taken since stricter restrictions came out. We considered it one big field trip for our homeschooling.

I actually found the Whistler Nature Kids website and had some fun using their activities for our homeschool lessons. The activities are just fun and informative and would be good even if you aren’t homeschooling.

One of the big attractions we went for was Vallea Lumina. Our first visit, in early September, was fantastic. No snow yet, dark early enough that the kids did okay and the music and lights were phenomenal. The second time we went it was late November and there was snow on the ground, it was a lot colder (and darker) and was pure magic. They had altered the route, so the experience was a little different which was nice if you are planning on going more than once. I would suggest going early as part of the experience happens before you even start the walking.

Base Camp is really beautiful and has opportunity to sit in a picturesque setting and enjoy s’mores and warm drink fireside. Plus the music is really great. My kids were pretty good at walking the whole route and had fun doing it (ages 3,4 and 5 at the time). I probably wouldn’t recommend bringing a stroller, the earlier performance did have stairs and the winter version was a little slippy. The only recommendation I would give is make sure you have an idea of where the turn off is for Cougar Mountain as they are not running the shuttle currently with covid and the signage is not great for the entrance into the park.

Another first for us this year was skating outdoors at the Olympic Plaza. The kids haven’t really had any exposure to skating and Rowen had no interest but the girls had been asking lots. So, Fraser went out with them and they gave it a try. I wish we had one more adult to help with the two rookie skaters but overall I would say it was a hit with the girls and a great experience. Definitely worth checking out and was something we could drop in to do which was nice. We never checked out the skating at night but it did look very beautiful and like there might be some sort of light show they do after dark.

Drinks at Caramba
Pizza and Salad at Caramba
Breakfast included at The Pan Pacific

Favourite Meals. This can be tricky as we have fairly unadventurous eaters but I would say our best experience most recently was The Keg. The Keg is an easy dinner out for us as a family. We do not have many restaurants that please the whole family but The Keg really is that place for us. We find their kids menu fantastic and has something for all three of our kids. It was actually one of the pandemic perks that we went in at prime time on a Saturday night and had no problem getting a table for 5, kids had a great time and so did the adults. Another great Whistler restaurant experience for us was at Caramba, the kids loved their pizza, pasta and caesar salad. Plus they had gelato & sorbet for dessert options that were a hit! We also did some take out and delivery, one nice thing about the Pan Pacific is they partner with Earls so we received a discount when we ordered take out and the room comes with complimentary breakfast. The breakfast was ordered the night before and then you made in your room once the items were delivered. It was actually kinda of nice way to cook but not have to bring groceries.

Aside from Whistler being a great escape from the Lower Mainland, because of its great proximity, it also has lots to offer on the drive up.

Mining at Britannia
Run Wild and Free (at Shannon Falls)
Train Wreck fun

Mentionable Stops

We have enjoyed stopping and exploring Britannia Mines which was a huge hit for the whole family. We did call ahead to book a scheduled tour time, but it was almost empty and we didn’t have a hard time getting a spot.

We also enjoyed stopping along the way for some scenic little walks including Browning Lake Trail, Shannon Falls and the Train Wreck. All three of these trails were easy to walk and fairly short (train wreck was probably the longest). Plus my kids were willing and happy to get out and explore, which isn’t always the case.

Another great stop is the Sea to Sky Gondola. We haven’t been up in a while (mainly thanks to continuous vandalism which had shut the gondola down temporarily). However when it is open there is so much up on top. The kids enjoy wondering around and taking a short trail to explore, grabbing a hot chocolate or treat from the restaurant on top and of course they love the playground. I also think depending on the season they sometimes have special events or fun “extras” going on (like Santa at Christmas, etc).

I think Whistler is another one of those BC destinations that has something to offer almost everyone whether you are an adrenaline junkie, outdoorsy type, foodie or maybe even like to be pampered (did someone say Scandinave?) Whistler and its surrounding areas have something to offer you!

Vacation with Kids

Traveling with kids is not exactly what comes to mind when you say “vacation”. Vacation to me implies relaxing and traveling with my kids doesn’t really scream R&R.

