Whistler is renowned worldwide as being one of the most exciting destinations for everything from skiing to bear spotting. Whistler boasts over 8,000 acres of terrain, 11 metres of annual snowfall and 37 lifts to transport revellers from one unforgettable experience. It really does offer a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. But with so much to choose from, how do you decide what to do during your Whistler trip? This ultimate round-up of the most fantastic attractions and activities in the area will help you to choose. So if you’re thinking about booking a holiday in Canada, a trip to Whistler should be at the top of your itinerary.
1. Skiing and snowsports
As Lana from Planetware points out, “Great skiing has always been the backbone of Whistler’s success”. The mountains are known for being home to some of the most thrilling ski runs in the entire world, and for good reason. Lana says:
“If you are here to ski, you won’t be disappointed. The terrain at Whistler Blackcomb is unbeatable, and the ski season is longer than any other resort in Canada. Weather from off the Pacific brings heavy snowfalls and great powder days, but the resort does plenty of grooming, so you can find wonderful cruisers.”
Sean McDonald from Tourism Whistler agrees, claiming that Whistler is best known as North America’s top-rated ski destination. He explains why:
“Whistler British Columbia offers visitors an incredibly diverse selection of experiences year-round. A day on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb is sure to inspire skiers and snowboarders of all levels with an incredible mix of Coast Mountain scenery and expansive terrain. Book in for heli-skiing for the ultimate powder fix.”
Whether you’re a new skier to the slopes, a cross-country expert, or an adventurous snowboarder, the pistes in Whistler are sure to exhilarate.
2. Whistler Blackcomb Bike Park
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Although Whistler is known first and foremost for its unbelievable skiing, the resort is becoming increasingly famous as the world’s number one area for summer sports.
Lana explains, “Nowadays people come here in summer and winter, for weekend getaways or vacations. You can ski, golf, bike, hike, shop or enjoy a fabulous evening of dining. In the summer, Whistler offers legendary mountain biking, with lift-accessed runs.”
It is the mountain biking that is giving Whistler an even bigger reputation than ever before. As Sean McDonald comments, “the Whistler Blackcomb Bike Park is second to none for the downhill mountain bike crowd.” With more terrain than any other North American bike park and over 4,900 vertical feet of lift-serviced trails, the park features six zones with over 80km of trails to test your skills. From the deep tangled roots and obstacles of Garbo to the 8,400-square-foot indoor training facility at Air Dome – and even the volcanic rubble and altitude of Peak’s Top of the World – riding doesn’t get any more diverse and dynamic than this. In 2016, the park even began extending its Creekside Trail to create 50km of new trails. Enough to keep even the most extreme biker on their toes.
3. Ice skating at the Olympic Plaza
As The Huffington Post explains, “Whistler’s Olympic Plaza transforms into an outdoor ice rink when winter roars in.”
Within the former venue for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic games in Whistler Village, the ice rink is beautifully illuminated in the winter, offering panoramic mountain and Olympic ring views. Twirl your skates with friends and family as you enjoy the dramatic scenery unlike any other ice rink in the world.
Nearby, Meadow Park Sports Centre hosts an indoor rink, allowing skaters to enjoy the ice all year-round. Admission is free and rental skates are just $5, with helmets available for free. It is the perfect low-cost activity to spend an afternoon or evening on your holiday in Canada. What’s more, during the summer you can catch a range of fantastic live performances from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra as well as sporting and cultural events via Whistler Presents.
4. Bobsleighing at Whistler Sliding Centre
Major Luge World Cup drama this week with the sleds getting stuck in a snow storm in Manitoba. We are happy to say they have finally landed at YVR this morning! Races have been rescheduled for Saturday as follows: 2:00pm – Nations Cup 5:00pm – Women’s World Cup (1 run) 6:20pm – Doubles World Cup (1 run) 7:40pm – Men’s World Cup (1 run) #wcWhistler Thank you @lugecanada and the @fil_luge for being amazingly positive problem solvers the last few days! ?: Adam Taber
Whistler hosted the sports of the skeleton, luge and bobsleigh in the 2010 Olympics, so it’s no surprise that bobsleighing is one of the most popular activities in the area. The bobsleigh route at Whistler Sliding Centre is the fastest bobsleigh track in the world and is now open to all adventurous visitors. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert to experience the rush of the bobsleigh – with an experienced pilot at the helm, you and two friends can enjoy a blood-pumping ride led by an expert to keep you safe and exhilarated at once. These epic rides reach speeds of 75 miles per hour – you’ll feel as though you’re flying as you whizz around the prestigious track. You could also try their superb skeleton sliding experience. These are definitely ones for the bucket list!
