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.
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.
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.
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!