Gotta love when they all sleep! This is not the norm.
Sometimes we make changes that are unplanned. When we took our first trip to Disneyland and we were finding it overwhelming we quickly pivoted to adjust and enjoy. This was an unplanned detour to Palm Springs. We rented a car and drove to have some relaxing pool time. It was fantastic. Then we returned for a day to Disneyland refreshed and ready for chaos.
Travel was always a bit more challenging with kids and now with Covid it has added a whole new type of challenge but I would say some of our best trips have been this last year when we stayed within BC. We just wear masks, pack sanitizer and plan a little more than normal. This photo was our second trip in the Fall up to Whistler (and second time seeing Vallea Lumina, I highly recommend checking it out!).

However, my husband and I didn’t really travel as kids with our families, I feel like travel was a luxury in the 90’s and something our families just didn’t do. I didn’t have a desire in my 20’s to go travel, my sisters were off in Australia and living in England but I didn’t have that same urge. It wasn’t until I had kids and started to see so many beautiful places and experiences as a family that I decided travel was worth the effort and was a gift I wanted to give my kids and do as a family.

I used to think to be a “traveller” you needed to be hardcore, explore far away places and go to exotic destinations. As I get older I realize a quick weekend to the Cariboo can be an adventure and a short trip over to the island can be amazing. I am always trying to remind myself travel doesn’t have to be expensive or high end, you can travel on any budget and go near or far!

I have a growing Wish List of places and experiences I want to do as a family. Some of the places include:

  • visit Yellowstone
  • explore Florida
  • visit Alaska
  • road trip for 6 months through the USA (homeschooling and traveling is a must now that we have homeschooled so much during a pandemic)
  • safari through Africa for my 50th Birthday (as a family, the kids will be great ages to experience it and so will I).
  • explore more of BC. I loved seeing the Kootenays this year and would love to spend more time there and explore more of it. Fraser and I have been to Bella Coola and we would love to visit again with the kids, even try to take the ferry there. I also have always wanted to do the Coastal Circle Route (Sunshine Coast, Comox Valley, Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo) we have visited all those places individually but I think doing them consecutively would be beautiful and fun.

With our kids getting a little older (6, 5 and almost 4) we have discovered that it does get easier to go away. Packing has changed (no more strollers, diapers, play pens and bottles). I mean we have learnt how to pee on the side of the road, everyone has gotten better at holding it til the next rest stop and of course the kids have learnt to love hotels, exploring new places and trying new things.

Green Lake in the Cariboo.
Ski Lessons at Mt Timothy. We love warm weather summer vacations but I feel like I am always surprised at how much fun the Cariboo is any season!

One big thing about travel for us has been including our kids in the planning process. That can mean asking them about which accommodation they like, if there is a must have (our last trip it was a hot tub!), discovering ice cream shops or candy shops that they want to try or even talking about an amazing beach and the things we want to enhance our experience (ie Wetsuit in Tofino in the spring). I think by including the kids in the planning they are invested and excited about the trip. They also are able to have some time to process what it is we are doing and what our trip might look like or include.

Always exploring new places on our favourite island, Maui has a special place in our hearts.
This was at The Hume Hotel in Nelson. We actually had the most fun trip on our way up to pick up Snoopy Sam (our boat). I was so surprised at how much fun a quick road trip (solid day in the truck) could be with kids.
If you can’t be in Hawaii I suggest being at Pacific Sands in Tofino. This was the kids and dogs first time to Tofino and I have a feeling it will not be their last.

I thought I would do a series of posts about some of our travels over the past few years and the highlights and favourites as well as the things we would avoid next time. I am looking forward to a near future where we can cross the border again and visit places and people we have been missing.

spring break

Spring Break 2021 has a very different feeling around it. I am trying to make sure that my mindset is a positive one and that I approach it with the best attitude I can. There are certain things we cannot change and this year has been one giant lesson in restrictions.

Spring Break will officially mark 1 year of no out of province travel for our family and although we generally avoid travel during Spring Break I know for lots of families it is a time they do travel. Keeping in mind our current restrictions and assuming you are sticking local and staying safe during this years Spring Break I thought I would share some of my ideas for having fun at home or locally.