5. Extreme sports with Mountain Skills Adventures
If you’re looking for a new activity with a whole new viewpoint, Mountain Skills Academy and Adventures offers a range of adrenaline-inducing excursions with great vistas. Experience adventures such as ice climbing, rock climbing, Via Ferrata and glacier discovery. During the winter months, ice climbing is sure to make you feel like an unstoppable Arctic explorer, as you climb icy rock faces with the help of ice axes and crampons. It might look extreme, but ice climbing is surprisingly easy. Feel a real sense of accomplishment while you enjoy trying out something a little different to the normal day of skiing.
In summer, try out the Italian art of Via Ferrata. As the academy explain, “’Via Ferrata’ is Italian for “iron way” and is an engineered vertical pathway. Using a special lanyard system, you will secure yourself to steel cables while you climb to the top of Whistler Peak!” If you a new challenge, rock climbing is the perfect activity to keep your blood pumping. Whistler offers some of the best rocks and crags in the world, and learning to climb here is the perfect bonding activity, building trust, technique and confidence.
6. Bungee Jumping
Bungee jumping is at the top of many people’s bucket lists, and there’s no better place to try this fantastic activity than in the gorgeous surroundings of Whistler. As Whistler Bungee explain: “In one of the most unique settings for bungee jumping, surrounded by basalt column cliffs and old growth forest, combined with the breathtaking peak of Black Tusk in the background, you will see why Whistler Bungee is regarded as one of the most scenic bungee jumping sites in the world.” Feel that moment of weightlessness as you plunge down towards rivers and forests before being caught by the bungee at the last moment.
7. Zip lining
Sean from Tourism Whistler also recommends zip lining through the ancient cedar forest canopies of Whistler as the ideal outdoor activity for any holiday. Ziptrek in Whistler launches from right above Whistler Village and offers the highest, longest and most zip lines in the area. Not only does ziplining get your heart pounding, it also provides incredible views of Whistler, with many tours available. Soar over a true old-growth temperate rainforest; on suspension bridges, treetop observation platforms, ground based trails and zip lines you’ll see Whistler from angles you never imagined!
8. The River of Golden Dreams
All alone, kayaking down the River of Golden Dreams. The only other life I saw was a Heron, and I was looking forward to seeing a beaver since they built so many dams in my way! This was such a beautiful time of my life, as the stress of being an inexperienced kayaker and the aching of my arms slowly changed to tranquility, amazement and singing Pocahontas as I went around the river bends… #topdecker #topdeck #topdecktravel #kayaking #canada #canadianrockies #outdoors #watersports #landscape #tranquility #gotraveling #explore #findyourself #pocahontas
Alta Creek is commonly known as the River of Golden Dreams and has become somewhat legendary in the area. This is a short but exquisite stretch of river in Whistler connecting the beautiful waters of Alta Lake and Green Lake. Its gentle current paired with a golden sunset makes the area a bewitching place to spend an afternoon, either on a gentle tour or a self-guided excursion. Here, you can paddleboard, kayak or canoe whilst taking in the sights of colourful forests and majestic mountains overhead.
Canadian Living suggest “Rent a canoe or kayak and get out on the water! Paddling the River of Golden Dreams (across Alta Lake, through Whistler’s wetlands and down a glacier river to Green Lake) is a favourite adventure among locals and tourists alike. Sign up for a private guided tour, which departs every two hours starting at 9:00 a.m. and lasts three hours. If you’re an experienced paddler, sign up for the self-guided tour.” This is the perfect way to unwind and connect with the currents of nature.
9. Sledding and Snowmobiling with Canadian Wilderness Adventures
Virginia-Rae Choquette is an avid lover of Whistler and editor of the Whistler Adventure Passport Blog, which collates some of the best experiences in this bustling town. For her, some of the most exciting activities and attractions can be found through Canadian Wilderness Adventures.
These activities feature the traditional snow-based experiences that many of us dream of, but with little twists to make them that much more magical. She recommends “an evening mountain-top fondue by snowmobile or guided snowshoe tour through a breath-taking and serene old growth forest”. For her, “These family-friendly activities offer a truly unique Canadian experience.”
10. Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Probably one of the most popular ways to see the magnificent mountain range surrounding Whistler is by the famous Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Sarah from Whistler Blackcomb describes the experience of travelling aboard the world’s longest ski lift:
“You will ascend over the tree tops with an increasingly expansive view of the valley for about 25 minutes before reaching the lodge at 1,850 metres of elevation. From there, ski to the Peak Chair and make your way up to the summit of Whistler Mountain. The views from the Inuksuk looking out over the Garibaldi Provincial Park towards Black Tusk are unparalleled as far as photo opportunities go. After skiing back down to the Peak 2 Peak terminal at the Roundhouse Lodge, hop on the World Record-breaking gondola for an 11-minute ride to Blackcomb Mountain. The Peak 2 Peak gondola passes between the two ski hills at 436m over Fitzsimmons Creek. With 360-degree views of Overlord Glacier on one side and the sparkling town of Whistler with its many gem coloured lakes on the other, the Peak 2 Peak has earned its reputation as one of Canada’s must-do experiences.”
“My eyes literally hurt from all the beauty. It’s too much to take in ? Thanks to @seatoskyair for this amazing experience a couple of weeks ago” – @thevegwitch via Twitter. . . . #earthpix #ourdailyplanet #britishcolumbia #explorebc #exploresquamish #garibaldilake #whistler #tourcanada #planetearth #pnwonderland #cessna172
There are many more ways to take in the forests, mountains and lakes that make Whistler so very scenic. Sean recommends helicopter or plane tours that allow you to see old growth forest, glaciers and mountain peaks in what he says is “one breath-taking experience”. There are many aerial tour providers in Whistler to choose from. Sea to Sky Air offers floatplane tours and aerial sightseeing. On their Whistler backcountry air safari, you can “fly deep into Garibaldi Provincial Park, to the boundary layer between ancient glacial flows and volcanism.” Whichever tour you choose, you will be amazed by the panoramic aerial views. See Alpine vistas, rock formations, rivers, glaciers, mountains, rivers, waterfalls and seas – all in one incredible journey.
12. Cross-country tours
For a slower-paced alternative, why not enjoy a horseback riding tour to take in the stunning surrounding landscape of Whistler RV Park? Take a gentle trot through Brew Creek for vast views of Black Tusk and the Whistler Valley, or go for a thrilling 2-hour mountain ride that climbs through lush, forested trails, taking in the grand scopes of the Whistler Valley. Keep a keen eye for wildlife!
ATV tours are also very popular, where visitors can drive buggies and other vehicles cross-country around Whistler. As Landsea Tours and Adventures suggest, these tours “provide an awesome opportunity to really explore Whistler’s vast nature setting. Feel the wind rushing past you as you journey through wild forests and winding mountain trails”. Whether you choose to take it easy and be driven through the backcountry and mountain foothills or race your friends through the wilderness, this is an experience not to be missed for any motoring enthusiast.
13. Ice cave excursions
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Ice cave excursions are truly an experience of the extraordinary, and provide a relatively new activity to try in Whistler. These tours will make you feel like a celebrity as you lift off from Whistler via helicopter. Fly over Canada’s largest ice cap to begin exploring a world of ice and snow that is constantly transforming. As Headline Mountain Holidays explain: “Your guide will lead you through a labyrinth of chambers of aqua blue magnificence where you will sit in awe of the natural blue ambient light.” See natural ice sculptures and domes of stunning ice that will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a fantasy world.
14. Whistler wildlife ecotours
Home to some of the world’s most fascinating species, Whistler is a mecca for wildlife lovers and nature photographers. Sean recommends that “black bear tours are sure to connect you with nature and Whistler’s longest-standing locals”, where guests are driven through the back country in search of Whistler’s most majestic mammals. Many companies offer nature tours through the area – for example, Whistler Ecotours “offer a range outdoor activities including The River of Golden Dreams, canoe, kayak, hike and bike tours”. Guides pass on their knowledge of the local flora, fauna, history and geology in fantastic interactive sessions.
Whether you fancy a fishing tour to reel in rainbow trout, steelhead, dolly-warden and salmon, or the ultimate in Bear Awareness tours to explore winter bear denning sites and hunting grounds, these excursions are unmissable for nature lovers and keen photographers alike.
15. Whistler Train Wreck
One of the lesser-known attractions in Whistler that is well worth a visit has to be the Whistler train wreck. Mixing the urban with the wild, this crashed train wreck has been decorated in brilliant graffiti and sits among the forest. Hike to the site before photographing this intriguing wreckage as the sunlight peeps through the trees.