Lots of these ideas are things we have actually done last Spring Break or through out this past year. My kids are happiest outside or getting messy so lots of these involve one or both of those things. I know one other element that really impacts our days is the weather, sunshine makes us all happy even if it is cold or windy. However I tried to make a list of things that are varied or able to be adapted regardless of the weather. Check out the list and see if you and your family might enjoy some of these ideas too!

#1

MOVIE NIGHT

We love a good family movie night, but these are fairly typical for a weekend night at our house. Why not take it to the next level by setting up an outdoor movie night (weather depending) or building a fort indoors to watch from and order your snacks from your local cinema to give it that real movie theatre feel!!!

Doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun, we ordered an inexpensive projector last year and have had so much fun using it indoors and outdoors, at home or taking it with us to the cabin. This was just on a white sheet thrown over the trampoline but we have since bought a “screen” to elevate our Movie Nights!
Order your favourite Movie Theatre Snacks through Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes (depending on where you live and where your theatre is located). The kids love popcorn so this was a huge hit at our house. Definitely made our movie night feel special.

#2

Order a DIY Flower Bucket.

I loved this and originally ordered it for myself. To my surprise my kids wanted to join in on the fun and it was a great activity for us to do together. We ordered a DIY Bucket of mixed stems from OLFCo but I am sure if you called your local florist they could put something together for you. The kids and I placed them through out the house and they loved having a bouquet beside their beds. My sister and nieces also did this and they actually had fun making little mason jar bouquets that they dropped off for family and friends. I think it really is a great way to welcome spring, play with scissors, cutting stems, pouring water into vases and even getting to smell the flowers. My kids love all those things and putting it all together was the perfect activity.

Flowers are such a sign of Spring and my kids all love using scissors, trimming stems, “playing” with water and making beautiful flower arrangements. Bonus is you have a bunch of beautiful bouquets to either gift family and friends or spread out around your house.

#3

Gardening.

Gardening was fairly foreign to me last year but with Covid we just kinda took it on as something to do from home. It was so rewarding and quickly became something the whole family enjoyed.

I love how gardening can be whatever you want it to be. Whether that’s grow bags on a sundeck or patio, container gardening, trying to grow your favourite foods and starting a vegetable garden or growing a beautiful flower garden. You can really do anything that makes you happy and the worst that can happen is it doesn’t grow and you try something new.

Last year we built raised garden beds and that was a fun project the kids helped with, they actually painted all the boxes and helped fill with soil, as well as planting and watering. They just love digging and finding worms or adding water to make mud! They also loved harvesting their veggies, pulling out radishes, carrots, peas and tomatoes while we were outside and eating straight from the garden was a very rewarding experience.

We are looking forward to expanding our gardens, trying some new plants and seeing if we can help Nan with her cut flower garden this year. During Spring Break I think we will start some seeds as well as prep our beds and “play” in the garden.

Having fun during Spring Break doesn’t have to be expensive, or even over the top… I think my kids are often just as happy helping us do our errands as tasks as they are doing an extra special activity. So use the break to try and get some of your to do’s done too!
When you get the kids involved in from the beginning they are more invested and willing to help out later with watering and weeding and even trying new veggies if they took part in growing them.

#4

SPA Day

Set up a spa at home and offer each other manis, pedis or facials. My kids have just as much fun setting up the “spa” as they do giving and receiving treatments. Don’t forget to get creative with your set up and include snacks, flavoured water, some warm bags or cucumber slices for the eyes. My kids love going all out, well lets face it so do I! I was even able to find some hand cut outs at the dollar store and my daughter will make nail polish sample cards on them for her “clients”. If nails aren’t the right thing for your kids and your feeling adventurous you could also try your hand at some temporary hair colours. No better time to attempt a temporary colour then while your kids are out of school for a couple weeks! That way in the off chance it isn’t fantastic they really aren’t going anywhere! We were able to get some great products from our local salon, Atomic Hair Studio.

Grace loves to set things up and organize, its a good reminder to enjoy the journey not just a destination. She is all about special details and the preparation. I also try to take any opportunity I can to slow down activities and make them last as long as I can.
Our local salon had fantastic temporary colour products that was safe to use in the kids hair so we played salon and had fun! The kids loved this and the colour washed out fairly quickly which was perfect.