Whistler Hiatus explains: “The trail leads first to the Cheakamus River and some amazing viewpoints, and then continues through deep forest along this amazing river. Around a bend in the Cheakamus, the forest reveals the first of seven, fantastic train wrecks. Once again phenomenal views of the crashing river and then the amazing train wrecks come into view. Graffiti style paint brings the dingy wreckage to life with shockingly beautiful colours. The huge wrecks are enormous up close and mangled, wonderfully mangled. Some on their sides, some upside down, all adorned with wonderfully artistic graffiti paint.”
Fusing a relaxing walk with an unusual discovery, this is a truly unique experience in Whistler.
16. Scandinave Spa
After all the adrenaline-pumping sports and exploring, you’ll deserve a chance to unwind. If you ask anyone who has visited Whistler how to do so they will all say one thing: the Scandinave Spa. Jennifer Hubbert from Canadian Traveller says:
“I’m a self-described Scandinave Spa junkie; I won’t visit Whistler without spending a few hours in their blissful hideaway. Don a fluffy robe and get to work achieving Zen via the thermal circuit. Warm up in the eucalyptus steam room, then plunge into the cold pool. Bliss out on a natural high while holing up in a hammock, in one of the many solariums or sitting next to a crackling outdoor fire. Mum’s the word – there’s no talking in this mountain retreat. It’s lovely in summer, but magical in winter. Bring a magazine or book and make a few hours of it.”
17. Whistler town market
Although there are many weird and wonderful experiences to sample in Whistler, remember to make sure you don’t accidentally get carried away with all the excitement and go home empty-handed. Randa Derkson from The Bewitchin’ Kitchen comments:
“There is so much to do in Whistler, it’s hard to narrow it down to one. My favourite is simply the village itself, I love walking through and stopping throughout the shops (but maybe that’s the avid shopper in me). If you’re there on a Saturday, I highly suggest the market and be sure to grab a treat from the Ukrainian bakery stand, it’s my favourite.”
18. Bars and restaurants
Come evening, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat and drink in Whistler. Bar Oso is a relatively new bar and restaurant in Whistler, which provides gastronomically-exquisite dishes that taste as good as they look. Jennifer Hubbert from Canadian Traveller says:
“Bar Oso’s small plates are the perfect way to share succulent eats with your nearest and dearest. I mean it. Only bring your nearest and dearest. It’s a cosy space with limited seating – so make a reservation ahead of time and snuggle in tight. You’ll only want to bring your dearest because it’s hard to share tapas this excellent. The tell of a good Spanish restaurant is, of course, the Iberico Jamon, and Bar Oso isn’t bluffing.”
Colleen Friesen from Travelling Light with Colleen Friesen also recommends several restaurants to recharge with some fantastic food. She says: “Some of my favourites are little places like the Fix Cafe at Nita Lake Lodge. Another great spot that isn’t in the main village is Purebread. I love grabbing baked treats from their little shop before heading out to go snowshoeing. And for fine dining, I don’t think there’s really a bad restaurant in Whistler but the Bearfoot Bistro is definitely one of the best.”
Randa, on the other hand, argues, “You can’t beat dinner at the Rimrock Cafe, and you have to try the sticky toffee pudding.” Wherever you end up eating, you’re sure to find some truly delectable dishes in Whistler.
19. Whistler Museum and Archives
If you’re a history buff, you’re in the right place. Whistler has an intriguing past to share with visitors. Head to the Whistler Museum and Archives centre for a great collection of local artefacts, media and documents sharing the dramatic evolution of the town and natural landscape in brilliant interactive forms. Lonely Planet recommends the museum, saying: “Tucked into an anonymous green shed behind the library building and tracing Whistler development from wilderness outpost to Olympic resort, this great little museum has quirky exhibits that include an original 1965 ski-lift gondola and a 2010 Olympic torch.” They even offer walking tours in summer so you can get out and see the historic sites first hand.
20. Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
The culture and landscapes of Whistler are hugely indebted to its First Nations past, and this is a legacy that the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre seeks to share with visitors from around the world. It is the first centre dedicated to the history and culture of the First Nations in the area and aims to embody “the spirit of partnership between two unique Nations who wish to preserve, grow and share our traditional cultures. It stands as testimony to our proud heritage — from time immemorial to the present.”
The centre is well worth a visit, with various artefacts and exhibitions that will interest and inspire visitors of all ages. They also offer various interactive workshops where you can learn about ancient cultural practices and skills such as making cedar bark into a cedar rope or bracelet, wood paddle rattles, dream catchers and more. This is a truly immersive way to learn about the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, from participating in indigenous tea ceremonies to enjoying an interpretive forest walk.