#5

Beach Day

We are huge beach lovers, so whenever we get cabin fever and have spent too much time at the house or whenever we have a super beautiful Spring Day we try to head to the beach. We are fortunate to have lots of local beaches close by and a few favourite spots that are less crowded that we can go to. Some of our most loved beach days include grabbing take out to bring down and enjoy a picnic or packing hot dog and s’more ingredients and roasting around a beach fire! The kids all have kayaks and last year I bought a SUP so if it’s a calm day we will go for a paddle. The kids are also just happy beach combing and building forts with driftwood, it doesn’t take much to be happy at the beach.

Rowen has gotten very strong with his paddling and has had a pretty good fall out in deeper water. It was great to see him recover so easily from falling out. I like knowing he didn’t panic and is okay if he tips.
Grace is pretty good with her kayak but we ended up catching a bit too much wind this day. It was great “practice” and she stayed nice and close to shore which turned out good because she got a little freaked out when the waves started to hit her. I try to watch the weather and pick the ideal times to go out but I also like the kids to have. a little experience with less than ideal or perfect weather
Little Surfer Grom Squad.
Weenie Roast.

#6

Fun with Eggs

If you live in the lower mainland you are in for a treat because there are many amazing local farms that offer all sorts of farm experience type market shopping. One of my kids current favourites is called The Chicks of 96th (check them out on instagram @thechicksof96), not only is this a super clean farm but it is such an experience. You can collect your own eggs, the packaging is beautiful, the pricing is very affordable (IMO too low for all that they offer) and they offer some play items like a big sand box and digger. There are lots of easy to read informative pictures inside the barn and it is all self lead so super easy to safely socially distance yourself if you go during a non-peak time. They are open 7 days a week, 8am to 5pm.

If a visit to the farm and collecting the eggs has your kids interested in chickens then I suggest levelling up the whole farm and chicken experience and look into hatching some chicks at home. We just finished hatching three chicks from eggucation.com and it was a super cool experience for the whole family. Chicks hatch in approx 21 days, but it could be less time depending on when they were produced and on what day they are dropped off to you. They come with instrutions, all the equipment you need and they are super easy to hatch and to care for. You can keep them for a bit after they are hatched or return them as soon as you want.

#7

Park Play

If you were to ask my kids what they want to do the majority of the time they would answer go play at a park. It is probably the most agreed upon activity and definitely something we try to do lots.

PLAY is what Spring Break was made for and I know we have our “usual” spots (including Memorial Park, Centennial Beach and before Covid the park at TFN). However I am a big fan of finding and trying new places. Lucky for us we are homeschoolers and able to venture to a park in the middle of a weekday when it is less busy. We rarely park play on a weekend because we don’t love the crowds. With that in mind you may want to plan non-peak times to visit some of these fun parks!

First, a few of our newest spots we have tried and really liked are Mundy Park (in Coquitlam), Penzer Park (in Langley) and Action BMX Park (in Surrey). These are just recent favourites and new ones we have tried but if you are looking for ideas I would suggest checking out @braveandfreeadventures on instagram. They are always outside exploring metro Vancouver and I have found lots of good spots to try from them.

Mundy Park not only has an amazing playground but lots of trails, dog friendly, frisbee course, outdoor pool and lots of ball field space too! We have only been twice and haven’t explored much beyond the local Starbucks and the playground but this is a fantastic spot.
Penzer Park is so diverse I love it. There are sports courts (BYOB, bring your own balls), huge bike park and then two different playground/ play structure areas. The kids loved all the climbing.
Action BMX Park is really cool. My kids surprised me with their fearlessness and I loved the way the park has a mini bike section behind the huge track.

I think the biggest things to remember is keep positive. When you feel the kids getting tired or you are getting cranky or any shift in energy just try to shake things up. Often for us it means getting outside but it might mean taking a team nap or giving yourself and your kids permission to have a rest day to recharge! If we have learnt anything this past year it is that we can control our own moods, and when we do things to make sure we are relaxed and fed, rested, maybe a bit challenged and just overly happy it can impact others and the feeling will spread. So take time to start Spring Break with the best attitude you can and try to enjoy this time with your kids.

I hope this list sparks some ideas for you and your family! I would love to try some new things with our kids this Spring Break so please share your own adventures and fun and inspire others.